Category Archives: Biodiversity

Bromeliad research

Camille in the field (© Nicholas Locke)

Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity of extreme climatic events such as severe droughts.  Little is known on how freshwater ecosystems respond to severe droughts in the neotropics.   Terrestrial organic matter, primarily derived from plant litter, represents an important food resource in these nutrient limited freshwater ecosystems.

The PhD project currently being undertaken by Camille Bonhomme from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) wants to investigate the effects of quantity of terrestrial matter subsidies on the response of the recipient aquatic communities to drought stress.

Camille will use tank bromeliads along with their associated aquatic invertebrates as model ecosystems. Tank bromeliads are neotropical plants. Their interlocking leaves form rosettes that collect rainwater and dead leaves from the overhanging trees, creating an aquatic habitat for various species of invertebrates.  

Bromeliad communities (© Nicholas Locke)

In the field experiment, bromeliads will receive either few or high quantities of leaf litter inputs. After a natural colonisation and equilibration period, the diversity and composition of the aquatic invertebrate community that colonised the bromeliads will be assessed and compared to the quantity of subsidised resources.   The bromeliad micro-ecosystems will then be submitted to a drying and rewetting event, to assess their resistance and resilience.

Camille hopes to show firstly that the variations in leaf litter provision will determine the composition and quality of the colonisation (including number of species, food chain length and overall community composition).

Secondly, that the leaf litter quantity will affect the stability of the community submitted to drought, expecting the higher provision of leaf litter to give greater support, by offering a “buffering” effect to the community. It is hoped to show that leaf litter will provide short term refuges for invertebrates and be more attractive for recolonisation after the drought.

We look forward to seeing the result of Camille’s research.

Stingless Bees Nest Guarding

Michael Patrikeev, a long-standing friend and supporter of REGUA, sent this amazing photograph of stingless bees, Scaptotrigona xanthotricha, also known as Yellow Mandaguari.    Along with this explanation of the behaviour taking place:

“This species, restricted to the Atlantic Forest of the south-east Brazil, inhabits primary and mature secondary humid forest, where it builds nests in cavities and crevices in trees.

The image shows the bees guarding the elaborate structures at the entrance to their nest. These structures, resembling tree fungi, are made of wax.

Nest of Scaptotrigona xanthotricha (© Michael Patrikeev)

Note the claw marks below the nest on the left.    These bees are known to produce a good quality honey, and perhaps some mammal raided the nest earlier.”

This is just one of the multitude of forest species protected in REGUA.   Each piece of information we find continues to reinforce the importance of the work which the REGUA Team and its supporters make possible.

More info can be found on Michael’s website:

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Insects/Hymenoptera/Apidae-bees/Scaptotrigona-xanthotricha.html

 

Great Horned Owls found breeding at REGUA!

Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

In October 2017 our bird guide Adilei Carvalho da Cunha heard a Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus at the village of Matumbo, situated at the edge of REGUA. With a large range covering much of North, Central and South America, Great Horned Owl had long been predicted as a future addition to the REGUA bird list, but this was the first record for the reserve.

Tantalizingly, there was no further sign until just a few days ago on the 18 August 2018 when Adilei finally saw a bird – the first sight record for REGUA. When he returned the next morning with his camera he found not one bird but a pair! Then while watching and photographing them he was amazed when they mated right in front of him!

What an incredible record and yet another owl species for REGUA. The addition of Great Horned Owl takes the REGUA bird list to an incredible 479 species! Well done Adilei for finding and documenting such a great record.

Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owls, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owl, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Great Horned Owl, REGUA, 19 August 2018 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Dragon Praying Mantis – Projeto Mantis

The Mantis Project is made up of Brazilian biologists Leonardo Lanna, Savio Cavalcante, João Felipe Herculano and designer Lucas Fiat, who are very keen on insects.

Projeto Mantis Team at REGUA (© Projeto Mantis)

They met at UNIRIO University in 2015 and soon discovered that there was no-one studying the impressive Mantis order, Mantodea.    There are over 430 genera and 2400 species divided in 15 families worldwide and they believed there could to be many in the Atlantic Rainforest.

