Tag Archives: orthoptera

Wrap-up blog

It has been an amazing two weeks exploring the tropical rainforest and the reef. One similarity between these two ecosystems are they both have low nutrient conditions, but are able to be so biologically diverse because of efficient cycling loops. For example, the rainforest has nutrient poor soil, but has rapid decomposition, so the nutrients don’t spend much time in the soil. This efficient cycling of nutrients allows many different organisms to survive in the ecosystem. Another similarity between these ecosystems is the many mutualistic relationships that allow organisms to survive in their environment. In the reef, we learned about the microorganisms that live in coral. In the rainforest, we learned about the Acacia ants that live with the Bullhorn Acacia and there are so many more examples.

At this point I can barely remember what I expected from the course. I know I expected to see and learn a lot of new things and I definitely did. I don’t think I expected or realized that I would be able to see so many different and amazing plants and animals. I was so focused on Orthoptera, and non-reef building Anthozoans that I didn’t have many expectations about different organisms I would see. I was blown away by the birds, fungi, frogs, coral, fish, sea urchins, and many others that I got to observe in real life.

My favorite parts of the course were when someone in the group found something cool and everyone would rush other to see. A few examples of this were the reef shark, the octopus from the touch tank, the Morelet’s tree frog, and when Liz caught the Blue morpho. It was fun to be around people who were so excited to see these amazing things and learn from others. It was cool when someone would get excited about something from their taxonomic group like when Kelsey saw the Flamingo Tongue snail because it made me appreciate what I was seeing more. My least favorite parts were picking off ticks and being attacked by sandflies, but it was worth it.

Flamingo Tongue snail

It was  interesting to learn about the mutualistic relationships between organisms and see them in action. The most memorable relationship is the Cecropia tree and Azteca ants because my hand was surrounded by the ants when trying to measure leaf toughness. These ants protect the Cecropia tree and in return the ants get a carbohydrate source and a home from the tree.

Learning about marine debris and the basins in the ocean was very important to me. I knew a lot of it already, but actually picking up the trash gave me a concrete experience that changed the way I thought about the negative impact debris can have. It’s just hard to care as much about something when it feels very far away and this experience brought it a lot closer. I saw the fish, hermit crabs, and other organisms that could be directly affected and I saw how such a remote island could still be covered in trash.

The view from a Maya structure.

Lastly, it was interesting to learn about the Maya by looking at their structures, pottery, and even skeletons. It is hard to believe that archaeologists can learn about their religion, social structure, economy, and a lot more from these artifacts. One thing that sticks with me is how they built structures on top of existing structures until it was too small to live on because of their religious beliefs. I love being able to see things in person that I have heard about for years in school which I got to do a lot on this trip.

Orthoptera species list

Taeniopoda eques

Tropidacris cristata

Orophus tesselatus

 

Non-reef-building anthozoan species list

Condylactis Gigantea

Palythoa caribaeorum

Stichodactyla helianthus

Day 15: Traveling home

It’s hard to believe that I started today on a small island off Belize and am now in my house in Austin. Today was a long day of traveling by boat, van, plane, and car. I was a little worried about making my connecting flight home, but ended up having plenty of time especially since one of the armrests needed repair on the plane.

View of Belize City on the boat ride back from Glover’s

It is nice being home and I’m excited to tell my family about my trip. I am still extremely itchy, but at least I’m not getting any new bites!

Day 8: Climbing Through a Cave

We left Las Cuevas Station this morning. It was sad to leave, but all our feet hurt so much that we felt it was time to go to the reef. Our first stop of the day was the ATM caves which is a Maya archaeological site. After swimming and climbing through the cave we made it to a larger chamber where there was pottery and human skeletons.

In the evening, we got a tour of the Belize Zoo at night which is a good time to come because many of the animals are active during the night. My family is not going to believe that I held a Boa Constrictor, but I did hold one for around ten seconds. I also got to see a Tapir, Jaguar, Barn Owls, Pigmy Owls, Morelet’s Crocodile, Ocelot, and many others.

Tapir at the Belize zoo

I didn’t see any Orthoptera because we mostly spent the day in a dark cave, traveling, and at the Belize Zoo. Tomorrow I will start looking for my reef taxon which is the non-reef building anthozoans which includes anemones, corallimorphs, and zoanthids!

Day 7 in Belize: Last day at Las Cuevas

Today was our last day at Las Cuevas Research Station and we had a full day. We collected all the camera traps that we set up the first day. Later in the evening, we looked through the camera trap photos and the most exciting photo was of a Tapir!

We also excavated a young and old leafcutter ant nest and saw the chamber where they keep their fungi garden in the older nest. The ants bring the leaves to the fungi for it to digest to a form that the ants can eat. It was a little scary when the army ants came out of the nest and started surrounding our boots because they can cut through pants and draw blood.

It was a great day for spotting Orthoptera. I saw at least two katydids. Both mimicked brown leaves to avoid predation. I think one of them was the Dead leaf katydid (Orophus tesselatus) because it has a very similar shape and pattern of the wings to the picture on my ID card.

Leaf mimic katydid

 

Dead leaf katydid (Orophus tesselatus)

The last Orthoptera I saw was dead and had its antennae and legs eaten off which makes it harder to identify. The hind wings were like a bright red fan which made me think it was the Giant Red Winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris cristata) and not a katydid. It was also very large and had bumps on the pronotum which are characteristics of this grasshopper.

Dead Giant Red Winged Grasshopper

 

Hind wings of dead grasshopper

Day 6: Ants and Cecropia trees

Today was the busiest day at Las Cuevas so far. In the morning, we compared the plant diversity of a region disturbed by a hurricane a few years ago to an undisturbed area.

