FROM micro bears to superheroes, a charity has revealed the “wacky wonders” of Scotland’s woodlands.

The Woodland Trust has compiled its top 10 list of weird but wonderful wildlife displaying the beauty and diversity of nature across Britain.

And many of them, including the tiny and bizarre-looking water bear and the Batman hoverfly, can be found north of the Border.

The water bear or tardigrade (Phylum tardigrada) is described as a microscopic creature with eight legs, a long plumped up body and scrunched up head. Among the most resilient animals known, they are prevalent in mosses and lichens and feed on the fluids of plant and animal cells, but can survive even the most extreme conditions - including exposure to outer space.

The Batman Hoverfly (Myathropa florea) is the “superhero of our woods” - as markings on its thorax resemble the Caped Crusader’s iconic bat symbol.

The Strawberry spider (Aaneus alsine), found at only a few sites north of the Border, bears a resemblance to the fruit due to its red-orange body, flecked with yellow dots; while the cobweb beetle (Ctesias serra) is known at only two Scottish locations.

The Ruby tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita) is judged to be one of Britain’s most beautiful insects. Found throughout Scotland except the Orkney and Shetland Islands, its glittering head is metallic blue green and its abdomen a deep ruby colour.

Leaf hoppers (Cicadellidae) are described as “minute insects who pack a big punch” by sap sucking from plants by piercing the leaves.

Rustwort (Nowelia curvifolia), also scarce in Scotland, is a liverwort that covers fallen logs in humid woods, turning them an abstract pattern of reds, oranges and green "like a piece of modern art".

And Hazel glue (Hymenochaete corrugate) is a "super sticky fungus" which sticks dead pieces of wood onto hazel stems.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. In Scotland, it owns and cares for more than 60 sites covering over 8,000 ha.

Of its top ten weird but wonderful fauna and flora, only two are not thought to be found in Scotland. The Ghost slug (Selenochlamys ysbryda), is an all-white, blind slug that preys on earthworms with a set of tiny, blade-like teeth; and the ancient tree ant (Lasius brunneus), which is found in the UK only in the central and southern English counties.

Jillian Donnachie, from Woodland Trust Scotland, said: "Scotland's woodlands are teeming with weird and wonderful species.

"Some, like the microscopic water bear which thrives on mosses and lichens, are found widely in Scotland, while others such as the strawberry spider and cobweb beetle have a more localised distribution. But wherever you go north of the Border, the woodlands are alive with wonderful things."

Christine Reid, principal conservation advisor at the Woodland Trust, added: "These may be difficult times for everyone but the beauty of nature continues to spring up surprises. Over the last few weeks it has not been possible for people to travel and visit our woods but rest assured that we are continuing to protect our woodlands so that there are little gems to be discovered once the world opens up again."

This story first appeared in The Herald.

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