These conspicuous brick-red butterflies with shiny black stripes and a variable number of white dots belong in the subfamily Danainae of the Brush Footed butterflies (Nymphalidae). Most of the genera in this group fly in tropical Africa and Indo-Australasian regions, being mainly blackish, creamy and greenish-white. However, the genus Danaus features mostly large bright brick-red species in the Americas with a couple of exceptions in the Old World. They are long lived migratory butterflies with the Monarch being worldwide famous for its yearly massive migrations between Canada and central Mexico.
These butterflies are a popular model among researchers who study biochemical inset-plant relationships due to the easiness in rearing them under laboratory conditions in large numbers. Danaus species retain some of the toxic secondary chemical compounds of their food-plants which protect them from predators during their adult life span. Daniela has been researching these relations for decades going back to UNICAMP and the group that specializes in these insect-plant interactions there. Ever since she moved on to the UFRJ in Rio de Janeiro she continued her research in REGUA and our region where both Danaus erippus and D. gilippus (slightly smaller and with more white dots than previous) are common dwellers. Their larvae feed locally on Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), a perennial weedy plant occurring in sunny areas along roads, trails and open field plantations. Recently, a new foreign species of Asclepias arrived in some coastal areas in Brazil raising some questions and she is now testing how well Danaus erippus larvae perform on it in terms of growth rate and survival.
Some ant species are able to carry seeds to their nests and there these seeds germinate, grow and develop. Species like Pachycondyla striata and Odontomachus chelifer are already known for these interactions.
In this new part of the project, PhD researcher Bianca Laviski and her friend Mariana Romanini Menezes (who helps her on her field outings) are investigating whether ants of the species Ectatomma permagnum are also able to alter the richness and abundance of seedlings around their nests.
Once the species’ nest have been located, the number of seedlings both close and far from it is counted. The evaluation of this survey can determine whether this ant species contributes to the dynamics of forest regeneration. This weekend was Bianca’s and Mariana’s last day at REGUA having completed their field work.
It has been two years of dedicated effort with data collecting especially in forested areas of different successional stages.
We found this beautiful Brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) trying to reach a branch on the roadside. We could not resist helping her! It is interesting to note the amount of insects on her fur.
Sloths can be host to a wide variety of arthropods and two important macroparasite groups can be outlined, the hematophagous and the coprophagus. Ticks and biting flies belong to the hematophagous group and the moths, beetles and mites to coprophagus group, which interact with sloth through commensalism (one organism attaches itself to another (the host) solely for the purpose of travel). Sadly, many sloths are run over by cars and lorries while crossing the roads seeking for forest fragments. Another problem concerns sloths touching high voltage electrical lines, as they often use these wires to move around. Unfortunately, it can be fatal!
In 2011 REGUA published its first field identification guide, A Guide to the Hawkmoths of the Serra dos Orgaos, South-eastern Brazil, which described and illustrated the 110 species to be found in our area. However, since then there have been a number of taxonomic changes, and a comprehensive paper in the European Entomologist (Vol 11, No 3+4) by Haxaire and Mielke provides the latest list of all the species occurring in Brazil as well as introducing several new species.
All of these species are covered on the website Hawkmoths of Brazil, but of particular interest to the REGUA area are:
A new species Protambulyx pearsoni has been split from P. sulphurea and replaces it in the Serra dos Órgãos.
A new species Manduca exiguus has been separated from M. contracta and has been recorded from the State of Rio de Janeiro but not yet to my knowledge from the Serra dos Órgãos.
Manduca paphus is now recognised as a separate species and has been split from M. sexta.
Nyceryx nephus has been elevated to species status based on a single specimen collected at Cachoeiras de Macacu.
Isognathus brasiliensis has been split from I. swainsonii and replaces it in the Serra dos Órgãos and south-east Brazil.
Eumorpha orientis is now recognised as a separate species and has been split from E. obliquus.
Xylophanes reussi has been split from X. marginalis, but both seem to share the same general distribution.
