Tour to Neocene


15. Stormy forest




In Neocene the massive plate forming the basement of Eurasian continent, has slowly shifted to the south. Thus from the south it had met resistance of the part of Chinese, Indo-Chinese and Philippine plates. In result the inclination of the Chinese plate, pressed from different directions, began to change. Its surface began more horizontal, and rivers of South-Eastern Asia in Neocene had filled extensive areas of Southern and South-Eastern Asia, having made them analogue of Amazon region swamps. Rains from Pacific ocean had made this area a continuous bog for the most part of year. Only during several rather dry months water abates and it is possible to pass across the wood to overland animal.
It is no wonder, that in such conditions the significant part of alive creatures lives in crones of huge trees, at height of tens meters above water and dirt. Grassy plants also had evolved to life on trees, forming in forked crowns of branches real “hanging gardens” of epiphytes. Alive creatures had adapted to these conditions as they could do it. The competition in the world of wood crones is very strong, and it once again promotes evolutionary transformations.
In forked branches of huge forty-meter tree thickets of strange plant were sheltered. It leaves are looking similar on fern’s ones - they are pinnate and curly. However from middle of each large crown of plant the long stalk similar to a peduncle sticks up. And on the end of this stalk it is expanded... no, not a flower. Red leaves which from afar can be seen as a flower, actually are fertile leaves of fern. And the lacy greenery is its sterile leaves. On them spores do not grow ripe. But on "petals" of amazing fern "flower" spores are stuck in dense lumps with sweetish slime. Insects involved with this slime, hover above sporangiferous leaves of plant and also eat slime with spores. Spore cover is dense, and they easily tolerate passage through the stomach of the insect.
Epiphytic plants give plentiful food to various insects, but sometimes can be a dangerous place for them. Swarms of the insects, hovering above the fern, do not remain without attention of insectivorous animals. On the branch near thickets of plants a strange bark outgrowth sticks up. When an insect flies closely, it seems, that it moves... Or nevertheless it does not move? When near to the flower the large beetle hangs in air, all doubts dissipate: something that seemed an outgrowth of bark earlier, turns a head, slightly opens eyes and mouth, and by fast movement of long sticky tongue "licks off" the beetle. Convulsively having swallowed catch, "outgrowth" comes to life finally. Now it is clearly visible, that it is a small bird with large eyes and short wide beak - the chameleo broadbill. As against reptile namesake, it is not able to change colouring though it is able to use art of masking so perfectly. The sticky tongue, capable to be thrown out from a mouth for catching catch, also gives it similarity to the reptile chameleon.
Having sated, the bird starts to clean feathering, not caring at all about masking. And when it is cleaning, near the fern bush one more inhabitant of forest canopy is flying. This creature similar to the kite controlled by two rudders, flies by air, having sparkled bright bottom part of the body, catches delayed fly and lands on thick liana. This flyer is an amphibian, the glidefrog. The thin semi-translucent flying membrane is tensed between its paws and allows an amphibian to make long jumps, pursuing possible catch. If to look from the bottom branches, it is possible to notice, that between lianas bright patches fly: glidefrogs chase insects. By means of oar-like feet of hind legs the amphibian can change flight direction and even make bends, chasing fast insects.
However any flight can be finished pitiable. The thick branch is covered with ring of slime. Insects can not overcome it, they only helplessly pull by legs and wings, getting in this trap. Their movements involve the frog who makes sharp turn in air... and had gathered speed plops down right in slime. This transparent substance is very sticky, and an amphibian has no might to get out of it. The frog had turned from the hunter to prey.
And the hunter slowly visits its traps. One of the most terrible inhabitants of crones of Asian rainforest, the huge worm of one-and-half-meter length gets to itself livelihood such artful way. This creature is the slobberleech, the descendant of ground leeches of Holocene of Asia. If earlier forest leeches were bloodsuckers, now the huge leech became a predator, having moved on a tree. Keen sense of smell helps badly seeing animal to find branches, "ringed" by its own glue. Having found such trap, the worm slowly eats caught insects, collecting them by elastic lips. But, having stumbled on the frog, the leech widely opens mouth, lets out three sharp jaws and puts to the glidefrog prompt fatal bite. The amphibian immediately becomes insipid, and shining green colored back with spots turns pale. Having passed lips over the body of dead frog, the leech slowly swallows a small amphibian.
Not all predators place traps in a wood, some ones prefer other receptions of hunting. There was no one shrub of orchids in forked crown of tree only some hours ago. But now it flaunts in prominent place and attracts insects by bright flowers. Small wasps and flies fly around of the plant and regale themselves with nectar. And the butterfly flies up to a bright flower hoping to have a dinner. This hope is vain: lightning movement of pincers - and insect is seized by that creature which had brought shrub of orchids to forked branch... on its own back. Orchids appeared only a part of skilful masking of the tree mimicrab. The crustacean decorated the back by rests of plants and wood dust for masking just as some sea crabs of a Holocene had "decorated" themselves with the same purpose. Such feature of behavior allows the crab to disappear from predators, and from possible catch.
