Insect Communities

Mercy in Krakow

The last two weeks, Mercy has spent at the Zoological Musem of Jagellonian University in Krakow. Together with our long-term collaborators Szabolcs Sáfián and Tomasz Pyrcz, she has finished identification of all the fruit-feeding butterflies collected during our expeditions to Mt. Cameroon. Now, we thus have the complete dataset for analyses. Simultaneously, it was Mercy’s first visit of any larger entomological collection. Thanks to all the museum staff to help her with another step to become a lepidopterist!


Our past project got an excellent evaluation

One of a few fly ash deposits of the Prunéřov Power Plant. © R. Tropek

Recently, the Czech Science Foundation (main scientific grant agency in the country) released evaluation of projects finished in the last year. Robert’s grant on finely-grained post-industrial sites got an excellent rankings. During the five-years project, Robert and his collaborators, both external and from our group, revealed fly ash deposits as crucial refuges for critically endangered biodiversity of drift sand dunes. We have also published results of the first studies on restoration of these sites considering both biodiversity and environmental aspects of these controversial sites. Simultaneously, we were have analysed why some sand-specialised arthropods colonise secondary sites whilst some others do not. We have also studied biodiversity and restoration of other secondary sites with finely grained substrate, including sand and gravel pits, coal spoil heaps and drained pond bottoms. Altogether, twelve SCI papers and several book chapters were based on the grant results, several other manuscripts are under review or being prepared. Simultaneously, theses of few students were based on the results financed by the project. Most importantly, some our results have already influenced practical restoration of several post-industrial sites.

To Mt. Cameroon in rain season!(?)

Packing bags in front of our office.

This week, some members of our group and a few our collaborators left for another expedition to Mt. Cameroon. Firstly, Yannick, Štěpán Janeček and our treeclimber Pavel Kratochvíl left on Monday. Pavel Potocký, Zuzka Sejfová and Jiří Mlíkovský has joined them today early morning. They should spend the next six weeks by researching pollination networks inthe rainy season. Mt. Cameroon belongs to one of the rainiest places in the world and Štěpán is most probably the only person in the world who already led a successful scientific expedition to the mountain in rains. His results were really interesting, check here and here. Hopefully, our guys will bring some interesting data (or at least some data) again. Good luck in the rain!

Main fieldwork in Zelezne hory

Pavel and Mercy collecting flower visitors. © P. Janečková

A large part of our group (including our two visitors Mercy and Laura) spent the last three weeks in the Zelezne hory Mts. Since last year we have been working on the project led by our colleagues from the Institute of Botany focusing on pollination networks in a fragmented landscape. Similarly to last year, during the main fieldwork we have been collecting visitors of flowers in several wet meadows to reconstruct networks of plant-pollinator relationships. Now the collected insects are being prepared for identification in order to have the data as soon as possible.

Study on importance of flower spurs

View into a flower of Impatiens burtoni. © Š. Janeček

A new study on a pollination system of Impatiens burtonii with Eliška’s contribution has just been published by the New Phytologist journal. Its authors, led by Štěpán Janeček, focused on morphology of the flower spur in relation to morphology and behaviour of its insect visitors. They decided to verify the old presumptions that only specialised long-proboscid pollinators are able to pollinate long-spurred flowers. In the studied Cameroonian jewelweed they revealed that the three commonest visitors, with proboscises of various lengths, are able to pollinate the flowers. Their abundances varied as the amount of nectar changes during the day – even short-proboscid visitors could reach the nectar if it accumulated sufficiently. In the morning, the almost full spurs were reached by short-proboscid hoverflies. Medium-proboscid bees were most active during mid-days. Finally, all these were replaced by highly specialised long-proboscid hoverflies during afternoons when the spurs are almost empty. Contrary to the expectations, bees are the most efficient pollinators, depositing most pollen grains during each visit. The authors thus hypothesised that the long spurs may not necessarily be the co-evolutionary adaptations for the highly specialised long-proboscid pollinators. They can rather efficiently partition resources among more diverse pollinators with different morphology. Check the full article for its nice pictures!

