Tour to Neocene


24. Sunda land




In Neocene the climate of many areas of the Earth became much milder, being similar to tropical one. But there are places where these changes are almost imperceptible. Practically always, even during cataclysms, had shook the planet ecosystem, the climate in these places had remained constant and mild. Islands of Indonesia are one of such places. They were washed always with the sea and warmed by the hot equatorial sun, and from ocean enough rains had came to support plentiful and various vegetative life. Therefore Indonesia have became the refuge for tropical fauna. During an ice age on border of Holocene and Neocene the sea had partly receded, having connected isolated islands to common land - the Sunda. Animals and the plants before developing separately, began to move freely across the new land, competing with each other and superseding other species. Therefore the flora and fauna of Sunda during an ice age had a little grown poor, and many endemic island species had died out, not having sustained the competition to continental newcomers. But in Neocene when the sea level started to lift up, the land, common before it, had again turned to islands where live beings have started to develop separately. Small islands by their territory obviously did not promote prosperity of large continental species, but small species of animals have received plentiful opportunities for evolution.
Islands of Indonesia feel lack of rain; therefore they are richly covered with evergreen forests. Monsoons from Pacific ocean bring down on forests of tons of water, and solar heat stimulates growth of jungle. Life in such wood is concentrated in forest canopy. This is the real empire of birds and insects.
The canopy of tropical forest 20 - 30 meters high above the ground is the dinner table and the house for incredibly various live creatures. Among them both predators and vegetarians are. The generosity of the nature results to that some species of live beings became very legible in food.
At the place, where the rough tropical river, having changed the channel, had washed away roots of giant trees and had threw them down to the ground, the empty seat will be on the spot occupied by other species. Among these squatter species the high touch-me-not tree is especially remarkable. Its trunk is combined by friable watery wood, and huge leaves greedy absorb the sunlight and generously evaporate moisture. By this features the touch-me-not tree resembles the balsawood (Ochroma pyramidale) from Holocene rainforests of South America. The touch-me-not tree quickly grows, for few decades becoming the tree of the first size. But it so promptly perishes, choked by growing up competing species. As if hurrying up to live the short life brightly and richness, this tree is practically constantly covered with large rose-red flowers with long spur, slightly bent downwards. And above these flowers the bird resembling the huge hummingbird hovers. It flaps wings seldom enough: instead of the buzzing they sound like indistinct crash. Green back brightly shines in the sun, and blue wings flash sapphire sparks, quivering in air. By bright red beak the bird in turn surveys flowers of the touch-me-not tree, licking from them the plentiful liquid nectar accumulating at the bottom of spur. It is the basic food of this unusual bird though sometimes it diversifies the ration with insects. But what is unusual in it? On the Earth in Holocene epoch there were the same birds sucking flower nectar: hummingbirds in America and sunbirds in Old World. But this species differs from them by the origin: it is the parakeet, the specialized descendant of parrots lory (Trichoglossus). Its name is flower-sucking loreeto -. The loreeto is very mobile and dexterous bird: its wings move along difficult trajectory looking like "eight", allowing the loreeto to fly sideways and back with the same speed, as fast as forward. By the long beak flower-sucking loreeto - can pick up from branches different insects, supplementing the sweet diet with protein food.
But not always insects allow so easily to catch and to eat themselves. Some species are hidden under bark of trees and bore holes in wood. But also for such insects the eater will be found: the small bird with the long slightly bent strong beak. This is the rotwood bird and it is the specialized descendant of Holocene woodpeckers. Jumping on the tree trunk, it explores by beak all holes of insects meeting to it. Long tongue of the rotwood bird deeply penetrates inside of the hole, reaching up to fat larvae of capricorn beetles. If the bird is lucky in hunting, on the cornificated tip of tongue the yellowish-white larva wriggles which is on the spot eaten by the bird. Termites are no less tasty meal. It is enough to break off the appointed piece of bark - and from under it the mass of blind soft insects creeps out, and the rotwood bird immediately pecks them.
But not all insects are afraid of birds. Thick sappy leaves of the touch-me-not tree are literally hanged, as if with beads, with large bright beetles - bitter leaf beetles measuredly gnawing holes in them. After these gluttons had been fed on leaf, it turns to similarity of lace - on it there are only thickest nerves and a little of leaf tissues. Near to beetles their larvae - thick, striped, large-headed creatures - assiduously work by mandibles. Their only occupation is eating. They quickly grow to significant weight and turn to adult beetles. Bitter leaf beetles are very numerous, but the majority of forest birds does not touch them – by the bitter (in literal sense!) experience they know - beetles are inedible. The body of the bitter leaf beetle at any stage of development is literally stuffed with cantharid poison - the poisonous substance giving to the beetle burning bitter taste. Having only once acquaintance to these species of insects, the bird for ever will wean of the idea to make it once again. But not any bird will do it - or beetles would eat completely all trees in forest.
On branches the massive, strong combined bird of very motley colouring with the large beak skips. It is the beetlecracker – the big "expert" in firm insect shells. In flight it had noticed the colony of bitter leaf beetles, and now wishes to be refreshed well with them. The bird crunching bites through one beetle after another, swallows fat larvae, quickly freeing the tree branch from gluttonous insects. The beetlecracker is not harmed with poison in which these leaf beetles are rich. On the contrary, it is its protection in this poison - being accumulated in tissues, the cantharid poison of beetles makes meat of the beetlecracker absolutely inedible for predators. However it does not protect the bird from casual attack.
