COSTA RICAN SPIDERS & OTHER ARACHNIDS CONTINUED!
There are many more amazing spiders to follow but first I'd like to share a few pictures of my number one favourite group of non-spider arachnids! Anyone who has met me will know that my favourite group of arachnids other than the spiders are the amblypygi (commonly known as whip spiders or tailless whip scorpions):
I have been keeping and breeding amblypygids for many years so it was such an enormous privilege to see some of these amazing animals in their natural habitat! We found a great many during our night walks in the beautiful rainforests surrounding Luna Lodge on the Osa Peninsula, mostly hunting on the trunks of trees. The species we encountered were quite different in some ways to Bob & Kate and my other Tanzanian whip spiders but very similar in many others. Here is one hunting low to the ground with a convenient hiding place within easy reach should it need it!
Here is another hunting a little higher up the trunk, just as mine do in their rainforest-style enclosures!
Despite their fearsome appearance whip spiders are in fact quite harmless and they are one of the most popular animals I use in my visits as they can be safely handled by children! Even these wild individuals showed no signs of aggression and in fact they would rather use speed than their formidable pincers in self-defence. I have been keeping these creatures for many years and never once been pinched by one, it was great to see these wild ones behave in the same way as mine!
Whilst we saw a great many live specimens we also found plenty of empty moulted exoskeletons or exuviae, just like the ones I regularly share here on my website as my own animals grow and moult! Here is just one example of an exuvia found in the rainforests of Luna Lodge, it was just as amazing to see them in the wild as it always is in captivity!
Right then, back to the true spiders we go! We encountered SO many amazing spider species during the trip that it is really hard to choose which to share next, but another group which it was a real privilege to see in the wild were the golden orb-weaver spiders or Nephila. These are a group of spiders which occur all over the tropics and are well known for their impressively large and beautiful webs, made from a yellowish silk which shines golden in the sunlight (hence their common name)! The species we most commonly encountered in Costa Rica was Nephila clavipes.
We encountered MANY Nephila spiders during the trip, especially whilst staying at Savegre Lodge where many of them made their webs in and around the lodge buildings. The one pictured above was in fact a resident right outside of Nick & Ceri Baker's bedroom, I think I was the only person very jealous not to have one like this living outside of my own bedroom!
The two pictured above and below were two of a great many which made their homes under the roofs of walkways between the various lodge buildings.
Whilst it was lovely to see them in and around the lodges my favourite individual of those we found, and by far the largest one too, was found in the rainforest itself at night; a much more natural environment to see one in! Here she is in all her glory:
It is really hard to convey her size in this picture but her leg span would have been comfortably 10-12cm, a really impressive animal. Her web wasn't in the best of conditions unfortunately whereas some of the ones seen around the lodge were well over a metre across!
Another of my favourite spiders from the trip, this time found in the grounds of Maquenque Eco-Lodge (our first destination on the trip) was a spider of the genus Argiope.
The web of this beautiful spider was absolutely amazing, with pure white thick patterned silk in the centre (in start contrast to the very fine golden silk of the Nephila spiders above). These white patterns are common to the webs of all Argiope spiders (although they vary massively in shape) and are known as stabilimentum. These silk structures reflect UV light and are known to attract prey to the web as well as possibly preventing destruction of the web by larger animals, by making the web much more visible to such animals. Whilst fellow traveller Kiera and I were photographing this one we were fortunate enough to watch it catch its dinner!
We encountered a second Argiope species whilst exploring La Selva Biological Station, this time tucked underneath a porch roof. This one had much smaller stabilimentum within her web as you can see below:
What makes this picture amazing is that it is actually a picture of a pair of this species! The male is that tiny spider just above the female's yellow abdomen! Common to many Argiope species, and indeed Nephila species too, is that the male is considerably smaller than the female, sometimes to a point where it is hard to imagine that they are the same species!
For even more pictures of amazing Costa Rican spiders and other arachnids please click HERE!