Full citation: Vlašánková A., Padyšáková E., Bartoš M., Mengual X., Janečková P., Janeček Š. (2017) The nectar spur is not only a simple specialization for long-proboscid pollinatorsNew Phytologist.

New grant on pollination research

A part of our group in a café after a full day of pollination research.

Our pollination research has been supported by a PRIMUS grant – a support from the Charles University for young researchers. For the next three years, we will thus be working on a project entitled “Crucial drivers for pollination networks organisation: Effects of altitude, latitude and habitat fragmentation” with Robert as PI. We have planned to supplement our current projects reconstructing pollination networks along various gradients of environmental conditions by additional data in both Czechia and Cameroon. It will allow for much better generalisation of our results and answer more general questions. The good news is even better as they caught us during our fieldwork in the Zelezne hory Mts. In the next few months, we will open few calls for new students working on the project – from undergrads, through PhD students to a postdoc. If you are interested, contact Robert or keep an eye on this page.

Laura, a new intern in our group

Today, Laura Mlynárová has started her two-months Erasmus internship at our group. Laura is coming from the University of Prešov, Slovakia, where she defended her Bachelor thesis focused on the biology of specific species of bark beetles. Within our group, she will participate on the research of pollination networks in the fragmented landscape of Železné hory. She is the first Erasmus intern since the establishment of our group.

New publication: flower visitors of Uvariopsis dioica

Female (left) and smaller male (right, 2x) flower of Uvariopsis dioica © Štěpán Janeček

Part of our data collected during the early 2016 expedition to Mt. Cameroon has been published in the African Journal of Ecology. It concerns a case study on Uvariopsis dioica (Annonaceae), a smaller tree flowering at its base, where we filmed the plant’s visitors (sometimes large ones). Among the 1103 individual visitors, ants and cockroaches are the most common. We also found some pollen grains attached to cricket and cockroach legs, possibly indicating the presence of a primitive pollination system in the plant species. The publication can be found online here.


Full citation: Mertens J.E.J., Tropek R., Dzekashu F.F., Maicher V., Fokam E.B., Janeček Š. (in press) Communities of flower visitors of Uvariopsis dioica (Annonaceae) in lowland forests of Mt. Cameroon, with notes on its potential pollinatorsAfrican Journal of Ecology .

Our Cameroonian student in Prague

Mercy Murkwe in front of the Prague Castle. © P. Halamová

On Saturday, we have welcomed Mercy Murkwe, our Cameroonian doctoral student, in Prague. Since her Master studies, she has collaborated on our projects focusing mainly on communities of fruit feeding butterflies of Mt. Cameroon. Recently, she has fully organised one of our sampling expeditions into the Bimbia-Bonadikondo Community Forest. She has also crucially helped Vincent and Sylvain during their sampling of lepidopterans in forests non-disturbed by elephants (see the previous News). Now, Mercy will spend six months at the Department of Ecology, Charles University in Prague, processing part of the collected butterflies and helping us with some other projects. We wish her a successful stay in Europe!


Back from Mt. Cameroon: End of one project

Vincent, Sylvain and Pavel have returned from their fieldwork in Cameroon last Monday. Their expedition brought data on butterflies and moths from 80 bait traps exposed in total for 50 days, and from 30 full nights of manual collecting of moths attracted by light. After more than three years of intensive sampling at different elevations and seasons, we finally completed our sampling of lepidopterans along the Mt. Cameroon gradient. Simultaneously, our guys have started sampling both butterflies and moths in forest plots non-disturbed by forest elephants within Vincent’s grant project. Now, the sampled material is already waiting for its processing by us, as well as our numerous collaborators. Meanwhile, our field projects in Cameroon do not end, the next expedition for our pollination projects is planned to start in August.

Kobe and Pavel on their way to empty traps. © S. Delabye