A rare encounter after 12 years of surveys of the Cunha Forest Fragment.

For our guests and nature photography visitors enthusiastic for Insects and Arachnids, a popular spot to visit while in REGUA is the Onofre Cunha forest fragment. It is one of the largest lowland forest fragments extant in the area but grossly cut in two pieces by the Funchal tarmac road. It has been selectively logged, hunted and some areas have been degraded by surrounding farm field activities but nevertheless it still boasts many interesting, rare or hard to see species with some regularity (the opposite of reforested areas exhibiting much arthropod population fluctuations) and many new records over the years originated there.

Doxocopa linda (©Marcos Campis)

So, no wonder that after 12 years of regularly visiting, screening and recent monitoring of butterflies in the Cunha fragment, the most localised and rare of South America’s Emperor Butterflies (genus Doxocopa) just showed up very quickly and displayed itself sun basking in a sunny trail spot during early morning just enough to be photographed. Doxocopa laurona is an endemic Atlantic Forest species known only from a few widely scattered localities from sea level to below around 900 m across south-east Brazil: Rio Doce valley (MG and ES states), Petropolis (type locality) and coastal hills in the lakes area around Saquarema and Cabo Frio (RJ), Antonina (PR) and Joinville (SC).

Doxocopa laurona (© Alan Martin)

The photo depicts an unmistakable male of Doxocopa laurona which belongs to a group of four species where both sexes are mimetic of Adelpha Sister Butterflies (usually only Doxocopa females resemble Adelpha) with the males of 3 species bearing a peculiar purple-violet sheen under a certain opening wing angle. So, it is easy distinguished from males of the more common and widespread Doxocopa linda where both sexes are purple less. Curiously, this late species flies together over the entire tropical continental area, overlapping with the other 3 taxa featuring purple males which are curiously mutually exclusive taxa that do not overlap their flying areas. This is probably because the purple colours of the males are secondary sexual characters that help females in choosing the proper conspecific male thus avoiding hybridization between distinct species. So D. linda is the only species that flies together with others in this group and locally shares territory with D. laurona

On the same day a female was spotted during the routine monitoring walk in the same trail and thought to be Doxocopa linda, but as it turned out, it now could be either this or a female of D. laurona because females are devoid of purple colours and are look very similar.

Grey-crowned Flatbill added to the REGUA list

Grey-crowned Flatbill, the first record for REGUA, 29 March 2002 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Grey-crowned Flatbill, the first record for REGUA, 29 March 2002 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

March is not the best month for birding in south-east Brazil, as it is the end of the bird breeding season and many species become more diffcult to see. But this didn’t stop our guide Adilei from finding yet another new bird at REGUA. On 29 March, Adilei was walking close to the Sao Jose Tower when he heard the call of the Grey-crowned Flatbill Tolmomyias poliocephalus. Grabbing his camera, Adilei managed to capture these fantastic photos.

Grey-crowned Flatbill is found in the Amazon basin and the Atlantic Forest, where Rio state is at the very southern edge of its range. This record brings the number od bird recorded at REGUA to an incredible 486 species!

Congratulations to Adilei on this excellent find.

Grey-crowned Flatbill, the first record for REGUA, 29 March 2002 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Grey-crowned Flatbill, the first record for REGUA, 29 March 2002 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Grey-crowned Flatbill, the first record for REGUA, 29 March 2002 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Grey-crowned Flatbill, the first record for REGUA, 29 March 2002 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

Tree planting day at REGUA’s neighbours

This week REGUA’s field team started planting one hectare of land in the Recanto Feliz property, owned by the Prohmann family, where ActionShop Environmental Services operates (a wastewater treatment plant located in the nearby town of Papucaia).

Mary Prohmann planting her first tree on Woman’s International Day (© Aline Damasceno).

Arthur, Mary and Liliane played an active part in the tree planting session which included Atlantic forest species such as Jequitibás, Ipês and Quaresmeiras (Lecythidaceae, Bignoniaceae and Melastomataceae families respectively).The Prohmann family’s desire to contribute to ecological restoration is founded on the premise that we are all responsible for the natural world future generations will inherit.

