In June 2014 I travelled for three weeks in Peru. Peru is an extremely biodiverse country with habitats ranging from the Coastal region in the west to the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the Amazon basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.
Peru does not have an exclusively tropical climate; the influence of the Andes and the Humbold Current cause great climatic diversity within the country. The Costa has moderate temperatures, low precipitations, and high humidity, except for its warmer, wetter northern reaches. In the Mountains , rain is frequent during summer, and temperature and humidity diminish with altitude up to the frozen peaks of the Andes.The Jungle area on the western side of the Andes is characterized by heavy rainfall and high temperatures, except for its southernmost part, which has cold winters and seasonal rainfall.
I split up my trip to spend one week at the Tambopata Research Center near Puerto Maldonado and one week in the north of Peru at the Tamshiyacu - Tahuyao Reservation 4 hours from Iquitos. In between I travelled within the andean mountains.
To get to the Tambopata Research Station it takes an 8 hour boat trip from Puerto Maldonado
The Research Center is located close to the Tambopata River and most of the area is flood forest which gets completely flooded during rainy season.
The research being done at the Center is mainly focused on the colonies of Macaws which are located in this area
Near the river it is possible to see the largest rodent of the world - the Capybara. Also Tapirs and Jaguars roam the forest
Different species of monkeys are very common around the Research Center
At night different kinds of tree frogs become active
The poison dart frogs are active at daytime and the best time to find them is just befofre sunset
young Amereega picta
At nighttime lots of different insects appear in the forest. Here are just two examples Praying mantid
Concerning spiders the Tambopata Research Center recently was in the media because a mysterious structure was discovered on trees . Scientists found out that this strucurue is a single egg of an so far unknown species of spider.
An article of the full story will be published by me soon in one of the following editions Arachne Magazines of the Dearge e.V.
The egg of the " Silkhenge Spider" is at the base of the turret in the middle of the silken fence.
The structure is very small and the spider which hatches from it is even smaller. Here is a size comparison:
The diversity in araneomorph spiders is very high in Peru. Here are some examples of some interesting species. The following one is so well camouflaged that it is almost impossible to see between the moss. The pattern on the abdomen has exactly the same shape as the moss around it
Lots of the orb web spiders are quite colourful
This species we called the "Disco spider"
Others look more like a ladybug
This species had a long and very flexible abdomen. Looking more like a stick insect
At more sunny places it is possible to find Nephila clavipes
As well as Argiope sp.
Another neat family of spiders are Salticidae. They are always curious who is taking pictures of them. This could be a Cobanus sp.
This colourful Agenelidae sp. is very common in the jungles from Peru to Ecuador
Throughout Peru it is possible to see social spiders of the genus Anolesimus within or around the forests
Their communal nets can get very large
By far the largest group in the jungle and most easy to find are members of the Ctenidae
unknown and quite colourful Ctenid sp.
female ( missing a few legs and being almost dead )
mature male Phoneutria sp.
Unlike all the other free roaming hunting spiders this species was found in a burrow
To find mygalomorph spiders around this part of the jungle it is important to know which parts of the forest get flooded during the rainy season. At the flooded parts it is almost impossible to find any mygalormoph species
Most of the smaller mygalomorph spiders I found were located under or between dead tree logs on the ground. This is a medium sized Diplurid sp.
I was able to find 3 different Theraphosid species in an area of about 100qm just next to the river in an slightly elevated part of the forest. All were found under rotten wood
This is medium sized Theraphosidae sp. with approx. 4 cm BL
Spider in its Habitat
This Cyriocosmus sp. shared the same Habitat. I was also able to find it around Puerto Maldonado in small burrows next to the roads
Burrow of Cyriocosmus sp.
Cyriocosmus sp. in its Habitat
Another dwarf species, reaching around 1,5 cm bodylength
The largest Theraphosid species in this area is a Pamphobeteus sp. which is called " Chicken Spider" by the locals. Sometimes it is possible to find them sharing their burrow with narrow mouthed frogs but unfortunately I didn´t find any frogs around the burrows at the time I was there.
freshly molted female
Habitat of the " Chicken Spider"
Within the jungle it is almost impossible to find arboreal theraphosid spiders because they live high in the canopy. By pictures of mature males I saw from the staff at the research center there must be at least 3 different Avicularia spp. The most common one is more easy to find at plantations or inside villages
Avcicularia sp. " Tambopata "
Habitat of Avicualria sp. " Tambopata"
another different unknown arboreal Theraphosid sp.
Within the Andean Mountains the climate is completely different with less rain and much colder temperatures. In winter it can snow and temperatures drop below zero degrees celsius.
Nevertheless it is possible to find Theraphosidae and other arachnids at this high altitude which adopted perfectly to the climate Mostly the spiders are found under rocks. At daytime the sun heats up the rocks and at sunset when temeratures drop the rocks still feel very warm. Maybe this is one reason which makes Theraphosid spiders survive in this habitat
This is a typical place where flipping some rocks reveals lots of arachnids
Latrodectus cf mirabilis
This is the habitat of Hapalotremus marcapata , a spider living under rocks at an altitude of 3200m. It got newly described in 2018
together with six more Hapalotremus species from South America.
female of Hapalotremus marcapata
Video of the Habitat
Habitat of another unknown Theraphosid sp. found at 4200m
Also this species is found under rocks
Spider in its Habitat
At an altitude of 4200 meters a very colourful Hapalotremus sp. lives in this different habitat
Hapalotremus sp. juvenile
Another species which can be found at 3200m is this poss. Nemisidae of the genus Acanthogonathus in silk tubes under boulders
moved boulder with silken retreat
female and juvenile
After coming back from the mountains I stayed another week at the Tamshiyacu - Tahuyao Reservation in the north east of Peru. Also here the jungkle gets mostly flooded during the rainy season and therefore no Theraphosid spiders can be found at these places. Even though the Habitat looks pretty much like the one near Puerto Maldonado the species around here are very different.
At a very small elevated area within the forest it is possible to find Ranitomeya flavovittata.
To find them it is necessary to follow their call
Also the tree frogs look different
The arachnids at this reserve are also very diverse. With an ultraviolett torch it is possible to find arboreal scorpions like this Tityus sp.
Some Aranea sp.
Of course I was also able to take pictures of differet Salticidae
This was the largest Salticidae I ever came across... possibly Breda lubormirski
These fishing spiders ( Pisauridae ) which can float ont the water despite their size are common in die flooded areas.
same species with eggsac and a spiderling sitting next to it
This Phoneutria sp. was very common in this area
The mygalomorph spiders also differ from the ones in the south. A small but very colourful one is this Fufius sp. The burrrows are built behind the bark of palm trees
Another very common spider was Ischnothele caudata , a small Diplurid wich builds very silky retreats
mature male with tibial spurs
At some point searching spiders like this Ischnothele can become dangerous. Not because of the spider but because of other animals sharing the same habitat
At night it is possible to find this beautiful Avicularia sp. near buildings and on palm trees . Inside the jungle it is again almost impossible to find females
In June there were still some mature males walking around but mating season was almost over
Even if the females were willing to mate the males didn`t really want to...
Near villages and plantations with more light there was also a terrestrial Tarantula which I also found in northern Ecuador
This species lived in colonies. The burrows were about 50-80 cm deep
Only deep inside the forest, sharing the same habitat with Ranitomeya flavovittata I was able to find Cyriocosmus giganteus which is the largest Cyriocosmus spp. These tarantulas build deep burrows in the forest and are very fast
Cyriocosmus giganteus in its Habitat
This juvenile tarantula was under a tree log, possibly an Ami sp.
unknown juvenile Theraphosidae, also found under a tree log