Category Archives: Research

Zoology “freshmen” at REGUA

REGUA is delighted to offer its premises to a number of Universities in Rio de Janeiro.

The most recent group, Zoology 2019, arrived from Rio de Janeiro Federal University. These students, starting their first term, have come to REGUA for their four day field course.

REGUA offers full board accommodation and the Reserve gains a chance to receive these young minds and an opportunity to explain the purposes of the project. The students gain a safe place to be introduced to the world of science.  

Students working hard in the laboratory

A perfect match and we trust these youngsters will take their skills and remember their time here and contribute to conservation in some way in their professional lives in the future.         

Not a Praying Mantis!

Jorge Bizarro REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and Lepidopterist recently found this interesting creature. We initially thought it was a Mantis and sent the photograph through to our friends in the Projeto Mantis Research Group.

Leo Lanna from the team sent back his excited reply:

“This is amazing find and actually, it is not a praying mantis! I know it looks just like a Mantis, but it actually belongs to another insect order, the Neuroptera. The family pays homage to mantises – it is called Mantispidae – and they are an amazing example of convergent evolution. This means that different evolution pressures led them to develop similar structures. They do hunt with their raptorials, like mantises, but you can notice some differences, especially the way they fold their wings, which are located on the sides of the animal, not over it. The wings are also more translucid.

Mantispidae (© R Locke)

Take a look at the eyes too. Mantispidae always have a beautiful, coloured pattern when you take a picture with flash, like a star or rainbow. Mantises have plain compound eyes with the fake pupil effect, not this colourful one.

We usually find a green, tiny species, from genus Zeugomantispa. We once found a huge one at Tijuca Forest, from genus Climaciella, but neither look like this one.

Thanks for sharing these findings!”

What a great find, on reading more I found that Mantispidae are also known as Mantid lacewings or mantis-flies in some parts of the world.

Thanks also to Leo and his team for encouraging us to continue to research the amazing creatures of the forests at REGUA.

Butterflies of REGUA

Robert Locke is visiting us at REGUA and we know how he enjoys taking photographs of butterflies, an interest that he has enjoyed for many years.

Two species he found and photographed recently are Paulogramma pygas (previously Callicore) also known as Pygas eighty-eight and Dynamine postverta, also known as Four-spot Sailor.

P. pygas showing the “88” on the underwing (© R Locke)

P. pygas is restricted to much of high altitude South America. Its common name refers to the underside of the wing which shows an “88” shape in the pattern.

D. postverta, is restricted to much of western lowland South America, preferring woodlands and farmland.

Both are beautiful butterfly species and both male and female will be featured in a new book currently being prepared on the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos, the surrounding mountain range to REGUA and one of the most biodiverse regions of Brazil.

The Serra dos Órgãos mountains range is a biodiversity hotspot and REGUA is considered to be a very well preserved and protected area within this range.

As we continue to increase the area under our protection, creating corridors for wildlife and strengthening the range of trees planted, we are securing the future for all its inhabitants. These two wonderful species of butterfly are part of the beauty to be found here.

D. posverta male (© R. Locke)

Should you like to visit REGUA and take photographs that could be featured in the Butterflies of the Serra dos Órgãos publication, we would be very happy to receive you!  


Maxillaria picta orchid

Helmut Seehawer is visiting us at REGUA and continues to explore for orchids here.

Once again we walked with Helmut to the lofty Lagoinha summits, an extremely important area for orchid dispersal, full of Platyrhipsa brasiliensisStelis ruprechtianaOctomeria grassilabiaOncidium lietzeiPabstiela spZygopetalum pedicillatum, and so many micro orchids.

Maxillaria picta (© REGUA)

We came across these relatively common Maxillaria picta, first described by Sir William Jackson Hooker, English botanist in 1811. Hooker didn’t travel personally to Brazil but probably received these plants and then described them from collected samples.

Helmut is 84 years old and he was delighted to be scrambling up these rocky summits in search of his precious orchids.

We think the world of Helmut, his incredible dedication and knowledge that allows us to draw people’s attention to them and their importance in this very biodiverse region of the globe, after all, the Serra do Órgãos is known for over 1,000 species, or 5% of the world’s entire diversity of orchids!!

Jorge finds a Praying Mantis

Jorge appeared the other morning asking me to photograph an interesting Praying Mantis which he hadn’t seen before. “We have to get this to the Mantis team”, he said.

So I sent photographs and a description off to Leonardo Lanna of the research team researching Praying Mantis at REGUA.