Liliane Prohmann excited playing trees (© Aline Damasceno)

We were also delighted by Arthur’s Women’s International Day’s poem which included a celebration to women and the environment.

The planting today is part of a larger WWF reforestation grant to REGUA, which aims at planting 20 hectares of Atlantic forest in the Guapiaçu watershed.

WWF Field team leader, Bruno Nunes showing lots of enthusiasm while planting trees (© Aline Damasceno).

 

Ant research at REGUA

Ant’s nest entrance(© Bianca Laviski)

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.

Researcher coordinator Micaela Locke, PhD Researcher Bianca Laviski and assistant Mariana Romanini (© Raquel Locke).

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.

Good luck writing your thesis, Bianca!

 

Bart Coppens at REGUA

Bart photographing an Automeris genus moth (© Micaela Locke).

Regua has just welcomed its first volunteer after almost two years! Bart Coppens just arrived from the Netherland’s with the task of documenting digitally the REGUA moth and butterfly fauna (adults and immature alike).

A Saturniidae genus moth attracted to the moth wall at REGUA’s v. centre (© Micaela Locke).

He has been a keen lepidopterist hobbyist and has made his findings and work available to the world through social media like Youtube and Instagram. So he has become worldwide acknowledged and has performed some consulting work for the butterfly breeding “industry” overseas, including exotic places like Laos and Cambodia.

Now he is excited with his first ever South America trip, sponsored by one of his Youtube followers.

This seems to be a new Hawkmoth to be registered at REGUA (© Micaela Locke).

Links

Youtube: Bart Coppens https://www.youtube.com/c/Shadowblood66

Website:https://breedingbutterflies.com/

The Screaming cowbird

A Screaming cowbird flying with a Chopi blackbird (©Daniel Mello).
A juvenile Screaming cowbird spotted with a Chopi blackbird (©Daniel Mello).

The Screaming cowbird (Molothrus rufoaxillaris) belonging to the family Icteridae, is among the avian brood parasites the most specialized species.

Daniel Mello, birdwatching guide and partner of our institution, made the first record of this species at REGUA, in an open area close to the headquarters. A juvenile (rufous plumage) was spotted flying with a flock of Chopi blackbirds (Gnorimopsar chopi). Insects, seeds and on occasions fruit, are part of its diet.

It occurs in most of eastern Brazil, from Rio Grande do Sul to Piaui State.

Tapir “Macacu’s” second chance in nature!

Tapir Macacu being released at the Green Trail (João Stutz)

Monitoring is an essential part of any reintroduction programme. The pictures from the camera traps showed that the tapir Macacu, reintroduced last October, was very injured, as the result of clashes with other tapirs. “Macacu” was placed back in an acclimatization enclosure for treatment, where it spent a month to heal wounds and gain weight under the supervision of the veterinarian Jeferson Pires, who is also a professor at Estácio de Sá University in Rio de Janeiro, and the care of Sidnei. Macacu recovered well and is now again free in REGUA’s forests still being  monitored. This is the moment when Macacu is leaving the acclimatization enclosure!

The reintroduction of tapirs in the state of Rio de Janeiro is an initiative of Refauna wild animal’s reintroduction programme in partnership with the Reserve and Petrobras funded project Guapiaçu III.

A sloth found on the roadside

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.

A Brown-throated sloth climbing the fence (© Micaela Locke).

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!

First field course at REGUA after almost two years

This week we are having the first field course at REGUA, respecting social distancing measures, attended by professors, Master’s and PhD students and two Rio de Janeiro Federal University Entomology Department technicians.

 

Students analyzing collected material in the laboratory (©Thamara Zacca)

Students attending this course are part of the postgraduate Zoology programme in the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro / UFRJ. Activities include techniques for insect collection (active and passive collection), preparation and preservation of the material in the laboratory.

Researcher setting an insect trap (©Thamara Zacca)

All the material collected will be part of the National Museum’s entomological collection, which is under reconstruction after the terrible fire of 2018.

