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 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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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 striposis, Episcada sylvo, Hypothiris ninonia daeta, Hypothiris euclea lapria, Ithomia agnosia zikani, Ithomia drymo and Pseudocada erruca.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
This video was made available by Marcelo Rheingantz and Projeto Refauna due to the tapir monitoring programme.
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.
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.
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.
For some reason green is not a common or popular colour for neotropical butterflies. Contrary to other tropical regions in the Old World, there are a mere handful of greenish butterflies in the American Tropics (some hairtreaks like Cyanophrys, Evenus, Arcas, Erora,the brush footed Nessaea and a few swallowtails) among them the very large malachite green and brown mimetic species with large squarish wings with scalloped margins. This butterfly is a perfect mimic of the heliconine (longwing butterflies) Philaethria wernickei and P. dido, from which it can be distinguished by the larger size, less elongated wings and the heavily serrated hindwing outer margin with 3 small knobbly tails.
It is a common species found over a vast area of the Americas from southern Texas, Florida and the West Indies into Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and south Brazil. Adults are species typical of open forest found from sea level to 1,500 metres in humid or seasonal disturbed forest habitat such as clearings, river banks, roads, edges, secondary growth and even orchards or gardens where many species of weedy or grassy Acanthaceae thrive (Blechum,Justicia,Ruellia). Adults are both attracted to flowers and rotten fruit, they often sun bask in lower foliage on trails, roads or gardens, and females patrol short stretches of this habitat looking for their host plants. The larvae are olive-black with pinkish and white tubercles, thus very reminiscent of toxic Parides and Battus swallowtail caterpillars. The pupae are pale lime-green with a few short spike-like spines.
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!
During the month of May, REGUA’s rangers will be taking part in a training course led by Eduardo Rubião, Phoenix Nature Consulting founder. Rain Forest Trust has kindly donated the funding for this course to take place as a means to encourage REGUA’ s conservation commitment in the Guapiaçu watershed.
Park rangers duties and their relevance to society as a whole, an introduction to the different Brazilian park categories, First Aid principles, walks in the wetlands and in REGUA’s trails including their maintenance and signage are the main training course’s topics. REGUA’s rangers play a vital role in providing a variety of services which guarantee the protection and conservation of REGUA’s forests.
Mantled Hawk, Black and White Hawk-eagle and White-necked Hawk are three very special
bird species found at REGUA, they are stunning to see with their white plumage contrasting against a blue Brazilian sky. These three species are in the family of Accipiters which comprises hawks, eagles and kites.
Mantled Hawk is an Atlantic Rainforest endemic feeding on a variety of prey including small birds, lizards, large insects and small mammals. They sit on perches and ambush their prey sometimes staying in the same area for several days. Often it is the call that alerts us that the bird is around. It is classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN red data list.
Black and White Hawk eagle (Spizaetus melanoleucu) is slightly larger than Mantled Hawk, it also has a much larger distribution and is considered of least concern by the IUCN. REGUA’s bird guide, Adilei Carvalho da Cunha says it can be regularly seen from trails around the reserve.
A third member of the accipiter family found at REGUA is White-necked Hawk, a smaller hawk which is white with black upper parts. This species is harder to see than the previous two species with its habit of gliding above the trees and remaining mostly within the forested areas. It also tends to perch in the mid-storey of the forest or within the canopy making it harder to find. The diet is similar to the previous two species, but may feed lower to the ground.
These birds can be seen around the reserve at REGUA and on some of our offsite trips.
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!
With the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on travel, as with so many places around the world, REGUA tourism levels have collapsed.
Rainforest Trust, who have helped to raise funds for us over the years, came to our aid and helped us support Adilei, REGUA’s bird guide until guests can return.
With this hiatus in his usual work Adilei has been able to do many regular walks around the reserve as well as maintaining the trails. On a recent survey of the wetlands, Adilei spotted a female Masked Duck in the middle of one of the wetland lakes. He played the call and to his surprise the bird flew toward him and landed a few metres away. The bird called with a series of short high-pitched calls in a falling crescendo.
Masked Duck is associated with wetlands which have rafts of water plants on the surface. They use these plants as camouflage and hide out of sight. As it is small duck and sits rather low in the water it can be very hard to find. Adilei’s photograph actually shows the bird in relatively clear water, maybe it was reassured by the call and Adilei’s calm, quiet enjoyment.
REGUA’s wetlands have always had this species and many guests have seen it here, however as the wetlands have matured and with the growth of the planted trees, and increased weed growth, sightings have reduced and they have become increasingly hard to see.
A male was seen last year and with this latest sighting, hopefully we will be able to see more of them in the future.
