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Adorable Tortoise Orb Weavers from the Amazon

More from the Peruvian Amazon
[ Tortoise Orb Weavers | Thorn Orb Weavers | Roly Poly Orb Weavers | Jewel Caterpillar | Spider Faces | 50 Tiny Creatures ]

Adorable Tortoise Orb Weavers from the Amazon

Earlier this year, I was invited by Rainforest Expeditions to visit their ecolodges in Tambopata, deep in the Peruvian Amazon to document the rich diversity of exotic micro fauna. This is one of the farthest places on earth from Singapore, so it took several rounds of planning and I managed to coincide my trip with BugShot Belize 2015 for an extended adventure into the Amazon!

I will write a more detailed post on this trip, but it takes a really long time to process 300GB of photos. Before that, here's a little teaser showcasing the adorable tortoise orb weavers from the Peruvian Amazon!

Thanks to Jeff Cremer for the invite, Milagros Saux for making all the necessary arrangements and my guide Vico Moscoso for enduring all the late nights into the jungles with me! Special thanks also goes to Javed Ahmed for enthusiastically keying and verifying several of the oddball spiders that I found.
    Tortoise shell orb weaver Encyosaccus sexmaculatus - DSC_3137
  1. Tortoise shell orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) Buy this Photo
    First up is a tortoise-shell orb-weaver with a rich tone of orange and distinct black spots - reminded me of Toad from Super Mario Brothers. It was found dangling on its web along one of the trails near Tambopata Research Center. For those who have been asking about how the blue background came about, I was shooting upwards towards the blue sky since the spider refused to stay still except when it was upside down.

  2. Tortoise shell orb weaver Encyosaccus sexmaculatus - DSC_3126
  3. Tortoise shell orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) Buy this Photo
    In 2002, Herbert W. Levi published the very useful Keys to the Genera of Araneid Orbweavers of the Americas. It helped me to narrow down the genus of many of the orb weavers that I encountered. In this case, the dorsal habitus and presence of 6 discrete black patches on the spider's orange abdomen suggests that it could be a female Encyosaccus sexmaculatus. The species name "sexmaculatus" means 6-spots in latin.

  4. Tortoise shell orb weaver Encyosaccus sexmaculatus - DSC_2792
  5. Tortoise shell orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) Buy this Photo
    Lateral view reveals even more black spots on the ventral side of the abdomen.

  6. Tortoise shell orb weaver Encyosaccus sexmaculatus - DSC_2801
  7. Tortoise shell orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) Buy this Photo
    Ventral view, for those interested to see spider porn the epigyne. The spider was about 8mm in size.

  8. Tortoise shell orb weaver Encyosaccus sexmaculatus - DSC_3088
  9. Tortoise shell orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) Buy this Photo
    She didn't stop moving, this is one of the few shots of her running around. While some are calling this the tortoise-shell orb weaver, some are also calling it a ladybug-mimic orb weaver. Ladybugs (or ladybirds) possess alkaloids which make them unpalatable, so the distinct markings could remind potential predators of their last yucky meal and decide to leave them alone.

  10. Tortoise shell orb weaver Encyosaccus sexmaculatus - DSC_3106
  11. Tortoise shell orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) Buy this Photo
    The large, brightly coloured chelicerae sometimes makes me wonder if they can pierce through human skin. She was grooming herself momentarily, allowing me a few seconds to focus for this shot.

  12. Tortoise shell orb weaver Encyosaccus sexmaculatus - DSC_3384
  13. Tortoise shell orb weaver (Encyosaccus sexmaculatus) Buy this Photo
    Amazingly, she stood still when Jeff took his shots. This was the last shot I took before we left her alone on her usual orb weaving business. I have posted more shots of this spider in the Encyosaccus album on Flickr, for those who are interested.

  14. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2194
  15. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    In Collpa Island, I found a number of orb weavers belonging to a similar but different genus - Hypognatha. They liked to build orb webs across the trails and were often overlooked due to their size (2-3mm only!) and seemingly unattractive colours.

  16. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2201
  17. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    This specimen was busy with its meal.

  18. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2203
  19. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    It anchored itself to the leaf via its spinnerets to prevent itself from falling off.

  20. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2227
  21. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    Lateral view really makes it look like a turtle!

  22. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2351
  23. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    A different specimen without the light-coloured markings on the abdomen.

  24. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2312
  25. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    Further into the island, I found a red Hypognatha! It appeared to have complex palpal structures and could be the male.

  26. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2316
  27. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    Abdomen was smooth without observable depressions.

  28. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata) - DSC_2324
  29. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha scutata Buy this Photo
    Lateral view shows how flat it can be! Check out my album on Flickr for more photos of Hypognatha.

  30. Vico and Jeff
  31. Me with Vico and Jeff
    The guys who made this trip possible, thanks! To find out more about Tambopata Research Center, visit www.perunature.com.

I will take at least another week or two to go through all the photographs, so stay tuned for more Amazonian critters! For those interested, I'll also do a separate post with a bit of information on the ecolodges that I stayed in.

More from the Peruvian Amazon:
[ Tortoise Orb Weavers | Thorn Orb Weavers | Roly Poly Orb Weavers | Jewel Caterpillar | Spider Faces | 50 Tiny Creatures ]


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