A new species Xylophanes crenulata has been separated from X. ceratomioides. Only X. crenulata is now thought to occur in the Serra dos Órgãos.
Two new species Xylophanes alineae and X. soaresi have been separated from X. p. continentalis and both are found in the Serra dos Órgãos.
Apparently it is likely that Errinyis ello will be split as well into the type that feeds mainly on manioc, and the type that lives in forest, and the entire complex Nycerx group is also under review.
So I would recommend always using the website now rather than the book, but if you find any errors on the website please let me know and I will correct them.
Bees play a fundamental role on the planet contributing to plant reproduction and the maintenance of life. Their work is present in our daily lives, in our food and even in the use of cosmetics. Bees also contribute enormously to the conservation of forests. Currently these insects are suffering great losses either by extensive use of pesticides, climate change or habitat loss.
Considering this situation, there is a real need to preserve more flowering plants that attract bees worldwide.
Bees can use floral resources, such as pollen, nectar, oils and resins to feed themselves, build nests and nourish their larvae. They can also collect floral scents that help in their reproduction.
With this in mind, the National Museum – UFRJ will be carrying out a research at REGUA to identify which herbaceous plants are attractive to bees and which resources are being offered by these plants. The results of this study will further our understanding of forests´ and bees´ conservation at REGUA.
The Black-capped Screech-Owl (Megascops atricapilla) was heard by Adilei’s house and he gave it a chance trying to photograph it. He had been hearing its call for some weeks and he finally managed to reach it! All owls occurring in Brazil, except for the barn owl (Tyto furcata), belong to the Strigidae family. The Black-capped Screech-Owl can be found in Southeast Brazil, northern Argentina and eastern Paraguay and is under Least Concern (LC) category by IUCN Conservation status. This species is of crepuscular habits hunting for insects, rodents, small mammals and birds and it often nests in natural tree cavities or in abandoned nest holes. It’s easy to find the Black-capped Screech-Owl on mature, humid and dense forests. Brazilians have a fascination for owls and it’s quite an event to make a record of it!
REGUA took part in the Urban Nature Challenge 2021: Guanabara Bay, RJ, Brazil, a Bioblitz that began on April 29th till May, the 3rd – at 11:59pm.
We had Eric Fisher’s visit who played an important role in this event.
The Bioblitz aimed at registering as many organisms (animals, plants, fungi) as possible! REGUA was also part of a worldwide DISPUTE among more than 400 cities and regions in which we will be able to show the great biological diversity in aquatic Atlantic Forest and Restinga ecosystems and also in urban areas of our Municipality.
The event has 2,140 observations, 88 participants and 880 identified species so far, and more to be added.
We were unable to make this event open to the public due to Covid-19 pandemic however we think it is very important to engage in citizen science practices going outdoors appreciating nature’s fabulous diversity. We already did some great observations and we are excited with the prospect of contributing to the global citizen science platform Inaturalist!
January 31st, “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”.
(RPPN Portuguese acronym) Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest is basically tropical forest that stretches 20 degrees of latitude hugging South America’s continental rim. From seashore and beach vegetation to lofty mountain peaks, this biome is a mixture of endless habitats with unique and rich biodiversity that contributes to one of the highest rates of endemism on the planet. However, it is also the region of historical occupation and this has made this region a global conservation “hotspot”, and it needs all the help it can get!
Três Picos State Park and adjacent protected areas form the largest remnant of Atlantic Forest in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It is in this area that the NGO Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu (REGUA) is located. REGUA’s mission is the protection of the Guapiaçu catchment and one effective tool for long term conservation is the creation of “Private Reserve for the Patrimony of Nature”, or simply “RPPN” of a property’s forested area. REGUA applies to the RJ State environmental agency INEA, requesting areas be officially registered as RPPN.
REGUA has established 5 RPPNs adjacent to the Park’s perimeter, totaling 700 hectares and REGUA wants more!. Activities such as environmental education, scientific research and visitation can occur with the support of REGUA´s staff.
