August 13, 2014

Peru Jungle Lodge Adds Three New Luxury Room Types


SUPERIOR ROOMS (Posada Amazonas and Refugio Amazonas)
Looking for a beautiful room in the middle of the rainforest. Our superior rooms have lovely, varnished tropical hardwood floors, are 45 square meters, and have an open verandah that looks out into a roadless, wild tropical rainforest preserve. Superior rooms are available as singles, doubles or twins, and each is equipped with a mosquito net over large, comfortable beds, two hypoallergenic pillows per person, a hammock, and a reading table.

Stay in one of our superior rooms and enjoy:
  • A large, spacious, 45 meter square room.
  • A big spacious bathroom with plenty of hot water.
  • Electricity in the middle of the Amazon rainforest until 10 PM every night.
  • An outlet to charge your laptop, tablet, and other devices.
  • Free online access from the comfort and privacy of your room to communicate with the outside world, and share the images and excitement of your Amazon adventure.
  • Personal safe deposit box.
  • An umbrella (this is the rainforest after all).
  • Several eco-friendly amenities.
  • A place to relax after exciting jungle hikes, watching macaws fly past at the canopy tower, visiting a tranquil oxbow lake, experiencing Ese Eja culture, and enjoying other exciting Amazon rainforest activities.

 (at Refugio Amazonas)

Add a bit of extra comfort and quality to your Amazon experience by staying in one of our premium rooms. We are offering one of these excellent new rooms at Refugio Amazonas for guests who prefer to upgrade their stay in the Peruvian Amazon. Each of these beautiful new rooms features authentic Ese-Eja décor that has been crafted by artists from the local indigenous community, handsome varnished tropical hardwood floors, and the same intimate view of the surrounding rainforest as our other rooms.

These rooms also add comfort with a big luxurious bed, hypoallergenic pillows, ceiling fans, electricity, and other fine amenities in the middle of the jungle.

Relish your time in one of our premium rooms and enjoy:

  • A large, beautiful room with varnished, tropical hardwood floors.
  • Large bathrooms that feature showers with tempered glass, and hot water 24 hours a day.
  • A ceiling fan for a bit of extra comfort in an already well ventilated room.
  • Electricity in the middle of the Amazon rainforest until 10 PM every night.
  • Beautiful, authentic Amazonian décor crafted by local Ese-Eja artisans.
  • Wireless internet service to share the images of your adventure with friends and family from the privacy and comfort of your room.
  • Small refrigerator and mini bar.
  • Amenities such as comfortable flippers and binoculars for watching wildlife from the verandah.
  • A big luxurious bed with hypoallergenic pillows and comfortable sheets.
  • A reading table to jot down notes about your Amazon adventure.
  • Electrical outlets for recharging those essential devices.
  • Safe deposit box.
  • A comfortable place to relax and email images from an exciting morning at the canopy tower, night hikes, and other adventurous jungle activities. 

  • CLASSIC ROOMS (Posada Amazonas & Refugio Amazonas)

    Quaint, comfortable rooms in the middle of the tropical rainforest allow guests to experience this global biodiversity hotspot even during their down time. Monkeys, many species of birds, frogs, and other rainforest wildlife are often visible from our signature windowless verandahs. Those same verandahs also add comfort with excellent ventilation. Our classic rooms have been enjoyed by thousands of guests and are built with local materials such as tropical hardwoods, palms, bamboo, and adobe.

    Our classic rooms are available as doubles or triples and come equipped with mosquito nets for the beds and have spacious private bathrooms with hot water. Numerous kerosene lamps and candles provide soft lighting. Electricity and internet are just a short walk to the common areas of the lodge.

    Experience the Peruvian jungle in one of our classic rooms and enjoy:
    • Quaint, classic, comfortable Amazon rainforest rooms.
    • Watching birds and looking for other rainforest wildlife from an open verandah that looks straight into the Amazon jungle.
    • All rooms are built with local materials for an authentic experience.
    • Each bed has a mosquito net.
    • Hot water bathrooms in the heart of the jungle!
    • Soft, romantic lighting from candles and kerosene lamps.
    • An authentic jungle retreat to rest up before and after guided trips to the canopy tower, guided hikes in the jungle, watching Giant Otters and other wildlife at an oxbow lake, and other exciting jungle activities.
    Exclusive Amazon Villa

    Treat yourself to exclusive lodging and activities in the middle of the Peruvian jungle with a premium stay at our Amazon Villa. The Amazon Villa is a private bungalow designed to provide guests with a comfortable blend of privacy, amenities, and activities that enhance an already unforgettable Amazon jungle experience. Essentially, guests of the Amazon Villa enjoy their own, exclusive bungalow in the heart of the rainforest where they can relax among some of the most biodiverse surroundings on the planet, enjoy views of a beautiful garden backed by majestic primary rainforest, watch for monkeys and hundreds of exotic birds from the comfort of the bungalow, and enjoy private romantic dinners featuring delicious Peruvian cuisine. The exclusive treatment begins upon arrival to the airport with private transport to the bungalow, continues throughout your stay, and doesn’t end until we bring your back to the airport for your departure flight.

    This beautiful furnished bungalow is equipped with:
    • A luxurious king-sized bed.
    • 40 inch flat screen television to watch nature videos and documentaries.
    • A place to use your laptop for writing or checking out the
      photos from every memorable day in the jungle.
    • A satellite Internet connection.
    • Electricity in the middle of the rainforest at all times of the day.
    • A dining room where you can take fresh meals delivered to the bungalow.
    • Dining table with 6 chairs.
    • A refrigerator and microwave.
    • A spacious bathroom equipped with hot water and a tub for soaking in comfort at the end of a long, incredible day in the Peruvian rainforest.
  • July 11, 2014

    4 Footballers Who Remind us of Rainforest Animals

    By: Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

    It’s a jungle out there, and in this year’s World Cup, footballers are
    jockeying for a seat at the top of the food chain. While some bring
    brute strength to the table, others have adapted with speed and
    cunning. For these athletes, it’s survival of the fittest—just like in
    the Amazon.

    To celebrate the 2014 World Cup, we’ve created a list of footballers

    who remind us of jungle animals. Do you see the resemblance?

    I Got the Moves Like Jaguar

    Junior Diaz is the World Cup’s fastest player with a 22 mile-per-hour

    sprint. The Costa Rican defender played in five matches and ran about
    35 miles on the field in this tournament as of Tuesday.

    Still, Diaz is no match for the jaguar, which can run about twice that
    fast. These formidable beasts are the largest cats in the Americas, and they have an appetite
    to match. Jaguars eat large mammals like deer, peccaries and tapirs.
    They also snack on birds, turtles and fish. (Want to get up close and
    personal without getting too close? Check out our wildlife photography

    In ancient Native American cultures, jaguars were thought to be gods
    of the underworldThis myth persisted widely until the Mayan empire fell. Just like the
    Costa Rican team recently fell. Too soon?

    Suarez Bites Like the Bullet Ant

    Bullet ant
    Bullet ant (Photo credit: ggallice)
    Bullet ants are the world’s largest ant, growing up to an inch long.
     These nasty denizens of the rainforest floor can both bite and sting,
    injecting victims with a powerful neurotoxin that causes muscle
    contractions and a burning sensation. They’re dubbed “bullet” because
    being attacked by one feels like getting shot(See also “Top 5 Strangest Rainforest Animals)

    Luis Suarez may not look like a bullet ant, but his bite is just as
    potent. Nicknamed “The Cannibal,” Suarez was suspended last month for
    biting another player during a game. The Uruguayan midfielder leaned
    over mid-play and clamped his pearly whites on Germany’s Giorgio

    In the Amazon, bullet ants are traditionally used during local
    coming-of-age ceremonies, where young men have to endure multiple
    bites and stings to secure a place within the community. And while
    Suarez’s bite might not pack the same punch as a bullet ant, it could
    have serious health implications. The human mouth contains hundreds of
    strains of bacteria—some of which don’t hurt their hosts but can be
    fatal to others.

    The Naked Truth About Croatian Footballers

    The Croatian football team caused a stir when photos of them relaxing
    naked by their hotel pool circulated the Internet. Two
    photographers hid in the bushes while the squad lounged in the buff
    and quickly sold the resulting photos to media outlets. Angry that
    their privacy had been violated, the team refused to give interviews
    to World Cup reporters.

    Luckily, the Peruvian hairless dog is much less self-conscious about
    its nudity—its picture adorns artifacts from the Moche, Inca, Chancay
    and Chimu peoples. The ancient breed is affectionately called the
    “Peruvian Inca Orchid.” Prized for its heat-radiating skin, many
    locals prefer cuddling with their canines to hot compresses or heating
    pads. (You can cuddle up in one of our rainforest villas.)

    These bald dogs get flack in a society accustomed to fuzzy pooches.
    Peruvian hairless dogs are often strong contenders for the World’s
    Ugliest Dog competition. Do their human counterparts on the Croatian team match suit? You’ll have to decide
    for yourself.

    Tim Howard and the Poison Dart Frog

    English: Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus...
    English: Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus) at the Louisville Zoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    The U.S. goalie Tim Howard wears a bright green jersey that reminds us
    of a poison dart frog. These gorgeous creatures come in many different
    colors besides green, dotting the rainforest with splashes of gold,
    copper, blue and red. Their bright coloration is a warning that tells
    predators to back off—or suffer the toxic consequences. Poison dart
    frogs ooze poison from their skin that can maim or even kill their
    attackers. (If looks could kill… These exotic amphibians would slay

    There are several species of poison dart frog that carry their eggs
    and tadpoles around on their backs—just like Howard carried the U.S.
    team through the country’s first two matches. During the U.S. versus
    Belgium game, Howard made 16 saves—the most ever recorded during a
    World Cup game.

    Want to see more jungle animals? Check out our tours of the Amazon with Rainforest Expeditions.
    May 22, 2014

    Capuchin monkey economics


    That human intelligence is superior among the living world is almost a truism. Great intelligence—and a unique ability to reason, to experience emotion, to communicate using complex language and to understand and employ symbolism—are the criteria by which humans are set apart from the rest of the Earth’s creatures. By our own admission, we are the world’s greatest thinkers, and profoundly so.

    Yet, for the past several hundred years, scientific discoveries have steadily eroded the uniqueness, the exceptionality, and the centrality of the human species and our place in the world. It all started, of course, with the discovery that the sun does not revolve around the Earth—that our humble little planet is but an insignificant blip in a vast universe replete with countless other worlds, with each one precisely, simultaneously, at its center.

    While we do not yet have any direct evidence, astronomers tell us that as many as a million worlds within our own galaxy, the Milky Way, might be inhabited by intelligent life. And with around 400 billion other galaxies sprawled throughout the cosmos, intelligent life is essentially a statistical certainty—a striking and very beautiful proposition indeed.

    Most recently, however, it is the cognitive scientists—those who study the acquisition of knowledge and understanding through thought and experience—that are teaching us that we must rethink the notion of our supremacy and our matchless intellect, right here on Earth. They are doing so not only by teaching sign language to gorillas and chimpanzees—an astonishingly impressive feat on the part of researcher and ape alike, to be sure—but by teaching us how the brains of our more distantly-related cousins, the monkeys, work. As it turns out, those monkey brains work a lot like our own.

    A brown capuchin monkey forages in a palm tree at the Tambopata Research Center in Madre de Dios, Peru.

    The brown capuchin monkey, Cebus apella, is one of several species of capuchins found throughout the Amazon basin, including in Tambopata. The brown capuchin is widely considered among the most intelligent of the New World primates, or the monkeys and tamarins of the American tropics.

    Recently, a group of researchers working in a laboratory at Yale University have successfully introduced the concept of currency to their captive brown capuchins. After months of introducing the monkeys to the small, metal disks that would serve as coins, the monkeys learned that they could exchange these coins for highly prized food items such as grapes.

    Before long, the monkeys learned how to budget their coins, especially after the researchers introduced another highly-prized food item to the menu: Jell-O. When the price of Jell-O was reduced compared to grapes, monkeys reacted in precisely the way that current laws of economics in humans predict: they bought more Jell-O.

    The facial expressions of brown capuchins belie their human-like intelligence.

    Perhaps the researchers’ most stunning find came after a monkey was observed exchanging money for sex with another monkey. The monkey had learned well the value of money, and most importantly, that it could be used to trade for goods and services—even prostitution!

    You might ask, Why do monkeys have or need such powerful brains—which appear to have many of the high cognitive functions of our own—if they don’t appear to use them in many of the same ways that we do? Why, if they are able to barter for food and even sex in a laboratory setting using a symbolic currency, do we not see monkey towns and cities dotted throughout the rainforests of tropical America, instead of only human towns and cities?

    We can’t yet answer the second question, although it is most likely the result of a combination of factors, including a poorly-developed vocal organ that prevents the use of complex language, limited tool use, a lack of bipedalism, or other factors which we do not yet know. But we can fairly confidently answer the first question, Why do monkeys have such powerful brains?

    Although monkeys do not typically do math, or read or write, they do live in cooperative groups with complex social structures. Large groups provide protection in numbers, and with large snakes, jungle cats, and birds of prey standing (or slithering or flying) at the ready day and night to make a meal of a monkey, group life has its benefits.

    But living in a group presents other challenges. For instance, a strict social hierarchy, in which dominant animals feed first at an abundant resource such as a fruiting tree, say, allows everyone to access food without a brawl each time food is discovered by the group. But how best to remember one’s place in such a hierarchy? Evidently, a large brain allows monkeys to know and recognize other individual monkeys, as well as their own and others’ social statuses. They also use their powerful brains, just as we do, to analyze the feelings and intentions of others, which is done with the help of a large amount of computing power. As we all know, social life and in-group politics are complex, and powerful brains have given primates the tools they need to survive and reproduce in large social groups.

    This explanation makes evolutionary sense for humans, as well. Those individuals with more highly-developed brains—which should, on average, make them more competitive in a group setting—should again, on average, reproduce more. Their offspring, in turn will have bigger, more powerful brains, and so on, until, after many generations, intelligence on the order of that of humans has evolved from our more humbly intelligent ancestors.

    There remains so much more to learn about human and non-human primate cognition. But one thing is already certain: monkeys are smart, and they use their brains in many of the same ways that we do, often to achieve similar or identical ends. In reality, this should not come as a surprise—on the grand evolutionary tree of life, we are very close relatives. But monkey prostitution? I don’t think anybody expected that!

    It is beautiful to consider that we share an evolutionary kinship with these amazing, inquisitive, and crafty creatures. The capuchin's sharp intellectual abilities provide evidence of that kinship.

    Discoveries in the cognition of non-human primates—like the capuchin monkeys of Tambopata—continue to shatter the notions of total human uniqueness and our superiority over the rest of the Earth’s lifeforms. But, instead of viewing this as a demotion, I argue that such amazing discoveries are cause to celebrate. To celebrate the emerging knowledge that we are part of a complex yet beautiful creation in which all creatures share in a history and a future more interconnected and fascinating than we’ve ever before imagined—even if some of our shared characteristics might seem a bit unsavory.
    May 04, 2014

    Rare Harpy Eagle Nest With Baby = Striking Avian Gold In The Peruvian Amazon


    Photographing the Harpy Eagle from a platform in a huge tree
    A few weeks ago, wildlife photographers Jeff Cremer of Rainforest Expeditions and Lucas Bustamante and Jaime Culebras of TropicalHerping, had the chance to film and photograph one of the rarest birds of the rainforest, the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja). Not only did they see a Harpy Eagle, they were able to climb into the canopy and observe two Harpy Eagles with its chick for two days. At one point they were so close they had to switch lenses just to get the entire bird in the frame.

