Here we will be adding content over the next few months for schools
In the meantime:
Rowan Wood visited the beaches and rain forest of Trinidad, Matelot and Grande Riviere in 2010 with Duchess’s High School and in 2013 on the Hidden Pathways expedition.
Here she tells us of her “deadly 6”,- some of the inhabitants she came across.
The Trinidad mountain crab
Latin name - Pseudothelphusa garmani
Rowan says: On the way up to Grenado’s hut at the top of a hill, hiding under a boulder, looking suspiciously like a spider was this baffling creature.A crab…..in the rainforest…..on a hill? It was only after we had seen more of these extraordinary animals on the jungle walk that we were told just what they were. MOUNTAIN CRABS! Not crabs that had wandered away from the sea but ones which were actually living in the mountains.Possibly one of the weirdest creatures I have seen.
Fact: One of the few completely air-breathing crustaceans with highly structural complex and efficient lungs.
Habitat: They live at heights of 50- 800 m elevation in the montane rain forests.Found in natural or self-created burrows under rocks and forage at night.
Local name:Manicou Crab
Deadly information:The crabs are voracious predators in both the aquatic and terrestrial environments, feeding on prawns, fish, snakes, geckos, insects and each other!
Pink Toed Tarantula
Latin name - Aviculara avicularia
Rowan says:Hmmm. Spider.Not my favourite animal by a long stretch and yet one of the best memories of the trip. Turns out ‘cool-dude Stu’ is also not a fan, turning in to a shaking mess when trying to throw it away. Out of the many spiders we saw, it is definitely high up the looks section with its pink toes and black body. Luckily for us, he didn’t feel too threatened to start shooting poo at us.
Fact: Typically ranging in size from 11 – 15 cms, these were the first catalogued tarantulas in 1758.
Habitat: A tree dweller, very agile and active that comes from fairly low habitats, for example low plants, buildings, under leaves, behind small blocks.
Deadly information:A sit and wait predator, but an aggressive feeder consuming large insects, as well as small animals such as reptiles and rodents and sometimes even tree frogs.They only bite when provoked. Prior to biting, they exhibit warning postures and use urticating hairs along their abdomens which irritate the skin to deter attackers.
Generally fairly docile though can be skittish at times and will run. They are also known to shoot faeces (poo) if threatened and have excellent aim - they can hit a target up to 45 cms away!
Golden Orb Spider
Latin name - Nephila clavipes
Rowan says:Out of all of these deadly 6, this is my least favourite.We saw quite a few of these beasties and yet they didn’t get any nicer. With its horribly spindly legs and shiny abdomen it looks like something from Alien. When it is sitting in the middle of its web at eye level, it can look very intimidating, even if it’s not lethal to humans.Definitely not looking forward to seeing the Golden Orb Spider again.
Fact: Golden orb-weavers reach sizes of 4.8 - 5.1 cm The name of the golden silk orb-weavers refers to the colour of the spider silk, not the colour of the spider itself. Their webs are complex, with a fine-meshed orb suspended in a maze of non-sticky barrier webs
Habitat: Throughout the jungle their webs may be woven anywhere from eye-level upwards high into the tree canopy.
Local name:Banana spider
The silk of an Orb spider’s web is almost as strong as Kevlar.
Its venom has a neurotoxic effect similar to that of the black widow spider, though not nearly as powerful.It is not lethal to humans. The bite causes local pain, redness, and blisters that normally disappear within a 24-hour interval. In rare cases, it might trigger allergic reactions
Fer de Lance or Lance Head snake
Latin name – Bothrops Asper.
Rowan says: When seeing this snake, a flurry of movement broke out. The guide in the centre of the group, just in front of me, stopped walking and in a few short strokes, was chopping the head off a snake only a couple feet away from me. What was scary was that half of our group had walked within a couple feet of this deadly animal without seeing it. I could only get a quick look at the snake before it was thrown away into the bushes, as is custom with the locals, but I managed to see beautiful patterning and amazing camouflage. It’s no wonder that these are in my deadly 6.
Fact: Pit viper with distinctive flat lance shaped head found at all altitudes in Trinidad and widespread throughout South America.Grows up to 1.5 m long
Habitat: in forests and savannah likes muddy stream banks, forested stream banks, rock gullies.Does encroach on human habitats on occasions causing problems
Local name:Cascabelle or Mapapero.In some areas Valsain - French for “dancing” a defensive display.
Deadly information:A dangerous snake which kills and maims more people in South American than any other snake.Feeds on small mammals, birds, lizards and frogs.If disturbed it will react violently striking again and again at its enemy with open jaws. The Fer de Lance has been known to jump off the ground and forward up to a metre. Trinidad woodsman folklore says the Fer de lance gives birth to its young crawling forward in a line then retraces its steps eating all of the young ones!
Latin name - Ficus
Rowan says:This may seem a strange addition to my deadly 6 but to trees, it is lethal. While walking through the rainforest, they only appear as vines dripping down from the canopy but these aerial roots are feeding a killer. The host tree is taken over and strangled by the Fig, until it dies and rots away. However, when the tree has gone and it is just the Strangler Fig standing, it looks very impressive, roots reaching up meters into the canopy to the plant, far above.
Fact: A murderous tree which causes other a slow death.
Habitat: Primary rainforest
Local name:Matapalo – Tree killer
Deadly information: The fig tree lures birds and bats through its delicious fruit.The seeds are then scattered through-out the rain forest and should they be deposited in the crotch of a tree branch full of organic nutrients and water they will germinate.Then the takeover of the host begins.Aerial roots are sent straight down to the forest floor and if they come across more nutrients on the way down send feelers into the area before continuing.On the ground they create an extensive network of roots which then supply the plant up above with a motorway of nutrients.The sun thirsty leaves up above now have an advantage and grow higher dropping more aerial roots.When these meet they graft together around the host tree. This kills off the tree and the inner trunk rots away to leave just the strangler fig standing proud.
Latin name - Dermochelys coriacea
Rowan says: One of my favourite animals. It is just beautiful. A huge, beast of a creature with immense strength. While laying its eggs however, (which I had the privilege of witnessing), there is a huge contrast. They enter a trance-like state and are docile enough for you to touch them. Amazing! Its mouth is incredible with its interlocking lips like a beak and when they leave the water they cry, washing the salt out of their eyes.These mammoth creatures are amazing and are such an experience to see.
Fact: Has survived for more than a hundred million years and is the largest marine turtle and one of the largest living reptiles.It can reach up to 180 cm, and 640 kg in weight.
Local name:Leather back, Leatherneck, Caldon
Deadly information: As a major predator of the blue, barrel, moon, compass, mauve stinger and lion's mane jellyfish, leatherback turtle provides natural ecological control of jellyfish populations. Its sharp pointed lip snags the jellyfish, while nightmarish, backwards-pointing spines in its mouth and throat prevent the victim from escaping. The leatherback’s attacks never fail and the turtles can eat around 73 per cent of their own body weight every day, packing in around 16,000 calories.