In our last few days in Borneo, Edy and I gave a public lecture at the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre, a research institute that specializes on bioprospecting potential pharmaceuticals from forest plants and other organisms, using both traditional knowledge and high-tech testing methods.
How many of us have dreamed of using a time machine to see living dinosaurs in their Mesozoic prime? We are left with only lifeless fossil bones. How wonderful it would be to bring back a living dinosaur, or at least a preserved specimen, or even a photograph, or even the memory of a glaring eye!
A tropical rainforest is so biologically intense that you can't help but have many meetings with its inhabitants. Here, some of my most memorable encounters with animals in Borneo, presented as a top ten list.10.
Returning from the Borneo expedition, I can look forward to months of sifting through specimens, taking data from them, and analyzing. We will be focused on what the specimens can tell us scientifically, but as we are doing this, each specimen will be a souvenir.
On the plane flight home, I feel the afterglow of five weeks of walking on paths in Bornean rainforest, of living smells and stubborn itches, of jumping spider faces looking up at me.
With the field work done, our attention turns to handling all of the specimens. We have barely had time to glance at most of them. My curiosity to peruse them under a microscope is strong, as I want to figure out what we got, but that will have to wait until after we get home to the lab in Canada.
The first time I arrived to the Amazon rainforest decades ago, I was astounded at the intensity. Everywhere I looked, there was a story unfolding -- predation, decay, camouflage, parasitism.
Jumping spiders (salticids) are so diverse, it's difficult to choose how to organize and express all the different kinds. To convey what we've found in Borneo, let's start with shapes -- geometrical shapes.First, the circle.
One big piece of news from Lambir is that we found more Hispo. I previously posted, with great excitement, the news that Edy had found a Hispo female in Mulu.
Our lives at Lambir were more or less as at Mulu -- breakfast by 8 and in the field by 9. Hike anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. Record latitude/longitude and other data.
We were at Lambir Hills National Park for the last week, without Internet connectivity -- hence the blog going dark. In past decades, doing field work in tropical rainforests always meant being entirely disconnected from the rest of the world.
Our 17 days at Mulu have passed. Today, we took the day off from sampling to rest and pack up for the next stage of our expedition, a shorter stay of 8 days at Lambir Hills National Park.Each day we have sampled and processed so intensely that we fall in bed exhausted.
Reading my previous posts about spiders we've found, you might wonder why I seem uncertain whether a spider we find is new to science. Why don't we just get out our trusty Field Guide to the Jumping Spiders of Borneo?
You're walking through a Borneo rainforest, keeping your eyes focused on shrubs and tree trunks that might be good opportunities for spider hunting, and suddenly your forward progress is halted.
Every day, after I put on my long sleeve shirt and long pants (against mosquitoes and spines), I put on a belt that has two leather pouches. In one pouch will be the small vials into which I collect the spiders, and in the other pouch will be the vials full of newly-collected spiders.
In a previous post I told how we use a beating sheet -- a sheet stretched with tent poles to catch spiders that fall from vegetation we've shaken or beaten.
Breaking News: EDY FOUND A HISPO TODAY! Sorry for shouting, but this is big news. Recall my post dreaming about the special jumping spiders we might find?
Yesterday afternoon I felt something smooth and cool wriggling around my belly button, so I lifted up my shirt. There was a big leech, maybe 4 cm long, loping along like an inchworm on my tummy.
A whole host of jumping spiders spend their days crawling up and down tree trunks. The ones that live many meters above the ground are hard to get, but the ones that get down to eye level are pretty easy to find.Often you can find the tree-trunk dwellers just by looking, but because many are colored just like tree bark, it helps to tap the trunk with a stick to provoke them to move and show themselves.
In my post "Jumping spiders in the forest" I explained how a forest contains hundreds of different habitats for spiders. Now, let's get down on our hands and knees, and crawl around the ground.In most forests, the ground is covered with dead leaves in varying stages of decay.