Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A taste of herbivory

I've been looking at herbivory in the rainforest. Not in any great detail, I must admit, but when I see leaves like these, I try to see what's been nibbling them.




Many of the leaf nibblers are well camouflaged, nocturnal or both, so my success rate isn't high. But sometimes I hit paydirt. This otherwise immaculate vine ...



... hosted a cluster of these critters. I think they're chrysomelid (leaf beetle) larvae, but I'm not betting my superannuation on that identification.




Herbivory goes on much closer to the forest floor. The caterpillars of the leafwing butterfly (Doleschallia bisaltide: Nymphalidae) live among the leaf litter. The main host plant is the small, forest edge species Pseuderanthemum variabile.



The bright colours of the caterpillar contrast with the cryptic pattern of the wings of the adults.



And then there's this type of leaf damage: wild ginger (Alpinia caerulea) with big v-shaped cuts.




The culprit is not a caterpillar or beetle larva, but a tooth-billed bowerbird.



This species doesn't build a bower for display, but clears a space on the rainforest floor and decorates it with fresh leaves. This male decorates his stage with ginger. Not from any old ginger plant, of course. He has two favourites, both of which he also used last year. They are creatures of habit.

6 comments:

desertnutmeg said...

Great shots and great macro shots on that larvae! Wow! It took me a minute to figure out those leaves had a chunk missing. I thought they were just slender leaves, like on a Willow!

Snail said...

You can't really get a sense of scale from those pics, but the vine leaves are quite big --- about the size of your hand. So even I could notice them!

wildwings said...

I've never been absolutely sure about those caterpillars - very useful ID thankyou!

Snail said...

Aren't they stunning things? I've spent quite a lot of time running around after leafwings, trying to get a photo. Problem is that once they settle and close their wings, they disappear.

I love that contrast between brightly coloured caterpillar and cryptically coloured butterfly.

forestwalk/laura k said...

i love that first leaf shot...where the leaves are just about eaten away...

and the caterpillar!! beautiful!! awesome pictures...as always...i love to wander here...

Snail said...

Laura, there is so much herbivory here. The trees are keeping ahead, but the insects are doing their best!