RPPN offers protection for biodiversity and defines the land use of areas outside existing parks, both important aspects for future regional planning. Any farmer with forests in their property can effectively protect them and we hope that more land owners rally to having a RPPN!
Today we celebrate the “RPPN” day and we wish all the success to the owners and congratulate the authorities INEA and ICMBIO for actively participating and supporting this process.
This week, at REGUA’s orchid house, the species Miltonia moreliana was in flower. It is a beautiful orchid usually found at around 300 metres above sea level in old secondary forests.
A small South American genus of which nine species are found in Brazil and seven of these occur in the Serra dos Orgãos mountain range. Miltonia moreliana requires abundant sun exposure, moderate humidity and ventilation.
Whenever we feel like getting to know orchids occurring on our mountain range a bit better, we ask specialists like Maria do Rosário de Almeida Braga or we look at the book “The Organ Mountain Range, Its History and Its Orchids: Rio de Janeiro” by David Miller(Author), Richard Warren (Author), Izabel Moura Miller (Author and photographer) and Helmut Seehawer(Contributor). It’s a fantastic publication!
On March 1st 2019, the UN General Assembly declared 2021-2030 UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. There exists an urgent need to accelerate global restoration of degraded ecosystems to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. Healthy ecosystems are essential for sustainable development that contributes to poverty alleviation. The UN Environment Programme and UN FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) are leading the global movement which includes over 70 countries committed to restoring more than 170 million hectares of degraded land worlwide. Ecosystem Restoration implies environmental,social and economic gains through which people´s well-being and nature´s resilience is enhanced.
REGUA is one example of good practice conducive to these global goals.
We are preparingourselves for a Bioblitz weekthatwill take place in midNovember 2020. The projectentitled‘REGUA Bioblitz 17-24 November 2020’ ispartoftheInaturalistcitizenscienceinitiative. INaturalistis a platformwhereyoucanrecordwhatyousee in nature, meeting othernatureloversandscientistsandlearningaboutthe natural world around us. Youcan use it torecordyourownobservations, eitheruploadingyourpicturesonthe website orevenusingthe app. It’s recommendable downloading the app. The platform uses AI (artificial intelligence) for flora and fauna identification in case youneed some help.
Everyonecanbecome a naturalistphotographingtheirsubjectofinterestcontributingtoscience. Adheringtocitizenscienceallowsustolearnand understandaboutnature. Thereisalso a longtermprojectcalled ”REGUA BiodiversityCelebration” thatalreadycountswith more than 7.000 observationsexhibiting more than 1.700 flora and fauna species. Thisprojectwasconceivedbythecontributionofmanypeoplewhopostedtheirphotographs, includingpastrecordsfromprevioustripsand some otherswhohelpedtoidentifyspecies. Addingobservations help REGUA acknowledgewhichspecies are presentwithin its territory. It’sworth consideringthe following tips:
Everypictureisrelevant. Youdon’thavetobe a brilliantphotographer (onthecontrary, in some cases the system learns more from low resolution images);
Youdon’thavetobe a specialistto post observations. Youcan upload pictures ofordinary, daytodayspecies. Just informthe system which is the taxonomic group you are referringto;
WhenpostinganobservationwithinREGUA’sterritory, it willbeautomaticallyincluded in theprojectrelatedto REGUA;
It’s a goodopportunitytolearnaboutthedifferenttaxonomicgroups. Bear in mind there are specialistslookingatyourobservationsandthattheycan help you identify them;
It’sfunto go throughInaturalistandyouwillhavegood memories of REGUA whileuploadingyourpictures.
There have been 110 species of hawkmoth recorded in the Serra dos Orgaos and only a further four in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
A recent visit to REGUA by Alan Martin in March 2020 added the 80th hawkmoth species for REGUA, Aellopos ceculus, a day flying moth somewhat similar to the European Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum. It was found laying eggs only a few hundred metres from the lodge.
A further 14 species have been found and photographed close to REGUA, but at higher altitudes than are easily reached within the reserve. Some expeditions to add some of these to the list along with some of the high altitude bird species has to be a priority for future visits.