Having ate the butterfly, the crab flattens itself against the bark again and becomes transfixed in hope that the next dinner will come to it itself. The fast flapping of wings announces that near a bird had sat. And from behind the trunk the chameleo broadbill is shown. The bird dexterously moves its paws, clinging for bark splits. The crab stands.
The bird obviously makes a mistake, trying to arrange an ambush near to the back of crab. Here already there is one hunter, and here it is nothing to do for the second one. However the bird, it seems, does not notice the crab. But when the broadbill was hooked by paw for the crab leg as attack follows the same moment. Powerful crab pincers break fragile paws and wings of bird, and the huge crustacean starts to devour the next dinner, dropping downwards grey striped feathers.
Life and death were closely bound in this wood. If alive creatures were not born, there would be nobody to die, supporting life of other forest inhabitants. And the forest canopy serves also as the maternity hospital and school for forest inhabitants.
Due to high humidity of air some branches are richly overgrown with mosses and lichens. In them, as if in a sponge, water accumulates. And it is rather favourable to some inhabitants of a wood. The glidefrog male carefully protects one such branch: in thickets of a moss his tadpoles sit. This tree frog had adapted to breed right on branches of trees, and its tadpoles scrape by mouths lichens and moss instead of algae.
When the small animal comes nearer to a branch, or one of neighbours by mistake falls on a branch, the male shows itself: having opened paws, he tries to seem larger. The neighbour usually at once retires, but not all other animals act as. One of such creatures slowly climbs on the branches making canopy of wood. It is the splashtoad, one more wood amphibian. It searches for small animals, making its usual food. Tadpoles of the glidefrog are an excellent dish but to prey them is not so simple. The toad is considerably larger than the male of glidfrog, therefore it rather easy can push him off from the branch. But the tree frog has special reception of defense against such predators. When the splashtoad, accurately moving paws, reaches the branch where the glidefrog male protects posterity, he rises between posterity and the toad. The male strongly holds to the branch by fingers of hinder legs, looking right at the toad. And when warty creature has crossed invisible border, repulse follows immediately. The frog male starts to strike the toad by prompt impacts of head, "springing" on hind paws and having pressed forepaws to sides. These impacts so discourage the toad, that it crawls back and departs instead of simply seizing the male and eating him. The splashtoad had recoiled, and the hatch is rescued.
Some days later tadpoles start to crawl on the branch. They alternately stick to the bark by mouth, and by abdominal sucker, slowly "stepping" on the bark. Thus they are fed with moss and algae overgrowing the bark. Larvae grow, and near it will be crowded for them on this branch. At them hind legs gradually begin to form, and tails get fat from fat stock necessary for a final metamorphosis.
Now the male succeeds to protect the posterity. And the splashtoad had crept to next branches and searches for a meal there. But it seriously risks: it is the territory of the huge slobberleech. And soon both predators meet on very narrow path: on liana stretched at thirty-meter height above edgeless bogs, whence there is no return to the world of forest crones. From one side on liana the leech has crept, and from another - the splashtoad has appeared. And somewhere on middle both predators have met... No one animal does not want to move further having the strong opponent behind the back. However the leech nevertheless has more chances to win in in-fighting: its bite is poisonous. But the toad is the master of distant attack. It turns the head to the gigantic worm, slightly squats, and by fast movement splashes two jets of poison right on the head of the leech. The toad shoots neatly: its shot is directed to the side of sight. And its poison is not so strong, but rather burning and unpleasant.
The leech has to the full tested all force of toad attack: poison began strongly sting its sensitive skin. The giant worm bends a huge body, spasming, showing brightly painted bottom side: on it red and white strips alternate. However it is rather involuntary action, than the terrible warning to the enemy: the leech tries to clean off poison from skin, secreting clots of slime and wiping body against leaves and bark. The toad, having felt, that its weapon had hit the mark, quickly recedes and leaves this dangerous place. The leech too recedes, coming back to the tree which it has just left. It goes to the tree-trunk hollow where after rains water accumulates - there the leech fills up the stock of water spent for formation of slime after the toad attack. As it is paradoxical, the toad had acted as the involuntary savior of glidefrog tadpoles: if there was no this attack, the leech would begin to survey the next tree, and sooner or later it would find the frog hatch. And then the male should rescue his own life, having overcome a parental instinct.
