Blog #13: Arthropod Diversity at the Field Station

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© C. Moreau
Lantern Bug

While we’d traveled to Costa Rica with the express intent of studying the resident ant fauna, the insect enthusiasts among us couldn’t help but marvel at the vast diversity of other six-legged and eight-legged life that flourished around the Santa Rosa biological station. There were indeed many extraordinary finds in the field on a day-to-day basis—lustrous butterflies, giant grasshoppers, spiny orb-weavers, and expertly disguised stick insects (see Photos #1-4 below).

But some of our more remarkable discoveries were made within the confines of the field station itself, particularly after dark, when flying insects of all orders would swarm to the porch lights outside our lab and dormitories. One night in particular found us forging our way through clouds of winged mating termites. For a taste of this experience, check out Photo #5 below and our “Video Journal #9: Termite Feast.”

Common visitors at this time of night included the clumsy peanut-headed bugs (Fulgora laternaria) seen above, fist-sized giant cicadas (Quesada gigas), and enterprising praying mantises (see Photo #6 below), many different species of them, invited by the promise of an easy meal. Non-entomologists might have squirmed at the sight of these creatures, but our team was thrilled to be confronted with such abundant arthropod life, most of which we'd only ever known from pictures and preserved collections in museums.

We were quick to photograph (and handle) virtually everything we found: large scarabaeine, prionine, and dynastine beetles (see my brief iPhone clip of a dynastine dung beetle in flight), brilliant rainbow-winged grasshoppers, bright orange polydesmid millipedes, small tailless whip scorpions (see Photo #7 below.) Other organisms that were just as plentiful but didn’t lend themselves quite as readily to handling were the tarantulas and scorpions, but we appreciated these somewhat more dangerous discoveries from a safe distance. To see more fantastic photos of our finds, check out our Incredible Insects Photo Gallery.

The richness of insect and other arthropod life right outside our doorstep was arguably one of the most gratifying parts of the trip and certainly stood as a testament to Costa Rica’s celebrated biodiversity and the noble conservation efforts of the country’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) that sustained it.

More soon,
Alex
 

© A. Westrich
Banded Peacock Butterfly
© A. Westrich
Giant Rainbow-winged Grasshopper
© A. Tischner
Spiny Orb Weaver
© C. Moreau
"Walking Stick"
© A. Westrich
Termite Fallout
© A. Westrich
Praying Mantis
© A. Tischner
Whip Scorpion
© A. Westrich
Giant Long-horned Beetle
© C. Moreau
Me & Rhinoceros Beetle