Archive for the ‘Cookeina speciosa’ Tag

Beetles: The Dominance of Diversity   Leave a comment

Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

Long-horned Heavyweights

Beetles and bugs are two groups of insects that can be both fascinating and frustrating at one and he same time.  There are so many of them in terms of species and they come is so many varieties of shape and color that it really does take an expert to identify them and even then they may find themselves sorely taxed to do so.

I am always happy if I can manage to identify a beetle to species level, bugs are not so hard until you get to the individual species.  I tend, therefore, to enjoy them for what they are, interesting subjects to photograph.  Once I have posted the photograph into the public domain if someone can kindly offer up a name I am always grateful.

This beetle was found by my cabin one day last week.  I did not think it would stay to have its picture take but fortunately it duly obliged.  It was a quite a striking creature at over 2 inches long with bold markings of yellow bars on the ruddy-brown wing cases.  The antennae were distinctive, being long, black and curved upwards and outwards.

Coleoptyera, Cerambycidae, Prioninae, Callipogon lemoinei. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

The Giant Brown Callipogon, (Callipogon lemoinei)

At approximately 320,000, the total number of beetle species on the planet is the equivalent of all known named species of plants.  They constitute over 30% of all known animal life.  In Panama alone, 11,410 species of beetle were found on 70 species of tree.  So you get the idea that there are a lot of different species of beetle and that is just the named species.  Beetles can be found in just about every habitat from forests, deserts and fresh water.  The beetle I was looking at belonged to the family: Cerambycidae or long-horned beetles, (due to the length of the antennae), which is one of the larger families within the order: Coleoptera.  There are 2,200 species of long-horns found in Costa Rica, (1,100 species in the U.S.A.).  I knew it belonged to the Tooth-necked Long Horn subfamily: Prioninae.  I even knew the species, the Giant Brown Callipogon, (Callipogon lemoinei).

Giant Brown Callipogon. Long-horned Beetle. Philip Davison

Look at the wood-munching mandibles of the Giant Brown Callipogon

Some long-horns do not eat in the adult stage but most do and those that do all feed on a variety of plant material.  Those powerful and savage-looking mandibles will allow them to munch their way through the toughest material plants produce.  They are the most important group of beetle pollinators and some of them can be seen visiting flowers where they consume both nectar and pollen.  The larvae feed on dead wood and are a serious pest to the timber industry by damaging recently felled lumber before it reaches the saw mill.

The Prioninae males tend to have longer antennae than the females.  They sit on leaves, antennae extended waiting to pick up a pheromone trail given off by a sexually receptive female.  The females use the heavy-duty mandibles to chew the wood of a branch which kills the distal portion into which she will then deposit her eggs.  Those people with exceptionally good ears can hear the branch being rendered dead from several meters away.

All in all I was happy not only to have found the beetle but also that I actually knew what this one was, (the odds are normally against me), and I managed to get some decent photographs.

Coleoptera. Tooth-necked Long-horned Beetle. Beetles of the world.

Giant Brown Callipogon male waiting to pick up the scent of a female

Bugged by Bees

The cashews, (Anacardium occidentale), have all but finished fruiting.  There are one or two cashew apples left hanging from the branches with their distinctive fruits suspended beneath them.  As I walked past one of the smaller cashew trees I noticed a bug sitting amongst the leaves.  While not being anywhere near as diverse in numbers as the beetles, the true bugs of the order: Hemiptera are every bit as diverse in form.

This one belonged to the suborder: heteroptera, as was evidenced by the divided wing, papery at the end and solid at the base.  This one also had a diagnostically distinctive feature in that the rear pair of legs were flattened and expanded leaving you in no doubt that it belonged to the family: Coreidae, commonly known as the squash bugs or leaf-legged bugs.  A few of the squash bugs are predatory carnivores but most of them are herbivores.  The mouthparts are modified into a long piercing proboscis which is held along the underside of the head and is used to suck sap from the vascular system of plants.

Hemiptera. Heteroptera. Coreidae. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Leaf-legged Bug, (Leptoglossus phyllopus), found in a cashew tree

The bug was not the only imbiber of cashew juice.  On one of the fruits, the swollen meristem or cashew apple, had been damaged and the soft tissue was attracting a small group of stingless bees, (Trigona sp).  Before the introduction of the honey bee, (Apis mellifera), from Europe the main source of honey in the New World was that produced by the stingless bees.  The bees nest in cavities within hollow trees.  The nests can be recognized not only by the presence of the bees themselves but also the entrance to the hidden nest has a long resinous tube sticking out horizontally.

