Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sometimes you're better off not knowing...

So yesterday we had the TV on the Discovery Channel while we were doing other things around the house. I glanced at the TV screen at one point and saw some caterpillars that looked an awful  lot like one we had seen at the Waira Churi camp in Ecuador. I called Craig into the room as they broke for commercial, and we both sat riveted waiting for the next segment. We were mortified to learn that the program was called "Deadliest Creatures of Brazil." They went on to say that this was the Assassin Caterpillar (Lonomia Obliqua) which has only been  identified within the past decade. They explained, rather graphically, how this caterpillar can kill a human within 15 hours of touching it. It causes an agonizing death where victims bleed out of their eyes, noses, mouths, etc.

The caterpillar is especially dangerous because it blends in so well with its surroundings. It looks like it is covered in bark or moss. When we first saw it in Ecuador, it was camouflaged on a wooden bench. Luckily we saw it before we sat down. The Waira Churis and Felipe inspected it and moved it onto the ground. Felipe had told us not to touch it (and this was our first instinct anyway - would you purposely touch something that looks like that?) But could have killed us? I doubt we could have reached medical help within the 15 hours it would take to finish us off, unless the Waira Churis knew of an antidote. We are glad that we didn't know all of this at the time, or I might not have slept very well that night (though we did have a bug net over our bed, thank goodness!)

We're no caterpillar experts, so we can't 100% guarantee that it is the same caterpillar, but it sure looks it to us! And if that is the case, it has made its way from Brazil to Ecuador!

Assassin Caterpillar?