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Places Tupaciguara : Nature Closeups

Caterpillar

September 15th, 2011 - 9:10 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

30mm | July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I might not have noticed this caterpillar during the day, but after dark it stood out in the light of my headlamp.

Termites at Work

September 13th, 2011 - 5:21 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Just after dark, termites started emerging from below ground. Here they appear to be excavating. The darker soil has been brought up from below by workers while guards form a defensive perimeter.

Soldier Fly

September 11th, 2011 - 9:43 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

11mm | July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

The wing venation, patterned eyes, and even the horns on the scutellum suggest this is a soldier fly in the family Stratiomyidae. Many soldier flies bear a resemblance to wasps. This one kind of reminds me of a yellowjacket.

Reference:

Diptera of Costa Rica and the New World tropics
by Manuel A. Zumbado and Fernando Zeledón

Crypsis Challenge #13 Reveal: Jumping Stick

September 7th, 2011 - 6:18 PM | Filed under Crypsis Challenges | 2 Comments

82mm | July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Were you able to find the critter in the photo above? It’s in the lower right corner. Some of you may recognize this as another stick grasshopper in the family Proscopiidae, previously featured in Crypsis Challenge #3. They are so cryptic that I couldn’t resist doing another challenge with this one. Here’s an outline of the grasshopper if you’re still not seeing it.

Grasshopper revealed

Check out how closely the color and texture of the insect matches that of the surrounding vegetation.

Can you distinguish animal from plant here?

Here’s another image where it’s blending in fairly well.

Another cryptic scene

And here, I intentionally placed it on a nearby rock so its features would stand out.

Jumping stick, looking more like the grasshopper it is

They have such interesting faces that I couldn’t resist a profile shot. It actually looks a bit sinister here.

Profile shot

Most of those that commented found the critter. A few even guessed the identity correctly, but even the incorrect guesses were plausible. Good job, everyone.

Green Huntsman Spider

September 5th, 2011 - 2:45 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 2 Comments

9mm body | July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

This attractive green huntsman spider in the family Sparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae) was concealed beneath a leaf. With such a striking green color, it must hunt primarily in foliage.

When I found it, it was concealed within a silken retreat on the underside of a leaf. The texture of the silk is interesting.

Concealed within silken retreat

That wouldn’t do for photos though, so I poked at it until it removed itself.

Reluctantly exposed

That did allow for some nice closeup shots though, like this one of the eyes. I always try to get a shot like this to help in the identification.

Closeup of eyes

I always try to remember to turn off one of the flash heads on my MT-24EX for these shots. Otherwise, each eye has a strange looking double highlight. I initially forgot but then I noticed while reviewing for exposure on the LCD so I took some more.

Crypsis Challenge #13

September 4th, 2011 - 9:06 AM | Filed under Crypsis Challenges | 8 Comments

July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Time for another crypsis challenge. Can you spot the critter hidden in this scene?

Doomed Caterpillar

September 4th, 2011 - 9:00 AM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

25mm | July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Despite its defenses, this caterpillars appears to have ended up with some parasite eggs, a tachinid fly perhaps.

Closer look at parasite eggs

Fruit Fly

September 2nd, 2011 - 3:54 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | No comments

8mm | July 9, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

I start with low expectations whenever I try to identify a fly. I’m happy if I get to family, but I think I got as far as genus on this one. This female fruit fly in the family Tephritidae might be an Anastrepha species.

Reference:

Diptera of Costa Rica and the New World tropics
by Manuel A. Zumbado and Fernando Zeledón

Crooked Jaw Termites

August 28th, 2011 - 12:41 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 4 Comments

5-10mm | July 3, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

As promised in my last post, here are some termites where the soldiers are much larger than the workers. Large is relative though, since although they are twice the size of the workers, these soldiers still only measure one centimeter.

Soldiers are twice the size of workers

Based on Hogue’s Latin American Insects and subsequent web searches, I believe these are termites in the genus Neocapritermes, which he refers to in an illustration as crooked jaw termites. The name certainly fits. My first thoughts after seeing one of these soldiers was that it was deformed.

Soldiers have crooked jaws

After seeing a few more, my thoughts turned to wondering what purpose those jaws might serve. I thought they kind of looked like bulldozers, and that perhaps they’d just push and perhaps flip away intruders.

Another soldier

The size of the head suggested there were large muscles powering the jaws though, so I wasn’t quite convinced of that.

Large head for strong jaw muscles

Here’s a closer look at the mouthparts.

Mandibles and palps

Even the workers are interesting with their transparent bodies.

Worker with transparent body

You can see their digestive track and perhaps some other organs.

Group of workers

So what exactly are the jaws used for? See for yourself in this video, as a soldier rather effortlessly flicks away an ant. The action is around the 20 second mark.

Reference:

Latin American Insects and Entomology
by Charles L. Hogue

Nasutitermes Termites

August 21st, 2011 - 5:22 PM | Filed under Featured Photos | 1 Comment

2-3mm | July 3, 2011 | Tupaciguara, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Previously, I showed you some termites where the soldiers and workers were about the same size. Here, the soldier (at top) is actually smaller. Termites in the subfamily Nasutitermitinae, like these, have soldiers called nasutes. Nasutes don’t need to be big because they don’t rely on strength. Instead, they have specialized snouts for spraying a defensive substance.

In some species the substance is sticky and serves to disable or slow down small predators, like ants. In others the substance is noxious and repellent.

Soldiers standing guard

Next up, I’ll show you some termites where the soldiers are quite large indeed. That sentence sounds like something David Attenborough would say. Read it again and imagine his voice :).