Sulawesi (Tana Toraja)

by Frank H. Hennemann (8.1995)
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Forest south of PalopoCenter of Tana Toraja-highland,  RantepaoIn August 1995 my father and I made a two week journey to the Tana Toraja highland in south Sulawesi.
We reached the highland after a long but spectacular car journey. We travelled north from the airport in Ujung Pandand (Makassar) along the southwest coast. The highland is situated in the heart of the Latimodjong mountains at the base of the southwest peninsular. The highest mountains reach heights of up to 3000 metres and from altitudes of 700-800 metres onwards there is dense mountainous rainforest. Above 1000 metres the climate is cold and foggy with frequent rainfall. The Tana Toraja highland itself is situated between 500-800 metres and is typical for its very mild and humid climate with the temperatures varying between 20-28°C during the day and cool 10-12°C at night. In the dry season from may until october the region has relatively little rainfall although this year there were several hours of rain every day.


Our night collecting tours started out from a beautiful hotel just outside the small town Rantepao in the east towards the habour town Palopo. Rantepao is situated in the centre of the Tana Toraja highland at an altitude of about 600 m. Here and already on our journey from Ujung Pandang to Rantepao there were numerous local insect suppliers, offering dried butterflies and beetles of Sulawesi for resonable prices.

Pseudosteneboea aberans emiri femalefemale Mantid with cocoonEven, during the day, in the hotel garden you could commonly find different Praying Mantids and at night the lamps along the paths in the hotel garden attracted large numbers of the giant Three-Horn-Beetle Chalcosoma atlas and Xylotrupes gideon lorquini as well as numerous mantids and other Orthoptera.
In contrast to these flying insects, it wasn´t easy to collect Phasmids in this area as most of the highland is used for farming and the small spots of forest that have remained between the cultivated areas were mostly occupied by the farm workers themselves. In order to reach untouched areas of rainforest we had to take a 40-60 minutes drive on very narrow and curving roads

The nearest untouched area of mountainous rainforest to Rantepao was in the east towards the habour town Palopo. Palopo can be reached on a well made road, which passes a mountain chain of about 1200 metres. By searching the vegetation alongside Pseudosteneboea aberrans emiri malethis road with torch lights we found fully grown specimens of Carausius insularis (KIRBY, 1896)?, Chalcosoma atlas malean undescribed subspecies of Pseudostheneboea aberrans (GÜNTHER, 1938) and some males of Ramulus nematodes (deHAAN, 1842). A few more kilometres towards Palopo at about 1000 m we observed of a badly defoliated 5-6 m tall tree on which we found more than 300 specimens at all stages of development of Nescicroa tenella (GÜNTHER, 1935). Adults were not quite so numerous and the vast amount of nymphs was between 2nd and 5th instar. In the same area but exceptionally on guava-shrubs (Psidium guayava, Myrtaceae) we found several adult specimens of the delicate, green Nescicroa poeciloptera (REHN, 1904).

All of the insects were transferred to a gauze-cage with samples of their foodplants and kept alive for several days in order to receive eggs. The nymphs of the Nescicroa spp. prooved to be very specialized feeders and extremely difficult to maintain. From a few eggs only one male of Pseudostheneboea aberrans ssp. (GÜNTHER) was raised to adult using bramble (Rubus fruticosus, Rosaceae) as alternitive foodplant.

Collection published:
HENNEMANN, F.H. (1998): Ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Phasmidenfauna von Sulawesi. Mit einem Katalog der bisher bekannt gewordenen Arten.- Mitt. Mus. Nat.kd. Berl., Zool. Reihe, 74(1) : 95-128.

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