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Arthropodes on the forest floor....

Platyrrhacus (Diplopoda)
Platyrrhacus (Diplopoda)

The harmless giant millipede genus Platyrrhacus belongs to the millipedes (Diplopoda). It can grow in the tropical rainforest to be 30 cm long, is blind and feeds on waste. 

Skorpion unter Baumrinde.

Scorpions remain mostly under the bark of dead branches and trunks where they hunt insects at night.

Straße von Blattschneiderameisen (Atta cephalotes).

In the middle of forest we notice the street of leaf cutter ants (Atta) that has been swept clean. .

Treiberameisen (Wanderameisen)

Treiberameisen(auch Wanderameisen genannt) haben keinen festen Wohnsitz. Tagsüber sind sie zu Millionen unterwegs und jagen gemeinsam anderen Insekten, Spinnen und kleine Wirbeltiere. Die Nacht verbringen sie gemeinsam in einer Baumhöhle.

Peru Rainforest Amazon Pachitea Llullapichis Panguana Species Diversity : Gliedefüßer am Boden

In this region it is above the myriad of termites, ants and other small organisms like mites and springtails (Collembola) that makes up the diversity of the rainforest floor. The ground is covered with a thin layer of dead foliage, moist yet extremely hard. It is impossible to break up the ground with a hoe because of the dense network of tree roots. We wanted to dig traps in the ground to catch spiders and other ground animals in order to collect and identify them. We had to take a break after every marmalade glass that we had sunk into the ground. We quickly understood why no exclusively subterranean mammals had developed. What would they eat? Larger invertebrates such as earthworms are extremely rare in many parts of the Amazon. They have changed their living space to the treetops, where a unique fauna has developed between the roots of epiphytes. The business of the leave cutter ants (Atta) is not always visible during the day. Cleared streets like a freeway that come from all directions in a star shape on a large hill betray their presence, however. Small female workers, accompanied by soldiers, transport leaves and other cut plant parts to their underground nest, which itself can be up to 15 square meters, by way of their streets. The plant parts create a substratum for a fungus that the ants grow and tend for their nourishment. A wide front of wandering ants (Dorylidae) crossed in front of us. The front branched and split into several seemingly endless trains. Within no time 100,000 or 200,000 ants had gone past us on the left and right sides. They are not particularly fast, and avoiding them is no great feat for us, but they mean certain death for grasshoppers, spiders and caterpillars. Cracks in trees, root balls, pieces of bark — everything is searched for prey, including tarantulas. Wandering ants are like aggressive actors in a horror film. For larger mammals that can move they are fully harmless, but these squadrons incite horror for their victims. The prey tries to flee; grasshoppers jump in all directions, cockroaches race over the vegetation a ground lizard of the genus Ptychoglossus stays still as though paralyzed. This chaos is a signal for the white-collared ant bird Gymnopithys sp. (Formicariidae). They belong to a small group of bird species that accompany the wandering ants on their hunt. The principle behind it is simple: the ants startle and the birds cash in.

It becomes clear just how many spiders there are in the rainforest when one goes on a walk at night with a weak flashlight. The "diamonds", as the biologists Wilson termed the reflecting eyes of the wolf spider, blinked every couple of meters. If one shines a light on them directly they interrupt their hunt for insects. Most spiders (Araneae) are poisonous, but not necessarily a danger for humans. Most of them are small and their poison is just enough to kill or lame their prey. There are species in the rainforest that can be fatal for a human, however. Among them is one of the the most poisonous spiders on earth, the ctenid (Ctenidae) of the genus Phoneutria. This long-legged spider capable of long jumps and relatively irritable lurks on leaves, branches and roots at around calf height waiting for its prey — mostly insects — to pass by.

Text und Fotos © Andreas Schlüter 2003-2004