We saved a turtle and found a few spiders!

On our way back from cow country (the Azuero Peninsula) we had a few surprises along the road. First was what had to be the fastest turtle I’ve ever seen making his way across the road, and he’s lucky we saw him because most people probably wouldn’t stop. I know this because we saw a large lizard called a “borriguero” crushed on the asphalt a few kilometers later. No matter how fast this turtle might’ve been, borrigueros are way faster, and if the lizard got hit, so would the turtle.

After I moved our shelled friend off the road and recorded a video, we drove along a bit and found a slow-moving stream where he should be happy. I keep saying “he” because his bottom shell (the plastron) was concave like it is in other male turtles. As for the species, I suspect that he was some of Central American mud turtle, although I’ll have to check my reptile field guide to be exactly sure which kind. The stream we found looked like the perfect habitat for him!

Borrigueros look a lot nicer when they aren't squished! Image credit: Hans Hellewaert
Borrigueros look a lot nicer when they aren’t squished! Image credit: Hans Hellewaert

The squished lizard also turned out to be a huge help to me today, because when I stopped to look at it (thinking it was an iguana), I realized that there were some Vachellia collinsii plants nearby. The path to reach them certainly wasn’t perfect, since a stand of grass as tall as me blocked the way and I didn’t have a machete to cut my way through. Those who know me could say that I am generally not afraid of snakes, and even have several snake pets, however in Central and South America there is a highly aggressive species called the equis, named after the letter “x” in Spanish, that will bite if somebody steps too close. It’s called a “lancehead” in English, as in the tip of a spear. Since I was pretty much walking through the grass with no easy way to see what was around my feet, getting bitten was a distinct possibility. At least I wasn’t on “Snake Island,” off the coast of Brazil, where there are lanceheads everywhere.

To make matters worse, I was also wearing flip-flops (my shoes were in the trunk), which mean I wouldn’t have had any protection if I stepped on a scorpion. There didn’t seem to be any in the area, thankfully.

Flip flops may be comfortable, but thay aren't good for foot protection.
Flip flops may be comfortable, but thay aren’t good for foot protection.
Nice to look at, but not fun to step on them!
Nice to look at, but not fun to step on them!

No bites or scorpion stings, but I did get stung by plenty of Pseudomyrmex ants. The stings appear to have been worth it, because I found two more of the same type of jumping spider that have been showing up on these plants. That now makes five spiders on the same plant where Bagheera kiplingi lives farther north, which really makes me wonder if I’ve found another special type of spider. Tomorrow I’m going to head out to another region of Panama and see what I find out there. This study is definitely turning up some surprises so far!

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