Felipe del Bosque Blog January 14th 2013
A Waterless Place
This has been another week of bright sunny days and rising temperatures. There has not been a drop of rain this week. The level of water at the ponds is dropping. There are fewer species of amphibian out but now the Savage’s Thin-fingered Frogs have started to congregate around the pond simply because it is a damper than the surrounding areas.
At night the Cat-eyed Snakes can be seen lying around the edge of the pond waiting for the froglets to emerge from the water. You can sometimes see them with their heads beneath the surface of the water picking off the tadpoles which hang motionless in the nighttime shallows.
The sun continues to bring out the butterflies which are increasing on an almost daily basis both in terms of numbers and individuals. It doesn’t take much to stroll around the grounds with your camera at the ready to get some nice shots, the earlier the better before they warm up.
Last week I got some nice photos of Chlosyne theona which was out in full sun on the side of a hillock. This week it was in exactly the same place so I took some more shots. It wasn’t easy being in full sun with a constant breeze blowing against the butterflies wings. Not too far away, again settled close to the ground thus requiring some awkward but nonetheless stealthy maneuvering to get close was a Pyrisitia nise. These small yellow butterflies seemingly never settle so here was an opportunity to snap an image. The problem was the wings being parallel with the bright sun making it difficult to truly capture the bright lemon yellow coloration. Not so far away was a White Peacock, (Anartia jatrophae). It refused to land so that I could get the right angle to photograph the spread of its wings but there will be many other days and more opportunities over the coming months to do so.
A Bouquet and a Basket of Fruit
As the conditions become progressively drier, the trees begin to flower. At this point in time as you walk through the forest there are places along the trails where the ground is covered in a carpet of fallen yellow flowers dropped from the overhanging branches of the Garlic Trees, (Caryocar costaricensis). This is by no means the only flower to be seen but it stands out because of its bright golden color. Not so intense in color but noticeable due to it strangely shaped blossoms are the flowers of the Hule or Rubber Tree, (Castilla tunu). The soft gold velvety male inflorescence is shaped like a folded tortilla filled with the stamens. Currently it is possible to see the fruits lying on the ground too. These come from the pollinated female flowers and resemble a miniature basket filled with green pairs. When cut into, the trunk of the tree exudes white liquid latex that is processed to produce rubber.
A Hint of Spice
One of the distinctive fruits decorating the forest floor at the moment is that from the Fruta Dorada, the Golden Fruit Tree better known as nutmegs. The nutmeg we use in a culinary situation is an Indonesian species belonging to the same Family Myristicaceae. There are four species of nutmeg, (Virola spp), to be found within the forests of Bosque del Cabo. The species that is currently fruiting is V. guatemalensis.
When the fruit first falls to the ground it is a green to yellow in color hence the golden fruit. The shell is closed holding the seed hidden within. But as it dries, it splits revealing a visceral looking membrane that provides a bright flash of red. Red is a very important color in the forest. It is the complimentary color to green. Whereas green is a very cool color, red is a very hot color. Birds having acute color vision will see fiery red a long way off standing out vividly against the cold verdant background.
Particularly with the nutmegs they are attracting the attention of Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, (Ramphastos swainsonii). Toucans are fruit eating birds that gulp the fruits down whole. The red covering to the seed is called the aril. It is very tasty and nutritious. The toucan digests the aril but is now left with a gut full of big heavy seeds which is not conducive to flight, so the bird regurgitates up the seeds thereby distributing them some distance from the parent tree. In effect the tree attracted the bird in using the color red, gave it a nice tasty reward in the form of the aril to eat the seed which is then transported away and dispersed.
The Indonesian nutmeg, Myristica fragrans, is used in two ways. The seed is dried and ground to give the familiar spice nutmeg whereas the aril is dried and ground to give the spice mace. Certain of the South American nutmegs when tapped give a sap which is used in tribal rituals; the least of its effects being that of one of the most powerful hallucinogens that we know of.
