Archive for the ‘White-nosed Coati’ Tag

A Gruesome End   2 comments

Philip Davison Nature Diaries. Bosque del Cabo Rain Forest Lodge.

Life as Normal

The weather pattern has now been set for the next three or four months.  The sun shines during the day and the rain comes down at night.  At least that has been the situation over the past week and if records from previous years tell us anything then that it how things should more or less remain until September.

Life continues here irrespective of the weather conditions.  One question I am asked a lot is “What do the animals do when it is raining?”  The animal life here is adapted to living in a rain forest so what happens is that everything continues as normal.

At the moment there are large groups of White-nosed Coatis, (Nasua narica), around the grounds.  The coatis are related to raccoons and like their cousins will feed on just about anything they find whether it be grubs and land crabs that they dig out of the ground, eggs and chicks stolen from birds’ nests or simply the abundance of fruit that has fallen to the ground.  The males are solitary and I found this one engrossed in a feeding frenzy with the jack fruits that were littering the ground beneath the tree that had produced them.  He was so preoccupied with the sweet treat that my presence was of no concern.

Nasua narica Carnivora Procyonidae

White-nosed Coati, (Nasua narica)

The females are gregarious and can be found in large groups which consist of the adult females and young of varying ages.  They are a little more wary than the males and if approached will run for the cover of dense vegetation.  This week some visitors to the lodge were greeted in the early morning by White-faced Monkeys, (Cebus capuchinus), in the tree over the cabin and a large group of White-nosed Coatis on the lawn in front.  All of a sudden the monkeys went berserk, barking a frantic alarm call.  The coatis bolted for the forest. That was a bad mistake as a few moments later a female Puma, (Puma concolor), emerged carrying one of the baby coatis in her mouth.  The guests experienced mixed emotions of being both sad and thrilled at the same time.

A few weeks ago I had a fledgling male Black-throated Trogon, (Trogon rufus), land beside me as I walked through the forest.  This time it was the turn of a female.  The females are not as vividly colored as the males.  The back is a soft brown and the belly is a pale yellow although it still has the eye ring and the black and white barred tail.

Trogon rufus. Trogonidae

Black-throated Trogon, (Trogon rufus) Female

Eaten Alive

Over many years of having lived in the area there are creatures that I have seen but have never been fortunate to take a photograph of.  It may well have been that I was not carrying the camera or that the sighting was too fleeting or that the subject would not stay in one spot long enough.  For whatever the reason the result was the same, a feeling of frustration.

One such insect that had evaded me for so long was one of the most predatory hymenopterans with a gruesome life history, the Tarantula Hawk.  These are impressively large wasps and one you most certainly not want to be stung by.  The female is the predator and she is constantly on the move in search of prey for her offspring, the living flesh of a spider.  As I am walking around, I have encountered over the years, individuals that land, with the antennae and wings in constant motion.  She alights and then takes flight almost immediately giving no chance of taking a photograph.  They are distinctive in size and tend to be bluey/black in color with bright orange wings.  This one also had orange antennae.

Pepsis aquila. Hymenoptera. Pompilidae. Pepsinae.

Tarantula Hawk, (Pepsis aquila)

This week I was lucky.  I found one resting at night, immobile and easy to trap, with the intention being of photographing her the next morning.  Once the sun rose I chose a suitable spot, set up the camera and tipped her onto the log in front of the lens.  I managed to snap a few images before she warmed up, cleaned herself, climbed up the tree trunk and took to the air.

Tarantula hawks belong to the family Pompilidae which has a large number of species many of which are spider hunters.  The genus Pepsis consists of about 300 species mainly distributed throughout Central and South America.  The adults are commonly seen taking nectar from flowers.

The large size of the Tarantula hawk enable it to hunt larger prey, as the name suggest, tarantulas.  It is thought that the females are particular about the species of tarantula that they hunt.  When a female finds a victim she will touch it with her antennae, the spider has a particular chemical odor that will identify it as the unfortunate chosen one.

Having made her selection the killer wasp grabs the tarantula by the leg and attempts to turn it over so she can inflict the paralyzing sting to the underbelly.  This is not without some danger to the wasp as its large prey can occasionally reverse the role and kill the killer.  Invariably though she delivers the coup de grace and the now immobilized spider can be dragged by the wasp to the spiders own burrow, there she lays a single egg, buries the victim and leaves it to its grisly fate.  While grappling in this life or death battle with the spider, the female wasp emits a pungent odor, the scent of imminent victory, whose real function is unknown.

