Feature Journal

50 Tiny Creatures You Never Looked Up Close In the Amazon

19 August 2015

More from the Peruvian Amazon

Many tourists, explorers and researchers visit the Amazon’s unspoilt tropical rainforests in hope of spotting exotic mammals and birds. What most visitors miss out, are the most bizarre alien-like life right under their noses.

I took about 4000 photos of tiny critters during my week-long stay in the Amazon. Most were just record shots of some of the most intriguing arthropods that I’ve ever seen. Since I’ve already posted several photo-series on spiders and dumping all the photos in a blog post would take a really long time look through, here’s a little selection of the memorable tiny creatures that I encountered!

Thanks to Rainforest Expeditions for arranging the trip, Jeff Cremer and Vico Moscoso for covering the trails with me.

Good news if you are interested to make trips to Tambopata – readers of this blog can get a 10% discount from bookings to the Peruvian Amazon via Rainforest Expeditions – just mention the discount code SGMACRO when making your reservations!

For those who are interested, BugShot 2016 will also be held in the Peruvian Amazon, probably July 30 – Aug 5 2016!

    Katydid (Moncheca sp.) - DSC_2486
  1. Alien Katydid (Moncheca sp.)

    Some of the katydids here look like aliens. This was no exception.

  2. Grasshopper (Caelifera) - DSC_1164
  3. Rainbow Grasshopper (Caelifera)

    Many of the grasshoppers donned colours that might make a rainbow jealous.

  4. Hoverfly larva (Microdon sp.) - DSC_2694
  5. Hoverfly larva (Microdon sp.)

    Weird little patch of alien grub, suspected to be a hoverfly larva?

  6. Ichneumon wasps (Banchinae) - DSC_4009
  7. Ichneumon wasps (Banchinae)

    These stunning group of wasps were some of the prettiest that I’ve ever seen.

  8. Glasswing butterfly (Greta sp.) - DSC_2993
  9. Glasswing butterfly (Greta sp.)

    Glasswing butterflies were aplenty. Unfortunately this photo doesn’t do the see-through wings any justice.

  10. Bird dung caterpillar - DSC_1517
  11. Bird dung caterpillar

    The pile of poop that moves!!

  12. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites) - DSC_1389
  13. Snake mimic chrysalis (Catonephele orites)

    Bizarre chrysalis that appears to mimic a snake’s head. Reminds me of some cartoon shark.

  14. Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae) - DSC_3813
  15. Jewel caterpillar (Dalceridae)

    The forest nudibranch. More photos and details about it in my earlier post: Peruvian Amazon’s Jewel Caterpillar: The Forest Nudibranch

  16. Stick insect (Phasmatodea) - DSC_4434
  17. Stick insect (Phasmatodea)

    Loads of stick insects hanging around. Some, like this one, bore bright orange mini-spines.

  18. Stink bug nymphs (Pentatomidae) - DSC_2531
  19. Stink bug nymphs (Pentatomidae)

    Freshly hatched stink bug nymphs gathering around their egg shells displayed an enchanting fluorescence under ultraviolet.

  20. Bug - DSC_2724
  21. Bug

    Not sure which family this bug nymph belonged to, but the blue metallic body with red eyes and legs are a potent photographic combination!

  22. Assassin bug (Reduviidae) - DSC_3023
  23. Assassin bug (Reduviidae)

    For some reason, this assassin bug looked like a toy…

  24. Squash bug (Coreidae) - DSC_3032
  25. Squash bug (Coreidae)

    Colourful looking squash bug with “muscular” hind legs. (and a bit of pee)

  26. Treehopper  (Membracidae) - DSC_2625
  27. Treehopper (Membracidae)

    One of these membracids visited us at the light trap when we first set it up. I managed to find the host plant where more were spotted. Really amazing combo of lumps and spines!

  28. Fulgorid planthopper (Enchophora nigromaculata) - DSC_2730
  29. Fulgorid planthopper (Enchophora nigromaculata – ID by Geert Goemans)

    Almost skipped this fulgorid when we were returning to the cabins past midnight. Luckily I had a closer look to see the purplish legs and arched snout!

