Costa Rica

Costa Rica

By Peter Petersen



The rainforest stream only a few hundred meters from the Arenal waterfall at La fortuna.

In this shady pool some interesting fish were hiding.

Brycon costaricensis in its natural habitat near the volcano Arenal waterfall.


Some were climbing the small waterfalls even down stream.

Following them was quite difficult.


The water was very clear in some parts of the river. The gravel and rocks contained lots of porous lava stones which were filtering the water from particles drifting down stream making the water almost invisible.

Water temperature here is around 22° C.


Even though the scenery is almost perfect for snorkling the quantities of fish are not impressive compared to other rivers of Costa Rica.

Bottom mostly consisting of rocks with a few branches and roots hanging down.

Sometimes with a mudbank entering the water.

Further upstream the largest waterfall of Arenal.

Water running down the roots from the rainforest above.

The water here is surprisingly clear taken the circulation of water in to consideration. 

Snorkling here is amazing. But make sure to arrive in the morning. Later it will be crowded.

The water from the waterfall is spraying so intens that its almost impossible to keep you eyes open above water.


The humidity from the evaporated water makes perfect conditions for the moss. 


The water from the waterfall have moved the larger rocks aside.

Leaving small gravel closer to the waterfall.

In between the gravel, roots and branches are more mixed.

Not many animals inhabit these waters. But this crab of the family Pseudothelphusidae was one of them.

Defending its territory even against large Danish explores.

Walking along road Calle 506 we discovered a small clearwater stream.

This stream near Arenal volcano is called Quebrada Cristalina.

 From the road (calle 506) you can see the fish through the crystal clear water of this shallow little stream.


At first I noticed this cichlid from the bridge. I did not recognize the two banded markings in between the eyes. I had only previously seen this species in books. 

Entering the water I found this Cribroheros alfari male.


More Cribroheros alfari were hiding under the rocks.


For a very small pool in this clearwater stream I counted a lot of Cribroheros alfari. Most were males swimming in small groups. Often more than one was dominant in coloration.

The subjugated Cribroheros alfari males were less colorful imitating females.

When females approached the group of males. The dominant male would chase away the subjugated Cribroheros alfari males.

Distinct pairs were now made and the coloration of both Cribroheros alfari intensified.

Especially the two black bars between the eyes got darker in both male and female Cribroheros alfari.

Female Cribroheros alfari with juveniles seem to stay closer to the juveniles than the male. Both parents taking care of their young though. 


Male Cribroheros alfari are more or less in the background all the time, protecting the outer territory.

Some subjugated Cribroheros alfari males I observed were patrolling the pool on their own.

In this pool I also found a species high on my wish list. I had never seen this species live before. Under these leaves Quebrada Cristalina were hiding a rarely seen species.

The Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda is a common species in the clear water rivers of Costa Rica.

But Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda are rarely seen in the open waters only when fish enthusiasts disturb their daily sleep like this.

A happy fish enthusiast after catching one of the goals of the trip a young Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda.

This Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda I found in Quebrada Cristalina was feeding on Cribroheros alfari fry, Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens fry and some unidentified insect larvae.

The dark dorsal fin of the Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda seem to fade away with age. The larger specimens were more pale.

In the same pool I found this very controversial species of the subfamily Poeciliinae. At this point I will call it Costa Rica Molly Poecilia sp. aff. gillii. Males have yellow caudal and dorsal fin. A black blotch and the base of the caudal fin. He also has small black markings and spots in the dorsal fin. Close up the scales have red spots.

The female has a black spot at the base of the dorsal fin extending into the dorsal fin. Female Costa Rica Molly Poecilia sp. aff. gillii are also more pale than the male. Here they are feeding on diatoms and detritus on the bottom.


A male and a female Costa Rica Molly Poecilia sp. aff. gillii starting mating behavior. I noticed that the female loses her black blotch in the dorsal during mating.

Another livebearing species I found in this pool was Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens. This species was feeding near the surface. Mainly on unidentified insect larvae.


This grown male Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens I caught in the shallow waters of this pool.


The Arenal volcano is not far away

Areas around the volcano are cultivated but still contains a lot of wildlife and forest.

We stayed at Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge & Wildlife Refuge. A great place with a little wildlife in the backyard. A night walk in the forest revealed many interesting species like this iconic Red-eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas.

The Red-eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas are not always easy to photograph. My friend wildlife photographer Dan Olsen ended up with a specimen on his shoulder.


The Red-eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas have an excellent grip. Their webbed feet sticks even to glass.

The Red-eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas also like the softbox. Their big red eye are for scaring away predators. They are incredible fascinating animals

The colors of the Red-eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas are amazing. You can not help falling a little bit in love with these magnificent amphibians.

The Red-eyed tree frogs Agalychnis callidryas are excellent jumpers.


This Red-eyed tree frog Agalychnis callidryas is going into camouflage mode. Tucking its colorful feet in under its body making only the green color visible when the eyes close. All day it remains like this.

This Yellow-spotted Night Lizard Lepidophyma flavimaculatum climbing a wall was less camouflaged.


These eusocial wasps Polybia bistriata were hiding below a leaf.


The smoky jungle frog Leptodactylus savagei (Formerly known as Leptodactylus pentadactylus) were also very common here. We found this species in many areas around Costa Rica.

At night butterflies like this Julia butterfly Dryas iulia are resting below the leaves in case of rain.


Of course some predators are lurking at night too. Like this Costa Rica wandering spider Cupiennius coccineus. 


When taking a closer look at spiders like the Costa Rica wandering spider Cupiennius coccineus, I can not help being impressed by their anatomy. So simple creatures yet so complex and diverse.


