A non-profit preserve on the rio Las Piedras.
March, 2020 – I visited this nearly 1,000 hectare Peruvian concesión to continue my rainforest experience and explore ways in which I might help with conservation. Like any tropical rainforest, the number and diversity of animals and plants here in the Peruvian Amazon is overwhelming. I walked the forest each day and saw and experienced something new each time. Sometimes I was framing one photo when two or three other opportunities presented themselves. In my three weeks there, I took hundreds of photos, a portion of which are going to start appearing below (so check back as I work through the photos . . .)
The photos below show why the people of the world need to help. The images of trucks loading rainforest lumber, most certainly taken from nature-preserve land, were captured at one moment in time on one day at a river port just downstream from the bio-station I visited. This goes on every day. If one looks closely, the workers can be seen hiding the dark-colored wood in the center of the load.
I don’t normally handle fauna in the forest, but this fellow was on a footpath in the compound, at night, and reluctant to move so I thought it was best to relocate off in the foliage. Insects:
Ant tucks abdomen up under order: Phasmatodea After getting in situ photos of this stick insect above, I started thinking she was dead, as she never moved. I touched her—nothing. I had the idea she may have died from a cordyceps fungus, yet to fruit and thought it would be great to shoot the mushrooms erupting over several days back at the compound. Her feet were firmly adhered to the tree but she came free. I placed her onto a leaf for transporting—and she moved—shit! Then an egg popped out the end which had been oriented upwards—double shit! A desperate move while dying to get an egg out or maybe they go into a trance while producing an egg? More likely, the latter. Anyway, I had her off the trunk and on a leaf now, with the egg. Back to camp for controlled photos and wondering if more eggs would come (no). After brief photography I carefully placed her, leaf and all, on the dead fronds of a palm where there did not seem to be any ants. Had she appeared to be alive, I would not have touched her, yet I felt bad for my actions. How many times our ignorance impacts other living things … Some of us post our nature exploration photos and narrative in hopes a local child sees them and becomes interested in making a sustainable living from the forest or someone else gets interested enough to help at conservation or spend their vacation dollars at a nature preserve. I hope she lived and the egg hatched. I won’t know, she was gone from the palm in the morning.
egg eyes . . . and egg above her
I believe this is a member of the order Hemiptera (only 80,000 estimated species) and the family Pentatomidae. Beautiful, isn’t she? Spiders & their structures:
As recently as 2013 this structure was undescribed by science. Discovered at Rainforest Expeditions’ Tambopata Research Center by Troy Alexander, we now know these are built by spiders which place two to four eggs at the base of the central pole. We know this because the team of Aaron Pomerantz and Phil Torres shot video of beautiful, golden spiderlings hatching. I came to Arbio’s biological research center wondering if the spider’s range extended up the rio Las Piedras as well as along the Tambopata, and yes, the photos document it does! I would love to know if anyone has seen these outside the Madré de Dios region of Perú. Message me if you’ve seen them elsewhere please!
Something I’ve not seen before – this orb weaver made little U-turns at the same two radial lines of her web with each pass resulting in a gap. Shot in the compound near the baño, I was able to watch her each evening until a falling tree branch took out her web (so large it took out the baño as well, but that’s another story). During a brief web search, I found nothing similar. Could this be a new discovery, or a fluke? OK, I continued searching the web (ha, I meant the internet!) and found a reference to Zygiella x-notata, commonly called the “missing sector orb weaver” in the family Araneidae. The map on Wikipedia does not show it in Perú but all over Europe, parts of North America including Alaska and two areas in South America, Eastern Brasil and farther south in Argentina, so, maybe I can make a suggestion. Who wants to bet, there is more than one species with this behavior? I believe the structure at the center is called a stabilimenta.
Arachnologists suggest the spiders which assemble these sculptures above are members of the genus Cyclosa. Other species of the genus are known to form vertical lines from debris, hence the name, ‘trashline orb-weaver’. The subjects here however, seem distinct in their formation of what can resemble a larger replica-spider or decoy from leaves, debris and dead insects. Zoom in and you can see the spider sitting on her sculpture.
This spider sits not on her decoy, but above, at the center of her orb-web, surrounded by a stabilimenta maze. Captured under the dining room of the compound.
Arachnids, not spiders
I believe this is a Harvestman in the Opiliones order. Eight legs but no venom. Gastropoda
It was the rainy season but somewhat dry during my stay. Still, there were some interesting specimens. I’m in the process of cataloging and editing, so they’ll show up just below shortly . . .
A variety of cookeina with the classic cup shape from the Sarcoscyphaceae family and shelf fungi at the bottom.
Earth Stars are sort of like ‘puff balls’ with an outer husk which splits, peeling back as they mature and erupt out of the ground cover. As they dry out, an opening forms in the center of the round part, from which the spores ‘puff’ out as raindrops or debris falls on them.
Cookeina tricholoma bottom top bottom top bottom top The last six photos are pairs of the same mushrooms on each line showing differing gill styles.
Left above, what looks like a sea urchin, is a seedpod with ‘bird’s nest fungi’ of the Nidulariaceae family, order: Agaricales.
Is it significant that the bright yellow fruiting bodies above are erupting out of a hole in a handrail made by an iron nail? Slime Mold
Slime molds are fascinating for a number of reasons. One is their apparent consciousness in abilities like building a network linking food sources all without a brain. Arthropods, other
Baby millipedes emerging from their domed, mud cocoons. The first photo shows an intact dome at the bottom.
… could be the mom? Fungi, cordyceps:
I came with a fascination for cordyceps, a genus of fungus known to parasitize insects and other arthropods. Interesting, in that it seems to modify the behaviors of some (a terrestrial ant might take to climbing plants and clamp its mandibles to a leaf’s edge before dying, when the fruiting bodies, aka mushrooms, erupt releasing the spores). They are species specific, this one appears to have taken down a spider. Shot in situ with an iPhone11.
Daniel Winkler who runs mushroom eco-tours from his wonderful
Mushroaming site, identified this as probably Gibellula pulchra
Same specimen as the previous but shot in macro mode with an Olympus TG-6. I made the caption for an Instagram post, “A microscopic spore grows into a brainless predator, killing & eating just to make copies of itself—makes one think.” To follow on Instagram: @IvorPeterBrians
Another cordyceps, possibly on a moth. Interesting in that the central ‘tower’ (stipe), is strikingly similar to that in silk henge. The rainforest holds many mysteries, this alone should be cause enough to preserve it.
To quote Kelly Bundy, “The mind wobbles.” Herps:
Park ranger Ronald Sandro and the team at Arbio frequently direct volunteers in reforesting projects. Here, a visitor plants a species of threatened tree, the shihuahuaco. The saplings are raised from seed and planted to replace those lost to loggers over the years. A taste of the Forest
I must ask Ronald, my forest-sensei, to remind me the name of this tree (background) and its fruit. The fruit is delicious. During a walk, we found them littering the ground under the tree and stopped to quench our hunger. The insect larva which eat them also, have evolved an interesting survival strategy. One can imagine that many forest dwellers would like to eat juicy, sweet fruit and if a caterpillar inside is not fast, it’s a goner! Well, they are fast! Squeezing your fingers on an over ripe fruit results in the larva wriggling to the surface with lightning speed and literally jumping clear of the fruit, and the larger fruit eater. I didn’t eat a single one! My hosts:
As a nonprofit, Arbio relies to a degree on donations to fund their programs. Please do what you can. Here is a link to their page: