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Tales from the Rainforest

Wrapping up 2014 with Rainforest Expeditions

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 31, 2014 12:00:00 AM / by Aaron Pomerantz

Aaron Pomerantz

Every year, people from all over the world venture to the Southeastern corner of Peru. And it’s not hard to understand why; the Tambopata National Reserve lies in the Amazon Basin and boasts some of the most spectacular rainforest and wildlife this world has to offer. Jaguars, Macaws, Monkeys, Capybara, Giant river otters, and Harpy eagles are some of the notable megafauna that can be observed in their natural habitat here. But not all of the impressive wildlife in the Amazon is large in size. In fact, the little creatures can be just as fascinating, if not more so. Most of the planet’s biodiversity comes in the form of insects, worms, and other miniature living organisms, and new species are being discovered each day. Some of our top stories this past year included coverage of unknown species of insects and spiders that were found in close proximity to the Rainforest Expeditions jungle lodges in Tambopata recently!

Here are some of our top stories from 2014:

This Spider Makes Fake Spiders. But Why? 1.21.14. By Nadia Drake. 

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A photo of the ‘Decoy spider’ sitting at the top of its pseudo-spider structure. Photo courtesy of Lary Reeves.

What I learned Hunting Decoy-Weaving Spiders in the Amazon. 6.16.14. By Douglas Main.

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Lary (right) and Aaron (left) investigating the ‘Decoy spiders’.

Expedition to Candamo: Venturing into ‘The Last Rainforest Without Men’. 11.2.14. By Aaron Pomerantz.

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Aldo and his team push the boat through strong rapids to make it to Candamo.

Predatory ‘Glow Worm’ Discovered in Peruvian Rainforest. 11.19.14. By Lisa Winter.

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A beautiful Harpy eagle snatches a howler monkey for breakfast. Photo by Chris Johns.

 

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A bioluminescent insect larvae protrudes its head from the earth and lures in prey to its powerful mandibles.

 

Closing out with fruitful December expedition

This past December, I was joined by two incredible groups in the Amazon. Chris Johns, a friend and colleague of mine, is a graduate student at the University of Florida and assembled a team that rumbled through the jungle with myself and guide Frank Pichardo for two weeks. We came across a myriad of amazing animals, including a Harpy eagle that had just snatched a howler monkey for breakfast, caiman, tailless-whip scorpions, monkey frogs, snakes (big snakes!), and much more.

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A caiman smiles big for the camera. Photo by Chris Johns.

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A large Yellow-bellied Puffing Snake was none too happy to see us.

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Chris, I think you’ve got a bug on your face…A tailless whip scorpion to be exact.

Then I was joined by Christie Wilcox, a rising science communication star who celebrated her successful Ph.D. defense by immersing herself in the Peruvian Amazon. In addition to taking in everything fascinating that the jungle has to offer, Christie was working to gather content for her book on venom (coming soon). This meant getting up close to potentially dangerous animals, including snakes, scorpions, wandering spiders, and bullet ants (ouch!). All in all, we had a safe trip and documented plenty of venomous fauna to satiate Christie’s toxic appetite.

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A wandering spider displays a warning threat by raising her front pairs of legs. Don’t mess!

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The stinger of a bullet ant, supposedly one of the most painful insect stings one can experience. I’ll take your word for it...

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Large bark scorpions in the Amazon can be found on night hikes. 

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Christie, you most CERTAINLY have a bug on your face

So what comes next with Rainforest Expeditions? Ongoing research projects for our peculiar spider and glow worm species push us to stay on top of the scientific literature and techniques so we can gather more data and publish our results. There are still many emerging questions that have yet to be answered. Is the ‘Decoy spider’ a new species? What purpose or purposes does the decoy structure serve? If it is indeed to avoid anti-predation, what predators pushed for the selection of this unique behavior in the spider? Are the ‘glow worms’ a new species and is this a new record of their occurrence in Southeastern Peru? We’re also working to organize more trips over the course of the next year with scientists, photographers, and filmmakers, who are eager to come down to this area which is ripe with unknown animals and discoveries. What comes next isn’t entirely known, and that’s part of the adventure.

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A perfect day in Tambopata, Peru.

Last but certainly not least, I’d like to thank the people who helped me get here and who have been invaluable colleagues in the field this past year. Lary Reeves is a graduate student at the University of Florida who invited me to join him in the Amazon in May of 2014. What was meant to be a routine research expedition turned into a position working with the Tambopata Research Centeras a Science Communicator, and I am thankful to Lary, as well as Jeff Cremer, for giving me the opportunity to come to this place.

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Top left: Lary Reeves, Douglas Main, Augusto Bazan, and Nadia Drake composed an indispensable team in May where we made some more exciting discoveries about the ‘Decoy spiders’. Top right: In October I organized a team to venture into the remote Candamo region, and it couldn’t have been done without the help of Jeff Cremer, Mike Bentley, Geoff Gallice, Roy, Misael, Rodolfo, Gallo, Pedro, and Aldo. Bottom left: This December trip, I’d like to thank my amazing group with Chris Johns, Kai Moreb, Lauren Georges, Narayan Ghiotti, Frank Pichardo, and Nicole Lizares. Bottom right: Christie Wilcox was a pleasure to have in the field poking at dangerous animals, and I hope we get to do it again soon. One last shout out to Phil Torres and Jeff Cremer, who have been incredible sources of knowledge, friendship, and collaboration on projects in this part of the world. Wrapping up 2014 with Rainforest Expeditions has been an amazing experience thus far; I can only imagine what the top stories of 2015 will look like…Cheers to the New Year! 

-Aaron Pomerantz

 

 

 

 

Topics: adventure, glow worm, science communication

Aaron Pomerantz

Written by Aaron Pomerantz

Entomologist and Rainforest Expeditions brand ambassador

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Wired Amazon in Tambopata Peru

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