  30. Humped leafhopper (Proconia sp.) - DSC_0923b
  31. Humped leafhopper (Proconia sp.)

    Found a tree with troops of these impressive looking humped leafhoppers!

  32. Leafhopper nymph (Cicadellidae) - DSC_2872
  33. Leafhopper nymph (Cicadellidae)

    Felt like a kid with a box of crayons did this… There were just too many different cicadellids to show here, view the others in my Flickr albums.

  34. Pleasing fungus beetle (Gibbifer sp.) - DSC_2362
  35. Pleasing fungus beetle (Gibbifer sp. – ID by Ross Piper)

    The pleasing fungus beetles sported interesting pastel colours. That ridiculous hump….!

  36. Weevil (Entiminae) - DSC_4019
  37. Weevil (Entiminae – ID by Ross Piper)

    Golden-yellow weevil with blue legs. Can’t get any brighter!

  38. Click beetle (Elateridae) - DSC_4230
  39. Click beetle (Semiotus sp. – ID by Ross Piper)

    One of the many small click beetles taking off.

  40. Click beetle (Pyrophorus sp.) - DSC_3382
  41. Click beetle (Pyrophorus sp.)

    This large click beetle has bioluminescent blinking spots on the posterior edge of the thorax, and the eyes fluoresce under ultraviolet too!

  42. Bioluminescent click beetle larva (Pyrearinus sp.) - DSC_1008
  43. Bioluminescent click beetle larva (Pyrearinus sp.)

    At Refugio Amazonas, there was an area of mud banks with lots of these glow worms believed to be click beetle larvae. More information reported in the article Mysterious ‘Glow Worm’ Discovered in the Peruvian Rainforest.

  44. Dung beetle (Scarabidae) - DSC_4396
  45. Dung beetle (Scarabidae)

    Little balls of poop get moved around because of these beetles.

  46. Blunthead tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa) - DSC_1367
  47. Blunthead tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa)

    I wasn’t searching for snakes, but saw a couple.

  48. Catesbyi's snail eater (Dipsas catesbyi) - DSC_1892
  49. Catesbyi’s snail eater (Dipsas catesbyi)

    Only managed to see some of the smaller snakes.

  50. Tree frog (Rhacophorida) - DSC_3713
  51. Tree frog (Rhacophorida)

    Several tree frogs chilling out as well!

  52. Scorpion (Tityus sp.) - DSC_3395
  53. Scorpion (cf. Tityus sp. – ID by Ross Piper)

    Some of these scorpions were hanging out on tree trunks at night. Fluoresced brightly under ultraviolet.

  54. Scorpion (Tityus sp.) - DSC_4622
  55. Scorpion (cf. Tityus sp. – ID by Ross Piper)

    The most handsome one was found on a leaf!

  56. Tailless whip scorpion (Heterophrynus elaphus) - DSC_0737
  57. Tailless whip scorpion (Heterophrynus elaphus – ID by Gil Wizen)

    Also saw several amblypygids on the mud banks.

  58. Web tower structure - DSC_3243
  59. Web tower structure

    This web tower structure stirred the internet a few years back. The entire structure was only about 5mm wide and difficult to spot. Unfortunately I only managed to photograph two that were already abandoned.

  60. Social spiders (Anelosimus sp.) - DSC_1408
  61. Social spiders (Anelosimus sp.)

    Scattered along the trails were these gigantic messy webs with entire communities of spiders within, with a layer of dead leaves at the bottom. The guides called them the social spiders.

  62. Turtle ant mimic crab spider (Bucranium sp.) - DSC_4281
  63. Turtle ant mimic crab spider (Bucranium sp.)

    Dog-eared spider, couldn’t have a cuter name!

  64. Crab spiders (Thomisidae) - DSC_4212
  65. Crab spiders (Thomisidae)

    Was trying to shoot the female, when the male approached from behind. Not the correct way yah?

  66. Tortoise orb weaver (Encyosaccus sp.) - DSC_3137
  67. Tortoise orb weaver (Encyosaccus sp.)

    One of the best finds of the trip! Possibly mimicking a ladybird? More on this spider in my earlier blog post on Tortoise Orb Weavers.

  68. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha sp.) - DSC_2227
  69. Turtle back orb weaver (Hypognatha sp.)

