Category Archives: Animals

What are these tiny oily beads in Lake Huron?

The Question: In Michigan in early July, thousands of tiny, clear, oily, bead-like things were scattered all over the beach along the water line. We were wondering if they were a natural occurrence or some kind of pollution.

Submitted by: Sara, MI
(The picture to the left was taken with a cell phone.)

Continue reading What are these tiny oily beads in Lake Huron?

What is This Eel-like Fish?

The Question: I recently I saw an eel-like fish while swimming in the sea in Rockport, MA. It looked around 3 feet (1 meter) long and was white/grey with black stripes (running from nose to tail, not vertically). It moved like an eel. We were in water that was around 3 feet (1 meter) deep, no snorkeling/diving mask.  It was very sandy, no rocks at all.  Not sure how many stripes exactly – my impression was that it was black stripes on a silver/white body…perhaps 12 or so thin stripes running nose to tail.  We saw it three times (or maybe different individuals). I would love to know what it was.

Submitted by: Kathryn W., Massachusetts

Continue reading What is This Eel-like Fish?

Caddisfly Home Decorating

I was snorkeling in shallow water in a small lake in central Massachusetts today, and saw an interesting creature. What caught my eye was that a small section of the sandy gravel on the lake bottom was moving. It scooted forward about an inch (2.5 cm) and stopped. Then it did it again. I picked it up gently and turned it over to investigate. It was about 3/4 of an inch (2 cm) long and about 1/2 an inch (1 cm) wide. It was made of grains of sand and gravel glued together. Attached underneath was a small tube. The creature who lived in the tube had withdrawn and couldn’t be seen, but I knew what it was: the larvae of one of over 4,000 species of caddisflies. Most caddisfly larvae construct houses, which they use for disguise and protection. Each species uses characteristic materials and design. The resulting shelters range from a small tube of reed or grass, to houses constructed out of sand in the shape of a snail shell. Other caddisflies actually glue tiny snail shells together. Most caddisfly larvae graze on algae and other plant material. Eventually, they leave the water and metamorphose into a somewhat moth-like adult. Caddisflies are, in fact, related to butterflies and moths. The pictures below show some of the diversity of caddisfly larvae homes. Unfortunately, none looks quite like the one I saw, and I didn’t have a camera, but a couple show homes constructed of gravel.

Caddisflies are often used in evaluating the health of streams. Most species are not tolerant of pollution or silted water, so to find a healthy collection of caddisflies in a stream is a good sign.

What I find most amazing about caddisflies is that they are able to construct such clever, effective and attractive homes with such a tiny brain. Incredible.

Cite this article as: Pelletier, TC. (July 11, 2010). Caddisfly Home Decorating Retrieved from http://askanaturalist.com/caddisfly-home-decorating/ on August 25, 2019.

Are Muskrats Used to Make Perfume?

The Question: I have been doing some research on muskrats, and was just wondering if it is true that the musk emitted from male muskrats (which is for Mating) is used as a base in perfume? If this is true, was this in the past or still now? Has this had any effect on the muskrat population?

Submitted by: Katie, Toronto

Continue reading Are Muskrats Used to Make Perfume?