West of the Fields

A tropical ecologist reporting from the field. Musings on life and art, botfly extractions, tropical plant identification, beer, parrots, machetes. Etc.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Denizens of the lab clearing

Many of the interesting animals here are way out in the forest, but you don't have to travel too far to see wildlife. Here is a sampling of animals I've spotted in the lab clearing-- the space of cut grass and semi-organized plantings around the lab and dorm buildings-- just this week.

Exhibit A: Saturniid caterpillar. These guys are attractive but oh-so-nasty. I ran into one unawares last summer. It stung me through my pants pocket, through three layers of cloth, leaving a welt that burned unbearably for about 20 minutes, itched thereafter, and was still visible a week later. And I am not kidding when I say these things are the size of my index finger:

Still, it's not so bad: in Brazil, caterpillars from the Saturniid genus Lonomia have been known to cause fatal kidney failure from unknown toxins. (If anyone knows the genus of this beauty, please enlighten me. Invertebrates are not a forte of mine.)

Speaking of things that can kill you, here is another one recently spotted in the lab clearing. This is a beautiful example of the eyelash viper, Bothriechis schlegelii. These snakes have highly variable color morphs, from a mottled brown-green to bright green to this gorgeous yellow form, found only in Costa Rica. The local name is oropel, more or less "golden skin." Snakes from a single litter can be very different colors. Oh, and before antivenin was widely available, these little guys caused a number of fatalities every year. Though the fatality rate is much lower now, they are still responsible for some disfiguring injuries: because they hang out in low vegetation, most bites occur in the face and neck area.

Eyelash vipers are smaller than you might expect, and harder to spot. See if you can find the one that Diego's taking a picture of. Fortunately they are also very tranquilo, as snakes go. A researcher I know was taking pictures of a bird, running around trying to get it in the frame, when he felt something drop out of a bush into his shirt pocket. He didn't think much of it until five minutes later when he looked down and saw the little snake crawling out.

And finally, monkeys. They were on the bridge again, close to sunset, and I managed to get some semi-arty shots of a mother and baby. Everybody loves monkeys. Myself included.


At 10:18 PM, Blogger redswami said...

Awww, the pictures aren't loading for me. :(

Still, now I don't feel so bad about the millipede I just found in my house. It could be worse: it could be... caterpillars! Or, well, monkeys.


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