National Geographic : 1970 Aug
5 TIMESLIFE-SIZE;KODACHROIE© N.G.S. Ingenious A soft-bodied caddisfly larva, which fishermen call "stick bait," lives in a protective case constructed of plantfragments glued together home builder with its own secretion. Other caddisfly species build with sand or selected debris; material used in the abodes helps identify the occupant. emergence of midges from their motile pupae that had struggled to the surface. Schools of young fish darted in and out of the beam. Bullhead catfish groped about in now deliber ate, now frenzied fashion, then dived for cover beneath clumps of algae as the light picked them out. Small leeches, busily waving about for a passing fish victim, waited among these same clusters. We noticed that the algae and surrounding plants were covered with tiny oval crusta ceans, ostracods, so abundant that they lent the green filaments an orange cast. Some swam about, but most fed quietly on small forms of plant life, diatoms, which coated the plant stalks and pebbles of the bottom. As I bent close to the water's surface, I saw minute specks twisting and swimming about-pro tozoans and rotifers, too small to classify with the naked eye. I snapped off the light. The sounds of night, dominated by a chorus of countless frogs, echoed across the pond. Holding our breath, we listened to a contrasting rhythm: the soft splashes, gulps, and gurgles made by the 298 myriad and ever-moving animals of the hid den pond world. When I flicked the light back on, its beam filled with insects, pulled out of the dark by uncontrollable reactions. They alighted on my head, crawled across my face, and bur rowed under my shirt. I again turned off the light, and almost at once I felt a gentle fanning breeze that came and went with the merest suggestion of larger wings. On went the light-to reveal the rapid, skillful flight of bats as they rushed out of the blackness to capture moths only inches from my face. As we strolled home through the darkness, other sounds told us of many more creatures the night concealed. A quotation by Thomas Huxley came to mind: "To a person unin structed in natural history, his country or sea side stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall." Noxontown Pond, though so small a seg ment of the vast universe, helps me turn those beauties to the light.