Even though Costa Rica is a very small country, the diversity here is amazing. New species still appear. Like this undescribed moth Autochton sp.


During the day other animals were active like this Grey-headed chachalaca Ortalis cinereiceps.


Star of Bethlehem Hippobroma longiflora are common here. A plant which contain lobeline and nicotine. This toxic plant can cause vomiting, muscle paralysis, and trembling. The sap is irritant and can cause blindness.

The Frequent Damselfly Argia frequentula is the perfect name for this species at least so far it is quite frequent.


This Rubyspot Damselfly Hetaerina occisa, I only found in the area around Arenal volcano.

At the Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge & Wildlife Refuge Eco lodge the put out fruit to attract wildlife like this Blue-grey Tanager Thraupis episcopus.

This also attracts mammals like this Variegated squirrel Sciurus variegatoides.


On the other side of the volcano the Lago Arenal hides in the clouds.

Ringed kingfisher Megaceryle torquata waiting for a proper meal in Lago Arenal.


 The view of Laguna de Arenal from the Cafe & Macadamia near Guadalajara, Guanacaste Province. A very nice place to enjoy lunch or dinner.

This is a female Great-tailed Grackle Quiscalus mexicanus I spotted near Lago Arenal.

The Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus is common in this area. This was one out of many passing by while we had lunch.

A rainbow forming behind the hills.

Nice rainbow scenery.


Boca Tapada

We stayed at La Laguna del Lagarto Lodge in Boca Tapada. Here we encountered one of my favorite birds the Montezuma Oropendola Psarocolius montezuma. This species make a distinct rainforest sound

The lodge area is sorrounded by a small lagune and dense rainforest.

Here we found a small group of the endangered Geoffroy's spider monkey Ateles geoffroyi. These monkeys threw fruits and sticks at us.

At one point I had to grap the wine it was climbing on and swing it around to avoid getting hit with more things. This was how the Geoffroy's spider monkey Ateles geoffroyi ended up hanging.


Another mammal found here is the more common White-nosed coati Nasua narica. This species has adapted well to deforestation. It is often eating human waste in and near cities as well as in the rainforest. 


The Green and black poison dart frog Dendrobates auratus are also found here. The poison from this frog is absorbed by your skin and can make your heart stop. Fortunately it only releases its poison if it feels threatened.


I observed The Green and black poison dart frog Dendrobates auratus eating ants, mites and small flies. They seem more terrestrial than I thought.


In Green and black poison dart frog Dendrobates auratus there are a lot of variation in color pattern both between adults and from juvenile to adults. The is a juvenile specimen below.

The Great Morinda Morinda citrifolia with Noni fruit is a member of the coffee family Rubiaceae. It is not native to Costa Rica but it occurs wild in rainforest here. Probably been introduced many years ago

One of the birds I observed eating the noni fruit was the Brown-hooded Parrot Pyrilia haematotis.

This mysterious creature is the Smooth Helmeted Iguana Corytophanes cristatus.


The Mantis Liturgusa fossetti are also found in trees in this area. They are imitating bark. A small lizard is photobombing the picture.

The Central American Agouti Dasyprocta punctata is a very shy animal. This is the best photo I could get even though we came across lots of them.


The Strawberry poison-dart frog Oophaga pumilio. The poison is called Pumiliotoxin 251D. The predators praying on these experience convulsions, paralysis, and death.


The Strawberry poison-dart frog Oophaga pumilio is very common all over Costa Rica. You can not step anywhere without.....

This is the Rainforest Hognosed Pitviper Porthidium nasutum. It is venomous snake so dont step on it!

Another common terristrial reptile is this beautiful Middle American Ameiva Holcosus festivus.


The Middle American Ameiva Holcosus festivus is not a shy species. You can get very close without them fleeing.

The Blue Mud Wasp Chalybion californicum is normally native to North America from Canada to Mexico. But they are present in Costa Rica as well apparently.

The male Passerini's tanager Ramphocelus passerinii is a colorful bird. They are present all over Costa Rica.


Another thing Costa Rica is known for is Pineapple. The genus contains 7 species. this one is Ananas ananassoides.

The Humble Anole Anolis humilis are present here in great numbers.


They change color rapidly. The Humble Anole Anolis humilis are perfect at camouflage.


Other species are present here too. This is a young Bark Anole Anolis datzorum.

The Smoky Rubyspot Damselfly Hetaerina titia is also common here.


Another type is this Forest Giant Damselfly Megaloprepus caerulatus. The largest of its kind. With a wingspan of up to 19 cm. This was the only one I found on this trip.


Sipurio Snouted Treefrog Scinax elaeochroa seemed to prefer crickets and ants.


Eyelash Palm Pitviper Bothriechis schlegelii is the most common of its kind. It is venomous snake so beware! The flower is Heliconia wagneriana.

The coconut tree Cocos nucifera. The coconut is actually not a nut. It is a drupe also called stone fruit.

The Great Green Macaw Ara ambiguus is an endangered species. I were lucky enough to see this pair passing by.


A orange-barred sulphur butterfly Phoebis philea drinking from a swamp.

Most waterlilies in Costa Rica are introduced like this Blue Lotus Nymphaea nouchali.


The Blue Lotus Nymphaea nouchali is the most frequent encountered species.

Another introduced species of waterlily is the Blue Egyptian Lotus Nymphaea caerulea. Which can be found in many colors despite the name. Like this purple one.

Blue Egyptian Lotus Nymphaea caerulea.

This species is native. This is the Spectacled caiman Caiman crocodilus it is the most common of its kind in Cost Rica.