When the beetlecracker bends to get from thickness of branches the fat larva, from the tree on it the large long-tailed bird with red back and spotty white belly swoops. But the beetlecracker in time lifts head up, and the feathered predator abruptly turns off aside and sits on the branch beside. It is the singing bird-catcher, the same as also the beetlecracker, representative of passerine birds (Passeriformes). The beetlecracker promptly stands at pose of threat: having fluffed up bright head so, that it seems twice to the thickness, the bird lowers slightly opened wings and utters the loud chirring warble, having slightly opened the beak. Both birds are a little bit puzzled with such meeting: skilled singing bird-catchers do not contact such birds, as the beetlecracker. Both birds somehow try to leave from this situation. And the bird-catcher departs aside, pretending, that it is cleaning: it lifts paw and starts to clean actively the head by it, by one eye glancing at the beetlecracker. The motley and bright beetlecracker, however, tries to look as more as possible terrible: it jumps from branch to branch, continuously cracking and showing bright head feathering. The singing bird-catcher does not cease cleaning: it touches feathers of the tail in a pointed manner, and then cleans head by other paw. Both birds actively try to avoid the conflict. The situation is unloaded by the huge beetle flying by near to birds. The singing bird-catcher promptly rushes behind it, loudly clapping wings, but on the spot turns off aside and hides in thickets of branches. The beetle is absolutely not necessary for the singing bird-catcher: the predator only had searched for an occasion to avoid fight. It would not like to test at itself bites of powerful beak of the beetlecracker at all.
The beetlecracker, hearing an excluded flapping of wings calms down and continues to gather leaf beetles, crunching their shells. And the bird-catcher is not going to calm: in its nest there are two eternally hungry nestlings. And careful daddy is a little having had a rest again is searching for catch. This time it has noticed in foliage the rotwood bird skipping on the tree trunk. It seems, the rotwood bird does not see the predator observing of it: it accurately checks trunk pierced by holes of insects, from time to time taking from wood the larva or the termite. But all its movements are watched by keen eye of the singing bird-catcher. All attention of the feathered predator is concentrated at the motley back of bird carefree scurrying along the trunk. It waits an opportunity for attack.
The rotwood bird, it looks, has found the plentiful source of food: when it has broken away the next piece of bark, on the surface of the tree trunk tens randomly scurrying termites have seemed - blind, soft and tasty. The rotwood bird hasty started to peck insects out, and at this moment behind its back the rustle of wings the singing bird-catcher was heard.
Quick reaction has rescued the rotwood bird: it has jumped aside and has taken wing from a branch just in time. And in a flash it has turned from modestly painted and almost imperceptible long-billed bird to bright, well appreciable creature. Its back had flashed as scarlet light, and sides have begun to sparkle with blue flashes at each wave of wings. Loudly clapping wings, the rotwood bird had rushed away from the bird-catcher. It would seem, now it is as easy as shelling pears to watch it. And the bird-catcher has rushed to chase it. The rotwood bird aspires to hide in thicket of plants: it chooses the narrowest spaces between branches as if purposely. But the singing bird-catcher does not lag behind: the sparkling red light of back of the rotwood bird is perfectly seen to it. It would seem, that it was last seconds of life of the rotwood bird, but actually all for this bird proceeds how should be proceeded. And in any instant the bright and appreciable reference point vanishes: sharp throwing aside the rotwood bird leaves from chase and rushes to the thicket of epiphytic plants, having hidden there. The singing bird-catcher safely flies by past, and the rotwood bird silently and imperceptibly tries to leave the battle-field.
Sitting on the branch, the singing bird-catcher has a rest. It pants: it was not possible to it to catch the rotwood bird. In general it is quite natural: as a rule there is only one successful attack from six – seven ones. But the long pursuit has obviously exhausted the bird-catcher. However in reserve it has many hunting receptions, and the bird can use any of them depending on the situation.
Among branches voices of tiny birds are heard, and soon the flight of originators of noise appears. Among them there are some bright red-chest individuals, approximately as much pink-chest ones and few ordinary-looking brownish birds. On heads of these birds as if black masks are dressed on: these birds are masked pipias. Their whistle is two-syllabic singing, which second syllable is the drawl smoothly descending sound.
Pipias gather insects from branches of trees, but they diligently bypass bright bitter leaf beetles. Food of pipia includes plant lice, ants, caterpillars of butterflies, flies. Birds are very mobile and sometimes catch insects by throw in air though prefer to feed on branches. In flight of pipias there is the rigid hierarchy supported with the help of painting and poses. Red-chest birds are males. They do not stint the poses emphasizing their domination. If any subdominant bird has founded especially tempting catch, the dominant bird can take it away easily. Having fluffed up in sides the feathering on the chest, the dominant individual jumps up to the subordinate one and makes some sharp movements by the body upwards - downwards. The subordinated bird on the spot jumps out aside and the dominant gets its find. Ordinary-looking brownish birds - not sexual matured young growth - are especially tyrannized. Therefore young birds keep aloof of flight and try to not show, that they have found anything tasty.
However it is the mistake to think, that males in pipia flight spend idle life of loafers. Their main task is to protect territory of flight. Therefore, when the neighbour stranger finds out itself by anything, to "front line" all males come forward, even not sexual matured ones - it is their chance to occupy in future high position in hierarchy. The female can be accepted for the clan, but for the superfluous male here is obviously nothing to do. Therefore, when from branches the characteristic double whistling is heard, males of clan immediately occupy front position: they jump to highly sticking up dead branch and start to show themselves. Having fluffed up feathering on chest, males act jumps on the spot, accompanying it with loud, almost synchronous warble. Young males keep on edges, and dominant male sits on the highest knot and warbles most loudly. But the newcomer does not hurry up to show itself though answers on sound. Excitation in male group increases, they in turn start to take wing and to hover above thickets, trying to find out the stranger. But when bright and large dominant male rises in air, events get unexpected turn: from branches as the ginger-white lightning the singing bird-catcher flies off, forces down the pipia male by impact of the beak, catches it by paw and flies out. Survived birds promptly scatter in thickets.
" Contender" appeared the dexterous imitation of the singing bird-catcher. The same way in Holocene the tiger at the Far East had attracted deer males, simulating their roar in breeding season.
