Archive for the ‘Photo gallery’ Category

Pelliciera comparison and Belize alert

July 5th, 2009

Having just learned how to put PowerPoint presentations on the blog, I am providing two such slide shows created by Candy Feller. The first concerns Pelliciera rhizophorae mangroves, and the second sounds the alarm re the impact of development on mangroves in Belize.

Ay caramba! A caterpillar that thinks it’s a snake

June 22nd, 2009

Today we found a caterpillar that belongs in the Guinness Book of Records in the “most bizarre” category. About 8 cm long and as thick as my little finger, it had a head like a snake, which it would lift up if you breathed on it. The tail end had a single Cyclops eye in the middle of it, complete with a fake eyelid that blinked.

The creature was positioned head-down on the trunk of a Pelliciera (perhaps so that a predatory bird would be attracted to the eye, the “decoy”). Pelliciera trunks here are covered with mats of tufting liverworts, which are favourite haunts of tree crabs. The trunk was bare around the caterpillar’s head, and looked to have been grazed by the animal.

I’m working on finding out what sort of moth or butterfly this magnificent beast turns into, but if it’s even half as spectacular as its larvae it must be quite a sight.*

(Click photo to see more pictures of the “snake caterpillar of Valiente.”)

Contender for the 'most bizarre' award?

KENNEDY WARNE
Contender for the 'most bizarre' award?

*UPDATE Annette Aiello, an entomologist with the Smithsonian, has provided me with the following excellent information:

“My guess is that your spectacular caterpillar belongs to the moth family Sphingidae, the sphinx moths, which include the well-known ‘tomato horn worm.’ Several sphingid genera are snake mimics, and in most of the cases I’ve seen so far, it is the ventral surface of the body that is displayed to resemble a snake. You can see that in the attached photograph of a species of Hemeroplanes. The head, mostly hidden, forms the blunt nose of the snake, then behind that you see the ventral surface of the thorax with its three pairs of true legs folded against the body, and the large, dark, false eyes (that can be opened and closed with blood pressure) on the sides of the third thoracic segment. Continuing back, you see the first three pairs of false legs (prologs), which are the large black structures on the ventral surface of the abdomen. The larva is holding on to the substrate with its fourth pair of prologs. In contrast, your caterpillar presents its dorsal surface during the display. The only record I can find of a similar caterpillar is Pholus labruscae, shown figure d, plate xiii of Miles Moss (1912) publication “On the Sphingidae of Peru,” Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 20(2): 73-134. Moss describes the final stage larva as ‘Remarkably snake-like, either end appearing as the head of a snake.’ He reports that the caterpillar eats members of the grape family (Vitaceae).”

Pholus labruscae

Pholus labruscae

Among the Pelliciera

June 21st, 2009

Here are a few more glimpses of the magic forest. (Click on photograph to start slide sequence.)

Bromeliad on a Pelliciera trunk.

KENNEDY WARNE
Bromeliad on a Pelliciera trunk.

Shrimp v mangrove

May 18th, 2009

For the factually inclined, here is some background data on the shrimp vs mangrove conflict from a conversation with Lider Góngora, president of the Ecuadorian organisation C-CONDEM. As well as fighting for mangrove protection and empowerment of mangrove-reliant communities, Lider and his staff operate a newly opened seafood restaurant in their office complex in Quito (see earlier post).

Lider Góngora Farías, fighting for protection of mangroves and mangrove communities in Ecuador.

KENNEDY WARNE
Lider Góngora, fighting for protection of mangroves and mangrove communities in Ecuador.


* Ecuador was the first country in Latin America to jump on the shrimp bandwagon. The first farms were established in 1977 near Huaquillas, my first port of call in Ecuador. From there the industry spread north, cutting down mangroves as it went. Labour was cheap, profits were high and destruction was rapid.

* By 1998 Ecuador was the world’s largest exporter of shrimp. Shrimp was the country’s second largest export, oil being first.

* Ecuador originally possessed 364,000 ha of mangroves. By 2001, 70% had been destroyed. Of the 108,000 ha of mangroves remaining, 20,000 ha have been granted as concessions for communities to co-manage in conjunction with government agencies.

* It is illegal in Ecuador to cut down mangroves or to site a shrimp farm within mangroves. With reference to these laws, many of Ecuador’s 254,000 shrimp farms are illegal operations.

* More than 1 million Ecuadorians live and/or work among mangroves, and 150,000 depend directly on them for their livelihoods.

And here are some more pictures of the shrimp v mangrove situation in Ecuador.

Shrimp farm buildings glimpsed through gaps in the mangrove ´beauty screen.´

KENNEDY WARNE
Shrimp farm buildings glimpsed through gaps in the mangrove 'beauty screen.' (Click to open slide show)

Embracing the inner mangrove

May 15th, 2009

Here a couple more pictures from my visit to the giant mangroves of Majagual.

Embracing the inner (and outer) mangrove.

ELAINE CORETS
Embracing the inner (and outer) mangrove.


Bromeliad in flower.

KENNEDY WARNE
Bromeliad in flower.