Eumusonia genus (© Nicholas Locke)

Biologist Leo Lanna of the Mantis team said  “This is a male of Eumusonia genus, a grass mantis. We’ve registered them on our visits – what is cool is that REGUA is the only place where we see a great variation in the males colours. They are described as brown, but we’ve seen yellow and green ones, and this is the first one we have seen that is brown with green legs.

They live among grasses and tiny bushes, as well as leaf litter, mainly on more open areas, like fields and trail borders. You can easily identify them by the triangle segment on the tip of their abdomen. Males and females share this triangle-shaped segment though females have no wings. We discovered a healthy population in the garden of Casa da Pesquisa (REGUA’s research house) when we were there in 2017 and now in March we’ve found many more, from small ones to adult males and females. We didn’t find in any other area of the reserve, though, but this will definitely add to our work..”

It is so gratifying to receive news back from Leonardo, and exciting that REGUA is the first place where they have seen this colour variation. Leonardo is so enthusiastic, interested and generous with his time in providing valuable feedback. This encourages us to keep our eyes alert in the hope of finding another species.. 

Duke University students visit REGUA

You will have recently read that the US charity SavingSpecies helped REGUA acquire a parcel of land. Once planted with trees this will be an important corridor linking two established forests.

Setting up the camera traps (© Nicholas Locke)

We recently received students from Duke University in USA. The three students; Bridgette Keane, Chiara Klein and Jacob Levine set up camera traps in both remnant forest blocks to record the fauna present. In time, and once the replanting programme has been completed in the new plot, there will be comparisons with what is using the “new” corridor.

They also planned to take panorama images with the famous ‘Gigapan’ system, a system developed for taking many high resolution photos and stitching them together to make a massive panorama photo. 

Having set up their project, these delightful students left us to go onto the Golden Lion Tamarin project. After three days REGUA’s bird guide, Adilei and I collected the video material to see what was moving in these patches of forest.

Preparing for the panorama! (© Nicholas Locke)

The results were startling for we recorded a Cracid; Rusty-margined Guan (Penelope superciliaris), the less common Grey-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla) and White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi). The mammals were brilliant with a tail(!) of Brazilian Squirrel (Sciurus aestuans), several Agoutis (Dasyprocta leporina),  and Common Opossum (Didelphis marsupialis). To top it all Crab-eating Raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus) was also captured on film. These species are using the forest to forage, which is great for seed dispersal and helps the nutrient cycle. 

Most Neotropical mammals are nocturnal, and the use of camera traps helps us understand which animals are present in these forests.   We are really impressed that these species appear to be quite common in this fragment border and this is the required base line information for us to monitor the forest corridor once it is planted. 

To view the Agouti video, published with the kind permission of the Duke University project, click here

FioCruz researchers at REGUA

The Oswaldo Cruz Institute for Tropical Diseases (often referred to as FioCruz) is of global renown, considered one of the world’s leading public health research institutions. The Institute has been leading research and saving lives for many decades.

Maycom Neves, Tiago and Agostinho Perreira (© Nicholas Locke)

Recently, we received three researchers very interested in hanging insect traps designed to capture mosquitoes. Maycom Neves, Tiago and Agostingho Perreira are researching two species that are not known in their larvae stage. Interestingly enough one species, Wyeomyia knabi, first collected by Teobald in Cachoeiras de Macacu and sent to UK in 1901 was named after his beloved Wye College where he had studied.

Our researchers are looking for the young or their stages as larvae.  Sabethes forattteniiis another species that has been collected at REGUA but not very well known. Neither are a transmitter of diseases, but the FioCruz is always concerned with public health and lead research efforts into the lives of our friendly mosquitoes amongst many other creatures.     

After this brief introduction, I will certainly look out for these amazing creatures.   

Giant Grasshoppers found at REGUA

Michael Patrikeev, a long standing friend and supporter of REGUA is always coming up with amazing information on his sightings while at the Reserve.   The latest concerns two species of large grasshopper found at REGUA.   Here’s Michael’s report and excellent photographs. 

“I have identified two species of Tropidacris from REGUA

Nymph of Giant Red-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris cristata) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Tropidacris cristata (Giant Red-winged Grasshopper) is the largest known grasshopper, reaching up to 14 cm in length, and 24 cm wingspan. The adults are olive or brownish-green, with orange hindwings. The nymphs are striped with black and yellow, and likely toxic. This species inhabits forested areas of Central and South America from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, and the island of Trinidad.   In flight it resembles a small bird.   