As if being buried alive was not dismal enough, the egg hatches and because the spider is only paralyzed, not killed, the larva begins to consume the living flesh of the spider.  Eventually, once the feast is concluded, the larva spins a silken cocoon, pupates and sometime later a new assassin will emerge and repeat the process.

I see many smaller Pompilid wasps as I walk the trials.  I have watched them catch, sting and drag Wandering Spiders, (Cuppienius spp), to a burrow in a similar fashion.  Normally they are solitary but last week I noticed a group in a collective frenzy on the forest floor.  There seemed to be something at the center of the group that had captured their attention but I could not make out what it was.  The wasps were tumbling over each other to get at the object of interest but whatever it might have been will remain a mystery.

Pompilid sp. Hymenoptera. Pompilidae. Pepsinae.

Pompilid sp Searching for Something

One final wasp that I saw last week, or rather the nest of a wasp, was the unmistakable construction of a Mud-dauber Wasp belonging to the family Sphecidae.  These wasps are found globally but only six of the known species are native to the Neotropics.  What they may lack in species diversity they make up for in numbers, they are very common.

The tubes are made from mud that the wasp has collected from damp ground and fashioned into elongated cells.  These wasps, like the two species mentioned above are spider feeders.  These ones hunt smaller spiders which are dispatched in the same fashion.  Each of the mud cells is packed with paralyzed victims upon which an egg has been laid.  When the cell is full it is sealed and the spiders are left to suffer in immobilized silence.   These cells I noticed on the side of a tree but it is not uncommon to find them on the outer walls of buildings.

Sphecidae sp. Hymenoptera. Sphecidae.

Mud-dauber Wasp Nest – Cells of Lingering Death

Nameless Wonders

The fungi continue to produce their distinctive fruiting bodies.  Some of them are very eye-catching and some of them are compelling due to their strange appearance.  The stunning yellow mushrooms were found growing from the soil beneath the bamboos.  They were large but brittle, when touched they fell over.  Mushrooms appear overnight and only last a short time as they release the fungal spores into the air.  I found the second group of fruiting bodies growing from a dead branch on the forest floor.  They look like miniature branched corals reaching up and pointing to the heavens.  They were very small but the gregarious, monochrome white-tipped black stipes certainly attracted attention.

Agaricales sp. Osa Peninsula. Costa Rica.

Unidentified Mushroom

Xylaria sp. Xylariaceae.

Candle Snuff Fungus, (Xylaria sp)

Looking But Not Seeing

Harvestmen or Daddy Long Legs are strangely fascinating creatures.  They are, along with the spiders and scorpions, arachnids.  There are approximately 5,000 species of Harvestmen in the Order: Opiliones and most of them are found in the Neotropics.  Many people are familiar with these odd-looking creatures with the small globular body suspended between eight long filamentous legs.  The pedipalps at the front of the head are small and have weak claws at the tips.  They are commonly found on tree trunks where they hunt and feed on small arthropods such as mites and springtails.  They have the undeserved reputation of being one of the most venomous animals on the planet.  There is no factual basis for that claim but once one person says it and another repeats in then it becomes a fact with no standing in reality.


Daddy Long-legs with Legs Covered in Mosquitoes

They would appear to be very vulnerable to predation but they do have ways of avoiding becoming a meal.  They are generally nocturnal and cryptically colored so they blend in with the background.  If physically attacked then they can drop the leg that has been caught, (appendotomy).  The leg continues to twitch serving to hold the attacker’s attention.  They also have repugnatorial glands on the body from which they release a variety of foul smelling chemicals which repel a continuing attack.  If predatory ants are on the hunt, the harvestman lifts itself as high as the legs allow and then remains motionless.  The ants will only attack if they detect motion.

Having taken the photograph and then looked at it in detail I noticed something that I had not seen when I was looking at the animal on the tree, it’s legs were being covered by what appeared to be blood-sucking mosquitoes.  Searching online I could find very few records of mosquitoes feeding on the blood of other arthropods.  Obviously the harvestman has not developed a means by which to keep these specialist predators at bay but without further investigation it may well be that the mosquitoes were simply using the legs as a place to rest.

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


Mangoes Attract a Crowd   Leave a comment

Philip Davison. Costa Rica. Blog. Nature Diaries

Harvesting Mangoes

The Wet Season

Last year on the Osa Peninsula the wet season started much later than normal. It did not start raining heavily until July.  However, despite the delayed start, by the end of the year there had been more rain than the annual average.  This year the rains arrived at the time when they are normally expected which tends to be mid April.  The month of May and so far into June experienced a lot of rain.  The forest and the gardens are currently looking luxuriantly verdant.  There is a reason why the wet season is commonly referred to as the green season.

