Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Year

Daintree Night Hiking

Beautiful red morph of a huntsman spider

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of being guided through the Daintree World Heritage Reserve Rainforest by herpetologist, Stephen Zozaya. Equipped with headlights and camera gear, we snuck through the forest looking for the eye-shine of spiders, geckos, and frogs. Along the way I learned spiders’ eyes glitter in greens, reds, and blues as you swivel your head to look at them. These headlamps made me appreciate the sheer numbers of spiders in the forest at night which I find to be a positive reflection of insect diversity in the forest.

Dark mottled huntsman spider

Just to share a taste for some of the adventures I get to go on, I thought I would make a post of some of the diversity of insects and geckos I saw on this brief trip to the Daintree Rainforest.

Longicorn beetle (Cerambicidae)

Longicorn beetles (Cerambicidae) like the one above are well camouflaged in the dead leaves of the forest floor and typically play dead when you catch them.

Mudskipper (Periophthalmus spp.) on the beach along the Daintree Rainforest Reserve

Mudskippers like this fellow here have adapted to the changing tidal levels by having strong pectoral fins and gaining the ability to be exposed to air. This allows them to graze on algal slime. They’re also a strange-looking member of the already strange-looking Goby family (Gobiidae).

Nactus cheverti gecko

Nactus cheverti gecko with calcium deposits in her cheeks. She is storing up calcium to lay some eggs!

Stony Creek Frog (Litoria wilcoxii)

Frogs have a distinct eye shine that differentiates them from spiders and geckos. Their eyes produce a dull, solid reflecting orb.

Prickly Lichen Katydid/Spiny Tree Cricket (Phricta spp.)

When you take the time to hunt through the night, you can discover some impressive diversity like this Spiny Tree Cricket (Phricta spp.). The antennae of species from this genus can be three times the length of their body, allowing them to be highly aware of their surroundings while remaining camouflaged against tree bark.

Grasshopper, possibly Pygomorphidae
Young stick insect, possibly Ctenomorpha spp.

Whenever I walk through the forest, I probably pass hundreds of stick insects. Night hiking is a good time to spot stick insects as it is a cool time for them to forage and their daytime coloration is altered with your flashlight to make them standout more.

Peppermint stick insect (Megacrania batesii) munching on Pandanus

Since I want to return to the United States after my Watson year, I’ve been trying to document the diversity I see through photographs in place of actual specimens. This has let me appreciate the living forms of these insects more while sharing these adventures with my friends from around the world! One of the most popular insects I have found so far, has been the Peppermint Stick Insect. Their beauty is more apparent in the daytime though.

Peppermint stick insect (Megacrania batesii)

Peppermint stick insects (Megacrania batesii) like this one spray a sweet peppermint perfume as a defense from predators. I spent most of the weekend smelling like peppermint, so everyone knew what I’d been up to.

Stephen with a juvenile peppermint stick insect (Megacrania batesii)

Stephen knew about the butt sprays of these peppermint stick insects and is somehow still smiling about it being on his face.

Without help from other people like Stephen I wouldn’t get to go on half of the adventures I’ve been on so far. So thankful for these humans!

For more updates on my adventures through Australia and upcoming trip to New Zealand follow my Instagram account: justanothernakedape.





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