We are very happy to host Dr. Alex Sanchez Ruiz from BIOECO in Santiago, Cuba. Alex is here for several weeks to look for Caponiidae spiders, one of our focal groups, and also to discuss our collaboration with him and other Cuban arachnologists, and to plan the upcoming fieldtrip our group will make to Cuba!
In late October I delivered nearly 1600 tissue samples from Puerto Rico arachnids to the Smithsonian GGI, half for long term deep-freeze storage and half for DNA extraction. Specimens were also sent to experts B. Huber (Alexander Koenig Zoological Research Museum, Bonn, Germany), L. Esposito (UC Berkeley), and N. Platnick and N. Dupérré (AMNH, NY). Work is ongoing photographing specimens and planning the next field expeditions!
Our collaborator Hannah Madden of the Stenapa NGO in St Eustatius has posted many nice photographs from our PR expedition in the Stenapa facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stenapa-St-Eustatius/203334299688441?ref=ts&sk=wall#!/media/set/?set=a.246528868702317.63787.203334299688441
Also, see a nice summary in the latest Stenapa Newsletter
With the departure of several key team members after Guanica dry forest, a team of nine continued on to Mata de Platano in the Karst Region and Toro Negro, the highest elevation park on the island. Lauren Esposito, postdoc at UC Berkeley, two PhD students from the University of Puerto Rico, Heine Kiesbuy and Zamira Yusseff Vanegas, along with six undergraduate students from the UPR and Lewis and Clark College ventured to the next two field sites in search of arachnid biodiversity. Within the protected gates of Mata de Platano, boas hung from the roof of a cave awaiting the nocturnal exit of thousands of bats. Within this cave the BioGeo team collected Loxoceles and trapdoor spiders from the floor and at least two large Phrynus (Whip Scorpions) species from the walls; some so large it took two gloved hands to capture. The drive to Toro Negro took the team up long steep roads to the pinnacle of Puerto Rico. The park was wet and many spiders found refuge under the broad leaves of trees and shrubs. Cerro Punta, the highest summit of the island, was home to many Salticids, beautifully ornamented jumping spiders, and probably at least three species of Tetragnatha. This concludes the first round of collection on Puerto Rico, and sets the stage for countless future adventures to catalogue the arachnids of the Caribbean biodiversity hotspot.
The CarBio project officially took off with a successful workshop at the University of Puerto Rico on July 15, 2011. A total of 15 project participants attended the workshop, thereof five UPR undergraduate students (Diego Agostini, Laura Caicedo, Angela Alicea, Jose Rivera, Paola Arroyo), two undergraduate students from Lewis and Clark College (Trevor Bloom, Ian Peterson), three UPR graduate students (Heine Kiesbuy, Zamira Yusseff Vanegas, Sean Kelly), local collaborator Hannah Madden (St. Eusticius), collaborators Lauren Esposito and Nadine Duperre, and PI's Greta Binford and Ingi Agnarsson, plus two invited speakers Santiago Eugenio and Richard Thomas.
The team ready for field action! Photo by H. Madden
The following day the team headed to El Yunque National Forest for collecting. Three days (and nights) of collecting resulted in approximately 5000 arachnid specimens representing approximately 20 spider (Araneae) families, in addition to a diversity of scorpions (Scorpiones), harvestmen (Opiliones), tailless whip scorpions (Amblypygi), and pseudoscorpions (Pseudoscorpiones). We collected approximately 46 species of our focal taxa, and probably well over 100 species of other taxa. Following El Yunque the team moved to Guanica dry forest Biosphere Reserve. We found a similar number and diversity of arachinds in Guanica, with very little overlap in species diversity with El Yunque. We added the order of Camel Spiders (Solifugae) to our list, and likely over 100 species of arachnids.
The team is now getting ready to head to Mata de Platano, moist forest in the karst region, and Toro Negro, the highest elevation forest in Puerto Rico.
Overall, we're excited about the success to date!
A short fieldtrip to Guanica State Forest (Agnarsson and Kuntner), a dry forest in SW Puerto Rico, 13-14.iv.2011 resulted in several target taxa including Argyrodes, Achaearanea, Argiope, Nephila, Gasteracantha, among others.
First site visited by the project: Cambalache State Forest (Agnarsson and Kiesbuy), Puerto Rico, 25iii2011. Target taxa sampled included Faiditus and Argyrodes, Tetragnatha, and some lower priority taxa.
31 January 2011 - The National Science Foundation will fund our project on Paleobiogeography of the Caribbean (DEB-1050187-1050253)!!
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