Tropidacris collaris (Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper) is found in tropical forests and grasslands of South America east of the Andes, from Colombia to Argentina.   Along with T. cristata, this is one of the largest known grasshoppers (length around 10 cm, wingspan 18 cm). The adult is mostly green, yellow-green or brown, with blue hindwings. This species is more common than T. cristata.

Giant Violet-winged Grasshopper (Tropidacris collaris) in Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I have photographed only nymphs of these species in REGUA, but would expect one of these to come to a light at the Reserve sooner or later – they are quite a sight!”

Both species are widely distributed in the Neotropics, and common.   T. collaris occurs in both forests and savanna, and T. cristata is mostly a forest species.”

More details and photos can be seen on Michael’s website here:

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

http://www.wildnatureimages.org/Fauna%20invert/Tropidacris%20cristata%20page.html

Amazing Treehoppers

The family of Treehoppers otherwise known as Membracidae is made up of more than 3,500 species.

Treehopper (© Nicholas Locke)

Treehoppers evolved from the order Hemiptera (from the Greek “halfwings”) cousins to many other winged insects. Treehoppers are mostly found in the tropical world and instantly draw the attention from passers-by with their incongruous shapes and especially protruding head gear, called “pronotum.”

They use the pronotum to mimic thorns on the branches they live on, preventing predators from seeing them. This is not their only source of defence however.

Treehoppers feed on plant sap by drilling into plant stems. As a result, a sugary substance called “honeydew” is secreted. The honeydew is an important food source for a variety of ants, bees and wasps. In return presence of the ants, bees and wasps keeps predators away and is a direct benefit of their symbiotic relationship.

Some species of Treehopper also have a well-developed ant mutualism, and these species are normally gregarious, helping to attract ever more ants to protect them.

The Treehopper pictured was found with others in the INEA Nursery in Trajano de Morais, around 100km from here, where we have picked up seedlings. I have identified the Genus as Heteronotus , confirmed by Dr. Lewis Deitz. 

After this brief introduction, I’m sure you will want to visit and look out for these amazing creatures. I certainly can’t wait to find more!!  

Ed: To see the symbiosis in action see Nicholas’ video here.

Orchids at REGUA

We are so lucky to receive Helmut Seehawer, orchid enthusiast who, together with his close friend David Miller, surveyed the nearby Macae de Cima valley for these extraordinary epiphytes.

Ranger Messias, Helmut, Ranger Matheus, Nicholas Locke (© REGUA)

Helmut and David identified and described close to 1,000 species found there and wrote and illustrated the book “Orchids of the Serra dos Órgãos”.   Helmut, a retired airplane pilot developed a passion for orchids when he first flew into Rio de Janeiro many years ago and spent a day accompanying fellow crew in another region of Rio looking for these epiphytic plants.

What got him hooked were their many different mysterious forms, sizes, colours and shapes which made it a complicated hobby to master.   Helmut’s fascination led him to study and survey extensive areas and today he is a recognised authority on their identification.

Helmut is 81 years old and has an unassailable passion and energy.   Since his first visit to REGUA he has identified a total of 72 genera comprising 257 species which represent 60% to 70% of known existing orchids.

Divided into the different areas he has surveyed at REGUA these are Helmut’s findings;

Green and Red Trails and Wetland area   68 genera   206 species
Rio do Gato Valley                                     36 genera   65 species
Biaza Reserve                                           35 genera   112 species
St Andre west slope                                  15 genera    25 species
East slope of Lagoinha                              15 genera    26 species
West slope of Lagoinha                             24 genera    74 species

Helmut writes “It seems that the Green and Red trail forest is especially rich but I walked it ten times, Lemgruber six times, Rio do Gato five times, Lagoinha twice and all the rest once only”

Last October, accompanied by two REGUA rangers,  I walked with Helmut to a recently acquired area, the Vidal property on the Serra do Mar ridge-line.   The first expedition was a little misty, but with Black-and-Gold Cotinga calling around us we knew were in a special place.   The next expedition permitted some mind blowing vistas of the surrounding forest for miles around.   Helmut was far too interested in his orchids to notice and he concluded that this rocky high altitude area must be one of the best places he had ever visited.

Helmut hopes to return in late May 2019 and we are only too pleased to walk with him, learn from him and share his passion.   The REGUA orchid cathedral will be ready to present a sample collection of some of the species found here and draw visitors to appreciate their beauty.

Helmut’s enthusiasm and energy encourage us to continue to increase our knowledge and protection of this amazing valley.    We look forward to seeing him on more expeditions in the future.