At the nest carefully hidden among epiphytes, the female of the singing bird-catcher protects nestlings hardly started to fledge. The only thing, that she could offer them for dinner - some large cockroaches caught near to the nest. It is obviously not enough of it for their growing organisms. When the male brings killed pipia, the female meets him at the edge of nest. Both birds look over each other, sharply pulling tails here and there, then start to exchange bows, deliberately highly lifting legs up, thus the male holds catch in the beak. The body of pipia obviously does not correspond to ceremoniousness of the male, transferring it to female. And it will suffice to nestlings... approximately for one hour. And the male is again going to hunting.
The female pins the body of pipia on the sharp branch specially left sticking up from wall of nest, and starts to tear off from it pieces of meat. Touching by food to beaks of nestlings, she stimulates nestlings to eat. Nestlings in turn swallow portions of meat and again calm down.
The escaped pipias continue the fussy life with one small difference: the second by rank male had become the full lord in clan. But young growth is almost none the better for it: their status in clan will change only after the moult. Therefore young pipias prefer to be away from sights of adults though they do not leave from the clan. But if pipia males constantly live in the same clan, females can pass to the next clan, preventing thus inbreeding and degeneration.
The young pipia jumps on branch, attentively looking over bark cracks by the keen eye. From time to time it succeeds to take from crack the small cockroach, spider or caterpillar. The small body of bird needs for huge amount of food - per day the pipia eats as much food, as weighs itself. And other inhabitants of wood crones can keep the fast for a long time. Patiently waiting catch, these creatures skillfully merge with tree bark by colouring and even by the texture. And it seems, that the young pipia simply has not notice this predator though it attentively observes of all its movements.
When the pipia comes nearer to outwardly harmless outgrowth on the tree bark, it unexpectedly comes to life. The flexible body of the creature seizes the bird sideways, had instantly stretched, as if the rubber tape. The pipia has fell a victim to the adderleech - clambering predatory worm. Three blade-shaped jaws have gone into the skin and muscles of the bird, and in wounds the poisonous saliva has on the spot injected. For some moments pipia tries to free - the bird claps by wings and desperately tries to pull out. But gradually movements of pipia weaken, wings droop, and eyes close forever. And the leech gradually presses catch under itself and starts to devour it, tearing off by jaws piece after piece. It eats away the fleshiest parts of body - chest and hips, and also soft internal organs. The sated leech throws off the rests of catch downwards, and then slowly crawls out to the shadow of epiphytic plants. There it finds water in crown of orchid leaves and immerses in it, digesting the plentiful meal.
The rests of pipia drop from dizzy height on the layer of dead foliage. Involved with their smell, insects start to gather. Here flies, beetles, and even some bright small butterflies are. But they obviously will not succeed to take advantage of result of successful leech hunting: some ants with huge mandibles appear near remains of pipia, and other insects hastily leave this place. Catch will be cut, bones will be accurately picked completely, and the part of meat will be carried to the ant nidus.
At the place, where the forest giant has fallen, not having sustained burden of lived years, the young growth of various huge-leafed grasses quickly appears. Muffling each other, they reach for sun light and spread dissected, or on the contrary, wide entire-kind leaves of different forms and colors. But their reign does not proceed long. To change grasses of tropical forest frequently the bamboo of the special kind, the pot bamboo, comes. Huge stalks of this graminoid rise to height up to 15 meters, at all not giving chances to competing species. Internodes of this bamboo are slightly swelled like any ceramic pots, and their surface is covered with alternating strips of rough and smooth bark. And on leaves of this plant drops of sweetish nutritious liquid are constantly produced. It is not squandering, but the pledge of constancy of original relations with some forest inhabitants.
Above leaves of pot bamboo the flower-sucking loreeto hovers, sparkling wings. The bird perfectly knows that it is possible to find something edible in bamboo thickets. Having found the rather turbid drop laying on elongated tip of leaf, the bird dexterously licks it off and flies to the next leaf. Not only the flower-sucking loreeto regales itself with secretions of leaves of giant grass, sometimes there are also less desirable visitors. Hollowly buzzing the brightly colored bitter leaf beetle flops on leaves of bamboo. Accurately having folded wings with the help of back leg pair, the beetle immediately begins the meal, sinking by mandibles to the edge of leaf. And by this action it draws to itself attention of those creatures with which the bamboo has concluded the silent contract millions years ago. On leaves ants appear – at first one, after it some ones else. The beetle does not pay attention to them, relying on the poisonous protection. But ants are not less poisonous, than the beetle. First ants have run out on leaves, were only working ones. But after them the real monster appears: it is twice higher than any worker. Jaws of this giant are long and bent, and its “face” is colored red. On the back of this ant the worker sits, but it hastily leaves the monster, when the giant had stood at the menacing pose, having turned the head to the leaf beetle. The leaf beetle practically does not pay attention to this threat, and it is vain: the number of ants still increases, and among shoal of working ants already four huge soldiers pace. Having pulled up abdomens, soldiers rise closer to the leaf beetle. Having felt at last the danger, the beetle prepares for defense: from gland on its neck the unpleasantly smelling orange caustic liquid is emitting. But it does not stop aggressive ants: one soldier rushes to the bitter leaf beetle and promptly puts the sting to it. Literally after one second the leaf beetle falls downwards, as if the pebble: it is dead. The soldier ant had put this sting, obviously feels unwell - at the sting it had got the portion of beetle poison. The insect rocks on legs and moves by head strange here and there. But it will recover. “Servant” gets on its back and tickles by antennas the upper lip of the soldier. Deadly jaws are opened widely, the soldier opens the mouth, and “servant” belches to the brave soldier the portion of food. The soldier slowly moves legs, walking to the round aperture in bamboo trunk - to the entrance to the colony shelter.
Ants have transformed trunks of bamboo to multi-storey "skyscraper": in every internode the special compartment of dwelling is situated. In the safest top compartment of the nidus there is the “imperial chamber” where large queen as regular as the mechanism lays eggs which are carefully picked up by workers. From this compartment there is only one exit – to the underlaying internode, through an aperture, carefully bored by working ants. Below the “imperial chamber” there are incubators where larvae grow up, more lower – the “commandant's office” where few soldiers constantly sit, protecting approaches to incubators and the “imperial chamber”. In internodes being below there are “food warehouses” where catch of ants is accumulated. From “food warehouses” apertures bored near lateral branches of bamboo lead outside. The size of such aperture just corresponds the size of head of the large soldier ant. And in the lowermost internodes there are rooms for workers and soldiers.