It was nice to bump into the researchers on the Yellow, Brown and Purple trails, while they were setting up traps and checking which insects were attracted by it. Covid-19 forced us to adopt social distancing measures, so it’s nice to have students coming to REGUA to undertake their field work once again. We are also happy to be contributing to the new entomological collection which was lost in 2018.

 

Taxonomic changes to Brazilian Sphingidae

<em>Xylophanes soaresi</em>, previously <em>X. porcus continentalis</em> (© Alan Martin)
Xylophanes soaresi, previously X. porcus continentalis (© Alan Martin)
<em>Xylophanes alineae</em>, previously <em>X. porcus continentalis</em> (© Alan Martin)
Xylophanes alineae, previously X. porcus continentalis (© Alan Martin)
<em>Xylophanes reussi</em>, previously <em>X. marginalis</em> (&copy; Alan Martin)
Xylophanes reussi, previously X. marginalis (© Alan Martin)

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.

Brazilian native bees research at REGUA

An Euglossa genus bee (©Cristiana Koschnitzke).

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. 

Neomaricas are often visited by bees  (©Cristiana Koschnitzke).

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.

Jorge and Israel keeping undergraduate biology student Ana company while looking for bees (©Cristiana Koschnitzke).

 

3 more tapirs arrived at REGUA!

Maron Galliez, Tapir reintroduction programme coordinator (© Vitor Marigo)

We are still thrilled with the arrival of a new family of tapirs that came from Bahía – Northeast of Brazil – at REGUA. After a month of getting used to their new home at the release pen at the REGUA wetlands, they finally joined other 6 reintroduced tapirs and 2 wild ones born at REGUA. The father tapir Macacu and it’s calf were taken on the truck to their new residence at the begining of the Green Trail. Cachoeiras, the mother tapir remained at REGUA’s wetlands. The calf it’s now called Amora, name chosen by school children from our local communities.

Sidnei Oliveira leading Amora on her way out from the cage (© Vitor Marigo).

Sidnei, who has been taking care of the tapirs since the beggining of the reintroduction programme, still needs to take food (fruits and vegetables) for all members of the family, and also keep an eye on the older ones making sure they are healthy.

We wish the family does well in their new environment! Reintroduced tapirs arrive at REGUA through the support of Petrobras funded Project Guapiaçu and Project Refauna.

Citizen Science application to help monitor wild animal´s health

Fiocruz Wild Animals’ Health team organized a workshop at REGUA last month (August 18th-20th). Fiocruz Zoonotic and Arbovirus Diseases Department together with some distinguished Federal Health Ministry representatives discussed the development of a citizen science platform addressing wild animal’s health in urban areas.

The team chose REGUA as their workshop site aiming at bringing together governmental institutions such as Fiocruz closer to NGOs like REGUA. Some of the workshop attendants had already visited REGUA in the past and recommended the site as being very suitable for the occasion.

The event was partially held online and workshop attendants had the chance to be lodged at the recently refurbished REGUA “pousada”. The underlying workshop’s guideline was to establish and increase the use of this platform throughout Brazil!

All members of society are invited to engage in this citizen science SISS-Geo application to help monitoring wild animal´s health and the diseases they could potencially spread to humans in both urban and rural areas. Photographing wild animals in urban and rural surroundings will be of great assistance to preventing the advance of zoonotic diseases.

More information on: www.biodiversidade.ciss.fiocruz.br

Fiocruz team at REGUA (© Luiz Gomes e Marcelo Galheigo).

Clearwing Ithomiines: Atlantic Forest butterflies greedy for toxic plants

Mimicry is a very widespread phenomenon in Nature, where some species imitate the morphological and chromatic patterns of others, benefiting from some kind of protection due to this similarity to the model. The later usually has some physical or biochemical characteristic that makes it ‘hated’ by predators. In the case of butterflies, it is usually the presence of toxic (most often alkaloids) and/or unpalatable substances in the body of the models.

In the Americas there is an endemic tribe of the Danainae subfamily of Nymphalidae: the Ithomiini butterflies comprising about 350 species – many of them popularly called ‘glasswings’ or ‘clearwings’ due to the transparency of much of the surface of their wings – where most participate in mimetic rings between themselves and with other lepidopterans, including the subfamily Heliconiinae and some diurnal moths.

