A Poisonous Tropical Tiger   1 comment

Felipe del Bosque Blog July 3rd 2011


No Change

The wet season continues with overcast days and nightly rain.  The rain hasn’t been too heavy this week and towards the end of the week we had some nice sunny days with the rain falling at night.  The temperatures continue as expected for this time of year, reaching a maximum in the day of the lower nineties and at night consistently dropping to the lower seventies.

A Walk in the Woods

While I was walking on the Titi Trail last week, at one point I had a Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu), standing right on the path in front of me.  It simply looked at me and then walked into the forest, but only just off the trail.  As I continued on my way, the peccary walked without too much concern slightly in front and to my right.  When I first arrived at Bosque 11 years ago, this situation would never have happened.  As soon as the peccaries caught drift of your presence they would scatter with great speed, teeth clacking and grunting, in the opposite direction.  Now they seemingly couldn’t care less about your being there.

There are two species of peccary on the Osa Peninsula, the Collared Peccary, which we find on the grounds of Bosque del Cabo and the White-lipped Peccary, which inhabits the forests of the the National Park, Corcovado.  Only once in 11 years have I seen the White-lipped Peccaries at Bosque.  That was a herd that had migrated east along the coast from the park and passed by my cabin while doing so.

The Collared Peccary is normally found on the Titi Trail in numbers of 7 or 8, but occasionally as many as 20 have been seen together.  They are generalist feeders, taking lots of fruit and seeds but they will feed on animals as well, grubbing up arthropods from the ground and even rodents and birds.  In the damper areas of Bosque, grows a plant that we are familiar with as a common house plant, Dumb Cane, (Dieffenbachia sp).  These are deadly poisonous plants, the leaves of which contain crystals of Calcium Oxalate, which doesn’t do your kidneys any good.  Collared Peccaries are particularly fond of Dumb Cane and eat large quantities without suffering any ill effects, the digestive systems obviously having evolved to safely metabolize the Calcium Oxalate.

Not that much further along the trail, I could hear the soft whistles of a group of ground living birds, the Great Curassow, (Crax rubra).  It was a group of turkey sized females sporting plumage of mottled creams and browns.  Just like the peccary, they were in no particular hurry.

That has not been the case at night though when I leave the office late.  For the past week, as soon as I step down from the office steps, some startled creature has gone crashing underneath the deck.  I had an inkling of what it might be; we only have one nocturnal animal that will make that kind of noise, somewhat like a tank crashing through the undergrowth, a Nine-banded Armadillo, (Dasypus novemcinctus).  Sure enough, one night, just after the crashing, I could see the armadillo on the other side of the deck where it emerged.  Armadillos have a short term memory of little more than a nanosecond and recommence their noisy activities regardless of whether or not the potential danger has passed.

Cracks are Forming

The Milky Tree that fell last month has now started showing signs of drying out.  All the milky resinous sap that initially leaked out has gone, mostly taken by bees of various species for nest construction.  Now we have the first level of obvious decomposers moving in, the beetles.  Rather than the adults, it is the larvae that feed on the dead wood, hastening its decomposition.  At the minute though lots of species of beetle are pairing up on the face of the now exposed heartwood which is where they will lay their eggs.

Broad-nosed Weevil          Weevils

In the Comfort Zone

The Long-billed Hermit, (Phaethornis longirostris), that had started to construct her nest by the kitchen entrance last week has completed her task and is now incubating eggs.  She is completely unperturbed by the constant comings and goings of the lodge staff in the area, and the traffic is constant all day long.  It could well be that is why she opted to build the nest in that particular location.  The human non-predators may well be seen as keeping any potential predators of her, the eggs or her chicks at bay.  Having said that though, many of the birds’ nests that are built in or around the restaurant area, sooner or later attract the attention of the Tropical Bird-eating Snakes, and they too have little regard for the big pink monkeys wandering around the concrete and stucco jungle.

Long-billed Hermit

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.


Photo Feature

Flying Tigers

One night when I went back to my cabin I was greeted by an unexpected by pleasant surprise.  Two brilliantly colored Tropical Tiger Moths, (Belemnia inaurata), were resting on the screen of my door.  The next day those colors, that the night before had been so bright, now became even more scintillatingly beautiful.  So I had to get a photograph.

Nature tends to produce bright colors for a reason, generally that of communication, either within the species or between species.  Most species of butterfly and moth that exhibit bright and flashy colors are suggesting that you give them a wide berth.  These colors are warning colors and in the case of butterflies or moths you are normally being warned that the insect is packed with poisons.  Some of the brightly colored butterflies we found around the grounds of Bosque, the Heliconiids, contain cyanide.  The Tropical Tiger Moth in the larval stage feeds on plants containing pyrrolizidines, (which damage the liver), and cardenolides, (which cause heart failure).  These are stored in the body and passed through to the adult stage where they serve to make the moth unpalatable.  If a bird or a lizard ignore the warning coloration and feed on the moth, they are rewarded, not with a tasty treat but rather with a foul tasting shock that will have them think twice before taking something sporting those colors again in the future.

Tropical Tiger Moth

Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:

The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison

Temperature and Rainfall

Average Daily Temp High 89°F.  Average Daily Temp Low 73°F.

Average Daily Rainfall 0.53 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 3.71 ins

Average Daily Temp High 31.1°C.  Average Daily Temp Low 22.7°C.

Average Daily Rainfall 13.3 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 93.0 mm

Species List for the Week


  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • Capuchin Monkey
  • Virginia Opossum
  • Nine-banded Armadillo
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel
  • Collared Peccary


  • Red-lored Amazons
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Rufus-tailed Hummingbird
  • Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Great Currasow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Common Paureque
  • Rufus Piha
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Cherrie’s Tanager
  • Great Tinamou
  • Riverside Wren
  • King Vulture
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Barred Ameiva
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Mediterranean House Gecko
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Litter Snake
  • Tropical Bird-eating Snake


  • Marine Toad
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Banana Frog
  • Smokey Jungle Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
  • Tink Frog


  • Anartia Fatima
  • Astraptes fulgerator
  • Battus belus
  • Callimormus radiola
  • Cithaerias pireta
  • Colobura dirce
  • Euphyes vestries
  • Eurema albula
  • Eurybia lycisca
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Laparus doris
  • Marpesia berania
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Phoebis argante
  • Phoebis sennae
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrgus oileus
  • Saliana esperi
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Urbanus tanna



  • Black Alligator Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Calabash flowering and fruiting
  • Cedrillo Fruiting
  • Clusia Vine Fruiting
  • Dinner on a Plate Fruiting
  • Monkey Comb Tree Flowering and Fruiting
  • Candlestick Plant Flowering and Flowering.
  • Figs Fruiting
  • Lechoso Fruiting
  • May Tree Fruiting
  • Manglillo Fruiting
  • Nutmeg Fruiting
  • Santa Maria Flowering and Fruiting
  • Yayito Fruiting

One response to “A Poisonous Tropical Tiger

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  1. Another really interesting post Philip. I love the picture of the hummingbird in the nest.


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