Leonardo and his friends got together and started their first field trips in Valença a town in the South-West of Rio State and the following year caught an undescribed species, a first for science.   Their primary interest was not in just finding and identifying these amazing creatures but also raising Mantises, showing people that these insects are not dangerous or life threatening but beautiful, gentle creatures that indicate the quality of the habitat.

With their increased passion the Team started to work at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden.   They submitted a project to National Geographic in 2016 and received the funding to research the State of Rio and increase the list of the 12 genera already known there.

However, Rio de Janeiro state is very large and their study varied from sand dune habitat known as “Restinga”, Mangrove habitat to the lofty “Paramos” or sedge growing waterlogged habitat found at close to 2,600 metres above sea level in Itatiaia (two hours drive west of Rio city) where temperatures fall below zero at night in the winter.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

The team also included REGUA in their research and arrived to stay at its field station in December 2017.

One mystical Praying Mantis is the Dragon Mantis, Stenophylla cornigera described by English entomologist John Westwood in 1843.   It resembles depictions  of miniature dragon and the young biologists had never seen one.    Imagine their delight when on the first night, an example arrived at the REGUA light and they could see it in full detail.

The team of biologists collected not only one.    A second was found a couple of days later from a forest fragment just seven kilometres away, showing that the species is present along the Guapiaçu valley.    A report and video was sent to National Geographic magazine which was hugely successful.
See https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/animals-insects-brazil-rainforests/

The overall research revealed another nine genera taking the total Mantodea list in Rio de Janeiro State to 21 genera, of which 15 have been found at REGUA.

Leonardo says that REGUA is at an elevated level of habitat protection.   Perhaps the significant area of remaining forest cover, full altitudinal gradient and low demographic pressure all influence but the fact is that as an indicator species, Praying mantises reveal that the REGUA conservation project is working in the right direction.

Stenophylla sp. (© Projeto Mantis)

For further information, the Mantis Project can be found at: https://www.instagram.com/projetomantis/?hl=pt and https://www.facebook.com/projetomantis/

                Good luck team !!

 

 

 

all photographs courtesy of Projeto Mantis

New damselfly species discovered at REGUA by Tom Kompier

A new damselfly to science – Forcepsioneura regua sp. nov. (©Tom Kompier)

We are delighted to announce that a new Damselfly species for science of the Forcepsioneura genus found at REGUA by Tom Kompier has been named Forcepsioneura regua sp. after the reserve. This is one of two new damselfly species described by Dr. Ângelo Pinto with Tom as co-author in their paper In honor of conservation of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest: description of two new damselflies of the genus Forcepsioneura discovered in private protected areas (Odonata: Coenagrionidae), published in the zoological journal Zoologia.

Tom’s contribution to our knowledge of dragonflies and damselflies has been magnificent and provides valuable evidence of the importance of this reserve. He started his research in 2012, making several visits during the varying Neotropical seasons, travelling from the Netherlands to REGUA throughout 2013 and identifying 204 species in this region. Tom was supported by Dr. Ângelo Pinto and Professor Alcimar Carvalho of the Natural History Museum/UFRJ. This resulted in the publication of A Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil (see details on our publications page).

The principle difference between dragonflies and damselflies is the position of the wings when resting. Dragonfly wings lie transversal and damselfly wings lie flat alongside their abdomen. 204 species have been recorded at the reserve and REGUA hosts annual visits to see the odonate and in an eight day visit it is possible to see at least 160 species!

Congratulations and thank you Tom for the magnificent contribution your work has given us and you have inspired us to continue to develop studies in ants, butterflies and spiders.

Any Myrmecologists out there?

Ants belong to the Formicidae family, one of the most important in Nature,  pillars of the ecosystem.   Divided into Tribes, the Atta and Acromyrmex  are very common in our Neotropical forests and though we worry about their action in freshly planted forests, they are very important in the established forest harvesting and cultivating their fungus on which they feed in their underground homes.

Ants feeding on young plant shoot (© Nicholas Locke)

Their vast system of perfectly ventilated tunnels and chambers permits precious nitrogen to reach the roots of trees.