    Getting ready to climb into the rainforest canopy
    "Its so rare it’s like seeing a Unicorn” says Jeff Cremer of Rainforest Expeditions. “When Jaime and Lucas sent me a message on Facebook saying that they found a Harpy Eagle nest I booked the next flight to the jungle.”

    Harpy Eagles are the top predators of the Amazon sky. These massive birds of prey have a wingspan of six to seven feet and, when sitting, have the height of a five-year-old child. Coming equipped with talons the size of Grizzly Bear claws and a huge beak that dismembers monkeys and sloths with ease these creatures clock in as the worlds most powerful bird of prey.

    A mother taking care of her baby
    The tree with the Harpy Eagle nest
    Despite its large dimensions (a big female can be more than a meter in length and have a wingspan of more than two meters), actually seeing a Harpy Eagle in the wild is a major birding accomplishment. Unlike other birds of prey, the Harpy Eagle doesn’t soar but prefers to lurk in the canopy of the forest like some monstrous winged feline. It catches prey by surprise and goes after everything from monkeys to kinkajous and even Brocket Deer.

    Their large territory also adds difficulty to the equation since a pair uses anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 hectares of forest for hunting. When one is seen, it’s usually a brief glimpse of a massive bird flying away through the top branches of the forest.

    "Birders spend their whole lives just to catch a glimpse of the Harpy Eagle. We were incredibly lucky to be able to sit in a tree for two days right next to a family of them. What makes that especially rare is the fact that a pair of Harpy Eagles nest just once every two or even three years." Cremer said. "I've seen Jaguars, Tapirs and Puma and have even been the first person to film new species but seeing the Harpy Eagle feed and interact with its chick was really amazing."
    Baby Harpy Eagle

    At around 4:30am while it was still dark, the team gathered up their photography gear and hiked into the jungle. After a 30 minute hike the team arrived at the tree and started preparing for the climb up. Using climbing harnesses and ascenders the team climbed twelve stories into a huge rainforest tree. What they saw, perched twelve stories high while strapped to a tree, was a Harpy Eagle chick nestled in a four-foot thick, five-foot wide fortress of branches and soft leaves. The chick was patiently waiting for its mother to return and eventually, she did.

    Harpy Eagle
    "We were really surprised when she showed up. She swooped in without a sound while carrying a full grown Brazilian Porcupine in her claws," Cremer said. “She just sat there and watched while the baby ate it up.”

    After they ate the Porcupine, the mother bird began calling until her mate, a huge male Harpy Eagle, came flying in to deliver half the body a 

    sloth to the nest.

    Fellow wildlife photographers and biologists Lucas Bustamante and Jaime Culebras of Tropical Herping have spent the better part of the last decade photographing wildlife in the Ecuadorian rainforest and were with Cremer to photograph and film the eagle.

    "In my country, Ecuador, there is an Amazonian tribe called the Huaorani," Bustamante explained. "They believe that they are descendants of the Jaguar and the Harpy Eagle. They worship these two animals as their gods and view them as being very important to the jungle. After being face to face with an Harpy Eagle it is easy to see why they believe that. Finding myself in the jungle with that mythological creature, was like being in front of a legendary Griffin."

    Baby Harpy Eagle
    "This rest of the trip was like paradise," said Jaime Culebras, "We were able to photograph two Jaguars, a Puma with her baby, a family of Otters playing a few meters from our boat, hundreds of macaws eating right in front of our cameras, four species of monkeys on trails and dozens of peccaries visiting the lodge just about every day. Adding the pair of Harpy Eagles feeding their young in the nest made this trip a dream come true!”

    Mother Harpy Eagle

    A Close Up Of The Harpy Eagle Holding Half The Body Of A Sloth By Its Head

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    January 20, 2014

    Short-eared Dog (Atelocynus microtis)

    Short-eared Dog

    The Short-eared Dog (Atelocynus microtis) is a rare, little known canine. Unlike various species of fox, wolves, and other canines on the planet, this one is very difficult to see and even more difficult to study. It only occurs in the dense rainforests of central and western Amazonia and doesn’t appear to be common in any parts of its range. In appearance, the Short-eared Dog looks a bit like a wild feline and has proportions that are somewhat similar to those of a Jaguarundi. Its dark gray coloration is also rather similar to the colors of a Jaguarundi and when seen in the dim recesses of its rainforest habitat, can even be mistaken for that small cat.