Sometimes if the initial rains of the green season are particularly heavy and the downpours are long in duration the force of the falling rain can knock blossoms from the trees that flower this time of year adversely affecting the fruiting season and consequently the amount of food available to the fruit-eating animals.  The year 2005, which will be remembered by many as the year that Hurricane Katrina hit the southern area of the United States, in Costa Rica translated into a very wet green season.  Many of the trees did not produce fruit and so fruit-eating mammals and birds such as Spider Monkeys and Black-mandibled Toucans were dying en masse due to a lack of food.

Conversely if the weather is unseasonably hot and dry, eventually amounting to what is a drought situation, then the plants put a lot of energy into reproduction resulting in a glut of fruit.  These dry periods may be of short duration, eventually the rains will arrive, but in the meantime the animals benefit from a surfeit of food.  This in turn may result in enhanced breeding success.

Mango Bonanza

The small mango orchard at Bosque del Cabo has a two year cycle.  One year the trees produce fruit the next year they don’t.  Sometimes they will produce a bumper harvest and that is what has happened this year.  The boughs of the trees are hanging heavy with fruit.  The ground beneath the tree crowns is covered with fallen fruit.


Fallen Mangoes Cover Ground

Mangoes, (Mangifera indica), are not native to the Americas, they are originally from South-east Asia, more particularly from India, through Myanmar and into Southern China.  As they produce such a bountiful crop of fruit they now can be found growing in all parts of the tropical world that have climatic conditions suitable for their cultivation.  They are related to both Poison Ivy and Cashew.  Just as with those two plants some care has to be exercised by individuals who demonstrate a reaction to physical contact with them.


Part Eaten Mangoes

Coati and Monkey Feeding Frenzy

During the day the activity in and around the mango orchard is prolific and intense.  The trees are full of Spider Monkeys crashing around from branch to branch, noisily engaged in minor intra troop disputes.  The monkeys are wasteful feeders.  They pluck a fruit, take a bite and then throw the remainder to the ground.  You have to be very careful standing under the trees when observing their behavior as even a soft fleshy fruit like a mango when dropped from a height can cause concussion if it lands directly on your head.

The discarded fruit on the ground starts to putrefy and ferment giving a pungent fruity smell to the area.  The rotting fruit becomes irresistible to many animals both vertebrate and invertebrate.  Some years ago the White-nosed Coati population suffered a severe crash in numbers; it was very difficult to see them.  An occasional solitary male may have been seen but the large groups of females with young were very noticeable by their absence.  However in recent years the population has rebounded and there are lots of White-nosed Coatis everywhere.  The males tend to very bold and will only move away when approached very close and even then sometimes reluctantly.  The females with young form large groups, sometimes numbering 15 – 20 strong. They are much more wary of an advancing human and will disappear into the undergrowth very quickly.  The juveniles bound away emitting high pitched squeals while the females which hold their ground a little longer huff, puff and growl to voice their discontent.  That was until the mangoes became freely available.

White-nosed Coati

White-nosed Coati Feasting on Mango

The plentiful supply of easily obtainable food falling freely from above guarantees that daily a huge group of coatis will be congregated in the mango orchard gorging themselves on the ripe fruit.  They are not inclined to move away from this bounteous treasure trove of a feast upon which their gluttony can be satiated.  These normally shy and retiring crèches of women and children that disappear so quickly when otherwise approached will now hang on until you are within a foot or so.  Even then they back away reluctantly, keeping an eye on you whilst trying to drag their juicy treat with them.  Due to the number of people walking back and forth through the mango orchard the coatis have probably come to realize that you pose no imminent threat.

Spider Monkey Gatecrashes Party

As I was sitting on the ground taking photographs of the coatis a Spider Monkey descended down to the base of one of the mango tree trunks and sat watching all this activity.  After a few minutes it decided to join in and despite the profusion of fruit above in the branches for whatever reason it wanted to partake of the ground based cornucopia.  Picking up one mango after another, holding it close to the nose to smell, it then selected one which it deemed to be a choice morsel and ascended the trunk once again to consume it.


The coatis and the monkeys are very visible but as you walk through the orchard then there are other smaller forms of life that will briefly take to air from around your feet.  They circle around but the food that had attracted them in the first place is too good to give up and so back they return to continue feeding at the same spot before being disturbed by your footfall.   This is very convenient as you can now slowly position yourself in the knowledge that within a few minutes or less you will be able to get some good shots of the insects.