In the afternoon, we collected data to see if young Cecropia trees that are not yet colonized by ants have tougher leaves than those that are colonized by ants to avoid herbivory. Cecropia and Azteca ants form a symbiotic relationship where the plant gives the ants a home and carbohydrate source, and the ants protects the Cecropia.

Giant Red Winged grasshopper nymphs.

The most interesting Orthoptera I saw was a large group of grasshopper nymphs in the morning. They looked like they were piled on top of each over and formed a ball when I first saw them. I think they were Giant red winged grasshopper nymphs (Tropidacris cristata) because of the yellow aposematic markings on one of them. I also saw a lot of crickets at night, one of which looked like the White-kneed king cricket (Penalva flavocalceata).

White-kneed king cricket

Day 5: Collecting pitfall traps and more grasshoppers!

Today we collected our vials from the pitfall traps that we set up yesterday. On our hike, we saw a Toucan and most excitingly, a Morelet’s Tree Frog! Once we grouped all the arthropods into different morphospecies and analyzed our data, we made a poster and presented it to Scott and Amanda.

Morelet’s tree frog

I saw a few more grasshopper nymphs which often form small groups which is why I see several on one leaf most of the time.

A grasshopper nymph. There is only one here, but there are often multiple grouped on one leaf.
A large grasshopper in the Acrididae family and maybe in the Schistocerca genus.

In the afternoon, I saw a grasshopper in the Acrididae family that at first reminded me of the Giant Red-Wing Grasshopper (Tropidacris cristata) because of its large size, and yellowish red hindwings. After looking more closely, I don’t think it is one because the shape of the pronotum, the plate like structure below the head, and the eye look different than the Giant Red-Wing Grasshoppers I have researched. Instead, I think it is in Schistocerca genus.

Day 4: Pitfall Traps

I didn’t wake up early enough for bird watching, so I slept in and had breakfast at 7 am. Then we all peed in vials to use for our research project. Because pee is a source of ammonium, it can be used in an experiment to determine if the rainforest floor or canopy is more nitrogen deficient. My pee is currently on a tree and underground under the tree, and hopefully it brings good results.

In the afternoon, we went to a cave opening which was huge. The cave was thought to be a Mayan Pilgrimage site where they perform ceremonies. I got to give my Orthoptera presentation inside the cave and we also saw one cave cricket which are in the Rhaphidophoridae family!

Cave cricket. I could not get a very good photo of it.
Katydid found on a night hike

Overall, I saw a lot of Orthoptera today including the first katydid I’ve seen. This katydid was green with white spots on the body and had red eyes. Even the antennae have white dots along them.

I saw a lot of little gray grasshopper nymphs on a leaf again today and several crickets from the Gryllidae family.

 

Day 3: Setting up Camera Traps

Today we set up our camera traps, cameras that are activated by movement, on two different trails. We were planning on using three trails, but because 4 of the camera traps were not working we had to change our plan. It was the first time we got to hike in the Chiquibul rain forest, so there was a lot of new things to see.

Grasshopper nymphs
Horse Lubber grasshopper nymph

While walking along the Monkey Tail Trail and 50-hectare trail, I saw many Orthoptera including crickets and grasshoppers. The most exciting sighting was a Horse Lubber Grasshopper nymph (Taeniopoda eques) which was found in the leaf litter. These grasshoppers have a shiny black body with bright yellow markings. There were also a lot of small grasshopper nymphs on the tops of leaves.

Grasshopper that might be in the Tetrigidae family.

In the afternoon, I saw a grasshopper that might be in the Tetrigidae family because of its pronotum that covers its entire abdomen. It was black with white and yellow speckles on the hind wings.

Day 2: Caracol and Rio on Pools

We left the Crystal Paradise Eco lodge this morning. Our first stop was Rio on Pools where I swam, slipped on rocks, and sat under a small waterfall. I think everyone nearly slipped and wiped out on the rocks a few times which is always fun.

Rio on Pools

Then we went to the Caracol Archaeological Preserve where we climbed on Mayan structures and learned about their culture. It was interesting to hear about how they built structures on top of other structures when the existing one became to sacred to live in. We also saw which are birds that have weaved nests that hang from trees.

This Maya structure was an administrative building, temple, and palace.

After the ruins, we finally made it to Las Cuevas Research Station where we will be staying for the next five days. After the rained stopped, we could see birds all around us in the canopy.

Cricket in the Gryllidae family

I personally did not see any Orthoptera today, but someone else saw one on the bathroom door and showed me a picture. I believe it is a cricket in the Gryllidae family based on its long antennae and long cerci. Cerci are paired appendages on the abdomen.

Day 1: Arriving in Belize

We arrived in Belize today by a direct flight from Houston to Belize City. It was an early morning to get to the airport in time for our flight, so I had a tiring and exciting day. Travel days are always weird because I start at home in a familiar place and hours later I am in a completely new environment. I have already seen many different plants and animals while eating lunch, riding in the van, and spending the evening at the Crystal Paradise Ecolodge.

The view from the dining area in the Crystal Paradise Ecolodge.

I did not see any Orthoptera today because most of the day was spent traveling and settling into the ecolodge. I did hear chirping and long trilling sounds in the evening which I think were crickets. Crickets and katydids can be heard at night, but I wasn’t able to identify a katydid call.

 

I saw an ant outside my room that Brendan is currently trying to identify.

There is a trail from the ecolodge to a river where I saw Leafcutter ants carrying purple flowers, and an Agouti, a large rodent. I might have been able to find some Orthoptera if I spent more time looking on the trail, but I was walking quickly to get to the river.