The Yellow Rat Snake Spilotes pullatus, a semi-arboreal species, which feeds on small rodents, amphibians, lizards and even other snakes, is easily found in forests, in open areas such as pastures and trails and can even be seen around human constructions in search of food. Despite being a large snake, reaching up to 3 metres, it’s very agile and not venomous, with yellow and black colors.
Recently, an old skin left after shedding (the process being called ecdysis) was found at the research accomodation, Casa Pesquisa, which in adult individuals occurs on average once a year. This process occurs when the outer layer of the skin, formed by keratin, is replaced by a new one. This exchange takes place when snakes, in general, grow or when the outermost layer is damaged. Ecdysis lasts from 5 to 7 days and during this period the snake becomes more vulnerable to predators as vision is reduced due to fluid accumulation between new and old skin.
Back in 2015 Alan Martin and Jorge Bizarro started work on a guide to butterflies to accompany the three REGUA books already published that are specific to the REGUA area (hawkmoths, dragonflies and birds). What started as a three year project has taken five years, partly because the number of species recorded in the area is more than had been anticipated but also because it proved very difficult to source photos of some of the rarer species.
The book is now about to be printed and it covers 803 species (excluding grass skippers) with descriptions, comparisons to similar species, global distribution and notes on the ecology, behaviour and host plants. All but three of the species are illustrated with over 1,300 photos of live specimens or where not available, photos of pinned specimens. There are also introductory texts for each family, subfamily and tribe.
The book will be distributed by NHBS, but in the UK is best ordered from Alan Martin at a reduced price of £30 plus £5 postage (please see our Publications page for details). All the profits from the sale of the book will go to REGUA.
Belated news of two adult Purple Martins Progne subis seen and photographed with Grey-breasted Martins Progne chalybea by our bird guide Adilei at REGUA on 9 October 2019. Purple Martin breeds in North America and winters across much of South America east of the Andes. Rio state is towards the southern limit of their range. Following a White-throated Seedeater at the wetland on 12 October 2019, also found by Adilei, this long overdue addition to the REGUA bird list brings the total number of bird species recorded here to an incredible 485! This total excludes species seen on excursions. Which bird species next for REGUA?
Paul Hopkins and Magnus Billqvist stayed at the REGUA lodge from Jan 23 until Feb 13. During almost the first half of their trip they were joined by Agnes Ludwig and Tom Kompier. The weather was somewhat wet and cold, but nevertheless the tour turned up 152 species out of the 208 that have now been recorded from the Guapiacu catchment. The discovery of a new damsel for the REGUA list, Aceratobasis macilenta, was very exciting, but there were several other remarkable records or developments.
The swamp at the bottom of the hill on which the lodge is situated, near the office buildings, was wet throughout the stay. It is still the only confirmed site for Brown-striped Spreadwing Lestes tricolor in the area, but holds easily 25 species within its 30×15 m area. Amongst these are sought after species like the Flame-tip Telagrion longum and Brazilian Blue-eye Anatya januaria, both often found emerging there, but it now also holds a good population of Caribbean Duskhawker Triacanthagyna caribbea and the rarely encountered Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia. This little area is constantly evolving and never ceases to amaze.
The wetland itself is also evolving, with some of the pioneer species that were very common in previous years losing ground to species that likely require less disturbed habitat. This means that the Erythemis species, although still present, are much scarcer. Several years back Pin-tailed Pondhawk E. plebeja would pick off the flies accompanying Ode lovers at virtually every step, but now you have to search for it. Rainpool Spreadwing Lestes forficula, previously abundant and one of the commonest species, was almost completely gone. On the other hand, Guiana Spiderlegs Planiplax phoenicura is now really common and has been joined by the rarer Scarlet Spiderlegs Planiplax arachne, and previously common Bow-tailed Dasher Micrathyria catenata has been largely replaced by Square-spotted Dasher M. ocellata.
At the nearby forest fragment of Onofre Cunha, the recently described Regua Pincertip Forcepsioneura regua was still regular, and exciting as always.