In most cases. the chemical compounds involved in toxic or “bad tasting” (unpalatable) butterflies are incorporated during the larva stage from feeding on their food plants. In the case of glasswings the plants used by the larvae are partly Apocynaceae (a source shared with the Danaiini tribe) but the majority feed on Solanaceae, a botanical family which includes popular vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and ‘jiló’. However, many species sequester these alkaloid compounds already in adulthood; especially the males which suck alkaloids from the flowers and roots of shrubs, lianas or weeds of the Asteraceae family or decaying dry leaves of Boraginaceae.

During the tour of one of the butterfly monitoring transects (a section of the Yellow Trail) recently cleared for maintenance, I was able to observe over the course of a week how groups of various species of glasswings congregated on the roots of an Eupatorium shrub (Asteraceae) – especially in the early morning and afternoon – as exemplified by the photo below. The species observed sequestering alkaloids from these exposed roots were the following: Episcada striposisEpiscada sylvo, Hypothiris ninonia daetaHypothiris euclea lapriaIthomia agnosia zikaniIthomia drymo and Pseudocada erruca.

© Jorge Bizarro

A group of at least 6 Ithomiini species feeding on toxic compounds from an Asteraceae root (Eupatorium sp.) (© Jorge Bizarro).

REGUA’s online scientific seminar

REGUA’s second on-line scientific seminar took place from July 21st to July 23rd. The incredible 440 plus e-participants had an opportunity to learn of the varying research taking place at REGUA on diverse subjects such as:  atlantic flora, restoration programmes, conservation strategies, healthy environments and fauna monitoring. REGUA sees research as a core activity and has supported on-site research for over 15 years with close to a hundred publications from  different University departments.

Jorge Bizarro from REGUA’s research coordination team (© REGUA)

It was challenging to organize such an event (online), reminding us that it is important to keep up with technology learning how to handle new tools. Seminars were broadcast live on Guapiaçu Project’s YouTube channel, meanwhile there was plenty chat interaction between researchers, professors, lecturers and REGUA’s team members. Other 35 videos from different research undertaken at REGUA were also made available on YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/c/ProjetoGuapia%C3%A7u/playlists).

We had the chance to learn and share many interesting studies!

Professor Timothy Moulton and his team from UERJ (Rio de Janeiro State university) discusses the water quality of the REGUA wetlands.

Euglena sanguinia algae present at the REGUA wetlands (© Micaela Locke).

Their research has been carrying on since 2005 and they have noticed that the wetlands have been presenting more turbid water lately. This process is associated with the presence of Euglena sanguinia algae, which can produce a harmful toxin to fish. This algae also impacts the development of a submerged macrophyte – Egeria densa – which plays an important role in the balance of aquatic systems, producing oxygen and being food for many species of fish, birds and mammals, besides sheltering planktonic microorganisms. The idea is to keep track of this dynamic and monitor water quality thinking about solutions that can help keep a healthy aquatic system.

 

Another study shows us the importance of the research constancy on bat’s diversity at REGUA over the past 10 years. There are 78 species of bats in the atlantic forest and 43 species occurring at REGUA.

Carollia perspicillata is the most abundant bat species at REGUA. C. perspicillata is known to eat a large variety of fruit, as well as nectar, pollen, and insects. (©Priscila Stefani)

Insectivorous bats are particularly difficult to capture, due to their very accurate echolocation making them very much aware of mist nets. For this reason, it is essential to encourage inventory efforts to continue at REGUA.

Biocenas initiative, part of Rio de Janeiro state university scientific environmental photography centre, has taking place at REGUA since 2010. The initiative’s purpose is to encourage people to get closer to nature through photography. Biocenas’ photographic collection consists of about 4,500 images and this material has been used for education and research purposes, as well as for understanding local biodiversity at REGUA. Biocenas has recently published the Field Guide ‘Fauna Biodiversity at REGUA’.

The online seminar’s results and feedback shows how important it is for REGUA to keep on encouraging research onsite.

The second wild tapir born at REGUA

Flora’s offspring – still to be chosen a name (© Marcelo Rheingantz/Projeto Refauna).