Working ants constantly scurry on bamboo branches, gathering secretions from its leaves and the insects, decided to regale themselves with leaves and "dew" of the bamboo. But if the rather large enemy representing danger to the colony appears, as on chemical alarm signal from the nidus large soldiers go out immediately attacking the enemy.
Enemies at ants are different: birds, and predatory insects may be them. And the adderleech has fallen down on the branch of bamboo from the near tree, is absolutely not interested in ants, preferring to hunt large snails and small vertebrates. The worm searches for the place where it is possible to arrange an ambush, but here it is not the best place for this purpose. The smell of the leech alarms working ants also causes the occurrence of “group of immediate reaction” - several soldiers. Having opened jaws, soldiers attack and put stings to the leech. But immunity to poisons of the leech is very great - it should not have serious consequences because of ant stings. And still poison of insects irritates the leech: it scratches against the branch, produces plentiful slime and falls downwards, having rolled up into a ball. And working ants continue to provide life of the nidus. They go to glands on bamboo leaves, drink sweet secretions as much as they can and run to the nidus with full craws to share food with neighbours. Other workers come back from detour of branches - they drag the caught insects which will be used as the food of colony.
But if the meeting with the leech is only small unpleasant episode of life of the ant colony, birds represent for them much more danger. Clinging by paws for the bamboo bark, the rotwood bird sounds bored by ants apertures by the bent beak. Such intervention in life of the nidus causes alarm between ants, and on the bark almost at once there appear large-headed soldiers inspiring horror. The rotwood bird is at a great disadvantage: as well as its ancestors - woodpeckers, it can feed only sitting. And it is very convenient for ant attack. However the bird many times collided with inedible insects, and it at once had understood, that it is useless to wait for anything good from bright insects, which are not hidden immediately. Therefore, not tempting fate, the rotwood bird takes wing on the branch of the next tree where it violently starts to preen and to scratch against bark: one working ant nevertheless had crept in its feathering and now is biting the bird.
But failure in hunting at the rotwood bird has become obviously useful for other birds - the flight of masked pipias literally attacks the trunk of bamboo on which the impressive army of ants poured out. Pipias have the special hunting reception effectively neutralizing poisonous soldiers of many ant species. The bird simply catches an ant by the head and slightly crushes it by beak for immobilization of the dangerous insect. Then the successful hunter sits on the nearest tree branch, holding an ant by paw, tears off and throws out its poisonous head, and eats the body. Time behind time pipias attack the colony of bamboo ants, promptly swoop down upon insects and catching almost exclusively large soldiers. And to that moment when ants have preferred reasonable flight to heroic, but useless defense, number of their soldiers had appreciably been depleted.
If the bamboo survives due to the union with ants, other plants should struggle for the place under the sun by different ways. The touch-me-not tree blooms almost the whole year, producing flowers plentifully. However the significant part of them simply will dry and fall down. Only every ninth - tenth flower turns to the fruit given the name to all plant due to features of its structure.
Dry fruits of a touch-me-not tree stick up among leaves. Each fruit consists of five shutters - carpels twirled spirally: all fruit resembles the short drill. Ripen fruits of the tree become straw-colored with brownish nerves.
Rich greenery of the touch-me-not tree is the fine place for an ambush. The singing bird-catcher, despite of rather large size, is easily hidden in branches of this tree. Sharp-sighted eyes of this predator observe for by the school of masked pipias, scurrying in branches of the next tree. Their crimson-red chests serve as the fine reference point for the predator. The concentrated singing bird-catcher something resembles the cat: all muscles are intense, the body is ready to the prompt jump, and the tail pulls here and there for excitement. It seems, that the thoughtless pipias occupied with search of food and an establishment of hierarchy, do not pay attention to world around. And the bird-catcher prepares for solving throw - it cautiously promotes along the branch and slightly opens wings, preparing to lightning rise and attack. And at this moment one of those troubles, which frequently trap any alive creature at such intense moments, is happened. By wing the singing bird-catcher touches the ripen fruit of touch-me-not tree which on the spot bursts dry loud crashing - as if somebody had shaken at once by several rattles. Carpel shutters of the fruit instantly are opened and twist, as if the let off spring, scattering to different sides seeds covered with little hooked fibers.
Having heard a treacherous crash of the exploded fruit, the flight of pipias is instantly rushing out from the branch and scatters in crone of a tree, trying to hide in the thicket of epiphytic plants or simply in rich foliage.
Seeds of the touch-me-not tree are very tenacious, well adapted to zoochory - carrying by means of animals. It is not known, whether the singing bird-catcher knows about it, but it has tested to the full refinement of plant adaptation at itself: almost ten seeds has strongly seized its feathering. Hunting of this predator is hopelessly spoiled, and it had to try to prink feathering of this undesirable cargo. By hooked beak the singing bird-catcher has pulled out some seeds, preventing to straighten the wing, but some seeds has got stuck in feathers on its chest. They do not prevent to fly therefore bird will preen it somehow later - in the other place. Not all seeds will have chance to survive - part of them will be eaten by insects and birds, the part of sprouts will be muffled with competing grasses. But somewhere on the river bank new sprouts of this touch-me-not tree already grow up. After ten - fifteen years they will be rather large trees, and that one from them which will live up to half-century, will uplift proudly the crone above the forest canopy, involving by rose-red flowers new generations of flower-sucking loreetos.
Life in such complex and interconnected communities as damp forests of Sunda, assumes unexpected forms and forces alive creatures to search for new adaptations for continuation of the existence. But every species do not evolve separately of other ones: all organism community changes. Thus any connections between species are torn, and any, on the contrary, become stronger.