Common Ur Satyr

Common Ur Satyr

Many butterflies in the adult stage are attracted to and feed from the juices of rotting fruit.  If you can cope with lying on a soft and squishy carpet of putrid mangoes then you can normally fill the frame with your subject.  The Common Ur-Satyr, (Taygetis thamyra), is, as the name suggests, not a rare butterfly but because of its retiring nature and habit of living in dark secluded areas is not often observed.  The mangoes proved to be too much of temptation.  I noticed it from a distance but as I edged closer it took to the air.  I stood very still and back it came alighting on the same spot from which it took off.  I lowered myself very slowly, first to my knees, then leaning forward on my elbows and finally on my belly with the camera held in front of my face to focus on the subject.  Worming my forward until I finally had the butterfly filling the frame, I clicked the shutter and thankfully the flash did not spook the butterfly and I had the shot.

True Flies

Just in front of the butterfly and closer to me was another rotting mango but with a fly feeding from it.  I have a liking for all creatures even things like humble house-flies which take on a different aspect when viewed close up.  All I had to do was re-adjust my position by 90º and the shot was mine.  I squirmed around to the side without disturbing the fly which was preoccupied with imbibing fruit juice and once again I had a series of successful photos.

House Fly

House Fly Species

Flies, like butterflies, belong to the Class: Insecta but unlike butterflies, (Order: Lepidoptera), which have two pairs of wings, flies, (Order: Diptera) only have one pair of wings.  Butterflies have a proboscis which functions not unlike a straw.  The butterflies can suck up and feed upon a liquid diet that normally consists of nectar but also in this case mango juice.  Flies have a similar feeding strategy but the mouth parts can have undergone a lot of modifications to allow them access to a greater variety of liquid sustenance including nectar, fruit juice but also blood, animal secretions, plant sap and decomposing vegetation and feces.  Some, as can be seen in this photo, have a flat sponge-like end to the mouthparts which allow them to soak up imbibe the liquid mango meal.


At night the orchard is populated by a new set of animals, lured by the heady sweet aroma.  Searching the ground with a flashlight will reveal a great many moths, their eyes lighting up like fire-orange spots burning through the darkness.  You will see many species but unfortunately moths are not the easiest of insects to identify to species level; there are so many species and for the majority we know little of their life histories.  Because they are for the most part nocturnal moths do not receive the attention their day flying butterfly cousins are subject to.  However if you take the time to take a close look then what may have seemed like a dull brown winged insect turns into one of nature’s exquisitely patterned  works of art.

Black Witch Moth

Black Witch Moth

The Black Witch Moth, (Ascalapha odorata), is a fairly common moth in this area.  It is known by native peoples in various parts of the Latin world as the “Moth of Death”.  The story is that should one of these moths enter dwelling housing a sick person then that person will die.  For me it is the richly colored intricately woven patterns crossed by a silvery blue band that kills me with delight in its presence.

Philip Davison is a biologist, photographer and writer based in Costa Rica.


Resisting Venomous Skeletons   4 comments

Felipe del Bosque Blog August 6th 2012

Sun Shade

This week started cloudy and overcast but soon gave way to glorious sunshine which in turn gave rise to more rain.  The rain has been quite light though, we have not experienced the storms that occurred last week.  Having said that, there has been thunder rumbling around for a while, but as is so often the case it doesn’t amount to anything.

Stripped to the Bone

On one of the primary forest tours last week as the group I had out with me came towards the end of the trail I could hear the soft trilling call of a male Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog, (Phyllobates vittatus).  We were approaching the creek which at this point is crossed by a small wooden foot bridge.  I stopped to listen and ascertained that the frog was calling from just the other side of the bridge in the creek bed.  Sometimes the frogs call from under the leaf litter and other times they appear to be master ventriloquists, their calls seemingly coming from a location while the frog appears to be in another.  On this occasion this one was not too hard to find and photograph.

After securing the images, we scrambled back on to the bridge and one of the group, Ian Linnett, who was visiting Bosque with his wife, and their 2 sons, asked me the identity of a skeleton that was lying in the stream bed but back around the bend behind us that I had missed.  I jumped down into the creek again and found a perfectly clean, polished white skull somewhat removed from the rest of the intact skeleton.  The shape of the cranium and the dentition were diagnostic of a cat.  It was not a big cat and looking at all the bones together I concluded it was a Jaguarundi, (Hepailurus yagouarundi), skeleton.  That same evening there was a tremendous downpour and so the next day when I walked the trail the skeleton that 24 hours earlier had been complete was now broken up and the bones littered the banks.  When something the size of a medium sized mammal dies in the forest it can be reduced to cleanly picked bone in as shorter time as 36 hours.

