Thomas Shahan is an Oregon-based artist and macro-photographer who specialises in high-magnification photography. He is the imaging specialist for the Oregon Department of Agriculture's entomology lab.

For the past two years, Thomas has been teaching at macro photography workshops in Belize, and he took these stunning photographs during those trips.

Most tourists visit the country for the clear tropical waters off the coast, but inland Belize includes deep jungle habitats with incredible biodiversity and an enormous amount of arthropod life.

Thomas tells BBC Earth, “I find the seemingly endless diversity and beauty of arthropods fascinating. It's like exploring another world full of alien life forms.

"Arthropods are often feared, misunderstood, or labelled as pests – unjustly – despite the pivotal role they play in the Earth's ecosystems. They are certainly more beneficial to the planet than we are as a species.”

He goes on “By taking portraits and details of their beauty and anthropomorphic qualities - I hope to elevate repulsion to reverence. Bugs are beautiful and people should know.”

Saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea)

“Cute but painful. Those are irritating 'urticating' hairs all over it. The adult moth is disappointingly plain for such a wild-looking caterpillar,” comments Thomas.

Male jumping spider (Beata sp.)

“No idea what this little guy's species is, and I never found a female. It's been speculated by experts, such as Wayne Maddison, that the elongated dorsal setae and mottled markings may serve to disguise these little guys as bird droppings.”

There are over 5,000 species of jumping spider, making Salticidae the most prolific of the spider families. They are widely distributed and can even be found up Mount Everest.

Jumping spiders can spring more than 50 times their own body length to land on unsuspecting prey. They hunt actively rather than passively catching prey in a web. For hunting they require excellent vision and have four large eyes, with four smaller eyes on the top of their head.

Walker's moth (Sosxetra grata)

“Here is an anterior portrait of that wild fluffy pink moth. It made the trip for me.”

Female jumping spider (Continusa sp.)

“This is the lateral view of that wonderfully elongated salticid. I originally mistook it for a leafhopper."

Grasshopper (Taeniopoda sp.)

A gigantic grasshopper held by a workshop attendee.

Planthopper (Fulgoridae sp.)

"It surprised me by quickly jumping up as my flash fired - quite a lot of force in these guys."

Immature bark mantid (Liturgusa sp.)

"These little guys are really cryptic as they skirt around the trunks of trees; I'm sure I walked by dozens without even knowing it in the jungle."


"This is a relatively large millipede I found wandering about the rocks down by the local river Panther Creek, Cayo district in Belize." 

Millipedes are a common class of arthropod with over 10,000 named species. Estimates suggest this is only a fraction of the total number of millipede species.

Two pairs of legs per body segment distinguish millipedes from closely related centipedes, which only have one. Early forms of millipede were some of the first animals to colonise land, and are therefore some of the oldest known fossils of land creatures. The largest known millipede is the giant African millipede, which measures in excess of 28cm (12in).

Jumping spider male (Lyssomanes sp.

"Morphologically quite odd for a salticid – this is one of the only genera that has the anterior lateral eyes so high like that. It was so translucent that it was easy to see the internal retina move about as he looked around. Amazing spider."

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