Adderleech (Viperobdella arborea)
Order: Proboscisless leeches (Arhynchobdellida)
Family: Gnathobdellidae

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The numerous animals, which in colder and dry areas are typically water inhabitants, live in warm and damp habitats in tropical forest. To such animals worms, and in particular leeches, belong. In Holocene they were widely settled in tropics and fed by blood of large vertebrates. In Neocene leeches have successfully developed a role of small ground predators of tropical forests. Considerably having increased in size, they became the horror of tiny inhabitants of tropics. The adderleech is the predatory worm up to 20 cm long (it can stretch itself up to 0,5 m), living on trees and eating small animals. It has strongly advanced muscles: speed of movements allows this animal to catch flying birds by throw. Thus the back end of its body with the help of strong sucker fixes the leech on the branch, and the forward end with the advanced oral sucker catches prey. The bite is poisonous, in the mouth of the worm there are three strong triangular jaws in which basis poisonous glands have developed. Eyes are well advanced, the animal is capable to distinguish colors and outlines of subjects at the distance up to 2 meters. Coloring of the body is cryptic - the top is gray-brown colored with longitudinal dark strips and lines of knobs simulating the surface of the tree bark. The bottom side of the body is snow-white. The animal traps catch, hiding in branches and flattening itself against the bark. This worm can kill and eat catch weighting twice more than the predator itself, and after such meal endures without harm for itself starvation about one year.
This is the hermaphrodite laying egg clusters (60 - 80 large eggs in each one) in the tree-trunk hollows filled with rain water. The young growth spends the first week of life in water, using the rests of egg yolk, later crawls out on trees and hunts tiny insects. Sexual maturity comes at the age of 3 years, life expectancy is till 15 years.