As benign as stingless may sound these bees are not to be trifled with.  Anyone approaching too close to the nest and being perceived as a threat is in for a nasty surprise.  They attack an aggressor in numbers and they are committed to the defense of the nest.  They fly furiously up the nose, into the ears, into the eyes and swarm into the hair all the time biting ferociously, some of them rubbing in a caustic secretion which burns.  Little wonder that their Spanish name of Carafagos translates into Spitfires.

Thankfully the ones I was looking at were more concerned with enjoying their free cashew smoothie than my presence.  Not even the flash from the camera elicited the slightest response.

Hymenoptera. Apidae. Trigona sp. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Little black Spitfires – Stingless Bees, (Trigona sp), drinking the juice of a cashew fruit

A Natural Mashup

Another one of the native Costas has come into bloom throughout the gardens and forests of the area over the past week.  The wild ginger, (Costus laevis), is native to the wet forests of Central and South America and is the commonest of the costas in the wet forests of the Osa Peninsula.

It has a smaller flowering spike with green bracts from which the deep orange and purple striped, yellow-lipped flower emerges.  The principal pollinator of Costus laevis are the females of the orchid bee, (Euglossa imperialis), which have a very long proboscis to probe deep into the flower.  Should the bloom be visited by hummingbirds then pollination is not accomplished.

Costus laevis also has extra floral nectaries which provide a food source for a large variety of ant species.  In return for a feed of nectar the ants protect the plant, probably from the attention of would be seed predators.

Costaceae. Costus laevis. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Native Wild Ginger, (Costus laevis), the bloom of which is pollinated by orchid bees

The damp conditions of the forest prevalent at this time of year allow the fungi to continually produce fruiting bodies.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the identity of most fungi must remain a mystery, not unlike most beetles.  But they can still be appreciated for their exotic shapes and color as well as their ephemeral presence.

One very short-lived mushroom is that of the Pleated Inkcap, (Parasola plicatilis).  Early in the morning just before sunrise, the small white cap makes its way up out of the soil and through the grass.  It opens into a miniature white umbrella and sheds its spores from gills on the undersurface into the air.  Within a short space of time the job is done and the cap continues to evert until all that is left is a delicate translucent umbrella that has almost been turned inside out.

Parasola plicatilis. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

The delicate and spent mushroom of the Pleated Inkcap, (Parasola plicatilis)

There is no mistaking the very distinctive form of the literally described Orange-cup Fungus, (Cookeina speciosa).  Like small flame-colored goblets set on the forest floor for a faerie revel they stand out against the dead wood on which the mycelium is growing.  Unlike the inkcap, the Orange-cup Fungus produces its spores from the surface of the cup lining.  This time of year the forest floor is decorated throughout by these compelling little structures.

Cookeina speciosa. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica

The unmistakable and literally described fruiting body of the Orange-cup Fungus, (Cookeina speciosa)

Another bright orange fungus found growing on dead wood but this time in the form of semi-circular brackets is the Beauty Fungus, (Hymenochaete luteo-badia).  The vibrant orange striped shelf is bordered by a vivid yellow edging.  The spores are produced in pores on the ventral surface.

Hymenochaete luteo-badia. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Beauty Fungus, (Hymenochaete luteo-badia)

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica



Wildlife, nature, fauna and flora of Costa Rica.

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 it was this morning.  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”.  The name is derived from 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 many 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 all my years on the Osa Peninsula; 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 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.

Foraging For Dead Man’s Fingers

Rainforest fungi. Costa Rica. Agaricales.

One of many fungi I have not been able to identify in 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.

Rainforest fungi. Sarcoscyphaceae. Orange-cup fungus. Cookeina speciosa. Cookeina tricholoma.

Two species of Orange-cup Fungi. Cookeina speciosa, left and Cookeina tricholoma, right.

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.

Rainforest fungi. Tricholomataceae. Titan Fungus. Macrocybe titans. Costa Rica. Philip DAvison. Veridion Adventures.

One of the largest gill mushrooms on the planet, Titan Mushroom, (Macrocybe titans)

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.  Commonly found as a symbiont on Leaf-cutter Ant nests.

Rainforest Fungi. Phallaceae. Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn. Staheliomyces cinctus. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures. Costa Rica.

Swiss Cheese Stinkhorn, (Staheliomyces cinctus)

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.

Rainforesst fungi. Dead Man's Finger. Xylariaceae.

Dead Man’s Finger, (Xylaria sp).

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.

Rainforest Fungi. Xyliaceae. Dead Man's Finger Fungus. Costa Rica.

econd species of Dead Man’s Finger, (Xyliaceae sp)

Philip Davison Is a Biologist, Writer and Photographer Based in Costa Rica





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