It’s rainy in this forest every day during nine months per year. When there is rain, all inhabitants of forest are hidden in shelters. Only the glidefrog male had to hold up the body to jets of water, preserving tadpoles bunched together. Hard rain jets wash off from trees all sticky traps of leeches, making tracks in tree crones safe... on any time.
But after the rain live beings again fill wood by shouts and struggle for food and life, doubling forces. Tadpoles of the glidefrog have again crawled out on the branch. Now they move faster - at them hind legs had developed. And the nurse male can not look at them any more. When he tries to drive posterity together, some tadpoles persistently leave moss thickets. It is visible, that moss and lichen are eaten fairly: the larvae of the glidefrog simply search for food. But not only they do it.
On branches the flexible shaggy creature with flattish head and nose extended to short proboscis promptly goes. From time to time the animal takes from moss the bug or snail, and cracks their shells by sharp teeth. It is the descendant of tiny insectivorous animals - the catshrew. It had moved to tree crones and had fairly increased in size, having found in new habitat plentiful food - insects, birds and frogs. These animals live alone, making rounds in the territory zealously protected from neighbours.
During such detour the catshrew, large adult female, has stumble on the chameleo broadbill. The bird until the last second remained motionless, having flown out literally from under paws of the predator. The broadbill has flied up and has filled the wood by long rolling warble. And immediately the next branches, it seems, have come to life. Lots and lots of broadbills have found out themselves, having flown out from shelters. Birds have bunched in flight above a head of the catshrew and began to pursue her with shrill shouts. From time to time separate birds peck animal’s head and back, compelling it to choose road to rich thickets of epiphytic plants.
The shrew accompanied with such unbidden companions was threw in shelter: hunting is hopelessly broken. Snarling at too impudent broadbills, the shrew has like an arrow rushed to the nearest tree-trunk hollow: she perfectly knows the territory and has chosen the shortest way for getting away. When the animal had passed out from sight, broadbills some time had hovered in air, and then, as if on command, had flown away to fodder areas and had again turned to tree knots.
When noise among branches had ceased, from a tree-trunk hollow the flat head of the shrew had seemed. The female has smelt air and has cautiously got out of shelter. It is necessary for her to eat enough frequently and hearty, and famine has an effect. Certainly, having increased in size, this animal had lost in any measure unappeasable hunger, in which tiny insectivorous animals are remarkable. But nevertheless it is impossible to be full, eating snails and bugs. However the wood is so rich in life, that at times catch goes almost in the mouth itself. And large splashtoad melancholically creeping on the branch could appear such catch.
When the catshrew had crept to the amphibian, the toad did not begin to flatten itself against branches. Felt a predator, it had risen on paws and distended, as far as possible, showing brightly colored throat and stomach. The shrew had felt, that this creature is not afraid of her. Usually the predator rushes, not deliberating, on escaping animal. But now the situation was another: in shrew famine and care struggled. And care had prevailed at the last moment: the toad had shot, when the shrew had turned a little aside, therefore the portion of poison has got in shoulder and side of animal, instead of in eyes. The shrew has receded and, bypassing distended toad, has run on a liana - that on which one of toads had battled to the huge leech. And this liana had took the catshrew to hatch of the glidefrog.
Having jumped off on branch, the predator has snuffed. She perfectly saw tadpoles who have crawled out on branch, and has already planned to herself catch - the largest one, crawled away aside. The tadpole efficiently scraped mushrooms when from above jaws had seized it and sharp canines had pierced it through.
Having torn off catch from the branch, the shrew had skipped on the next branch and was arranged there, eating catch. But during a jump she by paw has thrown off from branch one more tadpole which had fell from big height to the bog at roots of the tree.
Today the shrew will not return any more to hatch of the glidefrog. She makes the round on territory by habitual route, not being late anywhere for a long time. At such way of life the catshrew does not exhaust resources of the territory. This animal stands on one of tops of forest canopy food pyramid. However it not last part of food chain.
Last part of food chain is absolutely beside: the shrew carries it on itself. Larvae and adult females of sedentary generation of the underskin fly live in hypodermic tissue of animal. These insects eat blood and fat of the shrew, and adult females of flies from time to time give birth to posterity. From their ovaries there are born already practically completely developed insects covered with thin film. They develop in organisms of sedentary females of flies due to nutrients from the body of the host organism. Having broken off a film, the newborn insect dries, spreads wings and flies. The male searches for non-fertilized females, and the winged female tries to find the host animal in which body its parthenogenetic eggs will develop. Sedentary females giving rise while to only males will burst from eggs. And after fertilisation they will give rise exclusively to females. Flying insects first of all fly to flowers - to feed up. Here again many flies can become catch of birds and frogs.