Bitter leaf beetle (Megaclytra leucomaculata)
Order: Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: Chrysomelidae

Colorization by Ilia

The representative of leaf beetles living in tree crones. It is the rather sizable insect: up to 2 cm long, larva is about 4 cm long. It meets in plenty, prefers congestions of neighbours. It keeps on leaves and stalks of fodder plants non hiding itself. For maintenance of communication with neighbours each beetle emits from special gland on the end of abdomen the special secret involving neighbours. Large number of the present species shows that this beetle species is poisonous. Hemolymph of this insect at all stages of development is rich in cantharid poison giving to the leaf beetle bitter taste. Nevertheless, some tropical birds are able to digest these beetles. The insect has bright warning coloring: the adult beetle is colored brick-red color with white spots which are edged round by black border. Larva is white with cross black strips on which lines of red specks are seen.
The beetle flies well, in searches of food it can make flights up to 30 kms for night, being guided on smell of fodder plants. Organs of smell sense are located on long antennas (they are as long as body of the insect).
This beetle eats leaves and flowers of trees. It lays eggs (50 - 60 ones in egg mass) on the bottom side of leaves, through 9 - 11 days from them are larvae excluse. For life the female makes up to 7 - 8 clutches. The larva develops during 15 - 17 days, pupates in refuges later and in one week turns to imago.

Bamboo ant (Bambusimyrma nigrimandibularis)
Order: Hymenopterans (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ants (Formicidae)

The social species of Hymenoptera, during evolution developed symbiosis with the pot bamboo. Ants have yellow-brown basic coloring of the body. As against the majority of species of ants the present species lives in cavities of stalks of the pot bamboo. The colony consists of queen - the large fertile female, foragers with strong small mandibles and very large soldiers with long mandibles and poisonous sting. All castes considerably differ externally. Queen is very large ant up to 4 cm long from which more than 80 % account for swelled abdomen with hypertrophied ovaries. Reproduction of the colony completely depends on it. Working ants up to 1,5 cm long are the most numerous caste. At workers there are large flat head for carrying of different loads and strong gnawing jaws of black color. In colony working ants carry out various “house affairs”: they gather insects and secretions of leaves of the bamboo, using for food, gnaw apertures in bamboo trunks, expanding dwelling of the colony, look after larvae. Soldiers are less numerous - average there is one soldier to ten workers. At the soldier there is the huge head (about one-third of weight of an ant) with long strong mandibles, forming original “nippers”. The forward part of the head has bright red color, and jaws are black with white tips - it is the warning coloring. Inside jaws channels of the poisonous modified salivary glands pass – it is the adaptation making one sting of the ant dangerous even for vertebrate animals up to 500 grams weight. The basic volume of a head is occupied by poisonous glands and pouches for poison storage. Because of such specialization the soldier ant is not capable to eat independently. In ant colony on its back one “servant” ant constantly sits – it is the ant of caste of workers which cleans and feeds the soldier. From time to time “servants” vary, and during operations they leave the soldier absolutely, coming back to it after fight.

Flower-sucking loreeto (Florilorius florisugus)
Order: Parrots (Psittaciformes)
Family: True parrots (Psittacidae)

Picture by Tim Morris

Initial image by Pavel Volkov

Small species of parrots, the descendant of lory parrots (Trichoglossus). This bird eats nectar from tubular flowers, "hanging" above them, as hummingbirds and sunbirds. Body is short, tail is wedge-shaped and rather short. Wings are long and narrow, flapping very fast (it is the example of convergence with hummingbirds). Beak is long (it is 1,5 times longer than the head of the bird), slightly bent down, by the shape approaches to pollinated bell-shaped flowers of plants of Labiatae family. Tongue is specialized to feed by nectar: on the tongue tip there is a little brush, and on the top side there passes the deep groove transforming tongue to the tube for nectar sucking. Coloring is very bright: body is green with metal shine, wings are dark blue, primary feathers are blue. Head of the bird is reddish violet; beak is rose-red, at the basis it is set off with white strip. An iris of the eye is orange. Legs are prehensile, though also short.
The flower-sucking loreeto nests in tree-trunk hollows. In clutch there are 3 - 4 white eggs, laid right in wood dust at the bottom of the chosen tree-trunk hollow. Both parents hatch by turns within 20 days. Young growth feed with insects; parents gather it in craw and belch in the beak to nestling. When nestlings become fully fledged, their diet begins to include an impurity of nectar and pulp of fruits. The beak of a young bird is short, similar to beaks of the majority of parrots. After the leaving of nest (at the 3-rd month of life) the young bird eats insects and juicy fruits. At this time the change of beak shape happens, and the bird passes to vegetative forages and soon tries to eat nectar. For the first time it nests at the 3-rd year of life, lives up to 12 - 15 years.

