From the DevSur site in Suriname:
January 17, 2011 | Author DevSur
LAWRENCE —Entomologist Andrew Short, who in 2010 “discovered” at least 20 species of water beetles in Suriname –all new to science-, says the country has a huge opportunity.
“Suriname has an almost entirely intact forest — except for a little bit along the coast where most of the people live and a little bit of mining,” he said. “There really exists a huge opportunity for this country to preserve in wholesale its entire biodiversity. There is no loss yet, which is really rare for most developing countries.”
The 30-year-old assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology has taken part in 20 expeditions to South America, eight in the past four years to Venezuela to study aquatic insects. But his latest expedition directed him to what he describes as “a high-difficulty place to get into” — an unspoiled tropical rain forest. “Hundreds of miles from the nearest road, he canoed from camp to camp through one of the planet’s few remaining untouched tropical forests, one of a band of international scientists searching for unknown plants and animals,” the University of Kansas –which he works for- reports in a news release.
“When you’re standing in the middle of a stream and you collect a tiny brown beetle, no bigger than a pinhead, it’s really difficult to know exactly the significance,” said Short, who had already described 103 species of beetles before his last trip to Suriname. Indeed, of the 85 species of water beetles he collected, the KU researcher said that 20 were likely new to science.
Short was among 30 scientists who flew to Suriname on August 15 to search for unknown plants and animals. The expedition was part of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program, which provides biological information from various countries to accelerate conservation efforts and improve biodiversity protection.
After landing in Suriname’s capital, the group traveled to Kwamalasamutu, near the Brazil border, to ask permission of the indigenous community’s chief to collect specimens on its land. The goals of the expedition included doing an inventory of the area to develop a baseline of plants and animals; determining how the information could be applied, such as promoting ecotourism; and assessing the impact the indigenous community has on the land and its animals and recommending changes, if needed.
Once permission was gained, Short, 11 other scientists, 12 Surinamese students and eight to 10 Amerindians loaded their gear into 10 large motorized canoes and headed to a camp deeper into the rain forest. The students and scientists focused on finding aquatic insects in small streams, marshes and holes in the ground where water collected, while the Amerindians helped guide the researchers, cut trails and build camps.
Short said he and the others used tea strainers and nets to gather beetles from the water and an aspirator to suck the insects out of the water and deposit them into a vial filled with ethanol. At night, they would clean the samples, write labels and keep a running list of species collected. The group collected more than 4,000 specimens during the trip. “I estimated we collected 85 species in the field,” he said, “but I think it will be more than 100.”
Short said one of his most interesting finds was an inselberg, a granite outcrop that rises from the forest. “There’s a kind of aquatic beetle and insect community that only lives on these rock outcrops. We were fortunate enough to find one, and it had a little bit of water — just enough to find a few species that are new to science and may contribute to our understanding of evolution and biogeography,” he said.
Once he returned to KU on September 12, Short and his team began mounting and labeling specimens for the university’s entomology collection. Some specimens will go into a frozen tissue collection for use as DNA samples. Short said he will study the specimens for about a year and then write a detailed report about what was found at each site, which will be compiled into a small book that provides baseline data.
Short, who also is curator of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, said he plans to go back to the rain forest in September to collect more specimens.
Two new species of ‘leaping’ beetles discovered in New Caledonia: here.
January 2011. Over the course of two scientific expeditions to the subtropical forests of Mozambique, Will Watson, Wildlife Consultant from Herefordshire, discovered a species of water beetle new to science. The 2.7 mm long diving beetle has been named Haliplus watsoni: here.
(American Journal of Botany) Do mountain tops act as sky islands for species that live at high elevations? Are plant populations on these mountain tops isolated from one another because the valleys between them act as barriers, or can pollinators act as bridges allowing genes to flow among distant populations? Here.