    However, the Short-eared Dog is a bit larger than the Jaguarundi and like most other canines, has a longer snout and bushier tail. Although very little is known about the natural history of the Short-eared Dog, this solitary hunter is believed to forage for small animals in primary rainforest and bamboo stands. Based on the few sightings of this little known mammal, it may also have a preference for hunting along creeks and other wetland habitats.

    This rare animal seems to be restricted to wild, extensive areas of rainforest and more sightings seem to come from southeastern Peru than from other parts of its range. The Short-eared Dog has been seen on several occasions at TRC, Refugio Amazonas and other lodges managed by Rainforest Expeditions.

    Some interesting facts about the Short-eared Dog:

    • The only member of the Atelocynus genus: The Short-eared Dog is the sole member of its genus. Although it doesn’t appear to have any close relatives, it is believed to be somewhat related to fox species that occur in South America.
    • Naturally rare: This rainforest canine occurs at naturally low densities in part because it has to compete with such other predators as the Ocelot, Puma, Jaguar, and Bush Dog. 
    • Partially webbed toes: The toes of the Short-eared Dog are partially webbed and an adaptation for aquatic habitats and indeed, this canine seems to prefer wetlands in the forest.

    How to see a Short-eared Dog on a tour in the Peruvian jungle:

    • Visit areas where they have been seen most often: The Short-eared Dog is a very difficult species to see but one has a better chance of watching this canine in places that appear to host healthy populations. Tambopata, Peru is one such area.
    • Hike on rainforest trails near streams and other wetlands: Since this species seems to prefer wetland habitats (and fish have been recoded as being a primary prey item), spending more time near rainforest streams and swamps may increase chances of seeing it.
    • Explore the rainforest with an experienced guide: Hiking in the rainforest with a knowledgeable guide is just about essential for encountering rare animals like the Short-eared Dog.
    Keep an eye out for the Short-eared Dog and other rare rainforest animals while experiencing the Peruvian Amazon jungle with Rainforest Expeditions.
    December 21, 2013

    We Solved An Amazon Rainforest Mystery (w/Video)


    About six months ago, graduate student Troy Alexander took photos of this odd structure. What was it? The images went viral and neither the internet nor experts could figure it out.

    The inside 'tower' and outer 'fence' of this Amazon mystery.
    For image/story usage please contact:
    Written by Phil Torres.

    So we returned to the Tambopata Research Center six months later with a team lead by myself, Phil Torres, to solve it. Alongside were entomologists Lary Reeves and Geena Hill, both from the University of Florida entomology department and with strong field experience, and photographer Jeff Cremer, to document the structure with macrophotography.

    The previous theories on how these structures were formed were vast: slime mold, spiders, fungus, lacewings, and some even thought it was a hoax. With just the pictures to go on and no other similar structure found in the literature, we approached this very open minded, but did suspect a cribellate spider for the reasons well outlined here.

    For this expedition, the goal was to find more of these structures, find what's making them, and try and figure out a function for the odd 'fence' with a 'tower' in the center.

    We weren't even sure we'd find more on the small fish pond island in which the first two were seen, but over a stretch of trail about 200m long we ended up finding upwards of 45 of them as the week went on. After isolating some of the structures and long hours of observations in the field, day and night, we've come up with the following conclusions:

    It was created by a spider. Three of the structures hatched out these spiderlings.

    We're still attempting to identify the spider. There are several things that make this unusual. For one, it is not common for spiders to lay eggs and abandon them, they typically place silken egg sacs in their own web to protect. More oddly, it appears that there was only a single egg per structure (see image below). This, as far as we can tell, would be the only known occurrence of a spider laying a single egg per egg sac.

    We saw a few adult spiders around that were prime suspects, but never saw any making it, so the construction and culprit remain a mystery.