Another common reptile here is the herbivorous Green iguana Iguana iguana.

The Costa Rican Giant Toad Rhinella horribilis is a common toad here.

The Black-cheeked woodpecker Melanerpes pucherani finds a hole between 6-30 meters up in a dead tree and lay 2-4 eggs which both parents take care of.

Sunset in Boca Tapada.

At night freshwater fish like these Costa Rica Mollies Poecilia sp. aff. gillii are easy to spot hanging near the surface.


Above water these two juvenile pair of Costa Rica Mollies Poecilia sp. aff. gillii looks like this.


Life will find a way. This Bromelia have attached it self to a voltage cable. 


A Turkey vulture Cathartes aura cruising the area for carrion.

The river is low during dry season. This is the San Juan River (Rio San Juan) A large part of this river works as a border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

San Juan River (Rio San Juan) at sunset.

Rio Boca Cureñon

This is probably a Cascade river prawn Macrobrachium heterochirus a male. I caught it in Boca Cureñon, Heredia, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

The one is a young female caught the same place probably also Cascade river prawn Macrobrachium heterochirus.


The Waterthyme Hydrilla verticillata is an invasive plant. Native to South East asia and Australia.

Close up the leaves of the Waterthyme Hydrilla verticillata have serrations or small spines.

Waterthyme Hydrilla verticillata is a hardy plant. Even with leaves covered in particle from the river they still grow.

On the muddy bottom I found juveniles of the Bigmouth sleeper Gobiomorus dormitor a perch-like predator of this region.

Bigmouth sleeper Gobiomorus dormitor are well camouflaged on the bottom only their movements revealed them.


Lots of small fish were hiding under the driftwood in the small river Boca Cureñon.

 Like this young Honduran Red Point Cichlid Amatitlania siquia. This species is named for its type locality in Rio Siquia.

Wild Honduran Red Point Cichlid Amatitlania siquia juveniles like these are pale compared to the aquarium strain.

This is an older specimen of Honduran Red Point Cichlid Amatitlania siquia a male.

The water level was low and lots of driftwood was stuck on the small mudbanks of Boca Cureñon.

The shallow water made it easy to catch fish like this Guapote Cichlid Parachromis dovii.

This younger specimen of Guapote Cichlid Parachromis dovii were caught in about 5 cm of water


Brycons were patrolling the river. We did not catch any but I quess this must have been the Costa Rican Brycon Brycon costaricensis as Boca Cureñon is very close to its type locality.

A male Costa Rican Molly Poecilia sp. aff. gillii from same location. This species is common all over north and central Costa Rica.

We also caught this juvenile Midas Cichlid Amphilophus citrinellus.

This is the Groove-billed ani Crotophaga sulcirostris belonging to the Cuckoo family Cuculidae


Rincón de la Vieja

We stayed at a very cozy place in this region. The area were completely without tourists. The place were difficult to find but worth the effort. The area around the guesthouse were amazing and the cabins were very nice.

The place was Santa Maria Volcano Lodge, Alajuela Province, Colonia Blanca. It was cheap, good food and very nice service. Very nice people. I Miss that place. Highly recommended. The nature in this area i amazing.


In the pool under this waterfall I found a special habitat with only one species in it. Sadly I did not know that this was going to be the only time I came across this species in Costa Rica.

I accidently filmed this species without knowing it and it was not until I got home and went through the videos that I noticed these Cascajal toothcarp Brachyrhaphis cascajalensis.

A glimpse of a beautiful young Ctenosaura similis hiding in the dense undergrowth.


Red ginger Alpinia purpurata is an introduced plant from Malaysia which occur in some areas around settlements in Costa Rica.


 Peruvian shield mantis Choeradodis rhombicollis is despite the name native to this area.

We found this specimen right outside the restaurant. Peruvian shield mantis Choeradodis rhombicollis have a distinct body shape and is well camouflaged if it chooses the right leaves to hide amounst.

Eusocial wasps Polybia bistriata are common and I noticed that they usually build their nest directly on the leaves of wide leaved plants.

These leafcutter ants belong to the species Atta cephalotes. This species have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus which they grow in their nest. They have 1 queen and up to 5 million members. The queen can live up to 15 years.

The white-headed capuchin Cebus capucinus from Costa Rica is doing well. It is a common species and it seems there is a healthy population in this area. They are still shy and not easy to get close to.

The white-headed capuchin Cebus capucinus are social animals and this group was consisting of around 15 individuals.


This group of white-headed capuchin Cebus capucinus were always on alert. Some were keeping an eye on us and some were looking out for predators from above. Seemed like a cooperation.

The white-headed capuchin Cebus capucinus belong to the family Cebidae which consist of capuchins and squirrel monkeys.

The Central American Agouti Dasyprocta punctata is also very common in this area.


Golden jelly fungus Tremella mesenterica are an edible fungus that produces some carbohydrates which are beneficial because of their biological activities. Interesting research are being done on these at the moment.


I found this whiptail lizard to be quite common here. This is the Rainbow Ameiva Holcosus undulatus. Cockroaches seemed to be their preferred diet.

The Pochote tree Pachira quinata is in the Mallow family Malvaceae. It is considered a sacred native tree. Local people make sculptures out of the spines. It is also an important source of lumber to the Costa Rican people.


The white-throated magpie-jay Calocitta formosa is a native gregarious bird which can grow up to 56 cm in length. It is very curious and easy to photograph.


The white-throated magpie-jay Calocitta formosa is an omnivorous bird, not picky when it comes to choosing food items.


