Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Costa Rica - Day 4-5 Terciopelo!

We had been told that they are very common, and true to form it didn’t take long to see one. The Terciopelo or Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper) is one of the most feared snakes in Latin America. They belong to the Viper family and can grow to almost 2.5 metres long. In comparison to our Australian snakes, the Terciopelo has enormous fangs; they can get to 2.5cm long. They are apparently much more aggressive than most other Vipers (such as rattlesnakes), and often won’t hesitate to bite if startled. Apart from their fang length and potent tissue-destructive venom, the locals fear these snakes due to their habits. During the day they shelter beneath shrubs and bushes and remain motionless, using their camouflage to conceal them. In this region of Costa Rica, care must be taken before reaching into any area within a bushy garden. At night they emerge and sit in a coiled position waiting for food. They will often sit near water or at the edge of tracks and trails, which means caution must be taken when walking along tracks at night, exactly what we need to do!

We hiked across the Rio Tigre (Tigre River) and up the rainforest trails to a small camp known as Bolita. We came across a selection of fascinating invertebrates and some incredible spiders, all new to me. At Bolita we were ushered to a small pond harbouring several species of frogs calling frenetically, complete with a large resident Terciopelo sitting on the bank waiting for an amphibian snack to approach it. The only disappointment was finding that I had left my camera battery behind on the charger! Fortunately another Terciopelo turned up in our front garden soon after which is the one pictured. This specimen, however, was opaque (preparing to shed its skin) and was quite nervous and flighty, so I only managed to get a couple of quick picks before it fled into the undergrowth.

The Terciopelo or Fer-de-lance (Bothrops asper) in our front yard. Note the milky eye indicating the snake is preparing to shed its skin. Snakes usually don’t feed during this phase, and are often at a heightened state of nervousness due to their diminished vision.

Here’s a few other goodies we’ve seen over the past few days.

Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis), a frog eating species. This individual had just finished a frog when I found it. It took off down a steep embankment moments later.

A robust weevil feeding on a leaf.

Another species of weevil. The weevils are the most speciose group of beetles in the world.

A young Common Anole (Norops polylepis) about to pounce on a beetle.  These acrobatic lizards are well known for the showy displays put on by rival males; extending and flashing a colourful dewlap (skin area beneath the throat).

There are a number of species of stingless bees around the yard. Apart from being attracted to flowers, they swarm over any fruit left out and constantly insist on landing on us, presumably to lap up the salts in our sweat.

Rain frogs (Eleutherodactylus spp.) are very common around the Osa Peninsula

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