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Places Caraça Natural Park : Nature Closeups

Identification Challenge #7 Reveal

January 8th, 2011 - 1:31 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 2 Comments

All commenters correctly determined that this was a moth:

January 26, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

At the time I took the picture, I assumed this was a butterfly. It acted like a butterfly, being active during the day and the way it held its wings (not folded over the back like many moths).

It was only when reviewing the photo later that I noticed it looked a bit odd for a butterfly. Like many commenters, I noted the lack of clubbed antennae. I didn’t try to identify it, but I remembered it when I read an interesting short article in a recent issue of Natural History magazine. The article was all about day flying moths in the subfamily Dioptinae (family Notodontidae). I emailed the author, James S. Miller, asking if he thought this might be one. Here’s his response:

That moth is either a Geometrid in the subfamily Sterrhinae, or a Noctuid
in the subfamily Agaristinae. I wouldn’t be able to tell without looking
at its wing venations and tympanum. Sadly, not a dioptine. It looks
exactly like several species in the dioptine genus Erbessa however, so you
were not far off. Mimicry in these taxa is phenomenal.

Thanks to Mr. Miller for responding.

Identification Challenge #7

January 5th, 2011 - 8:24 PM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 8 Comments

January 26, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This challenge will be straightforward. Is this a butterfly or a moth? Why?

Here’s a habitat shot, showing the shot above was taken during the day. The subject above is the yellow speck near the bottom, center right.

Subject above is just barely visible here

Mass Pupation

January 3rd, 2011 - 8:41 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

January 27, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I found one other grouping of exuviae in the area where I found the one above. I’ve never seen anything like this locally. I believe these are from lepidopterans. There is a slight layer of silk on the bark. Up close, I saw some cast off head capsules. Look closely above, and you’ll notice a leg that must have broken off while struggling free.

I know some caterpillars are gregarious as early instars, but I thought they generally went their separate ways as final instars. I thought this was interesting evidence that in at least one species, they pupate and perhaps eclose together.

Crypsis Challenge #7 Reveal

December 26th, 2010 - 6:32 PM | Filed under Crypsis Challenges | 2 Comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Commenters had no trouble finding the cryptic critter circled above on a partially eaten leaf. No one figured out that it was a caterpillar though, and a rather bizarre one at that. Here’s a closer look.

It's a caterpillar

It does a pretty good job, I think, of blending in with the damaged areas of the other leaves. I suspect the brown leaf areas were damaged by an earlier instar that chews away at the surface of the leaf rather than eating the entire thing. It looks formidable and I didn’t risk touching it. Those black structures are unlike anything I’ve seen on a caterpillar.

Here’s a head shot.

Head on view

I don’t really have any idea what type of caterpillar it is. I suspect this is just a middle instar and that the final instar might be quite different looking.

Crypsis Challenge #7

December 19th, 2010 - 3:33 PM | Filed under Crypsis Challenges | 2 Comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Can you find and identify the order of the critter hiding in plain sight above?

Attractive Caterpillar

December 1st, 2010 - 7:30 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This caterpillar seems fairly distinctive, but I haven’t been able to find anything similar. The white bands are odd. I can’t decide if they are normal or evidence of an injury.

Identification Challenge #5 Reveal

November 28th, 2010 - 8:43 AM | Filed under Identification Challenges | No comments

As usual, Ted C. MacRae was right on all counts for this challenge:

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I thought perhaps the swept-back antenna across the bottom third of the photo might throw people off. Not so.

Here’s a better shot of the katydid which was cooperative enough to allow some good closeups. This should put all the body parts shown above in context.


My sister guessed a dragonfly via a Facebook comment. I can see the resemblance so not a bad guess.

Freshly Molted Treehopper Nymphs

November 26th, 2010 - 9:05 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

There are a couple of freshly molted treehopper nymphs shown here. Just below them, you can see a shed exoskeleton. Their colors will return as their new skins harden. In the meantime, they inflate themselves so that their new skins harden larger than their previous ones.

Below is an adult that was hanging around a bit farther down the stem. That’s what they’ll eventually look like. You can see how the horn gets bigger with each molt.


Gonyleptid Harvestman

November 22nd, 2010 - 6:31 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 4 Comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This image of a harvestman in the family Gonyleptidae is one of my favorites from my trip to Caraça Natural Park.

As a kid, I cherished my Golden Guide to Spiders and Their Kin. Ever since I saw an illustration therein of a wild looking Gonyleptid, I’ve wanted to find one. I got excited early in the trip when I found a shed skin. On the last night, I was out with my headlamp and I encountered not just one but two!

They were both difficult to photograph. Although slow moving, they just wouldn’t stand still. I had to keep herding them back onto the trail. Eventually, this one stopped in an area that made for a relatively uncluttered background.

Gonyleptids include the largest of the harvestmen and are only found in South and Central America.

Here’s a wider shot showing the whole thing.


Wikipedia entry for Gonyleptidae

Spiders and Their Kin
by Herbert W. Levi and Lorna R. Levi

Identification Challenge #5

November 21st, 2010 - 8:27 AM | Filed under Identification Challenges | 2 Comments

January 28, 2010 | Caraça Natural Park, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Here’s a closeup of an unidentified insect. Can you identify the family to which it belongs and the body parts shown?