The Costa Rican Giant Toad Rhinella horribilis is poisonous even their tadpoles are highly toxic, parotoid glands behind the eyes and other glands across their back secretes bufotoxin, enough to kill a human if ingested.

The Costa Rican Giant Toad Rhinella horribilis is a common amphibian all over the north and central parts of Costa Rica.

A hot spring from the volcanic activities meets a cold rainwater spring. The smell of rotten eggs suggests high amounts of Hydrogen sulphide (H²S) in the area. It is very poisonous, corrosive, and flammable.


We found lots of dead animals here. Probably lured in by the clear water for a drink and then poisoned. Here a toucan and a snake lies side by side close to the water, which suggests high amounts of Hydrogen sulphide (H²S).


This keel-billed toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus and what looks like a Puffing snake Phrynonax poecilonotus did not come far after ingesting the toxic Hydrogen sulphide (H²S).

Scallion grass Eleocharis mutata was growing in the affluents rainwater stream next to hot spring. This flowering plant is in the Sedge family Cyperaceae.


Scallion grass Eleocharis mutata is a decorative plant and a nice hideaway for the many fish in the river.

Unknown plant in the family Nymphaeaceae.

Above in the tree a giant wasp nest.

Also some Keel-billed toucans Ramphastos sulfuratus were curious to see the Danish explores.

The Keel-billed toucans Ramphastos sulfuratus really are beautiful birds. So many colors and they seem to be intelligent birds as well.

The Keel-billed toucans Ramphastos sulfuratus have zygodactyl feet, feet with toes facing in different directions. This makes it easier stay to stay on the branches of the trees and jump from one branch to another.


Another member of the Toucan family Ramphastidae is this Collared aracari Pteroglossus torquatus. They were often in the same trees, so there must be some kind of inter species socialization among these 2 species.

I noticed that the Collared aracari Pteroglossus torquatus often were in the lower branches. Perhaps there is some kind of hierarchy between these two species.

The volcanic activity eye catching. In many areas around the Rincón de la Vieja Volcano the grey mud were boiling.

 Streaming hot mud bubbles rises to the surface of the mud pools.

Pool of boiling hot water arises from the underground.

A part from the torns the Bull Horn Acacia Vachellia collinsii have a mutualistic relationship with several ants of the genus Pseudomyrmex, the ants defend the tree against herbivory while the tree takes care of dietary and shelter needs of the ants.

A silhouette of a humming bird resting on a small branch.


The Smoky jungle frog Leptodactylus savagei (Formerly known as Leptodactylus pentadactylus) is one of the largest frogs of Costa Rica. The red eye only occurs when flash light is reflecting from the retina at the back of the eye, like in humans.

This cute dog were following us around on night walks defending us against larger dogs in the area and helping us finding animals. Nice little sheep lokking fellow.

The sun trying to get through the clouds.


A small stream making some tiny waterfalls into this small pool. In here a healthy population of freshwater fish were living here.


The Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens were abundant in this pool. They were shoaling in groups of about 10-20 individuals mostly females. But in some groups more than one male occured.

Some single males of the Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens were single and patrolling the pool alone.


But funny enough I also found groups of females Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens without any males present. This species also seemed to prefer the shallow water of the pools and the oxygenated waters near the waterfalls.


In groups of Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens where males were present it seemed like there was no dominant male. 2-3 males could be present in one group and all of them were colorful and same size.

In the beginning the Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens were very shy but after only 10-15 minutes they were more calm and I could easily get close to them.


Tropical milkweed Ascepias curassavica is a native plant which attracts butterflies of the subfamily Danainae. But they also host the parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha causing a decrease in the butterfly populations.

The dark fishing spider Dolomedes tenebrosus is originally from North America but is widespread in Central America as well. At first we had problems making an ID of the one. It had lost two legs.

We found the great egrets Ardea alba and Wood storks Mycteria americana often hanging out together in small groups.

The Target Beetle Ischnocodia annulus is very beautyful insect. Reflecting light and almost looking like a small gold nugget. I always found them on large green leaves.


The water was clear with leaves, roots and rocks in this little stream. 


The bottom of the stream look like this.

I caught more of these Orange finned tooth carps Priapichthys annectens. They seem to be one of the most common species of livebearing fish in Costa Rica. Very abundant everywhere we went.


A large Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens female.

The size of the mouth is amazing. I did not expect the Orange finned tooth carps Priapichthys annectens to get this big. I only observed them eating mosquito larvae.

The male Orange finned tooth carp Priapichthys annectens has a gonopodium which is about 1/3 of the body length.


Rosebelly Lizard Sceloporus variabilis recharging on a hot rock.


The habitat in this region is very diverse. Dry and wet areas are close together because of the mountains.

The beautyful scenery is always difficult to capture in a photo.

The coppery-headed emerald Elvira cupreiceps feeds on nectar from flowers in the genera Besleria, Cavendishia, Clusia, Guarea, Pithecellobium, Quararibea and Satyria. Many people feed hummingbirds in dispensers to attract tourists. 


In some other small streams we found more Orange finned tooth carps Priapichthys annectens.

A Young Banded tetra Astyanax aeneus notice the black rhomboidal mark extending to the tip of the middle caudal rays and the fade humeral blotch. The dorsal, caudal and first rays of anal fin with red pigment.


As the days is coming to an end were arrive to a small lake in a farmed area. The water is cloudy but I spot some fish near the surface.

They turn out to be Knife Livebearers Alfaro cultratus. This is a young female. They were eating mosquito larvae and some flies from the surface which looked like flies from the fruit fly family Drosophilidae.