    A much smaller genus, but found quite a few of them on Collpa Island. The abdomen is round and flat, resembling a turtle shell.

  70. Orb weaver spider (Parawixia sp.) - DSC_3824b
  71. Orb weaver spider (Parawixia sp.)

    Many people like to retrieve spiders from their webs to take close ups, but I prefer to shoot them in situ. They simply look more majestic on their web!

  72. Silver cross spider (Argiope argentata) - DSC_1750
  73. Silver cross spider (Argiope argentata)

    A number of these cross spiders made their home in front of the cabins, which explains the messy urban-ish background.

  74. Trashline orb weaver (Cyclosa sp.) - DSC_3795b
  75. Trashline orb weaver (Cyclosa sp.)

    Cyclosa was touted as the decoy spider for building stabilimentum that appears to look like a larger spider.

  76. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus) - DSC_4508
  77. Roly poly orb weaver (Xylethrus scrupeus)

    The super cute roly poly orb weaver was spotted twice in this trip. Read more about it: Peruvian Amazon’s Roly Poly Spider and Other Exotic Orb Weavers.

  78. Thorned heart orb weaver (Micrathena clypeata) - DSC_4077
  79. Thorned heart orb weaver (Micrathena clypeata)

    I called this the Heart spider. Such a beauty! Check out my earlier series of thorned orb weavers.

  80. Orb weaver spider (Verrucosa sp.) - DSC_2767
  81. Orb weaver spider (Verrucosa sp.)

    Verrucosa had such a bizarre shape and a creepy posterior.

  82. Wandering spider (Ctenus sp.) - DSC_1865
  83. Wandering spider (Ctenus sp.)

    A large Ctenus resting on a rock, allowing me to take a close up.

  84. Wandering spider (Phoneutria sp.) - DSC_3953
  85. Wandering spider (Phoneutria sp.)

    Probably the most number of Brazilian wandering spiders in a single photo. A proud new mother!

  86. Huntsman spider (Sparassidae) - DSC_1288
  87. Huntsman spider (Sparassidae)

    I didn’t get to shoot many sparassids but managed to spot one with a fluorescent orange body. Unfortunately it ran away before I could take more close ups.

  88. Pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia sp.) - DSC_3437
  89. Pinktoe tarantula (Avicularia sp.)

    This cute pink-toe tarantula made its home in front of our cabins. Such adorable toes!

  90. Tarantula (Theraphosidae) - DSC_2463
  91. Tarantula (Theraphosidae)

    A weathered tarantula lurking around on a tree trunk at night.

  92. Tarantula (Pamphobeteus sp.) - DSC_3699
  93. Tarantula (Pamphobeteus sp.)

    Also found a group of siblings! How cute!!

  94. Jumping spider (Lyssomanes sp.) - DSC_3606
  95. Jumping spider (Lyssomanes sp.)

    Many Lyssomanes were spotted. The anterior lateral eyes are situated just above the anterior median eyes.

  96. Jumping spider (Salticidae) - DSC_2396
  97. Jumping spider (Salticidae)

    Some of the salticids had really angry looking eyebrows…

  98. Long-legged water spider (Syntrechalea sp.) - DSC_1350
  99. Long-legged water spider (Syntrechalea sp.)

    The trechaleids were commonly seen on tree trunks. Easily spotted with eye shine!

  100. Vico and Jeff
  101. Nicky, Vico, Jeff

    Vico and Jeff trudged through the virgin primary forests of Tambopata with me for a week. Thanks guys!

  102. Panoramic view of the Amazon
  103. Panoramic view of the Amazonian River

    View of the Amazonian River from the terra firma. Wondering… will I be back here soon?

This will be the last blog post on my trip to the Peruvian Amazon. I have uploaded around 1000 photos from this trip – you may explore my full set of Flickr albums from the Peruvian Amazon.

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Feedback on the photo articles are very welcome. Please post your comments below!

Other posts on the Peruvian Amazon




Hi my name is Nicky Bay. I am a macro photographer, instructor and book author, travelling the world to document the vast micro biodiversity that nature has to offer. Follow my updates and discover with me the incredible beauty and science behind our planet's micro creatures!

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