Rotwood bird (Rhynhopicus subcaesius)
Order: Woodpeckers (Piciformes)
Family: Woodpeckers (Picidae)

Small woodpecker bird - length of the body is about 15 cm including the tail. It lives on trees and has prehensile toes: two of them are directed forward, two - back (as at woodpeckers). The tail is wedge-shaped, middle pair of feathers differs by hardness - it serves as an additional support when the bird eats, operating by beak. Remarkable feature of appearance of the rotwood bird is the long, slightly bent beak of ivory color (it is longer than the head of this bird); using it, the bird picks off rotten wood and pieces of bark, finding the hidden insects. Tongue is very long - twice longer than the beak, a tip of tongue is corneous. Coloring of the bird is much brighter, than at woodpeckers though bright spots are well disguised. An iris of the eye is blue, around of an eye there is a ring of naked dark skin. The top of body (wings, head and neck) is colored like tree bark: gray-brown with brown strokes, the bottom of body is black. But under wings there are bright shining blue spots, appreciable when the bird lifts wings up or flies up. Back is bright red, well appreciable on the background of greenery of the forest. Bright coloring of the back serves as a signal of danger to neighbours and helps to confuse the predator. As the reserve the rotwood bird has special reception of protection: being rescued from the predator, it flies short distance, loudly clapping wings, and then sharply rushes to the nearest branch and flattens itself against it, having folded wings and having masked bright spots of the body. Such reception allows to confuse the predator, compulsorily switching its attention. Such colouring combined with features of behavior of this bird is named dismobilizating one.
Voice of this bird is the single hoarse cries similar to crow croak.
The rotwood bird is typical hollow dweller. In clutch there are up to 4 white round eggs. The female hatches basically, the male supplies it with food. Later both parents take part in feeding of nestlings. During the year birds make up to 2 hatches. Nestlings leave nest at the age of 45 - 50 days, 2 weeks later parents finish feeding of them. At the age of 1 year young birds nest first time. Life expectancy is till 5 years.

Masked pipia (Pipia rubiventra)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Tomtits and Chikadees (Paridae)

Insectivorous bird of titmouse family, lives in flights with strict hierarchy. It is equal to kinglet (Regulus) by size. Wings are short, tail is short and wide. Beak is straight and strong, it allows to crack shells of insects and to peck their refuges during feeding. Coloring of the top part of the body is cryptic: wings are brown with the wavy grey and black pattern imitating bark cracks. Tail is black, head is ash-grey. The forehead and area around of eyes and a beak are covered with black feathers and shaded with light grey ones. An iris of the eye is bluish-gray with round black pupil. Chest and stomach at males are dark red, at females - pink, at not sexual matured birds of both sexes - brown. At males feathers on each side of chest are longer, than at females. It is used at courtship rithual and demonstration of threat during conflicts: the male opens feathers on chest in the sides, expanding the seen size of bright chest. Thus he makes sharp often movements by the body upwards - downwards. In flight the largest and bright male dominates, lowest birds in hierarchy are not sexual matured birds: the rank of a bird is determined by size and intensity of chest coloring.
The pipia is monogamous bird. It builds nest in tree-trunk hollows and under came off bark. In clutch there are up to 6 - 8 eggs, but to leaving from nest only 4 - 5 nestlings survive. Both parents look after nestlings. Per one year there are about 3 hatches. The young growth of the first year of life has no bright color on chest; at the second year of life after the next moult at them feathers, characteristic for the sex, grow. Life expectancy is about 3 years, separate birds live till 5 years, the significant part of young birds perishes, not living to the second year.
Voice of a bird - two-syllabic singing, the first syllable is short and high-pitched, the second one - drawl with descending tone (the name of bird imitates its sound).

Beetlecracker (Unedulis trachyramphus)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Finches (Fringillidae)

Picture by Tony Johnes

This finch bird is rather sizable - up to 17 - 18 cm including tail. This species specializes in a feed by insects with firm covers of the body - beetles. In this connection at birds of this species beak is very thick, adapted for crushing of shells of insects. The beetlecracker is the unique bird of Sunda forests eating poisonous bitter leaf beetles. According original diet at this bird interesting feature of biochemistry was developed: it accumulates in muscles cantharid poison of the had eaten insects, becoming inedible for predators. This feature has affected shape of the beetlecracker: its coloring is very bright, defiant. Head is bright red, throat is blue with metal shine, beak is ivory-white. The belly of this bird is lemon yellow, back is black with white tips of feathers, because of it the coloring of this bird seems "scaly". Wings and tail are also black with white edges. At females black color of feathering is replaced with brown, and white – with straw-color. Young birds, however, have cryptic coloring as approximately up to one and half year age they are not capable to neutralize and to accumulate the cantharid poison, eating rather non-poisonous insects. Becoming adult, they get such ability and after the moult dress the bright feathering, from apart warning predators about danger.
Behavior of a bird is sufficiently aggressively: in case of danger the beetlecracker is capable to protect itself actively, biting by powerful beak.
The bird builds open nest in thickets of epiphytic plants. In clutch there are up to 3 - 4 motley brown eggs, only the female hatches and feeds nestlings. The male protects against competitors territory on which up to 5 nests of females can be. The song of this bird is the buzzing warble with “stroke” at the end, shout of aggression sounds like bitter "dry" warble.

