New Brunswick Pseudoscorpion
|"New Brunswick Pseudoscorpion" (oil on birch panel 12 x 16 in.)
On 28 June 2019, two days into this year’s BiotaNB survey as “Resident Artist” in the Kennedy Lakes Protected Natural Area, I found myself sliding down through the ocular tubes of a microscope, into the worlds of Rotifers and Water Bears.
As the botanists, returning to the lab trailer from their field excursions, identified their collections of fungi, mosses, and Liverworts, one of them called my attention to a Pseudoscorpion he’d found wandering among tiny mosses as if they were trees and bushes.
Pseudoscorpions are tiny predators, catching and eating anything smaller than themselves - mites, nematodes, and tiny larvae of this and that. The Pseudoscorpion we see most often is a little larger than the one I’ve painted here - the indoors species, Chelifer cancroides, is a welcome symbiont in pantry and closets.
This one is as yet unidentified - the shape and proportions of claws to cephalothorax, the numbers of leg segments, and the placement of the sensory bristles on the claws may give a clue, IF it is a known species... but when you find microscopic life in as remote a place as the middle of New Brunswick, over 50 km from the nearest town, it just might be something new.
My painting shows the Pseudoscorpion in its natural setting - on part of the moss sample in which it was found - but painting it there was not as easy as it looks. If released to photograph there, I would have lost sight of it right away among the microscopic acres of mosses and liverworts.
Attempting to place the delicate killed specimen there, I would have broken it with the blunt spike of the finest insect pin. So instead, I positioned it digitally - cutting and pasting my photo of the living beastie onto one of my photos of the moss sample. I used this composite to rough out the painting, and then captured details of the animal (now in alcohol, and no longer scuttling about) and finishing the moss, both through the ‘scope. Needless to say, it took me the first half of the two-week BiotaNB camp to accomplish this.
New Brunswick Pseudoscorpion has now joined my other oils and watercolours in the “Aleta Karstad collection” of the New Brunswick Museum, painted over the past 10 years at its annual biological survey camps in NB's "Natural Protected Areas".