Michael, an undergraduate researcher out of Stanford, is working at Las Cruces on animal decomposition. Briefly, he’s set out freshly-killed adult chickens and chicks in forests and agricultural lands (i.e., pasture and coffee plantation) and monitors what happens…
He’s got camera traps trained on the adult chickens, and uses transects through both habitat types to pair replicate locations with both major habitats. It’s interesting (and rather smelly) work: there are a number of specialist scavengers that feed on animal matter, and the roles animal detritus (feces + dead animal) play in communities is often overlooked in light of the overwhelming biomass that plants input into detrital pools in ecosystems. Michael has already found some exciting facilitation effects within the scavenger community.
Michael was kind enough to take me along on one of his sampling dates.
In the forest sites, carcasses were often buried and striped by beetles.
Michael collects hymenopterans, and after collecting one of the wasps, we discovered that she still had a piece of meat with her… look closely.
The camera trap failed! But, using radio tracking, Michael found that a scavenger had moved the carcass.
Remains of an adult chicken after a couple of days.
In Río Hitoy, there is a peculiar shrimp. It seems to inhabit cobble-dominated, high current velocity, areas of the river. I don’t know what it is or what it does, but it’s chelae are modified into large, hook-like structures.
UPDATE: I found a paper describing shrimp found in Boca Del Toro, Panama, which is pretty close to Hitoy. I had asked a friend, Bernald, which family of tropical shrimp may not have chelae (pinchers), and he suggested Atyidae. The paper describes Atyids, including Atya scabra, which is widely distributed (Aftrica to Panama) and looks similar to this species… so, we’ll call it Atya scabra…
One of Boa’s many projects is to raise field-collected Centruroides sp. and create a large terrarium at this house, where he can shine a black light on them (chemicals in scorpion exoskeletons fluoresce under UV light) and wow some tourists. He’s had two successfully reproducing females. Here’s the latest batch; all of the babies are still attached to the mother. The juveniles of the other (not pictured) have begun to explore on their own.
Someone asked if I saw large spiders in Palo Verde the other day. Yes. I did.
The were a fair number of them emerging from burrows during one week, presumably because it was breeding time. I found 3 individuals in the lab one morning, one of which had decided to rest on the light switch.
There were two distinct species (unless they were actually different sexes); pictured here was the larger one. Paul decided to pit them together one night and the larger of the two killed and deflated the smaller.