We are trying to identify the most common species at REGUA but we expect to have between 400 and 450 different species.   Taking photographs is notoriously difficult, for aside being small, they move and are often camera shy.

If you want a challenge and wish to visit us spending your time helping us to get some images to help with developing a field guide, drop us a line and we would really love your company.

 

Dutch herpetologist at REGUA

Masters student Hidde de Graff enrolled at University of Amsterdam has come to stay for three months at REGUA studying amphibians.    Professor Wouter Halfwerk organised Hidde’s stay here with Brazilian Dr. Mauricio Almeida and he has been conscientiously at work in the field.

Hidde in the Forest (© Raquel Locke)

Hidde is been analysing sound tracks from deliberately located microphones recording night sounds in forest fragments as a way to detect and identify the amphibian species present.    Every quarter of an hour those frogs calling will be recorded and later as he studies the sonograms, he will be able to identify the species present.

Dr Mauricio carried out a similar survey a few years ago and Hidde will be able to compare the results and see if there has been any species change and evaluate how accurate his findings are in terms of species identification.

Come and see the amphibians at REGUA

The Atlantic Rainforest at REGUA is well protected and expanding, and one of the prime habitat quality indicator species are amphibians.  Are the populations stable or declining?

Proceratophrys appendiculata (©Nicholas Locke)

Researchers are always interested as their population numbers reflect air quality and air humidity levels, which in turn are affected by forest cover.   There are over seventy amphibian species at REGUA and with programmes in forest protection and expansion, all species appear to be in good shape.

One genus that attracts attention is the Atlantic rainforest endemic Horned frog which we found on the green trail recently.    Both Proceratophrys appendiculata (also known as Guenther’s Horned Frog) and Proceratophrys boiei were seen.   They live in the leaf litter in forests up to an altitude of around 1200m, and spawn in forest streams.

Both species are relatively common at REGUA and all visitors like to pick them up and get a closer look at them. They sit immobile and looking rather glum, patiently waiting to be returned to the ground when they hop off into the leaf litter and are quickly almost impossible to refind.

Proceratophrys boiei (© Nicholas Locke)

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Macaw

The Blue-winged Macaw (Primolius maracana) is one of those very special Psittacidae that occur between coastal Brazil spanning west to Bolivia and Argentina.   They are found in an area in the North East of Brazil, but they generally seem to occupy the extent of the Atlantic Rainforest.

Primolius maracana, Blue-winged Macaw (© Nicholas Locke)

No longer so common, we remember seeing them nesting in thick bamboo clumps but that was a while ago and before our wetlands were developed.    Perhaps they are not fond of water bodies as they are now observed only on the rain shadow side of the Serra do Mar mountain range.

We like to show these friendly yet shy birds to visitors on the Sumidouro trail in search of other endemics such as the Three-toed Jacamar and Serra Antwren.  These are all drier region species and one can see these wonderful Macaws on tall Imperial Palms typically chatting together in what appears profound chitchat!

Two new hawkmoths discovered in south-east Brazil

One of the two most common species of hawkmoth found at REGUA is Xylophanes porcus continentalis which is found from Central America to southern Brazil. At least that is what we thought until a new paper was recently published in the European Entomologist by Jean Haxaire and Carlos Mielke. Their paper describes two new species that occur in south and south-east Brazil, and suggests that the entire X. porcus family needs further investigation.

The species at REGUA is not X. p. continentalis but X. soaresi, named after Alexandre Soares of the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro and a co-author of A Guide to the Hawkmoths of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, which was published in 2011.

The second species which also occurs in the REGUA area, X. alineae, is smaller, less well-marked and has more rounded wings, and is generally found at higher altitudes.

A review of all the photos taken at REGUA and surrounding areas shows that all but one of our records (photographed in October 2016) was X. soaresi, but we need to look much harder in the future!

Xylophanes soaresi, REGUA, 28 February 2016 (© Alan Martin)
Probable Xylophanes alineae, REGUA, 10 October 2016 (© Alan Martin)