Notice the male Knife Livebearers Alfaro cultratus have a longer gut due to the males reproductive organ (testis) inside, normally attached to the dorsal body wall.

Also present in this lake was the Costa Rica Molly Poecilia sp. aff. gillii.

We also caught these young Honduran Red Point Cichlid Amatitlania siquia. They were foraging on algae, aquatic insects, detritus, fruits/berries and leaves. Much more omnivorous diet than I thought.


Honduran Red Point Cichlid Amatitlania siquia are very common all over northern Costa Rica. Especially in the north eastern parts we found them almost everywhere.

Sunset over Rincón de la Vieja. 

Rio Colorado near Nicaraguay border

The mantled howler monkey Alouatta palliata is a folivorous species and we only observed them eating leaves from this Mango tree Mangifera indica. We did not see them eating any of the mango fruits at all.

The howl of the mantled howler monkey Alouatta palliata can be heard from miles away. We observed a group of about 20 individuals in different ages. The were hanging out near an abandoned ruin of a building near Rio Colorado.

The group of mantled howler monkey Alouatta palliata were quite curious but also on alert and the males of the group were trying to scare us away with warning calls. The females were just observing us.


The mantled howler monkey Alouatta palliata can grow up to about 10 kg.


A pair of turquoise-browed motmot Eumomota superciliosa ,they prey on insects and small reptiles. They lay 3-6 white eggs usually in a long tunnel nest in an earth bank. Sadly this was the best picture I got of these amazing birds.

A silhouette of the unique sound of rainforest. The Montezuma Oropendola Psarocolius montezuma.

Santa Rosa

This is mostly a dry area but recent rain made certain roads impossible to drive. So we parked the car and walked around this amazing area.

The grey-necked wood rail Aramides cajaneus is a species of bird in the family Rallidae. It is a common bird all over South and Central America.

This Costa Rican painted wood turtle Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima manni did not look as colorful when we found it in Santa Rosa.

Fortunately wildlife photographer Dan Olsen had a trick up his sleeve. He brought a small water spray and in a few seconds this Costa Rican painted wood turtle Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima manni was ready for a photo shoot.

Look at these amazing colors. The Costa Rican painted wood turtle Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima manni is one of the most colorful of Central America.

I just had to have a picture of me with this beauty. When I met the Costa Rican painted wood turtle Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima manni in its natural habitat.

Another colorful species in this area is yellow toad Incilius luetkenii. Its a common nocturnal species here. This is a male.

Luckily for this yellow toad Incilius luetkenii we look under the car before we drove on.

The northern boa Boa imperator inhabits these dry lands too. We found the specimen in the forest floor well camouflaged.

The northern boa Boa imperator is one of the smaller species of this genus only recognized recently as its own species.

This is a Costa Rican whip spiders Phrynus whitei. This species seemed very common all over Central and Northern Costa Rica.

This is a black iguana Ctenosaura similis female. They are primarily herbivorous, eating flowers, leaves, stems, and fruit, but they will opportunistically eat smaller animals and eggs as well.

The black iguana Ctenosaura similis is also the world's fastest lizard (recorded) with a maximal sprint speed of 34.6 km/h. This is a juvenile.


This strange looking creature is a Danish explorer Homo sapiens dania with Elephant-ear shape seedpods from the national tree of Costa Rica. The elephant-ear tree Enterolobium cyclocarpum is in in the pea family Fabaceae.

The northern crested caracara Caracara cheriway is a bird of prey in the family Falconidae. It inhabits northern South America and Central America. This one is relaxing in the shade.

The bright yellow Central American Cortez tree Tabebuia ochracea neochrysantha is native to Costa Rica but is often confused with other species and subspecies.

Some black vultures Coragyps atratus is hanging out in this Central American Cortez tree Tabebuia ochracea neochrysantha.


Another colorful tree you find in Costa Rica is the Flame tree Delonix regia. It is not native to this country but introduced from Madagascar where it is now endangered.

The Rosebelly Lizard Sceloporus variabilis is easy to get close to. This one was eating small crickets.

The habitat looks like this in some areas along the pacific coast of Costa Rica near Playa Copal, La Cruz.

The magnificent frigatebird Fregata magnificens is a great fishing bird. This is a female which were cruising along the coastline.

This root would fit perfectly back home in the aquarium.

We found this pantropical spotted dolphin Stenella attenuata on a beach in North West Costa Rica. There were other dead animals on that beach. We need to take better care of our oceans.

Many dead long-spine porcupinefish Diodon holocanthus too. They have many long two-rooted depressible spines particularly on its head. This species has the longest spines of any porcupinefish.

The brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis is one of the largest seabirds here. They were quite shy here compared to other places I have been. This was the best shot I got.

The Neotropic cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus has a wide range. I have seen this species as far south as Uruguay. They are common all over South and Central America.

The Guanacaste cactus Stenocereus aragonii is endemic to the arid region of western Costa Rica in Guanacaste province. We found a lot of these even close to the coastline.

The structures of these rocks in Playa Copal, La Cruz remind me of the rockwork done by many aquascabers. This is great inspiration for future rockworks.

The red land crab Gecarcinus quadratus from the family Gecarcinidae lives in the forest at least some of its adult life, but needs to return to the ocean to breed. It is largely herbivorous, and consumes leaf litter and seedlings.

Brahman cattle is an American breed of Zebu Bos taurus indicus very common in Costa Rica.

Brahmans cattle ancestors are from India.

I was not able to ID this Lizard Sceloporus sp.


Next stop was Monteverde. The amazing green cloud rainforest of Costa Rica.