Larvae and sedentary females of the fly have enemy: brightly colored doctor wasp. The infected shrew feels inconveniences from larvae of the flies sitting under skin: she scratches against liana and petioles of plant leaves. Therefore she willingly becomes transfixed on the spot when the medium-sized bright wasp with a characteristic buzzing starts to hover above her head. Having received a silent permission to operate, the wasp sits on the body of the shrew and starts to investigate by antennas skin of small mammal. Having found the necessary place, the wasp makes an injection by sting, laying the egg under skin of shrew. And it is the beginning of the struggle invisible with the naked eye, struggle refined and severe. From wasp egg the translucent larva bursts which at once starts to search for competitors - other parasitic insects. The larva of the wasp is small, therefore it easily moves on blood vessels to places where underskin flies were attached. The larva usually devours the first found fly, and further it is fixed motionlessly under skin and starts to produce strong antibiotic. As the result of it larvae and adult insects of the fly quickly perish. Besides numerous parasitic worms start to leave intestines of the shrew: the catshrew receives their larvae in food.
When larvae of flies leave an organism of the shrew, the small mammal worries a little. From time to time the shrew sits on a branch and starts to scratch itself. Scars from the left larvae quickly grow: it is the consequence of activity of the doctor wasp larva. Had passed development in the improved organism of the shrew, the wasp larva leaves it and pupates somewhere in cracks of tree bark. A bit later from pupa new wasp will hatch who will fly to search at first for the male, and then for the alive house for the posterity.
But it is possible to wait harm besides the help from insects. The male of the catshrew dwelt in the territory next to the female, has tested it wholly. Some weeks ago he was much stronger and more aggressive than the female, and nobody from neighbours could not penetrate unpunishedly on his territory. However now the female sniffs at boundary labels of this male and understands, that they were not updated for a long time. She marks border with the musk secretions, and interferes on another's territory, earlier forbidden for her.
The male sees, that at him uninvited visitor has appeared, and leaves towards trespasseress. But he feels very bad: the wool is tousled, and eyes are watering. Muscles of animal are not such strong, as earlier, therefore his gait is very uncertain. The male had became the victim of the killer wasp: using external similarity to the doctor wasp, this representative of ichneumon family had free infected the shrew, and its larvae some weeks slowly and accurately devoured flesh of animal from within. But now they are available to burst out. If the male is strong enough, he can recover after this attack. But while things are in a bad way with him: the female intruded in his possession, attacks the former offender and drives him on branches on edge of already her territory. The male has hardly time to evade from sharp teeth of the female, disgracefully running away. And he makes last jump pursued by the female clicking teeth.
But his jump is very unsuccessful: the male gets by legs in sticky mass plentifully smeared on the branch. If he should be in full might, he quickly would get out of trap placed by the slobberleech. But now he only helplessly pulls, all is more becoming covered by disgusting rich glue. Quickly having become exhausted, the male calms down. And at this moment the bursting out of young killer wasps begins. From under his skin one by one wet large blue-green insects are shown. Some of them get legs in string of slime covered body of animal, but the part of insects nevertheless dries and departs.
At this time on the bottom side of branch to trapped shrew male the owner of the trap, the huge slobberleech already hastens. The shrew is large and dangerous catch, therefore the leech does not hasten to attack. Some time it smells about, aims, and then puts prompt and exact sting. When spasmes of the shrew subside, the leech starts to swallow it, as if a boa - entirely. It does not pay attention to numerous insects who have stuck to its slime - there is best catch, than insects are.
Shining blue-green killer wasps fly by the small school above huge flowers of orchids, from time to time sitting down on them and regaling itself with nectar. But their careless flight is interrupted by prompt green with brown lightning which has flown near the flower. The glidefrog has had time to seize one of insects and now, dexterously having landed on branch, eats the one who is possible to kill much stronger animal. The circle has become locked: the creature closing the food chain, is to had eaten by one who is only food for it’s, killer wasp’s, catch. In this wood numerous inhabitants are so closely interconnected with each other, that extinction of one species brings to death even set of alive creatures species. Evolution of one species separately is here again impossible - all community of species changes.
In ecosystem there are not only constant inhabitants, but also time visitors are. Above forest canopy in the sky the silvery flying creatures, exterminating tons of tiny flying insects - an aeroplancton, rush. They are wiskered lustrers - small perfectly flying birds. Their house is in Himalayas located to the northwest from these places. Here they are only time visitors and when in northern hemisphere summer begins, their flights depart home, to mountains.