We would like to share this video showing the second wild tapir born at REGUA! We are delighted with the news and we think that the young must be 6 months old.

In 2020 tapirs Eva and Valente had Curumim, the first wild tapir born in the State of Rio de Janeiro after 100 years where this species was considered extinct. Now, tapirs Flora and Jupiter had their offspring and we are thrilled to contribute with tapir population increase at REGUA.

Both adult tapirs arrived in 2018, coming from Klabin Ecological Park in the State of Paraná and bonded since then. There are several camera traps around the forest and for that reason we can keep an eye on the monitoring programme led by REFAUNA project. Guapiaçu Petrobras funded project is also one of the project’s partners as they help buy radio collars to keep track of the tapirs and also help finance the tapir’s transportation to the REGUA. We hope you also enjoy this great news!

Melanoxylon brauna – Leguminosae family

Brauna in flower (© Raquel Locke)

Brauna tree is an Atlantic Forest endemic tree species found in southern Bahia, Espiritu Santo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro states. Brauna tree is under IUCN Vulnerable conservation status category. Its dense, compact and resistant wood has been intensively used in civil construction, in the making of musical instruments, fence posts and tool handles. A semi-deciduous, heliophyte species found in both primary and in mature secondary forests, very often on hill-tops and slopes. Brauna seeds are wind-dispersed. This specimen is growing in our partner’s area, “Francês” (Frenchman), where we restored  4 hectares.

 

Brauna growing at one of REGUA’s restored areas (© Raquel Locke).

A Brazilian native rabbit

Native from Brazil, the Tapiti rabbit (Sylvilagatus brasilienses) is found throughout all the Brazilian biomes, with the exception of some parts of the Amazon. This friendly mammal is nocturnal, wary and solitary and it is most of the time hiding from its predators, such as pumas, ocelots and some snakes.

Its diet consists of fruit, shoots and plant stalks. These rabbits make their nest with leaves or dry grass, lining the inside with their own fur to raise their young, usually giving birth to one to six off springs.

Some people think rabbits are rodents. Actually they have similar behaviour such as nocturnal habits and reproduction, however what most differs rabbits from rodents is their teeth: they have four incisor teeth (two upper and two lower), while rodents have only two.

Besides the fact that rabbits have beautiful long ears!

Tapiti rabbit (Sylvilagatus brasiliensis)
© Micaela Locke

This video was made available by Marcelo Rheingantz and Projeto Refauna due to the tapir monitoring programme.

 

Meet the fruit piercing moths!

Most moths feed on flower nectar and thus behave as pollinators. Another part lives for a few hours or days and accumulates fat in the larval stage, so adults barely eat, drinking water instead.

Eudocima sp. feeding on fruit (© Micaela Locke).

However, several groups of the Erebidae family (ex-Noctuidae latu sensu + Arctiidae) are frugivores, feeding on decomposing ripe fruits. They include the well-known and popular underwings (genus Catocala) from the northern temperate region, which can be attracted by brushing fruit puree over bark and tree trunks.

Some genera of the subfamily Calpinae have specialized in piercing the intact peal of fruit with the proboscis, the mouthpiece typical of 99% of adult Lepidoptera, which in this case has a pointed and barbed tip, allowing the moth to pierce the rind of the fruit to sip its juice and some of them are considered citrus orchard pests.
In our region occurs the colorful genus Eudocima of Pantropical distribution (with species in all tropical regions) exemplified by the individual pictured here on a fallen fruit.

Eudocima sp.  (© Micaela Locke).

Finally – as a curiosity; – Nature went a little further on with some improvements over the proboscis modifications involved in piercing intact fruits allowing for the appearance of some blood feeding (hamatophagous) species in Southeast Asia capable of piercing mammal skin to feed on their blood, especially that of large animals including local cattle. These are the vampire moths of the genus Calyptra.

The typical feeding habit in this Asian genus is to drink on the lacrimal secretions of these animals, but less than half a dozen species specialized in hematophagy just like mosquitoes.

 

© Jorge Bizarro, Research coordinator at REGUA.