Thursday, March 03, 2016

A New Mayfly Emerges

A New Mayfly Emerges
Virgil Hurt

It is notable that the Mayfly remains a curiosity for fisherman, amateur entomologists, philosophers and even the political scientist.

Wikipedia says that “Over 3,000 species of mayfly in 42 families and over 400 genera are known worldwide,[35] including about 630 species in North America.[36]

A particular North American mayfly has become of great importance even in the last 24 hours.

Wikipedia also says that “Mayfly nymphs are highly susceptible to pollution and can be useful in the biomonitoring of water bodies.[2]Once they have emerged, large numbers are preyed on by birds, bats and by other insects.[3]

Thus, the damage that infected emerging adults pose to the ecosystem is substantial and potentially catastrophic.

A common mayfly is the Ephemera Vulgata. You Latin scholars may appreciate that name. It is a vulgar mayfly but thankfully only lasts for a very brief time. Its vulgarity is not in the common sense, like the Latin Vulgate, a Bible written in the common language. But rather, the Ephemara Vulgata is vulgar in its ostentatious display of it’s breeding habits.

Again, I quote our learned Wikipedia “The males perform a "nuptial dance"[5] which takes place over land, above open areas or single trees, or in the lee of trees in windy weather.[6] This swarming activity takes place between June and August, in the morning and evening and at other time of day, influenced by the temperature and amount of cloud cover.”

Recently, the pollution from New York City that has spilled into the Hudson River has been bioaccumulated into the Ephemera Vulgata and has produced a startling mutation. The nymphal stages of this mutated mayfly are five times as huge as their unmutated cousins. In addition to the huge size of the emerging adult, a large swath of blonde hair stands out on the head of the gigantic adult mayfly. This adult mayfly has just today been named the Ephemera Donaldus Trumpus.

The blonde hair mutation is not deleterious. In fact, it appears that the waving swath of blonde hair attracts a substantial number of adoring females as the Donaldus Trumpus flies up and down in its mating ritual. The Donaldus only emerged in 2015 and the 2016 hatch will not appear until May and June, so we do not yet know the full affect of the second generation mutation.

While the larval stage lasts a solid two years, the emerging display of the Trumpus is a fleeting 13 hours. The fear is that the large size of both the nymphs and adults will account for a much higher number of intact eggs. These will lie dormant for a year or two before beginning their march to the surface. New York entomologists are exploring the possibility of destroying the eggs in the Hudson before they hatch and reach the surface in June.

The Donaldus subimago appears larger and more mature than many other fully mature mayflies. This is a false confidence. Because of his huge size, the subimage Trumpus is unable to fly at all until he morphs into the fully functional adult.  Fortunately, for him, the subimago stage last only two hours until he emerges as a full flier. During this time, he keeps his head above water to dry out his hair to prepare for the mating ritual. Unfortunately for him, nearly ninety-five percent of emerging Trumpuses are swallowed by trout. It remains to be seen if this survival rate will enable the Donaldus to survive and sustain as a new species. Entomologists are hoping he will not survive considering the potential disruption to the habitat.

Although odds are quite high that he will not survive, bets are being placed and received in Atlantic City that the blonde tufts of hair will emerge all along the Hudson in June of 2016.

One doggerel wit chronicled the life of the Donaldus like this.

On the banks of the Hudson a new fly has emerged.
Ephemera Donaldus Trumpus he is called.
He crawled from the mud like a demiurge
And slowly he rose but on the surface he stalled.
His blonde hair waved at the adoring crowd.
“Such a nymph!” they cried, “He is huge and proud.”
His tuft of hair was wet and slick
And the crowd recoiled and was almost sick.
But their voices created a sustaining wind
That dried the hair and made it full and thick.
And they marveled and said,
“Have we seen anything like this before?
His rise is meteoric and more.
That hair that made us feel so dull
We now think is beautiful and cool.”
Donaldus was unable to fly for a while.
So he simply swam and flailed about.
The hair was dry and had a swell style.
And the waiting crowd gave up a great shout.
“Donaldus we salute you, the best nymph of the day!
Take flight now and show us the Donaldus way.”
And they waited to see when Donaldus would fly.
But he just swam around and didn’t even try.
A nearby danger lurked and the crowd was affright.
And a cry rippled from his countless adorers, “Watch out!”

Then Donaldus was swallowed by a big fat trout.

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