Slobberleech (Titanobdella glutinosa)
Order: Proboscis leeches (Rhynchobdellida)
Family: Glossiphoniidae

One of species of huge ground leeches, growing to length of 1,5 m at width up to 10 cm. It is capable to stretch (up to 2,5 m at width up to 3 cm). Coloring of the back side of a body is cryptic: pattern of greenish and brown spots on grey background; the abdominal side is red- and white-striped (warning coloring). The oral sucker is large, strongly stretched. Worm has 3 jaws, in the basis of every one there is the small poisonous gland. It has 8 large eyes (in size like cherry stone), capable to distinguish contours and coloring of objects at the distance up to 2 meters. On the back end of a body there is the strong sucker, along sides there are lines of small additional suckers. The body is covered with slime.
This is the predator, living on trees. It catches prey with the help of glue traps: worm covers branches and tree trunk with rings of sticky secretions of salivary glands. Glue does not stiffen within several hours, becoming the trap for invertebrates and small vertebrates. Surveying territory again, the worm gets the catch had got in traps and eats it, swallowing as a whole.
The hermaphrodite, once a year laying up to 100 eggs which have been stuck together by slime to the cocoon. An incubating lasts about 4 months, the size of young worms is up to 3 cm. Sexual maturity comes in 4 years, life expectancy may be up to 30 - 40 years.

Mimicrab (Corticarcinus herbophilus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Potamonidae

Large crustacean (width of carapace is up to 20 cm) of group Decapoda with strong legs, living on trees. The adult animal perfectly masks itself: the top side of carapace is colored like color of tree bark and has knobs and dents simulating the bark texture. The bottom side of body is colored brightly: pincers are bright - blue, an abdomen and bottom of cephalothorax are white. Body is very flat, the crab flattened itself against the tree trunk is practically imperceptible. Masking of animal is strengthen by spikes and hooks available on surfaces of shell: the crab fastens alive and dead plants collected on branches on them. Some epiphytic plants get accustomed on animal’s back and even can flower, providing crab fine masking and bait for insects. During the molt crab goes down from trees in water, or finds tree-trunk hollows full by rain water. The new shell hardens during 2 days. Crab hides the old shell right after moult. Having hardened, the crab carries plants from it to a new shell, and eats old one.
The predator, eating insects and small vertebrates.
Mimicrabs are diecious animals, the female lays up to 100 eggs and carries them on abdomen before hatching of posterity. When the young growth is ready to be hatched, the female goes down on tree trunk to water and immerses an abdomen to it. Egg shells swell and young animals easily break them off. The first some weeks (up to 2-nd moult) young crabs live in pools and ponds, masking by vegetative rests, further in one of nights they go out to the coast and get on trees.