One other plant that has previously found their way into these pages has been in flower again. One the Titi Trail you will see many corky vines woven within the fabric of the other plants. This characteristic texture belongs to the Family Aristolochiaceae. There are 4 species on the Osa Peninsula all belonging to the Genus Aristolochia. They are unmistakable when in bloom as the flowers come directly from the side of the vine and stand erect like a Dutchman’s pipe which strangely enough is what they are called.
The mottled purple blooms give off the scent of rotten meat which consequently attracts the attention of carrion flies. The flies land expectantly on what they think will provide a good meal for their larvae. The inner surface of the flower is slick so the inveigled fly slips down into the interior chamber of the bloom. Backward pointing spines bar its escape so there the insect remains trapped. Had it already suffered the same indignant experience it would be carrying the pollen from another bloom which is transferred effecting pollination. The flower then wilts allowing the fly to go free carrying a fresh batch of its own pollen hoping that the fly can be duped yet again. Following successful pollination then the fruit capsules are formed holding the seeds which are flat and wind dispersed.
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.
Figs for All
Another tree that can be seen producing fruit, although in this case there is no specific season, is one of the many species of Fig Tree, (Ficus spp). Figs are an important food source not the least because within any one population of a fig species at least one individual will be fruiting at some point during the year. They produce such a copious amount of fruit that they feed so many animals in the forest.
Tropical rain forests are generally found to be windless places. For that reason the plants largely have to rely on animal agents for pollination and seed dispersal. Due to the fact that there is such a high number of tree species within any given area, not only do the trees have to attract an animal to come to them but also then offer the animal a reward to stop it going to any other species of tree. The figs have taken this to an absolute extreme.
Every species of fig tree has it own individual species of fig wasp, (Family Agaonidae), to pollinate it and there are approximately 800 different species of fig to be found worldwide. The fig is a synconium and inside each fig there are three types of flower; male flowers, female flowers and sterile flowers called gall flowers. The gall flowers are the reward, which is where the female wasp will lay her eggs. The first eggs to hatch are the wingless males. They move around inside the fig looking for the as yet undeveloped females. They find them and mate with them. The male then bores a hole out of the fig and dies.
Later the female fig wasp emerges but her emergence coincides with the male flowers coming into season so as she travels around inside the fig she gets coated with pollen. She makes her way out of the hole the males bored out and then she has to fly off to find a tree where the female flowers are in season. This is achieved by following a pheromone trail released by the young fig. The fig has an opening, the ostiole, which is lined with downward pointing scales that allow entry in one direction only, from the outside to the inside. The female enters and loses her wings as she does so. The pollen is transferred from her body to the female flowers thereby pollinating the fig. The gall flowers are short stalked female flowers into which the ovipositor of the female wasp can reach to lay eggs. Once she has finished transferring the pollen and laying her eggs, the female wasp dies. Several weeks later the larvae that have developed within the gall flowers will emerge and the cycle will repeat.
The fig and the fig wasp have become mutually dependent on one another for their very existence. Due to the fact that so many animals rely on the crop of figs that relationship produces it is known as one of the keystone dependencies of the forest.
One the fig has been pollinated it produces tiny seeds which the tree has to get through the guts of the animals eating them very quickly to stop the digestive juices breaking down the seed coat. To aid in the rapid passage of the seeds through the alimentary canal of the animals eating them, the pulp of the fig contains a laxative. But it has relied on large mobile animals such as birds, monkeys and bats that will have moved some distance from the parent tree before they defecate and disperse the seeds.
Sometimes the figs produce more fruit that even all the visiting animals can consume. As you walk through the forest you may find yourself under a rain of falling figs, each one crashing through the underlying foliage before hitting the ground. This benefits many ground living creatures such as peccaries, agoutis, pacas, opossums and rodents. As the figs rot the heavy scent of fermenting fruit attracts in butterflies such as blue morphos which imbibe the liquor. Ultimately the mould spores germinate and within a short space of time the fig will have become a fuzzy white ball of threadlike mould mycelium.
