Today we designed an experiment in which we attempted to study the affects that hurricane gaps- the large gap in the canopy forest- that occurs when a tree is knocked over because of a hurricane- has on forest floor diversity. We didn’t really see any significant results, but perhaps a longer study over more area will tell us how natural disturbances such as hurricanes have on ecosystems like the rain forest.
After dinner, we all grabbed our hiking boots and headlights and headed on a night hike. The leaves of the acacia tree were folded- I actually did not know that this happened at night. The acacia tree produces food (beltian bodies) for ants that live inside of its thorns and the ants defend the plant from predators. I was able to see the ants eating the beltian bodies on one of leaves. I have learned about this type of symbiosis in several EBIO classes and it was pretty amazing to see it in real life. Additionally, there were tiny turtles in a mud pond, and we also saw the spine and hand of a monkey, which was likely dropped after being half-eaten by a predator like a jaguar or a bird of prey.
We saw a red backed coffee snake which we first thought was a red coral snake, i.e. a very poisonous snake. This is an example of Batesian mimicry, which is when a harmless animal mimics some aspects of the physical appearance of a poisonous animal. This is so that predators think that the harmless animal is poisonous, even though it is not. In this case, the red backed coffee snake was patterned very similar to a red coral snake, but different enough so that we could make the distinction.
After we returned to the clearing where the research station is at, we were able to see the stars and it was nothing like I had ever seen before. At home, you could see a few stars and planets scattered around the sky, but only in more suburban/rural areas. Here however, the sky was FULL of twinkly celestial bodies. I only went to sleep after clouds drifted overhead and covered the sky, because otherwise I would have stared at them into the morning.