Underskin fly (Sarcoglossa lipophyla)
Order: Dipterans (Diptera)
Family: Sarcophagidae

Picture by Biolog

One of species of parasitic flies living under skin in fat layer of small vertebrates. For species it is typical complex alternation of generations including change of flying and sedentary generations of females. Males of the present species are always winged.
Infection of a vertebrate host animal (mammal) is made by flying parthenogenetic females. They find in forest the host animal and lay eggs with sticky shells on its) wool; in some hours from egg larva excluses which takes root under skin. These larvae grow, eating hypodermic tissue of mammal. For successful feeding their mouth forms numerous root-looking outgrowths which penetrate on the big distance under skin of the host and soak up nutrients by all surface. Not molting, the larva turns to the sedentary female keeping many features of larva, but having the advanced sexual system (by this feature the insect is similar to representatives of group Strepsiptera). The end of female’s abdomen juts out from under skin of the host and with the help of special repugnatorial glands involves males making fertilisation. The female is live-bearing, from eggs in her ovary larva (only one at once) hatches which eats secretions of an oviduct and soon turns to the completely developed winged insect. Females of sedentary generation give rise to some winged individuals in pseudopupae, characteristic for two-winged flies, and it is left at once with the generated individual. Before fertilization the sedentary female gives rise only to males (haploid), after fertilization - only to flying parthenogenetic females.
For flying individuals typical appearance of the fly is characteristic. Eyes are large, green; sense of smell is keen. Body is black with wide cross yellow strip. Flying individuals eat nectar of flowers though they frequently feed on rotting fruits and a carrion.

Doctor wasp (Hygeiosphex antibioticus)
Order: Hymenopters (Hymenoptera)
Family: Sphecid wasps (Sphecidae)

Species of parasitic wasps of family Sphecidae, which develops in bodies of vertebrate animals (mammals). It differs by very original way of parasitism: the larva develops in hypodermic tissue of vertebrate animal, relieving the host animal from other parasites. The larva produces strong antibiotic killing larvae of insects and parasitic worms, living in the present individual of the host animal (potential competitors). But this action undoubtedly useful to organism of the host can have reverse side: pregnant females have destruction of embryos (an alien genetic material). After the pupating imago lefts the body of the host through the small aperture in its skin. Due to powerful antibiotics infection of wound does not occur, capsule of pupa quickly resolve also wound heals.
The adult insect has small size: length of a body is about 3 cm at thickness no more than 2 mm: the wasp reminds large mosquitoes. The body is very brightly colored: green with metal shine and cross red strip on an abdomen, ends of wings are yellow. Involving the potential host animal, the fertilized female of the wasp makes original "dance", for a long time hanging in air above the muzzle of animal with loud buzzing. If the animal does not leave, the wasp sits on its skin and lays under skin an egg. From eggs the microscopic larva which is fixed under skin on the neck of animal almost at once hatches. It quickly grows, growing up to 4 cm in length. First time the larva analyzes structure of tissues of "it’s own" host animal, and at the age of 1 week already starts to produce an antibiotic. All time of insect development takes about 40 day, time of life of an adult individual (imago) is about 3 weeks. The adult wasp is the predator.

Killer wasp (Pseudohygeia placebo)
Order: Hymenopters (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ichneumon wasps (Ichneumonidae)

This insect is large species of ichneumons (family Ichneumonidae) simulating the doctor wasp. It parasitizes also on mammals. As against doctor wasp larvae the larva of killer wasp do not bring advantage to the host one. On the contrary, its activity weakens an organism of the host animal and can cause its death.
Externally the killer wasp is similar to the doctor wasp, differing from it (except for characteristic attributes of family) by larger sizes (length is up to 4 cm) and the general color of body (it has appreciable bluish shade). The female lays an egg from which the larva hatches quickly under skin of the host. It grows in connective or muscular tissue of body, growing to 5 cm in length at thickness up to 2 - 3 mm. The larva breeds by parthenogenetic way (approximately for 5-th day of life), making up to 20 descendants. Larvae of new generation occupy various organs and tissues of the host, causing pain at its movement, asthenia and short wind. Transformation to imago and hatching of all larvae occurs simultaneously, and it frequently brings to death the weakened animal. Development from the first infection lasts about 30 days.