The purple-throated mountaingem Lampornis calolaemus is a hummingbird which is 10.5 cm long. The male weighs 6.0 g and the female 4.8 g.

Moss branches like this are beautyful decorated with lots of interesting plant species.


The Hart's Tongue Fern also called Christ fern Elaphoglossum eximium is common in Monteverde in Cost Rica.

The Monteverde Heliconia Heliconia monteverdensis is endemic to this area. It is a beautyful species common along the hiking trail.

The humidity in Monteverde creates a green paradise so diverse in plant species that this place makes my top 10 list of worlds most beautyful rainforests.

The Central American Liverwort Monoclea gottschei is also present here.

Many species growing together on every branch creating a network of diversity.

The python millipede Nyssodesmus python is a species of flat-backed millipede of the family Platyrhacidae. Individuals reach lengths of up to 10 cm.

The humidity here is so high that moss like this have rain drops hanging even though last rain was more than 12 hours ago.


This Costa Rican Aloe Moss Polytrichaceae we found in Monteverde cloud forest too. Members of this family tend to be larger than other mosses with a thickened central stem and a rhizome.

The area is packed with different species of ferns. I was unable to identify this species.

The world famous bridges of the Monteverde cloud forest reserve gave us a unique view of the rainforest canopy. 

It allowed us to walk right through the top of the trees with all its diversity of life.

The violet sabrewing Campylopterus hemileucurus is native to Costa Rica is 15 cm long; the male weighs 11.5 g and the female 9.5 g. It is the largest hummingbird found outside of South America and the largest sabrewing. Sadly it is also difficult to get close to and get a good shot of.


I never get tired of this evergreen paradise.

Although colorful flowers like this this paperflower Bougainvillea glabra completes the experience. This species has a wide range from Argentina in South to Central America in North. It is a common species in Costa Rica.

Trees are covered in smaller epiphytic plants.

It is not difficult to see why it is important to protect these treasures of life.

These areas like Monteverde rainforest absorb huge amounts of carbondioxide and produces oxygen in very large amounts.

This is probably an undescribed species of tree bug Hypselonotus sp.. It belong to the family of sap-sucking insects Coreidae. I found this species only in Monteverde cloud forest reserve.

Monteverde houses 2.5% of worldwide biodiversity. 10% of its flora is endemic.

The python millipede Nyssodesmus python is abundant here. It is an important species which helps with the decomposition of plant parts.


Many species of bromeliads grows in these trees in Monteverde cloud forest.


Roseleaf bramble Rubus roseifolius are native to rainforest and tall open forest all over the world. They have edible fruit which grow up to 2 cm long. They are related to common raspberry. Very common in Costa Rica.

The density of the trees is incredible.

I found this Costa Rican firefly Photuris sp., a beetle of the family Lampyridae. Adult females engage in aggressive mimicry, imitating the light signals of other firefly species to attract, kill, and eat the males.

Humid climate at its best


Hugging an important friend.

The humid fog hanging over Monteverde.


Night walks always reveal other interesting species like this hollow burrowing Costa Rican Redleg Tarantula Megaphobema mesomelas.

We found lots of Costa Rican Redleg Tarantulas Megaphobema mesomelas in the soil slopes right near the Hotel we stayed in. We lured them out of their caves by touching the entrance with a small stick or a blade of grass.


The beautyful Costa Rican Redleg Tarantula Megaphobema mesomelas feels the vibration and comes rushing out expecting an insect or other edible prey.

A wasp nest attached to the roots of a plant in the soil slopes.

This Helenor blue morpho Morpho helenor is resting on a leave for the night.

The Blue-eyed Anole Anolis woodi is also found in Monteverde. This specimen we found just outside the Monteverde cloud forest reserve.

A wandering spider from the family Ctenidae. I was sadly not able to identify it.

Sunset over Monteverde from the very nice hotel we stayed at. Trapp Family Lodge, Carretera a Reserva de Monteverde, Provincia de Puntarenas, Monteverde, Costa Rica. The place was a bit pricy but well worth the money.


Just a few seconds later the colors have changed. Amazing view.


Rio Blanco

Near Guapiles we stayed at the Casa Rio Blanco Eco Friendly B&B, 1 Km South of the Rio Blanco bridge on Hwy 32, Calle Río Blanco, Limón Province, near Guápiles (La Marina), Costa Rica. This place is close to the river. Very nice place to stay.

The Rio Blanco river near Guapiles in Costa Rica. In this video you will see Tomocichla tuba, Poecilia sp. aff. gillii and Agonostomus monticola in their natural habitat. Hypertrophied lips in wild Tomocichla tuba cichlids.

The Seven-striped Cichlid Amatitlania septemfasciata can change colors in an instant. The vertical balck stripes are barely visible in this picture. They can turn the stripes into spots or even a single midlateral black bar. 


Here you can see in the distance the Seven-striped Cichlids Amatitlania septemfasciata changing the vertical black stripes into a single midlateral black bar. The often did that when they were swimming in groups.

I observed that single Seven-striped Cichlid Amatitlania septemfasciata often took on this coloration. Notice that the vertical black stripes are almost gone and a clear black spot on the caudal peduncle and mid-body is now present.


Another pattern Seven-striped Cichlids Amatitlania septemfasciata often got was the pre dorsal marking of what almost look like a W. Often simultaneously with a black mid lateral almost dotted bar. This was present during pre mating behavior. You can see it here in a distance.

The female Seven-striped Cichlid Amatitlania septemfasciata puts on amazing colors during pre spawning behavior. Very blue eyes, black and blue dorsal blotch and bright yellow along the flanks and in the fins. A Neetroplus nematopus photobombing the picture.