Text and Photographs are taken from the forthcoming book:
The Natural History of Bosque del Cabo by Philip Davison
Temperature and Rainfall
Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 ins. Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 ins
Average Daily Rainfall 0.00 mm. Total Weekly Rainfall 0.00 mm
Highest Daily Temp 90°F. Lowest Daily Temp 74°F.
Highest Daily Temp 32.0°C. Lowest Daily Temp 23.2°C.
Species List for the Week
- Howler Monkey
- Spider Monkey
- White-faced Monkey
- White-nosed Coati
- Nine-banded Armadillo
- Alfaro’s Pygmy Squirrel
- Red-lored Amazon
- Scarlet Macaw
- Brown Pelican
- Great Curassow
- Crested Caracara
- Mangrove Black Hawk
- Pale-billed Woodpecker
- Chestnut-backed Antbird
- Short-billed Pigeon
- White-tipped Dove
- Rufus Piha
- Blue-crowned Motmot
- Stripe-throated Hermit
- Red-capped Manakin
- Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
- Bright-rumped Atilla
- Dusky-capped Flycatcher
- Great Kiskadee
- Green Honeycreeper
- House Wren
- Great Tinamou
- Black Vulture
- Turkey Vulture
- Barred Ameiva
- Cat-eyed Snake
- Central American Smooth Gecko
- Central American Whiptail
- Common Anole
- Dwarf Boa
- Four-lined Ameiva
- Golfo Dulce Anolis
- Litter Skink
- Mediterranean House Gecko
- Tiger Rat Snake
- Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
- Marine Toad
- Masked Smilisca
- Milky Frog
- Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
- Rough-skinned Dirt Frog
- Savage’s Thin-fingered Frog
- Stejneger’s Dirt Frog
- Adelpha heraclera
- Anartia Fatima
- Anartia jatrophae
- Archaeoprepona demophon
- Battus belus
- Calycopis isobeon
- Chlosyne theona
- Consul fabius
- Dryas iulia
- Eueides aliphera
- Eueides lybia
- Glutophrissa drusilla
- Heliconius erato
- Heliconius hecale
- Heliconius ismenius
- Heliconius sapho
- Heraclides cresphontes
- Hermeuptychia hermes
- Morpho helenor
- Morpho Menelaus
- Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
- Parides erithalion
- Pierella helvina
- Philaethria dido
- Phoebis sennae
- Pyrgus oileus
- Pyrisitia nise
- Pyrrhogyra crameri
- Alamandra cathartica Flowering
- Alpinia purpurata Flowering
- Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
- Arachis pintoi Flowering
- Aristolochia gouldi Flowering and Fruiting
- Arundina graminifolia Flowering
- Attalea rostrata Fruiting
- Bauhinia variegata Flowering
- Cascabella thevetia Flowering and Fruiting
- Citrus spp Fruiting
- Clusia rosea Flowering and Fruiting
- Clusia vallerii Flowering and Fruiting
- Cocos nucifera Flowering and Fruiting
- Crestentia alata flowering and Fruiting
- Costus speciosus Flowering
- Couroupita guianensis Flowering and Fruiting
- Dypsis lutescens Flowering and Fruiting
- Etlingera elatior Flowering
- Ficus citrifolia Fruiting
- Ficus insipida Fruiting
- Jacaranda mimosifolia Flowering
- Heliconia chartacea Flowering
- Heliconia latispatha Flowering
- Heliconia pogonantha Flowering
- Heliconia psittacorum Flowering
- Heliconia rostrata Flowering
- Hibiscus rosa-sinensis Flowering
- Hymenaea coubaril Fruiting
- Hymenocallis littoralis Flowering
- Ixora coccinea Flowering
- Lantana camara Flowering and Flowering
- Lagerstroemia speciosa Fruiting
- Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
- Musa acuminate Flowering and Fruiting
- Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
- Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
- Piper nigrum Fruiting
- Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
- Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
- Plumeria rubra Flowering
- Psychotria sp Fruiting
- Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
- Virola guatemalensis Fruiting
- Zammia sp Flowering