Singing bird-catcher (Falcolanius nobilis)
Order: Passerine birds (Passeriformes)
Family: Shrikes (Laniidae)

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The predating warbler, the descendant of the butcherbird (Lanius). It is the daw-sized bird (the female is more massive than the male up to 20 %), but seems more larger because of long tail. After the extinction of most part of birds of prey at the end of Holocene in ecosystems birds had played in the nature the “second plan” role earlier have started to occupy their place. Butcherbirds among warblers are such predators. Being small and unspecialized concerning preferred catch, they could come through mass extinction and later as the result of adaptive radiation evolve to set of the specialized predatory species.
The singing bird-catcher is the maneuverable forest hunter, and proportions of its body directly indicate it: wings of this bird are short, but the tail is long - it allows to manoeuvre skillfully among branches and to change quickly the direction of flight, pursuing agile catch. Legs are long, having strong claws. Beak is hooked, high at the basis. The singing bird-catcher kills catch (frogs, small birds, less often large insects like beetles and dragonflies) by impact of beak then dexterously picks up by claws and carries away to the nest.
Coloring of top of the body of the singing bird-catcher is ochre-red with cross brown speckles. Belly is white with black spots, wings and tail are black, but on edges of tail there are white feathers. Through an eye from the corner of bird’s beak the black strip passes. The female is colored less contrast: at her there are yellow stomach and more grey back that makes hatching bird less appreciable on the nest.
The voice of bird includes set of types of various whistles and warbles. The bird is able to simulate voices of some forest birds, using it as the lure in hunting.
Monogamous bird, forms pairs for some seasons of nesting, and frequently for all life. Pair of birds supervises the territory of the forest in which center the nest is located. Birds spend a lot of time, strengthening mutual relations. This behavior includes joint eating of catch, accompanying with mutual feeding, grooming of feathers of the partner, singing by duet in out-of-nesting time. In clutch there are 2 eggs, both partners hatch it. Change of birds at the nest is accompanied by the special ritual. Both parents feed nestlings. Nestlings leave from the nest at the age of 3 months, become independent at 5 months. Life expectancy is till 10 years.


Touch-me-not tree (Ceratanthodendron impatiens)
Order: Ericales
Family: Balsaminaceae

The tree-like representative of balsam family, the tree up to 40 meters high. Leaves of this tree are large, alternate, sleek, gathered by bunches on the ends of branches. On edges of leaves there are glands secreting sweetish liquid. Flowers are large, red - pink. Lateral and top petals are large, the bottom petal extends to voluminous horn-shaped spur with nectar glands in depth. The form of spur corresponds to the form of beak of the flower-sucking loreeto, the plant has evolved in symbiosis with this bird, using this parrot species for pollination.
Fruits of this plant are the exploding pod “blowing up” at an easy touch. Seeds are covered with set of hairs and tiny hooks, that allows them to cling to wool or feathering and to be carried by live creatures at the big distances.
Wood of the plant is fragile, friable, rich in tubes. A touch-me-not tree is the typical representative of pioneer trees of tropical forests: this plant is very photophilous, growing at areas of the damaged forest stand (for example, at the river bank or at the place of fallen old tree), grows quickly, but lives rather not for long - no more than 100 - 120 years, being gradually muffled by sprouts of other species of trees growing up in its shadow.

Pot bamboo (Pustulobambusa formiphila)
Order: Poales
Family: Gramineae

Huge graminoid up to 15 meters high, living in "windows" of forest canopy. Due to active growth it is capable to suppress sprouts of trees and to form “islets” among trees. This giant grass differs by originality of growth: nodal meristem forms “beams” to internodes, and due to this feature internode is capable to increase the thickness. Thus the stalk gets bead-shaped form with interceptions in nodes. At “secondary growth” of internode in thickness their surface becomes longitudinal-striped as the bark bursts in places of penetration of formative tissues in internodes. Primal bark of sprout is shining, light yellow colored, secondary bark, formed at the thickening of sprouts, is brown and rough. Due to this sprouts have original longitudinal striped coloring. Stalks grow from thick creeping underground rhizome at a speed of 1 meter per day.
Leaves are simple, linear, located on the pulled together nodes of second order sprouts growing from vertical stalks. Leaves are light green, covered with the thin wax film giving to the surface glaucescent shade.
Flowering occurs extremely seldom, but, as at all bamboo species, simultaneously almost at all area. Flowers are ordinary-looking, pollinating by wind, gathered to spikes, forming thin cluster. Fruits are formed only from 4 - 5 flowers of the cluster; the fruit represents large nut-like caryopsis covered by strong shell. Seeds are carrying by birds.
Symbiosis of the present species of bamboo with ants is original. Insects bore apertures in nodes of stalk and gnaw through apertures in internodes, transforming whole stalk of this plant to original multi-stored “ant town”. For attraction of ants the plant has special glands on tips of leaves, producing sugary syrup. Visiting leaves in searches of this syrup, ants protect plant against leaf-eating insects.


Main page of the project