    There were a lot of mites around. The mites we found on and in the structures threw us off the trail for a bit as were unsure of the potential for the few groups of silk-producing mites to create such a structure themselves. We were able to rule them out once the spiderlings hatched, however we noted several instances of mites being seemingly trapped inside or along the 'fence' of the structure, and other times crawling directly on the inner tower (below).
    One 'tower' toppled, leaving an egg exposed. Mites like this were often seen in or on the structures.

    One hypothesis is that the structure might be designed to trap mites, serving as an easy first meal for a hatching spider. There is also the possibility of the spiders putting some sort of chemical attractant on the egg case to bait the mites, as chemical lures have been documented several times with spiders.

    Mites (the round, shiny objects) appear to be trapped within this structure.

    In addition to potentially capturing mites, the 'fence' part of the structure may function as defense against ants. The silk could potentially ensnare ants, and the distance from the center may prevent ants from easily detecting a food source within.
    The Tambopata Research Center

    The spider appears to be habitat specific. We only found them in a particular area of successional forest habitat with high abundance of Cecropia and bamboo. This seems to fit the habitat of another single structure which was photographed in Ecuador. This information will allow us to survey other similar habitats to search for more.
    The island where the spider was found can be seen in the lower left corner.

    We're eager to hear from spider experts out there who can provide some guidance on ID and evolutionary origin of the structure. There is much work to be done observing these in their natural environment to truly get to the bottom of it, but until then we can at least sleep at night knowing we've solved one part: it's a spider.

    September 22, 2013

    What the heck is going on in this picture?

    Peru Tambopata

    This toad appears to be a fan of star wars... or is it using blinders...? or does it have giant ears...? or what is that sticking out of its mouth!?

    Look closely and you'll realize that this is a rare, and perhaps first, sighting of a cane toad feeding on a bat. Yes, this happened.

    This photo was taken at a remote guard station in Peru by park ranger Yufani Olaya at Cerros de Amotape National Park. He gave us permission to write about the photo, but we're waiting to hear back from him on more details about where exactly he found it, and how he thinks a ground-dwelling toad could have captured a bat. 

    We're unsure how common this is, but we do know that this is probably the first photographed record of a cane toad feeding on a bat.  Cane toads are notoriously opportunistic feeders, and while they are native to South America this trait has made them infamously invasive in places like Australia.

    Without more information about this photo it can be difficult to guess how a ground-dwelling toad and a flying bat could ever cross paths, unless the bat had fallen.

    My best guess? I have seen bats and toads use similar locations in the rainforest, just not at the same time. Both are known to use small holes along streamsides, so it's possible this bat decided to roost in a hole that was inhabited by a hungry toad, which after some difficulty swallowing took a walk to get its photo taken by Olaya.

    Here in the Tambopata rainforest we often run across cane toads- but from now on we'll keep an extra close eye out for what's in their mouths. 

    We'll keep you in the loop as we get more information on this odd and fascinating sighting.

    Update: Sept 23, 2013 10:00am

    We finally got in touch with Olaya. As was suggested by John Scanlon in a comment on a repost of this story on Why Evolution Is True, it appears the bat was flying a bit too close to the ground. Many bats will feed on insects flying near the ground or will glean insects that are actually on the ground (pallid bats in the US are a great example of the latter).

    Olaya described the toad's success as "out of nowhere the bat just flew directly into the mouth of the toad, which almost seemed to be sitting with its mouth wide open." With toad-like reflexes, this cane toad was able to snatch the unsuspecting bat right out of the air as it flew too close to the ground, and apparently directly at the toad's awaiting mouth.

    So, did the toad finally get those wings in its mouth? According to Olaya, no. The toad finally gave up and spat it out. While Olaya at first thought the bat was dead, he said it slowly recovered and was able to fly away. I'm sure it won't make that mistake again.

    Update: Sept 24 5:00pm

    We were sent a paper which describes a related toad feeding on a bat, which you can find (with images) here.

    Special thanks to A. Ruesta for bringing this photo to our attention, and for getting in contact with Mr. Olaya.

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