Felipe del Bosque Blog Sept 5 2010
Temp High 82°F Low 73°F Precipitation 0.0 ins
Today started overcast, continued to be overcast and finished overcast. At breakfast the monkeys decided to put on a show, not uncommon. First Howler Monkeys, then the Spider Monkeys and finally the Capuchin Monkeys came right up in front of the restaurant. Capuchins are the only one of the four species that will come to the ground on a regular basis and so in was this morning. For Bosque’s guests, the principal photo opportunities were being provided by the antics of a number of young monkeys some of whom were copying the adults in teeth baring displays, not very intimidating coming from the youngsters though.
The visitors to the lodge were entertaining themselves today, so my services were not required. There was the feeling of a typical Sunday, both quiet and relaxed. So, I decided to do what any right-minded person would decide to do on a quiet September Sunday, head off into the forest on a fungi foray.
There was a certain plan that had formulated following a tour that I had conducted through the forest on the “Zapatero Trail” several days earlier. As I was talking to the participants on the tour, my eyes kept being drawn to the presence of fruiting fungal bodies on the path. I started to take mental notes of where everything was with the intention of returning to take photographs. Today provided me with the opportunity. The one fungus I had seen that I really wanted an image of was the somewhat gruesomely named “Dead man’s fingers”, given its physical resemble to said item, poking out from the dead wood.
I didn’t manage to get out till a little later in the afternoon, by which time the light under the forest canopy was fading fast . Still I had a good idea of the whereabouts of my intended subjects. Now I have walked the “Zapatero Trail” almost every day for the past ten years and this afternoon I walked it in reverse to my normal direction. I felt confident I could remember where everything was, but looking at things from back to front was throwing my memory. Then, at last the first fungus, then another and another. But the one I wanted, I couldn’t find, the Dead Man’s Fingers. Where had I seen them? I tried to retrace the tour in my mind in an effort to recall where exactly the fingers were. The light really was diminishing now and to add to the problems a light drizzle had started. Finally, the persistence paid off and there they were, the fingers, reaching up from the corpse of a rotten log hidden beneath some low growing shrubs.
I got the photographs and returned before the sun had set.
Tonight when I went out to carry out my nightly amphibian count, I was able to witness something that I have only experienced twice before in my ten years at Bosque; a Cat-eyed Snake breeding ball. This is not something that Cinderella would attend. When a female snake becomes sexually receptive, she releases a sex pheromone which attracts every male in the area. That is what happened this evening around the Bosque pond. There were snakes everywhere, males so wholly pre-occupied with getting to the receptive female that my presence was not noticed. There were snakes slithering along branches and through the undergrowth, from all directions, all with only one intention in mind, to be the first to get the girl.
Philip is a biologist, writer and photographer as well as the onsite naturalist guide at Bosque del Cabo Rainforest lodge on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.
Fungi, along with bacteria, termites and beetle larvae are responsible for the rapid breakdown of organic material in a rainforest. The warm damp conditions make the forest a perfect incubator for fungal growth. You generally cannot see the main body of the fungus; it exists as a series of threads, called a mycelium, permeating throughout the substrate, whether it be the ground or dead and dying trees. Many plants have a relationship with a fungus specific to that particular species. They grow in association with the roots in which case the mycelium now becomes known as a mycorrhiza. Plants such as orchids cannot live without their specific mycorrhizal symbionts.
A question asked regularly by our guests is, “Why there are so few fungi? It is not that they are lacking in number, it is just that here conditions are right all year round so they can throw up fruiting bodies, (familiar to most people as mushrooms and toadstools), throughout the year. Back in the U.K. October was always my favorite month as there was a sudden short lived explosion of mushrooms and toadstools, their ephemeral beauty providing some wonderful photographic experiences.
There is no mistaking the literally described Orange-cup Fungus, (Cookeina speciosa), for any other type of fungus. It is fairly common, with the small obvious bright orange cups to be found throughout the year growing out from recently fallen dead branches and trees.
The fruiting bodies of the Titan Mushroom, (Macrocybe titans) are not a sight you are going to forget in a hurry. They are typically found growing on top of Leaf-cutter Ant nests. After a week or so, the mature mushroom cap can be up to almost 3 feet across. Unfortunately their edibility is uncertain otherwise one cap may have provided accompaniment for a great many servings of bacon and eggs.
The Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn, (Staheliomyces cinctus), is found growing in soil rich with rotting vegetative material. Once again it is unlikely to be mistaken for anything else. The grey collar is in fact a glutinous mass containing the spores. Like so many other species of stinkhorn, it gives off a stench resembling well rotted carrion. The smell attracts in flies which then get their feet covered in the sticky grey gel, they fly off and consequently disperse the fungal spores.
Finally, the reason for my foray into the woods today, The Dead Man’s Finger, (Xylaria sp – possibly). As with a great many diverse groups of plants and animals, the reference material to identify exactly what you have found is not readily available or simply may not exist. That is the case with my prize for the day. I have no idea what species it is. I am not even sure that the genus is correct. But for all that, it was fun going out, retracing my steps to find it and then photograph it. Hopefully sometime in the future I will be able to put a name to it.
Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:
The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison
Species List for the Day
Golfo Dulce Anolis
Mediterranean House Gecko
Northern Cat-eyed Snake
Red-eyed Green Treefrog
Smokey Jungle Frog