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Arthropodes in the treetops....

Peru Rainforest Amazon Pachitea Panguana Species Diversity : Gliederfüßer in Baumkronen

If the diversity of insects in the lower regions of the forest is amazing, it reaches its peak in the crown of the trees. Nowhere else on earth is there such high species diversity on insects as in the treetops of the tropical rainforest. The biomass of insects is the highest here by far of the entire animal kingdom. There are yet more superlatives to be had.

Raupe mit Brennhaaren.Butterflies, beetles, dragonflies all reach sizes here that in other places are unimaginable. The colorful splendor of many insects is in no way less than that of the birds. Encountering a butterfly of the genus Morpho is always impressive. These animals reach a wingspan of 18 centimeters. Their caterpillars usually have urticating hair and feed often communally on leguminous leaves at a lofty height. These certainly most beautiful butterflies of the neo-tropics especially love the juice of rotting fruit. Shimmering blue Morpho-butterflies also frequent the lower forest levels. It is not easy to follow the flight of a Morpho. The coloration on top of its wings is not from deposited pigment, rather from special structures that simulate a blue color by refracting and reflecting light. This shimmering metallic blue flashes only in the moment that the animal crosses a stream of light. This "blue flash" with a constantly changing direction may confuse optically oriented pursuers such as birds. With wings folded, a Morpho is very difficult to pick out because of its camouflaged undersides.

The garishly colored Heliconius butterfly is quite different in its behavior. As caterpillars they feed off poisonous leaves, the substance of which they store in their bodies. Once they have become butterflies they signal to the whole world that they are better left alone. The orange/black combination of their warning sign is understood everywhere in the world. Thus this butterfly can enjoy a quiet flight, unlike the Morpho.

In the treetops and also on the ground one finds the butterfly of the genus Urania. They are active during the day and undertake migrations like migratory birds.


Every time of the day has its own sound. This is even true for the individual hours. At 8 o'clock in the morningWanderfalter Urania sp.the noise level is different from 12 o'clock midday. The difference between night and day is especially great. While cicadas (Cicadoidea) make their mechanical sounds during the day, the sounds of leaf-grasshoppers and crickets dominate at night. The sound -producing organ of the male cicadas is located on their underside at the beginning of the hind part. They feed on plant juices by stabbing plants with their piercing sucker converted into a tool for the mouth. They usually retire to the lofty heights to reproduce. They deposit their eggs in gaps in a tree or holes in the ground. The larvae that hatch dig themselves into the ground and suck on plant roots. It can take up to 10 years for a larva to develop into a cicada.

The diversity of insects is confusing for us humans, being hard to identify and only seldom being able to assign an individual specimen to a species. An insect has no problem doing so. From the apparent chaos of sounds each type can filter out their own sound in order to orient themselves on their kind. Establishing territory, finding a partner, intimidating enemies — there are many meaning in the sounds.

Weibliche Vogelspinne (Avicularia) bewacht ihren eikokon.The poisonous loners are extremely quiet. Spiders, centipedes and scorpions can't afford to make a sound if they want to hunt successfully. Tarantulas, the largest and often abhorred member of the articulata, hunt in all levels of the forest. Just like the lycopods, termites and tapirs, these animals belong to the most ancient living beings as "living fossils". The tree-living species of the genus Avicularia are hardly dangerous for humans. While the males are often wandering around, the females lead a protected life a well-hidden web. The relatively weak poison of a tarantula bite is the reason why they usually have to kill their prey mechanically. Threatened tarantulas pull up their front legs and present their enemy with the often striking color on the underside of their feet. They also stroke fine hairs from their abdomen that can cause inflammation in the throat and lungs if breathed in.

Female tarantulas often eat the male after breeding. There has been no clear explanation of this phenomenon as yet. It is well known however, that a well-fed female produces more eggs than a hungry one. It may also be possible that the chances of producing more offspring are better if the partner is killed. The up to 200 eggs are packed in a web cocoon by the female and watched over until they hatch. After hatching the young spiders stay by their mother for a few days before they take off in all directs and begin to hunt. They eat their weaker sibling before leaving, however_

Ants can be found everywhere in the Amazonian rainforest, which makes it hardly surprising that they have taken over the treetops too. They settle mostly in the root balls of the Aufsitzerpflanzen. They fertilize the roots with their waste and provide aeration in the balls in which other animals such as millipedes and scorpions live. In some regions of the Amazon there are even earthworms in the root balls.

AmeisengartenThe ants that live in the treetops not only provide fertilizer and aeration for the plants that are already there, but support the growth of many new plants. In abandoned ant nests there is a high concentration of minerals that come from the ant's waste and animal and plant parts that had been brought into the nest. A substratum fertilized in this way is an excellent breeding ground for sprouting plants. Ants bring seeds into their nest, among other things, which often begin to sprout while the nest is still in use. The tangle of roots from the sprout striving upwards stabilizes the nest, thickens the walls and protects the inhabitants like a concrete wall. A so-called ant garden is then created.