I brought the skull back to add to the Bosque bone collection in the lodge’s museum.  There is a small collection of bones that visitors have found on walks over the years.  When I placed the new skull amongst them it occurred to me that it might be an entertaining idea by way of a change to photograph some of the specimens we have as most of the time I take pictures of living not dead things.

Mug Shots for the Boneyard

I started with a skull most people would instantly recognize as they are so similar the human skulls, that of a primate; the Spider Monkey, (Ateles geoffroyi).  The first and most notable feature is the large forward facing eye sockets.  For arboreal monkeys, (all of Costa Rica’s monkey species are arboreal), it would be of great benefit while moving through the trees tops to be able to gauge depth and distance.  Forward facing eyes with overlapping binocular vision, such as we as primates have, allow for that perspective.   This is especially true of the Spider Monkeys which are natural born acrobats spending their lives swinging from branch to branch and free falling from upper to lower levels of the canopy.

Spider Monkey         Spider Monkey         Ateles geoffroyi

All of the 4 monkey species found in Costa Rica also live in the grounds of Bosque del Cabo.  They all live in different parts of the forest and they all feed on different types of food.  Howler Monkeys, (Alouatta palliata), and Spider Monkeys both inhabit the higher regions of the canopy but Howler Monkeys are essentially leaf-eaters while the diet of Spider Monkeys consists largely of fruit.  White-faced Capuchin Monkeys tend to stay in the mid levels of the forest.  They have a very mixed diet; flowers, fruit and young leaves.  But 65% of the Capuchin diet is insects, frogs and lizards.  However, the Capuchins will take bigger prey and have regularly been seen on the grounds of Bosque catching and eating the Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, (Ramphastos swainsoni).  The smallest of the monkey species at Bosque is also the most carnivorous; the Squirrel Monkey, (Saimiri oerstedii).  Squirrel Monkeys prefer the denser cover of secondary forest rather than primary forest, they tend to stay low down near forest edges and 90% of their diet is insects, frogs and lizards, all that small stuff they find by gleaning as they move through the forest.

Ateles geoffroyi

Although the dentition of most primates is rather unspecialized when compared to other mammals, there is still a variation dependent on dietary requirements.  Howler Monkeys have small incisors but high crested molars designed for shearing leaf material and males have larger canines than females.  Spider Monkeys on the other hand have large incisors with small molars to deal with a fruit diet.  Capuchins have large incisors as well as large, thickly enameled premolars and premolars to enable the cracking of nut shells.  Squirrel Monkeys sharply crested premolars and molars to slice open insect exoskeletons.

Next is the Jaguarundi skull.  It has a short snout typical of cats which rely more on sound and vision to locate prey rather than scent.  They have reasonably large eye sockets placed more on the side of the head.  But look at those teeth; they leave no doubt as to their carnivorous nature.  The upper and lower canines are lethal stabbing weapons designed to hold the prey.  Typical of carnivores are the carnassials, the rearmost premolar of the upper jaw and forward most molar of the lower jaw which fit together like the blades of a pair of pinking scissors, designed to shear through flesh.

Jaguarundi         Jaguarundi         Hepailurus yagouarundi

You can also see the large zygomatic arch through which the large temporal muscle passes.  Running along the top of the skull is the sagittal crest, a bony ridge to which the temporal muscle is attached in carnivores, (and some other mammals), allowing greater muscular strength in delivering a very strong bite.

Hepailurus yagouarundi

Whereas cats have short snouts, the dogs have long snouts which house an amazing olfactory sensory apparatus that give them abilities way beyond our comprehension.  Although not dogs, the Procyonids or Raccoon family have that same ability.  The White-nosed Coati, (Nasua narica), familiar to most visitors to Bosque as they can be quite easily observed walking nonchalantly around the grounds, has an acute sense of smell that more than compensates the creature for its apparently hopeless sense of sight and hearing.  Anyone who has ignored the lodge advice or inadvertently left food in the cabin will have probably been paid a visit by a coati.  As with the Jaguarundi skull, the dentition points to a more carnivorous diet but coatis are not fussy eaters; they will take anything from fruit, grubs, crabs, reptiles, amphibians, rodents and chocolate bars.

White-nosed Coati         White-nosed Coati         Nasua narica

Nasua narica

Finally the largest skull in the collection belongs to a distantly related member of the pig family, the Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu).  The peccary has that long skull which like the coati houses wonderful olfactory sense organs.  The lower jaw is long and narrow, typical of animals that crush or grind food in their molars rather than the short curved lower jaw of carnivores which exerts more pressure at the front of the mouth where the incisors and canines are housed.  Peccaries eat a lot of vegetative material including large nuts which are crushed directly in the molars.  But the most noticeable feature are the large and fearsome looking canines.  Peccaries eat very little by way of meat so they are not used in the same fashion as a dog or cat.  These ferocious tusks grow continuously until the animal is about 5 years old.  The upper and lower canines rub against one another thus sharpening the edges but also they interlock resulting in reduced sideways motion of the jaw and action required more by grinding animals than crushers.