When Seven-striped Cichlids Amatitlania septemfasciata changed into this coloration it seemed to be associated with stress. It occured when I was moving too fast in the river.


I only observed Seven-striped Cichlids Amatitlania septemfasciata spawning in caves under stones and in cracks in rocks.

The Seven-striped Cichlids Amatitlania septemfasciata seemed to prefer the shallows water when have their young. The female were always closest to the fry.

The Seven-striped Cichlids Amatitlania septemfasciata pairs seemed to stay together after fry care is done. 

This female Seven-striped Cichlid Amatitlania septemfasciata is trying to attract a male intensifying her colors.

When Male Seven-striped Cichlids Amatitlania septemfasciata intensify their color it often makes their body a little purple and tail and head bright yellow. The mid lateral bar often turns dotted. A beautiful fish.

We also found the Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus. We only found them solitarily in streams in currents of high velocity.

Observing the Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus was difficult but I noticed them feeding on fish scales from characins and aquatic insects. Their sucking disc below is a perfect adaptation to fast current.

In larger specimens of the Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus the sucking disc is much better developed. This species has a wide range it inhabits most of the caribbean and looks slightly different in each habitat.


The head of the Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus is more narrow than the species from the Pacific slopes of Costa Rica. The atlantic species is also more spotted all over the body including the head.


The colors and body shape is different from the specimens I found in Colombia and Venezuela even the sucking discs are different. It would not surprise me if the Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus turned out to be a new species.

The male Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus has some red coloration at the lower lips in both sides.

A Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus clinging on to my finger. They really are peculiar fish. I can not help to be amazed of this adaptation.


Habitat of the Costa Rican Atlantic Clingfish Gobiesox cephalus is sometimes like this. The are clinging to the rocks in the fast current. Although we found them in calm waters as well, this is by far the best place to find dem in great numbers.

Another species which inhabit these fast currents is Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini. I observed them feeding on mainly detritus, diatoms and algae. The rasping sounds of their teeth remind me of plecos.


At first glance they might seem a little pale but wait until they turn on the colors of their pre mating behavior. This female Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini is resting in the calm waters

This male Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini is starting up pre mating colors. He noticed a female not far away. A curious Neetroplus nematopus photobombing the picture in the right corner.

After heavy rains I observed Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini started mating behavior.

They turn on their blue color and the Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini swim around each other in circles. Males trying to impress females in the area.

The male Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini found a interested female.

The male swimming around the female Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini was difficult to capture because the speed of this behavior is amazing.

The male Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini is more slender with a higher dorsal fin. The female is wider from the gills to the anal fin.

Perfect pose by this male Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini, sadly I did not have time to get the camera in focus. 

It is amazing how fast the Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini can move in this fast current and the shining colors are impressive too.

Even at a distance the Salvins River Goby Sicydium salvini shiny colors are an eye-catcher. Notice the male in the background waiting for his chance to mate.


These matings occurred around May in Rio Blanco. Water levels were rising and falling because of heavy rains. The water temperatures were between 20-26° C depending on the rain and current.


The beautyful strawberry poison-dart frog Oophaga pumilio is very common in Costa Rica and we found many along Rio Blanco.

During rains and after large quantities of the strawberry poison-dart frog Oophaga pumilio are out looking for small insects. I noticed them eating small flies and beetles.

In a small stream affluent Rio Blanco we found thousands of large Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius. They were capture in small pools.

The Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius are fast swimming characins. Getting a shot of them was very difficult with only a couple of sun rays as light source.

The Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius is the most abundant characin in Rio Blanco.


Because of the large quantities of Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius present in these small ponds the water quality is not good and bacterial diseases like these Aeromonas or Pseudomonas infections.


The males of the Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius are more colorful with a slender body than the females. In these pools most were males.

Fully grown males Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius have a purple belly and gills with red extended fins and a wide caudal peduncle. 

Younger males Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius are missing most of the colors of the belly and gills and fins seem more orange than red (like in females). The wide caudal peduncle is lacking too.


We found Jungle flame Ixora coccinea in the area around Guapiles too. It has been introduced here. Originally this plant comes from Southern India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

This Costa Rican Diasia Clearwing butterfly Ithomia diasia hippocrenis I found only in this region.

In a small puddle we found the red spotted rivuline Cynodonichthys rubripunctatus. This killifish were abundant in smaller puddles and streams affluent Rio Blanco. This is a female


The females red spotted rivuline Cynodonichthys rubripunctatus have a wide upper body and notice the black spot near the caudal fin on the top of the caudal peduncle.

The red spotted rivulines Cynodonichthys rubripunctatus hides under leaves in these very shallow puddles. 

The males red spotted rivuline Cynodonichthys rubripunctatus have more red spots a yellow to orange upper body color and a more slender body shape.

The males red spotted rivuline Cynodonichthys rubripunctatus sometimes shows their black humeral spot right above the pectoral fins like this.

Habitat of the red spotted rivuline Cynodonichthys rubripunctatus.

The Surinam Powderpuff Calliandra surinamensis is native to Costa Rica too. It has spread from Northern South America to Central America.

Willdenow's spikemoss Selaginella willdenowii have iridescent blue leaves produced by a thin layer of cells with lamellar structure. This adaptation reduces the effect of strong sun beams filtering through the canopy that would otherwise damage this shade-adapted species. The origin of this species is questionable. Probably native to South East Asia.

Back in the main river Rio Blanco we found the shy Mountain mullets Dajaus monticola. It is common here and a very colorful and attractive species. The only species of mullet which can live their entire life in freshwater.