The Green Trail up to the Waterfall was excellent as usual. It turned out to be a particularly good year for the Long-tailed Bromeliad Guard Leptagrion perlongum with dozens seen at the beginning of the trail. Further up a copula of Cinnamon Flatwing Heteragrion sp. was a first, and even more exciting was that is was seen to subsequently oviposit in a shallow forest stream, verifying its suspected habitat.
The fishponds at Vecchi remain excellent, although the Large Pond seems to suffer from disturbance. This possibly explains the apparent complete absence of Slender Redskimmer Rhodopygia hollandi, which used to be a common species here. During our visits we observed a very late Green Forceptail Phyllocycla pallida, which previously had not been recorded after early December. A female Silver-clouded Dragonlet Erythrodiplax laurentia here was another surprise. The small ponds again turned up such excellent species as the enigmatic Mantled Skimmer Edonis helena.
One of the most exciting observations was done at the Tres Picos area, where several Chagas’s Emeralds Neocordulia carlochagasi was observed patrolling. This area appears to be a good location for this rare species, with observations in several years now. Another specialty of this area is White-fronted Sylph Macrothemis capitata, which has now been found consistently for several years at the start of the trail up.
Although not achieving the maximum score of the 2018 tour (166), partly because fewer locations were visited and partly because of weather and luck, the result proved once more that any visitor in the right season can expect to see more species of dragonfly here than recorded from the whole of Europe, and with much more ease.
After a many years of receiving researchers and volunteers from around the world, REGUA’s reputation continues to grow.
Many have visited over the years to help and support REGUA by contributing with their skills, this long-standing key activity has attracted the American Earthwatch Institute.
With a proposal to examine in detail ecosystem services and the restoration of the Atlantic rainforest, Dr Manuel Muanis from Rio Federal University has developed a programme to attract conservation and pro-active Earthwatch volunteers.
Dr Manuel’s plan included locating camera traps to photograph mammal movement in different stages of REGUA’s planted forest and compare this with the natural regenerating forest. The aim is to compare the populations of these animals in both forest types, to understand whether the net benefits in ecosystem services and functions are comparable.
“Mammals act as a regulator for a variety of interactions between a large diversity of species, so the health of mammal populations can be used as an indicator of overall ecosystem health. Understanding to what extent vegetation recovery also restores mammal diversity will provide data about the long-term health and sustainability of these reforested areas.”
“This study will directly contribute to the management plan of REGUA. As we work towards stewarding and restoring the world’s forests, information about how to best manage that process and restore ecosystem functions is critical.”
The team is really committed and enthusiastic, and although January is the hottest time of the year for us, everyone worked extremely hard.
The results are meaningful and Earthwatch will send volunteers throughout the year to provide data that can provide us with a better understanding of forest restoration.
Thank you Earthwatch team for coming and staying at REGUA and helping us.
This is brilliant work and we look forward to learning more as your research develops!
On 26 January Tom Kompier, accompanied by fellow Odonatologists Magnus Billqvist, Paul Hopkins and Agnes Ludwig, visited the large pond at Vecchi, where he caught and photographed a fresh female of a damselfly species unknown to him. Back at the lodge the riddle was solved using the excellent Damselfly Genera of the New World by Garrison et al. (2010).
This mystery damsel was a member of the genus Aceratobasis. This genus is endemic to the Atlantic Forest, with four known species largely restricted to the lowlands. Although recorded from Rio de Janeiro state, it had so far not been confirmed from REGUA.
I quickly wrote to Natalia von Ellenrieder, who provided a paper she wrote with Rosser Garrison in 2008 with additional information on the genus. The specimen turned out to be Aceratobasis macilenta, the smaller of two very similar species. As these damsels, unlike many of their fellow Coenagrionids, hang of leaves and twigs, “Pendant” seems an apt name.
A second visit a few days later failed to turn up more specimens, but luckily a third visit on 5 February by Magnus, Paul and Susan Loose produced a mature male and a mature female, of which Paul was able to take some great photos. It looks like a small population has gained a foothold in the area!