Collared Peccary         Collared Peccary         Tayassu tajuca

Tayassu tajuca

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

 Bite Me, Eat You

One night last week I went out early in the evening to get photographs of the male frogs as they emerge from their daytime cover, set up their territories and start to call for females, at least that was the initial plan.  On my way over to the pond, a large dark shape moving in front and away from me on the lawn caught my attention.  It was a large snake of about 6 feet in length and of substantial girth.  Although there are many snakes that live here it is not always easy to find them but there are some creatures that are experts at doing just that.  They have to be as snakes form the main basis of their diet.  This was one of those creatures, a snake eating snake, the Mussurana, (Clelia clelia).

Mussurana         Mussurana         Clelia clelia

I had found them around the pond in the past.  There are a lot of frogs that breed around the pond and consequently there are a lot of snakes which specialize in eating frogs and frog’s eggs.  At night it is common to see large numbers of Cat-eyed Snakes, (Leptodeira septentrionalis), and during the day their diurnal counterpart, the Parrot Snakes, (Leptophis ahaetulla).  On the odd occasion I will find a Terciopelo, (Bothrops asper), by the pond as they too are not averse to eating some of the large frogs such as the Smoky Jungle Frog, (Leptodactylus savegei).  It is hardly surprising then that all this serpentine activity might attract a Mussurana on the hunt.

Clelia clelia

The Mussurana is a robust and fearsome predator.  The body is solid, muscular and strong.  It can attain a length just somewhat short of 9 feet.  The coloration is a beautiful blue grey with a uniformly cream belly.  They tend to be nocturnal but if observed during the day the highly polished scales resembles cabochons of opalescent moonstones set by a master jeweller into its long sinuous body.  With each twist and turn of the coils the fabulous blue iridescence gives the impression of a scintillating yet cold azure flame enveloping the entire length of its body.

But what is beauty to us spells death for its legless cousins.  The Mussurana actively seeks out other snakes and when it finds what it is looking for; it strikes and holds the prey in its powerful jaws.  Those muscular coils are wrapped around the unfortunate victim is less than a blink of the eye.  The constricting force they apply begins to asphyxiate the immobilized prey.  All the while, the Mussarana is chewing into body of its captive, the jaws house rear fangs that inject venom that will quickly dispatch the quarry.The Mussurana is a robust and fearsome predator.  The body is a solid, muscular and strong.  It can attain a length just somewhat short of 9 feet.  The coloration is a beautiful blue grey with a uniformly cream belly.  They tend to be nocturnal but if observed during the day the highly polished scales give a fabulous blue iridescence that flickers like a cold azure flame enveloping its body scintillating with each twist and turn of the coils.  But what is beauty to us spells death for its legless cousins.  The Mussurana actively seeks out other snakes and when it finds what it is looking for; it strikes and holds the prey in its powerful jaws.  Those muscular coils are wrapped around the unfortunate victim is less than a blink of the eye.  The constricting force they apply begins to asphyxiate the immobilized prey.  All the while, the Mussarana is chewing into body of its captive, the jaws house rear fangs that inject venom that will quickly dispatch the quarry.

The Mussurana is held in high regard in Latin America due to its predilection for feeding on highly venomous pit vipers such as the Terciopelo.  For most predators trying to feed on another predator that is potentially more dangerous than yourself is a hazardous existence but the Mussurana has evolved immunity to the venom of pit vipers.  It has not, on the other hand, developed immunity to the venom of coral snakes.

The individual that I now had in front of me tried to make a rapid escape but it was too late, I had already seen it.  I bent down and picked it up.  It offered no resistance at all.  Some species of snake are renowned for their irascible natures, here the Tropical Bird-eating Snake, (Pseustes poecilinotus), which will lash out at the slightest provocation.  Other species have individuals that are miserable and others that are placid, the Boa, (Boa constrictor), for example.  The Mussurana is noted for its disinclination to bite.  They do however sometimes display the strange behavioral trait of swinging violently round and hitting you with their heads, a tendency I have observed in some other snakes too.  Just by way of interest, I have handled many Terciopelos here and despite their reputation as an aggressive serpent, I have never experienced one that ever acted in an aggressive manner.

