Tag Archives: costa rica

Bats with red spots

During a 2008 trip to La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, I took a terrible photograph of some lesser sac-winged bats (Saccopteryx leptura) roosting on the underside of a tree.

Roosting bats covered with red dots

I kept the photograph because the bats seemed to sporting some strange red dots that were the color of giant red velvet or trombidium mites, and I was curious. But I looked online (for years) and for the life of me couldn’t find any reports of something that large on a bat in Costa Rica. All I succeeded in discovering was that quite a few smaller mites seem to be found on bats (Banks 1915; Klimpel and Mehlhorn 2013), with new species found all the time.

One person suggested that they might be chigger mites (Trombiculidae). Each spot, perhaps, would be composed of hundreds of mites feeding together. Chiggers feeding in a group isn’t rare, apparently. If you search for “trombiculidae aggregation” you’ll get lots of images of seething groups (e.g.) on all variety of animals. But it begs two questions. Why does each bat have only one clump, and of the same size.

UPDATE: After posting and sharing on Twitter, Sean McCann sent me a message asking whether my dots might be marking bands. He also sent a photograph (a good one) in which the locations of the bands exactly matched where my dots are in my photograph. So I contacted Dr Carlos de la Rosa, the Director at La Selva Biological Station, to see if anyone was banding bats at the time, and he responded that it was likely … and is checking to see exactly who. I’ll post an update if I hear back. 

UPDATE II: Dr de la Rosa spoke with Dr Martina Nagy, who claimed those bats as part of her research (as well as corrected my species identification; they are not rhinoceros bats). She even recognized the tree (“SOR 170 Sendero Oriental”). These individuals (two males, one female) had been banded by Dr Barbara Caspers. The tree eventually fell and then the bats disbanded to someplace else. 

It took me almost 10 years, but I’m glad I finally know what was going on. That photograph had really been bugging me. Thanks, everyone!

Signs of mistletoe

Below are three photographs of mistletoe seeds I took at La Selva Research Station in Costa Rica. Seeds were most likely deposited by birds perching on the signs, but I’m not sure whether the birds scraped off the seeds (which can be extremely sticky, due to presence of viscin threads) or simply pooped them. If the latter was the case, the bulk of the poop is long gone, but it rains enough in the tropics for that to happen. There are threads visible on the top photograph, so I’m going to guess that the seeds were attached to the birds somehow, and the birds scraped them off onto the sign.

By the way, mistletoe are parasitic plants … which is why it’s amusing (to me) that they were on a sign. Although they are clearly green and can photosynthesize, they’ll eventually need the water (and other xylem contents) from a host. Under those adhesive pads there is (or will soon be) a haustorium that will attempt  to burrow into the substrate in hopes of finding host xylem. If I lived at the station I’d naturally record how long these beasties survived, but staff probably clean off the seedlings every few weeks just so it doesn’t look to nasty. Some species can apparently last a year as self-sufficient seedlings.

Colin Purrington Photography: Parasitic plants &emdash; Mistletoe seeds germinating on pole and sign

Colin Purrington Photography: La Selva, Costa Rica &emdash; mistletoe-seedling-close-up

Photographs from La Selva, Costa Rica

Some photographs I took during a visit to La Selva Research Station in 2008. Old, but recently discovered they hadn’t transferred to my site when I bailed on Flickr.

I was stuck inside a small room for most of stay (I was consulting for Organization for Tropical Studies), unfortunately, so not as many pics as I’d like. The full album (approximately 50 images) is below. I wish OTS would hire me again.

This little spider is a golden orb weaver (Nephila clavipes), I think:

Colin Purrington Photography: La Selva, Costa Rica &emdash; Golden orb weaver (Nephila clavipes)

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) still attached to the tree:

Colin Purrington Photography: La Selva, Costa Rica &emdash; Jackfruit  (Artocarpus heterophyllus) in tree

Bromeliad on branch:

Colin Purrington Photography: La Selva, Costa Rica &emdash; Bromeliad on tree branch

My high-security hotel in San José,

Colin Purrington Photography: La Selva, Costa Rica &emdash; Hotel Villa Tournon in San José, Costa Rica

Just mouse-over the thumbnails below to see title, or click to see larger.