I blinked my eyes at the bright sunshine streaming down through the canopy like an unearthed mole, sat up and fell down promptly, recalling that I was still in a hammock. I lurched out of bed and walked onto the bridge to spread out the solar panels to take advantage of the sunshine. Although all the parts were working fine in and of themselves the connection was often lost between the solar panels and the battery, due to loose wiring in the connection. This caused me to try an endless variety of positions, twisting the wire, applying pressure, etc…which worked for a while, though with every bend and kink of the wire the situation worsened until finally the connection was utterly lost. Without power it looked like the decision to head home was being made for me by providence…
“Screw providence”, I said! My tools were somewhat lacking so I chopped at the wiring with my machete and then tried to wind the connections back together. Pulling it back together I plugged it in to no avail. $800 dollar solar battery kit and I was being screwed by a $2 connector cable. I made a mental note to send some very angry hate mail to the manufacturer, Brunton. I had one last option though…I looked at the wires that had come with the battery meant to charge it from the wall socket. I took those wires cut them and spliced them into the connection from the solar panels. With crossed fingers and legs slightly crossed from my low vitamin D diet I turned on the battery and waited…It was…It was…It was very anti-climactic actually, the little light started to blink was all to indicate that it was charging, but still, I punched the air in victory and gave the finger to fate, who took it stoically, fully intending to punish me later. Though when it is fate’s turn, she doesn’t just use one finger, but the entire fist.
I meandered about taking one trail and then another, there were many radiating trails from our new location so I was kept quite occupied. My guide also left for town and brought back soft drinks, lemon grass and other goodies to sate our appetites.
The night walks were becoming shorter, my leg wasn’t feeling any better, requiring more and more down time to become ready once again for hiking. Out of the hammock in the morning the leg was quasi-paralyzed until I massaged it a bit and then any odd shifts brought on shooting pain. The psychological burden was taking its toll as well, and the nagging worry was all my own, though I could sense the collective shake of my family’s head. However, I still tried to make it out every night even if just for 2-3 hours and was usually rewarded.
Usually difficult to photograph because they are always foraging. They usually rove around with their jaws open and their antennae out ahead of them in sweeping motions. If they run into something that has the right chemical profile then their jaws will snap shut on it in one of the fastest recorded movements in the animal kingdom. One study of Odontomachus bauri recorded peak speeds of between 126–230 kilometres per hour (78–140 mph), with the jaws closing within just 130 microseconds on average. The peak force exerted was in the order of 300 times the body weight of the ant (Wikipedia). Additional information on the function and speeds of trap jaw motion can be seen here: http://web.neurobio.arizona.edu/gronenberg/nrsc581
Some fantastic high speed video footage of jaws snapping shut can be seen here:
This closeup was obtained on a sleeping ant. Manu national park, Manu lodge, Amazonian lowlands. Found during a night hike.
These spiders differ from others in several aspects. First they have only six eyes (Haplogynae). They also use their silk offensively, firing a mixture of venom laced silk at their prey from two holes in their chelicerae. This means that they have two silk producing organs, one in their abdomens typical of most spiders and the other located in the cephalothorax connected to the poison glands. During its nocturnal hunt, it will locate its prey via its long front legs with sensitive sensilla used to measure the distance to its prey at which time, judging the distance they will fire their silk. They oscillate slightly in an ‘S’ or ‘Z’ pattern, moving their bodies from side to side as they shoot their silk so that it has a greater chance of ensnaring their prey (much like the velvet worm). This ties the prey to the substrate, immobilizing it. Though it’s unlikely that you will see this since all the action is over in .007 seconds! If the prey is large, it may fire silk in several bursts. At this time the spider can carefully approach to to feed. It can now use its spinnerets to wrap its prey and usually feeds on site. It is also thought to be an ancestor to aerial web weaving spiders. Found during a night hike in kanuku mountains.