One final point of interest is that the young Mussuranas are a blood red in color and only later develop the blue grey of the adults.  I find the large ones every now and then but have never come across one of the small ones.

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 0.19 ins.  Total Weekly Rainfall 1.30 ins

Average Daily Rainfall 4.7 mm.  Total Weekly Rainfall 33.0 mm

Highest Daily Temp 89°F.  Lowest Daily Temp 75°F.

Highest Daily Temp 31.7°C.  Lowest Daily Temp 24.0°C.

Species List for the Week


  • Central American Squirrel Monkey
  • Howler Monkey
  • Spider Monkey
  • White-faced Monkey
  • White-nosed Coati
  • Agouti
  • Red-tailed Squirrel


  • Mealy Amazon
  • Red-lored Amazon
  • Scarlet Macaws
  • Great Curassow
  • Crested Caracara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
  • Rufus Piha
  • Pale-billed Woodpecker
  • Chestnut-backed Antbird
  • Black-hooded Antshrike
  • Short-billed Pigeon
  • White-tipped Dove
  • Blue-crowned Motmot
  • Long-billed Hermit
  • Red-capped Manakin
  • Chestnut-mandibled Toucan
  • Grey-headed Tanager
  • Bright-rumped Atilla
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Great Tinamou
  • Black-throated Trogon
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture


  • Barred Ameiva
  • Cat-eyed Snake
  • Central American Whiptail
  • Clawless Gecko
  • Common Basilisk
  • Four-lined Ameiva
  • Golfo Dulce Anolis
  • Litter Skink
  • Mussurana


  • Banana Frog
  • Black and Green Poison Arrow Frog
  • Fitzinger’s Rain Frog
  • Gladiator Frog
  • Golfo Dulce Poison Arrow Frog
  • Marine Toad
  • Olive Tree Frog
  • Red-eyed Green Tree Frog
  • Smoky Jungle Frog
  • Tink Frog


  • Anartia fatima
  • Anartia jatrophae
  • Archeaoprepona demophon
  • Caligo eurilochus
  • Dryas iulia
  • Glutophrissa drusilla
  • Heliconius erato
  • Heliconius hecale
  • Heliconius ismenius
  • Heliconius sapho
  • Hermeuptychia hermes
  • Junonia evarete
  • Morpho helenor
  • Morpho menelaus
  • Metacharis victrix
  • Opsiphanes tamarindi
  • Pareuptychia ocirrhoe
  • Philaethria dido
  • Phoebis argante
  • Pierella luna
  • Pyrrhogyra crameri
  • Saliana longirostris
  • Siproeta stelenes
  • Urbanus tanna


  • Alamandra  cathartica Flowering
  • Alpinia purpurata Flowering
  • Apeiba tibourbou Flowering
  • Arachis pintoi Flowering
  • Arundina graminifolia Flowering
  • Aspidosperma spruceanum Fruiting
  • Astrocaryum standelyarum Fruiting
  • Asterogyne martiana Flowering
  • Atrocarpus heterophyllus Fruiting
  • Averrhoa carambola Fruiting
  • Cascabella thevetia Flowering
  • Chamaedorea costaricana Fruiting
  • Cocos nucifera Flowering andFruiting
  • 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
  • Gustavia brachycarpa Fruiting
  • Heisteria accuminata Fruiting
  • 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
  • Lacistema aggregatum Fruiting
  • Lacmellea panamensis Fruiting
  • Lantana camara Flowering andFlowering
  • Lagerstroemia speciosaFruiting
  • Mangifera indica Fruiting
  • Miconia argentia Fruiting
  • Morinda citrifolia Fruiting
  • Musa acuminate Flowering andFruiting
  • Naucleopsis ulei Fruiting
  • Nephelium lappaceum Fruiting
  • Pandanus tectonus Fruiting
  • Piper auritum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Piper nigrum Fruiting
  • Piper umbellatum Flowering and Fruiting
  • Pleiostachya pruinosa Flowering
  • Plumeria rubra Flowering
  • Psidium guajava Fruiting
  • Stachytarpheta frantzii Flowering
  • Terminalia catappa Flowering
  • Thunbergia grandiflora Flowering
  • Virola guatemalensis Fruiting
  • Virola koschnyi Fruiting
  • Zammia sp Flowering



Veridion Adventures. Philip Davison.

Today was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the birds and butterflies were out not only in force but in equal numbers, 35 species of each recorded for the day.  It looked as if the sunny conditions might hold out all day and so following a successful bird count in the morning I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to complete what may be the final butterfly count of the season.