Splashtoad (Dendrobufo jaculata)
Order: Tailless amphibians (Anura)
Family: Toads (Bufonidae)

Picture by Lambert

Initial image by Pavel Volkov

Tailless amphibian of toad family (Bufonidae) living on trees. It eats invertebrates and small vertebrates, can have eaten the small frog or nestlings of birds. Body length is up to 15 cm, legs are long, fingers are tenacious. The warty glandulous skin is covered with thin layer of slime. Coloring of the top part of the body imitates color of tree bark, bottom of the body is bright - yellow with black lines forming changeable wavy pattern. Behind eyes there are two large glands with powerful ring muscles, channels from them are revealed to eye-sockets and turn together with eyeballs. Glands produce the poison intended for protection. In case of danger the animal sprinkles poison to the predator: the jet of poison flies in direction of animal’s look. Poison at first seconds is liquid, on air it thickens; it has strong irritating action, but it is dangerous only to tiny animals. Before "shot" of poison the toad rises on legs and strongly distends, making seen brightly painted belly.
For spawning toad goes down from trees in water. In breeding season at night under trees voices of these toads reminding chirr of cricket sound. Eggs (up to 300 ones) are not protecting by parents, tadpoles eat algae, turn to young toads at length 5 cm in the age of 7 - 8 weeks.

Glidefrog (Pterohyla volans)
Order: Tailless amphibians (Anura)
Family: Tree frogs (Hylidae)

The representative of tree frog family (Hylidae). The amphibian is medium-sized one: body length of the female is about 15 cm, the male - 12 cm. Frog is remarkable by presence of flying membrane which stretches between sides, forepaws (up to elbow joint) and hinder legs (up to knees). Additional membranes stretch on hinder legs between back edges of the hip and the shin. Such type of flying membrane had been described at the Triassic tecodont Sharovipteryx dwelt in territory of Central Asia (it had been found in gorge Madigen, Fergana valley). But at the tecodont the flying membrane included also the basis of a long tail. Tree frogs have no tail, but it is rather advantage: hinder legs are more free. Long toes of hinder legs are supplied with membranes. In a jump they are opened and help an amphibian to drive flight. Forepaws have long tenacious fingers. The internal surface of paws is covered with tiny corneous thorns helping the frog to hook even for wet branches during the rain. Usual coloring of the tree frog is green with brown spots, at fright it can vary to gray-brown (like tree bark color).
In spawning season the belly of the male colors pinky white color with orange spots. Males choose highest single branches in forest canopy and start to utter the courtship song reminding owl hoot. When the female answers, males begin courtship jumps - flights between branches and lianas, showing themselves. If on one branch two males fall at once, the demonstration of power sometimes passing in fight begins between them.
Pairing proceeds some hours. Eggs (20 - 30 large ones, containing high per cent of yolk) is laid in wet moss on forked branches. The male protects and wets eggs up to hatch of posterity, and also first time cares of young growth. He is capable to drive away small enemies from the clutch: at first it shows the pose of threat (having seized hinder legs in branch, it rises in “bipedal position” and opens flying membrane), then actively attacks, sharply striking the enemy by head and "springing" on hinder legs (keeping them for branch).
Tadpoles hatch 13 - 14 days later, they are large enough: up to 1,5 cm including the tail. They never float, and do not live in water at all: all their childhood passes in moss on branches of rainforest canopy at height about 30 meters above the ground. They do not threaten with danger to dry up: it is rainy each day, and the moss is always wet. The tadpole has two suckers for movement: mouth and powerful abdominal sucker. Alternately sticking to the bark alternately by both suckers, the tadpole can move. It travels during the rain, preferring to hide in plants during the hottest day time. Its tail is thick and inactive, serving for accumulating of fat stock necessary for a metamorphosis. Tadpoles eat mosses, mushrooms and lichens, scraping this food by sucker-like mouth. Their gills soon disappear, but lungs quickly develop. When hinder legs will develop (it cases at 2-nd week of life), the tadpole starts to lose an abdominal sucker. All process of transformation lasts about 3 weeks. First time the young frog has no flying membrane, it grows only at 2-nd month of life.