The Mountain mullet Dajaus monticola is mostly a solitaire fish. It is a fast swimming species which are grassing on algae and mosses of the rocks. Other species present in this picture are Brycon behreae, Sicydium salvini, Neetroplus nematopus and Tomocichla tuba.

For you guys and girls keeping river species from the area in aquariums; Dont worry about having too much circulation. The species living here are very good swimmers and they often swim in fast current like this.

This golden orb-web spider Nephila clavipes also known as banana spider has a strong web. A single thread of the anchor silk has a tensile strength which exceeds that of steel by a factor of eight.

Even though Costa Rica is a small country they still have a lot of rainforest left. You will even find really old trees like this one now and then.


The forest along Rio Blanco is very diverse and full of life.

In the natural habitat this Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda is hiding under large bolders with only the head visible most of the daytime.

Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda are very common in Rio Blanco. They prey on fish fry and larvae, insect larvae and small snails.

The size of the mouth alone reveals the Rock catfish Rhamdia laticauda carnivorous diet.

Above in the trees an adult plumed basilisk Basiliscus plumifrons is resting. It is also known as green basilisk, the double crested basilisk, or the Jesus Christ lizard.


The plumed basilisk Basiliscus plumifrons is a magnificent lizard and they grow larger than I thought. We observed specimens up to around 1 meter in length.

The head of the plumed basilisk Basiliscus plumifrons is almost dinosaur like. We observed them eating fruits, flowers and cockroaches.


Here a juvenile plumed basilisk Basiliscus plumifrons is eating a large cockroach. It seemed juveniles preferred to be near the ground and adults we most often found in the trees.

The terrestrial lifestyle of the juvenile plumed basilisks Basiliscus plumifrons might be why they have the darker coloration. Simply to camouflage themselves to the dark soil and rocks.


The green belly and throat of the juvenile plumed basilisks Basiliscus plumifrons might be so their prey can not see them when they look up they blend into their green surroundings.

When making videos of fish with the Gopro I attached the camera to a gorilla pod and attached it to a rock to make steady recordings. I left the camera and came back about 20 minutes later (Time before battery charging).

These pictures of the Costa Rican river tetra Brycon behreae are screenshots taken from videos made with the gorilla pod with Gopro camera and rock setup. This small school is searching the turbulent waters for food items.

The upper jaw of the Costa Rican river tetra Brycon behreae is extended and they seem to have yellow eyes in all the locations we found them in. The fins were always a little pale red to brown.

Costa Rican river tetras Brycon behreae often schools with Creek tetras Bryconamericus scleroparius. Noticed the black stripe all the way through the caudal fin fork in the Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius in front. In the background you see a Tomocichla tuba and a shoal of Neetroplus nematopus grassing on the algae.


Here you see the Costa Rican river tetra Brycon behreae right below a Creek tetra Bryconamericus scleroparius. You can see how they can easily be mistaken for each other when they are in motion. Again with Tomocichla tuba and a shoal of Neetroplus nematopus in the background.

In this picture you see the upper teeth of the Costa Rican river tetra Brycon behreae which I noticed they used for grassing algae of the rocks. They also prey on terrestrial insects, fish, aquatic insects and plant matter.


The habitat of Rio Blanco is amazing. The clear water and green rainforest above is just breathtaking.

The nonvenomous Central American Speckled Racer Drymobius margaritiferus belongs the the largest snake family Colubridae which counts around 2000 species about two-thirds of all known living snake species.

Central American Speckled Racers Drymobius margaritiferus are beautiful snakes but also quite difficult to get close to. We found them only in dense forests.

The rainforest is slowly taking over the ruins of this old house hidden away in the dense vegetation.

The Chestnut-mandibled Toucan Ramphastos swainsonii were quite common here. I only observed them feeding on fruits like mango. Normally living in pairs or smaller groups.

Back in the clearwater river Rio Blanco in the fast current of the smaller falls. We found many interesting fish species.


In a Gopro video I took this screenshot. When I was in the river I did not notice what seem to be a Panama suckermouth Hypostomus aspidolepis hiding under this large bolder.

Poor man's tropheus Hypsophrys nematopus spawn in caves on the rocks and bolders. This is their coloration during breeding season.

Notice the coloration of the fry of Poor man's tropheus Hypsophrys nematopus. They blend perfectly in to the enviroment.

Both the male and female Poor man's tropheus Hypsophrys nematopus takes care of the young. They use their colors to signal and communicate with the fry. Changing colors in an instant. 

The light white stribe of the Poor man's tropheus Hypsophrys nematopus seemed to intensify when they were on alert.

Even the eyes of the Poor man's tropheus Hypsophrys nematopus were shining bright white with a distinct black pupil when on alert.

A bat from an abandoned house on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaraguay.


A special thanks to:

Michi Tobler (Poeciliidae)

Willem Heijns (Cichlidae; Heroines)

Pete Liptrot (Bolton Museum)

 Celio Magalhaes Filho (Pseudothelphusidae)

Dan Olsen (web support)

Ingo Wehrtmann (Grapsidae, Palaemonidae

Claus Christensen (Aquatic plants)

Ira Richling (Helicinidae)

Rick C. West (Arachnida)

Cesar Barrio Amorós (Boidae)

Henrik Bringsøe (Reptilia, Amphibia)

Jan Grathwohl (Reptilia)

Best Regards

Peter Petersen


Rio Xingú

Wildlife in and around the river system

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Costa Rica

Birds, lizards, frogs, freshwater fish, rainforest and dry forest



Ladybird spider (Photo article coming soon)



Amager Fælled a nature hot spot in Copenhagen, Denmark

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