Evolutionary Biologist and Nature Photographer

The green harvestman!

This species appears to be well camouflaged in its natural habitat – high elevation tropical wet forest with an abundance of mosses and ferns at Las Brisas Nature Reserve, Límon province, Costa Rica.  Luckily I snapped some photos of this species before preserving a few individuals in ethanol to examine later in the lab because, unfortunately, the gorgeous color faded quickly!  Upon closer inspection our research team discovered that the harvestman does not produce the green pigment, but rather, the pigment is produced by epizoic cyanobacteria that lives on the dorsal scute of the harvestman.  This is an extraordinary example of the evolution of symbiosis.  Although it is unclear whether this relationship is mutualistic (one would have to determine whether the cyanobacteria is actually benefiting), the green coloration does appear to provide camouflage for this harvestman within the very lush, green habitat in which it was observed.

Prionostemma sp. "verde" - The green harvestman

Prionostemma sp. “verde” – The green harvestman

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One response

  1. Stunning shot. It looks like a piece of jewelry!

    March 4, 2013 at 6:40 pm

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