These wandering spiders are pretty common at the FCRE. They have a very toxic bite but no one gets bit as they very rarely have any interaction with the people here. I am pretty sure, but not positive, that this is Phoneutria boliviensis, here eating a leaf-mimic katydid. A large, dangerous spider you would be best not to have run up your pants or such a thing.
For the past few years there has been a project studying the golden silk orb-weaver spider (Nephila clavipes). These spiders tend to prefer open areas and the tall grass along the access road can have a lot of them.
The first two photos are of large non-web building spiders. These are hunters not trappers and while the first one is not much to worry about even though four inches across, the second one is not something you would really want to nip you. In the photo is it eating a camel cricket.
This leaf-footed (or leaf-legged or leaf-kneed or flag-footed, etc.) bug looks to be in the genus Leptoglossus. It is another true bug.
The weather on day 1 was just so excellent that after dark I couldn't resist taking a short walk down along the Rio Cacao.
These are known as Heliconia bugs, and are, not surprisingly, true bugs that live and feed almost exclusively on the plant Heliconia. I see them every year in one patch along the river and they were there again this year. Attractive bugs that are territorial on the plant and males will defend their turf. If another bug approaches things can quickly escalate into a weird reverse wrestling match. The two bugs turn around and grapple backwards using their strong rear legs. Not sure how the winner is determined but something about who can jam their legs spines into the other one's belly the hardest and make them give up.
Tink frogs, so named because they make a very loud "tink" sound, are super common. But we have a number of species of them that require handling the animal to ID them so I will just show a photo of one without guessing at which one it is.
Harvestman aren't really true spiders, but have those creepy 8 legs and sure act like spiders. A tiny body and very long legs give these the common name "daddy long legs."
Okay, so let's get real creepy to finish this up. Another non-spider in the 8-legged category is the tail-less whip scorpion (Amblypygidae family). Latin factoid: amblypygid means "blunt butt" hence the "tail-less" part of the name.
There are two genera of these here, Phrynus and Paraphrynus, but you have to put the front spiny part (the pedipalp) under a microscope just to see a little obscure almost spine in order to figure out which genus it is. So no ID other than family on this character.
The body is about two inches long, so not a particularly huge one but decent sized. However the legs are very long and this animal would easily be 10 inches from leg tip to leg tip.
But these are WAY creepier looking that I can show in a full animal image, so here is a close up of the head area. Those spines are used for spearing insect prey, and although it looks nasty is essentially harmless to humans.
The cross orb weaver spider appears to be an import from Europe which has done very well in the New World (seen here in Centre County, Pennsylvania). Generally identified by it's pretty orb web and the cross-like pattern of white blotches on the abdomen, it is a fairly common spider to see around out buildings and such.
This spider spends most of its time at night in the center of the web, but also can do what this one is doing. It is holding a line with its rear leg that leads to the center of the web. Sort of like fishing, it is waiting for an insect to fly into the web and it will feel it on the line it has extended. This allows the spider to be protected and off the web yet still know when it has prey in the web.
While it is not my place to describe in great detail the science being done at the Firestone Center this summer, I can summarize things a bit and describe what we are doing in the field. And what we were doing in the field today was going for a long walk across the entire Reserve placing camera traps as we went.
It is so nice to see animals and pretty cool to hear animals, but the fact remains that there are many more animals on the property than we see or hear. So to understand the whole wildlife picture we, literally, take pictures.
Camera traps are just cameras that are triggered with a sensor when an animal walks by, taking either still photos or video of the animal. These images can then be looked at on a computer and most often the species of animal can be determined.
Placing cameras in locations likely to have animals moving through is key, and here are Leta Ames and Sara Freimuth placing a camera trap along the Firestone Center's border with the Hacienda Baru's property (old growth forest). Lots of very cool animals come onto the FCRE from this large old forest, so having a camera trap here could score something nice.
So, lots of camera traps are out there just waiting to record the wildlife. And of course, somewhat humorously, they will record us going by as well as we struggle up the hill in the hot sun, or pouring rain as the case may be.
A second science project relates to a web-making spider here, and so two students are keen to find and start seriously looking at these spiders and their webs. While setting up the camera traps we were able to locate a couple webs. And oh dear, the first one was...
So instead of some web along a dry road, the first study spider was over water and I will let you know that the pond is quite deep and another step forward she would have been waist deep.
Well, the next one had to be easier, right...
So much fun, but only so much time. We had to head down the hill and figure out a late lunch and get on to other work. But we were not in so much of a hurry that we didn't still look for spiders and set up camera traps. And some of the wild things we saw walking back down the hill...
And finally, a very striking-looking tortoise beetle. But not one I have seen before here at the FCRE and in the time available have not been able to identify. Beautiful animal and I will update this post with a species if and when I can figure this gem out.
Another beautiful animal from right near where I was sitting tonight, but this time only about 15 feet away. Amelia Goebel was working with me and she spotted this one, a southern black widow spider (Latrodectus mactans) with a web and burrow.
These spiders are fairly venomous, so some care was needed not to touch the web when photographing it as it would think a finger tapping the web would be prey and might shoot over for a bite.
These spiders make webs, but are not orb weavers so the web is more of a scatter than the classic orb. Normally they hang upside down and the classic red hourglass is visible on their belly, but this photo is the top of the spider sitting on the web just above it's burrow hole and shows the nice top pattern.
Flies are very common to see on daisies.
And if you look a bit more closely, crab spiders are also common on daisies.
And sometimes, both are on the same flower, and we can only guess what comes next.
Hiking up the trail to do some trail work this morning we found this underfoot...
And coming down the trail later it was all about monkeys
And since I tend to post lots of creepy crawlies, here is a pic of major cuteness
Now back to the usual programming...
And some birds to finish up for now
First night at the Firestone and had to take at least a little bit of a walk to see what was out there. A photo software glitch has been fixed and so hopefully for the next week or so I will be able to put up lots of pics.
Of note, I usually try to put identifications with my animal photos, but it is looking like there might not be enough time to do that, at least for now.
And finally for now... a beautiful spider
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist