I came to Panama to learn about tropical ecology and to do a small project. I’ve been here for four days, most of which I’ve spent in the rainforest, and this place is really unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The forest is one big pulsing center of life. The tree leaves and trunks are covered in multi-colored mosses. Spiders hang under leaves and wait for herbivorous insects to show up. The ant group with the smallest colony of any known in the world builds its nest in a single rotting stick in the leaf litter. It’s mandibles are shaped like sickles for ripping apart millipede spines. Trap jaw ants snap their mouths shut so hard, you can hear it. Leaf cutter ants make trails of moving leaves beside our field house door.

There are critters making a living everywhere. One can stare at a leaf and see animals compete, cooperate, and eat one another. The number of species and the space they occupy here makes one wonder why there is so much empty space in temperate forests. Scientists have been wondering that forever, and now I join the party.

Here are a few animals from the forest:

Tiny tarantula! (Saricopelma panamense?)

A caterpillar that looks like crazy go-go boots. (Limacodidae?)

How absolutely adorable. I’m guessing this is a lacewing larva, also called a ‘trash bug’.

And for the more mammal-inclined, here’s me and a tree.

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