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Scientists Stumped! Strange Discovery in Peru

Grad Student Discovers Unexplained Structure Resembling “The Unicorn in Captivity” At Tambopata Research Center in Peruvian Rainforest

Unicorn on Tarp Capture

Peru’s visionary leader in sustainable tourism, Rainforest Expeditions http://www.perunature.com/, reports that deep in the Peruvian rainforest near its Tambopata Research Center an as-yet-unnamed insect or fungus has been discovered that weaves an intricate funnel-shaped cocoon surrounded by approximately 30 “posts” that are positioned vertically, connected by woven “mesh,” and evenly spaced to form a “fence” measuring some 2 centimeters around the cocoon. It’s the next strange discovery in Peru.

Thus far entomologists are stumped as to what it is.

Troy Alexander, a graduate student visiting the center in early June was the first to discover the structure this past summer, first on the underside of a tarp and then on tree trunks.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Phil Torres, a conservation biologist with Rice University.

Suggestions range from the structure being a spider egg sac to an incomplete cocoon. Other suggestions are funnier.  “I have seen people say that it’s been built by a spider from Mars, that it’s a navigational aid built by mosquitos for navigating the dense jungles, to alien communication arrays built by local arachnids under the influence of alien mind control.” Jeff Cremer, spokesperson for Rainforest Expeditions.  “Some people say that it looks like the insect (or fungal) variation on the theme of the Late Middle Ages tapestry, The Unicorn in Captivity,”

Tory Alexander’s favorite theory, described on Facebook, is that “there are spider eggs in the base of the pole, and the spiderlings climb the pole and sail away on silken parachutes, protected by the fence the whole time.”

 

This region is no stranger to new species. In early 2012 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported on 365 previously undocumented species found in Bahuaja Sonene National Park in the Tambopata River region of southeastern Peru. More recently in September 2012 a new spider species that created “false” decoy spiders as protection was found at the center.

Rainforest Expeditions offers the following programs where guests may come across this “unicorn” or other rare species while exploring jungle trails:

Tambopata Research Center Tour, four, five and six-day programs from $684 per person double for the four-day program. See:http://www.perunature.com/tours-of-the-amazon.html

Rainforest Wildlife Photography Tour, five day package from $1,900 per person double. See: http://www.perunature.com/rainforest-nature-photography-tour.html

Ranforest Expedition lodges are accessed from Puerto Maldonado airport arriving from Lima or Cusco on daily commercial flights lasting 45 or 90 minutes respectively. A bus transports guests to the Infierno River Port to board motorized wooden canoes for a 45-minute trip to the first lodge, Posada Amazonas. Refugio Amazonas, the second lodge, is a 3.5-hour boat trip after departing the bus. The third and most remote is Tambopata Research Center, requiring a 4-hour additional upriver boat ride from Refugio Amazonas.  Each lodge is only a few minutes on foot from the river bank.  See: http://www.perunature.com/tambopata-jungle-lodges-puerto-maldonado.html

Outside Magazine in its current October 2013 issue featured Rainforest Expedition’s Tambopata Research Center as one of its recommended destinations to “Live Life Bravely.”

About Rainforest Expeditions
Rainforest Expeditions (http://www.perunature.com/) is a recipient of The Rainforest Alliance 2012 Sustainable Standard-Setter award. This Peruvian ecotourism company shares with visitors in a sustainable manner the miracles of the Tambopata-Candamo Reserved Zone, 1.5 million hectares of pristine, still wild, tropical rainforest encompassing an area of land the size of Connecticut and stretching from the Andean highlands to the Amazon lowlands. It includes the Tambopata National Reserve, a 275,000-hectare conservation unit created by the Peruvian government in 1990 to protect the watersheds of the Tambopata and Candamo rivers. Conservation and ecotourism is helping to protect some of the last untouched lowland and premontane tropical humid forests in the Amazon.

Since 1989, guests of first one and now three Rainforest Expedition eco-lodges have added value to the region’s standing tropical rainforest. A sensitively conceived and managed (in some cases by native communities) touristic infrastructure creates a competitive alternative to such unsustainable economic uses as clear cutting the forest for timber or for cattle grazing. The partnerships Rainforest Expeditions has forged with local people eager to share Amazonian traditions with guests provide connection, expertise, adventure and access to wildlife in the jungles of Tambopata. Rainforest Expeditions has been verified and certified “a sustainable tourism business” by the Rainforest Alliance http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/.