We have a small photographic group staying at the moment and they echoed the sentiments of the group that was leaving as they arrived, namely, in the one afternoon and morning that they had been on the Osa Peninsula, they were stupefied by the sheer number of animals they were seeing.  I gave them some advice as to where they should go to photograph the various subjects they were after, left them to it and off I went to walk my transect.

Add a little sunlight to warm air temperatures and out will come the butterflies.  They must exist in numbers that are inactive during periods of inclement weather because today they appeared almost spontaneously.  It was nice to see three species of Sulfur; medium sizes yellow butterflies that grace the open garden areas.

Rainforest insects. Butterflies. Cloudless Sulfur. Pieridae. Coliadinae. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Cloudless Sulfur, (Phoebis sennae)

On the forest trail, I knew there was an Agouti, (Dasyprocta punctata), and White-nosed Coati, (Nasua narica), nearby because of the fresh tracks on the ground.    For the same reason, I knew there was a herd of Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu), not too far ahead.  As I walked up a muddy incline, listening to the soft trilling call of a Black-throated Trogon, (Trogon rufus), my attention became redirected to a clacking sound that I know very well.  Up on top of the ridge were the peccaries, the males snapping their teeth together in a signal of alarm.  Peccary, like the coati, have exceptionally bad sight and hearing but an excellent sense of smell.  If you are downwind of them they quite often have no idea that you are there.  If you are upwind of them they will pick up your scent immediately.  And so it was with this herd of about ten or twelve, they knew I was there, but also probably had no real fear as they have not been hunted on the grounds for the past ten years.  As I continued to walk up the hill they just walked off into the forest to continue about their business.

Rainforest Mammals. Artiodactyla. Tayassuidae. Collared Peccary. Tayassu tajacu. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Collared Peccary, (Tayassu tajacu)

There were two other noteworthy sightings today, one a new species of butterfly and the other an occasionally seen species of damselfly.  The butterfly was one of the Firetip Skippers, Myscelus assaricus, the forewing divided between orange and black in color with a broad white band.  The most eye-catching feature though is the fast “buzzy” flight so typical of some of the skippers.  That now makes three new species of butterfly in one week.  The damselfly was the Helicopter Damselfly, one of the largest damselflies on the planet.  There are several species but this was the impressively large Megaloprepus coerulatus.  Helicopter Damselflies are named after their flight pattern, the four transparent wings tipped, in this species, with opaque white and a dark blue/black band, appear to move in the fashion of a helicopters rotors.  They are specialized feeders on spiders.  They can be seen hovering vertically up and down or horizontally in and out searching spider webs for their occupants.  When they find one, they grab it, reverse away from the web nip off the head and legs and then consume the soft body parts.

Rainforest Damselflies. Odonata. Zygoptera. Pseudostigmatidae. Helicopter Damselfly. Megaloprepus caerulatus. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Helicopter Damselfy, (Megaloprepus caerulatus)



Weird Plants: Balanophoraceae

When people think of a flowering plant, it brings to mind something with roots, a stem, green leaves and when in season, flowers and fruit. Flowering plants evolved 100 million year ago and from that time to this have evolved into thousands of forms, the nearest estimate being in the region of 250,000 species.  There are as many as 90,000 species of flowering plants in the Neotropics of which 9,000 species occur in Costa Rica.  Flowering plants have flowers; sometimes they are large, showy and colorful, yet other times totally inconspicuous.  In shape they make exhibit what we imagine as a typical flower but others may be a bizarre as visual copies of the sex organs of a female bee.  Some flowers have a delicious perfume while others may emit the somewhat less attractive odor of rotting flesh.  But whatever their size, shape, color or scent, flowers are a plants way of manipulating, amongst other things, insects, birds and bats to do their bidding in terms of bringing about pollination.

Rainforest Plants. Balanophoraceae. Helosis cayennensis. Costa Rica. Philip Davison. Veridion Adventures.

Helosis cayennensis

Now that is a typical flowering plant, but as with everything else, there are going to be some atypical forms.  I will quite often have people come into restaurant at Bosque in the evening and ask me to identify some of the plants and animals they have been photographing during the course of the day.  One puzzling sighting is a weird little mushroom they may have found growing at the base of a tree.  The plant in question is not a fungus, although it takes a lot of convincing of that fact before people will believe it, but rather a strange looking flowering plant, Helosis cayennensis, belonging to the family Balanophoraceae.  Arising from subterranean tubers, Helosis cayennensis is a root parasite of other flowering plants.  They lack chlorophyll and have a uniform tan color.  It is not uncommon to see them but they only occur sporadically at the bases of trees.

Take a look at the photographs and try to decide if having seen this, you would have identified it as a flowering plant.

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


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