Chameleo broadbill (Brachyrhynchornis chameleontiglossus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Eurylaimid broadbills (Eurylaimidae)

Picture by Alexander Klimenko

Initial image by Pavel Volkov

The scientific name of this bird obviously is longer, than its body: the chameleo broadbill is one of smallest birds of Neocaenic South-Eastern Asia: length of this bird is only about 8 cm including tail. This bird is the descendant of the broadbills (Calyptomene) living in Asia, representatives of primitive passerine birds.
It is an insectivorous bird with short wings and tail, at it there is a large head and wide mouth cut. Similarly to the ancestral broadbills, the chameleo broadbill hunts insects, not being driven for them (as the swift or the swallow), but traps them, sitting on branch. But at appearing of catch the bird even does not move anywhere: it simply "throws" to insect by long tongue with sticky saliva, and then swallows catch. The length of the thrown out tongue surpasses the length of bird body. Its basis is attached deeply to back edge of sternum and almost at all length it is surrounded with ring muscles; inside tongue very extensible longitudinal muscle passes. Tissues of tongue are capable to be stretched strongly and to contract sharply. When the bird is ready to "shoot", it sharply contracts ring muscles. Pressure of liquids inside tongue increases and forces it to extend. After "shot" ring muscles relax, but longitudinal one is reduced, and tongue shortens. In the mouth at the basis of tongue the gland, allocating the "glue" quickly thickening at contact with oxygen of air, is present. When tongue involves, enzymes of saliva at once dissolve stiffened "glue".
Colouring of the chameleo broadbill differs from ancestral one: green coloring had been replaced with uncertain grey-brown-black-greenish pattern imitating lichens and bark. Masking of the chameleo broadbill is almost ideal: it is decamouflaging only by large black eyes (for the period of hunting the bird almost closes them). The male differs from the female by brighter feathering: waist and sides under wings (invisible at a sitting bird) are colored at him in bright orange color. The mouth inside also is colored differently: at females mucous membrane of the mouth is crimson, at males - bright red.
The courtship season lasts practically for all year. During the courtship ritual the male walks around female, uttering piping. At this moment his wings are stretched in sides, and feathers on a waist are lifted upwards. After pairing the female builds simple open nest and lays 4 - 5 eggs. The incubating lasts about 9 days, nestlings remain in nest of 2 weeks. Only the female hatches clutch and foods young growth. The male only protects nesting territory.
This bird is one of main indicators of predator presence in wood canopy: having noticed the predator, birds utter the loud warble similar to crash of old typewriter, pursue the predator by group, sometimes even attacking it.

Catshrew (Cattosorex felinus)
Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Predatory shrews (Carnosoricidae)

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Predatory mammal of insectivore order (Insectovora)? and the large representative of group: body length is up to 30 cm, a tail - up to 20 cm. The head is short, the muzzle is extended to very short proboscis, jaws are strong, and top canines are long, visible at the closed mouth. Brain is small, brain cave of skull is low. Sight is almost three-dimensional, eyes are rather large. Wool is short, rusty-red color with dark cross strips on paws and spots on the head and on the back, the tail is hairy, its tip is light red. Animal looks like the marten because of its proportions: paws are short, but tenacious. It can swarm up branches and make jumps up to 3 meters. This predator eats any animals which it can catch and kill: birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects.
This is the solitary animal living in territory strictly protected from neighbours. 2 - 3 times per one year the female gives rise to 5 - 6 cubs. Up to 3-week age they remain in shelter (usually in tree-trunk hollow), later hunt together with mother and quickly become independent. Sexual maturity comes at 3 months, life expectancy is insignificant: till 3 years.


Blossoming fern (Floridopteris pseudoflorens)
Order: Polypodiales
Family: "Flowering ferns" (Floridopteridaceae)

Of course, the fern can not truly blossom. The thing, which is possible to assume at the present species to be a flower, is actually the crown of fertile leaves. At some ferns of XX century (for example, ostrich fern Matteuccia struthioperis) leaves are already sorted to sterile and fertile ones. At the present fern of the future this division had went too far, having touched division of sprouts.
Sterile leaves have characteristic "fern" shape: lacy and feather-like. In the basis of leaves there are pockets in which the organic material giving to a plant a mineral feed is collecting. Fertile leaves gathered to small crowns, are red colored. "Runners" take these runaways out on distance up to 70 cm from the parent crown. In the basis of fertile leaves the odorous glands producing unpleasant smell are located; this smell attracts unwitting spore carriers - bugs and flies. Spores of this fern are stuck in pulp-like mass and easily stick to backs of bugs, carrying by them on big distances.
This plant is an epiphyte, growing to height about 1 meter.


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