Birding at REGUA is not so easy and demands much attention and physical resistance from the birder. Trekking up slopes of what remains of the Atlantic Rainforest in a hot climate and with birds that are naturally shy, makes for hard birding conditions. The forest litter that protects the soil and retains soil moisture makes for noisy crunchy walks, giving away one’s presence in the attempt to catch a glimpse of any bird. One of the toughest birds to see is the Solitary Tinamou, (Tinamus solitarius), a large terrestrial bird that was historically much persecuted for Sunday meals. The Solitary Tinamou is an Atlantic Rainforest endemic feeding mostly on insects and toady it is labelled “Near” threatened by the IUCN red data list.
Though hunting has significantly reduced at REGUA, on any forest walk, we can hear these birds call very occasionally, though to see one is another matter. It is probably easier to find a ground nest with a couple of emerald green eggs than the birds themselves.
Adilei recounted his joy at hearing an adult call on one of his walks and when trying to stalk it found only a young chick attempting to merge in with the leaves. Naturally well camouflaged, it went into the brush to make it hard to catch a crisp image. This was a joyous moment for Adilei, as one so rarely sees these birds in the wild. A good sign that REGUA efforts in protection and conservation is contributing to increase their numbers.
Mscstudentfrom Rio de Janeiro StateUniversity, João Souza, isdevelopinghisfieldworkat REGUA for hisresearchprojectaimingtoestablishhowfragmentedareas in theAtlanticForest couldaffect secondary productionoftadpoles.
João alsowishesto demonstratethroughhisresearchthe important role of isolatedmothertrees in helping tomaintainnatural ecosystem processes. As partofthese ecosystem processes heisspecificallylookingat net secondaryyeld, however it is importantto rememberthepreviousstep – rawprimaryyeld. Terrestrialecosystemsrelyonthesun’senergy tosupportthegrowthandmetabolism of theirresidentorganisms. Plants are known for beingbiomassfactories poweredby sunlight, supplyingorganismshigherupthe food chainwithenergyandthestructural “buildingblocksoflife”. Autotrophs are terrestrial prime yeldproducers: organismsthatmanufacture, throughphotosynthesis, new organicmolecules (carbohydratesandlipids) fromrawinorganicmaterials (CO2, water, mineral nutrients).
The energyfromthesunisstoredonthenewlycreatedchemicalbonds, beingthensourceofenergytoheterotrophorganisms. Heterotrophs are secondaryyeldproducers, ratherconsumingthanproducingorganicmolecules.
Net secondaryyeld (NSY) historicallyrepresentstheformationof living biomass of a heterotrophicpopulationorgroupofpopulations over some periodof time. It’sknownthatnotall food eatenby an individual isconvertedinto new animal biomass (NSY), only a fraction ofthe material ingestedisassimilatedfromthedigestivetract; theremainder passes out as feces. Ofthe material assimilated, only a fractioncontributestogrowthofanindividual’smassortoreproduction — bothofwhichultimatelyrepresent net yeld. Most oftherestisconsumedbynormalmethabolims (like respiration).
João’sresearchmaysupplyimportantdata highlightingtheimportanceofconservingvegetationfragments – evenstandingtrees – to help maintainessential natural ecosystem processes like NSY. He alsowishestounderstandhowthe groupofanurans, oneofthelargestvertebrate taxa withmanythreatenedspecies,isaffectedbythelossofvegetation.
Every evening, for the last six months, REGUA´s Visitor Centre wasvisitedby a mysterious nocturnal animal. It was common to see pellets and white stains on cars and all over the floor first thing in the morning. Wefinallyfound outthat the elusive creature was a Barn-owl (Tyto furcata)! Itisnestingatthe top of an oldtree byREGUA’s common area and feeding on small vertebrates.
Widelydistributed, thisspeciesoccurs in alltheAmericas, except for thedenselyforestedregionsoftheAmazon. Barn-owls inhabit open andsemi-openareasandthey are more activeatduskand at night. They arecommonlyseenflyingloworon top offencesalong theroad. Duringday time, they sleepornest in churchtowers, atticsofhousesandtree hollows. Anunmistakablefeatureofthespeciesistheirheart-shaped face. Males andfemales are quite similar however,the male maypresent a whiteunderpartwhilethefemalemaypresent a cream to light browncolourunderpart.
Barn-owls feed on rodents, invertebrates and some largermammalsandsmallbirds. Studieshaveshownthat this species is able to separate different materials in theirstomach, including hair, bonesandother non-digestibleparts. The pellet cycle is regular, regurgitating the remains when the digestive system has finished extracting the nutrition from the food. This is often done at a favourite roost. When an Owl is about to produce a pellet, it will take on a pained expression. Owl pellets differ from other birds of prey in that they contain a greater proportion of food residue. This is because an owl’s digestive juices are less acidic than in other birds of prey.