Insect Communities

The first defended Ph.D. in our group!

Yesterday, Vincent Maicher has successfuly defended his doctoral thesis entitled “Biodiversity patterns of butterflies and moths on Mount Cameroon”. Vincent spent the last five years by studying biodiversity of Cameroonian moths and butterflies from various points of view. It comprised 7 expeditions to Mount Cameroon (2 of them fully led by Vincent), 14 months spent in the field, countless sleepless nights of moth collection, and ca 80 thousand of collected butterflies and moths (> 47 thousands included in the thesis). It all resulted in 8 chapters (published papers or manuscripts in various phases of review process) dealing with community ecology, conservation and taxonomy of Lepidoptera. Both reviewers, Prof. Toomas Tammaru and Dr. Thomas Merckx, were generally positive and initiated fruitful discussions on some of Vincent’s chapters. Finally, Vincent’s defence was successful. Honest congratulations, Dr. Vincent Maicher!

Vincent is getting ready for his dissertation defence.

Newly described skipper from Mount Cameroon

Andronymus magma Sáfián & Tropek 2019 © Sz. Sáfián/Zootaxa

Biodiversity of Mount Cameroon is still rather poorly known. We know pretty well as we are constantly meeting unknown species of butterflies and moths. In such cases, we are doing our best to change it and to scientifically describe such newly discovered species.  Fortunatelly, we are collaborating with several experienced taxonomists, such as Szabolcs Sáfián for  butterflies. Now, the description of Andronymus magma has been published in the taxonomical journal ZootaxaSo far, we collected the species in lower elevations, around the Drink Gari camp, of the southwestern slope of Mount Cameroon only. As we are not aware on any other similar specimens to be collected elsewhere, we consider it as an endemic of the mountain. This is also the reason for the species name.

Full reference: Sáfián Sz., Belcastro C., Tropek R. (2019) Two new species in the genus Andronymus Holland, 1896 (Lepidoptera, Hesperiidae)Zootaxa 4624: 108-120.

Pollination Summer School

In the last week, Rob has participated on organisation of the German-Czech Summer School, together with Tiffany Knight and Demetra Rakosy from the Helmhotz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, and with Jana Jersáková from the University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice. Among many other student from Czech and German universities, Sailee, Pavla and Kobe from our group have attended the Summer School. We have spent a week in the White Carpathians Landscpape Protected Area in the southeastern corner of the Czech Republic. On the model comparison of natural and restored meadows, we have been teaching students how to study pollination networks. They have tried all project stages, from data sampling, through identification of visitors, up to data analyses. We all have enjoyed the entire week and are looking forward to repeat the experience sooner or later.

Lucas has defended his master thesis!

Lepidopterans on flowers from our videorecordings as used on a title of Lucas’ thesis.

Last week, Lucas Brisson has defended at the University of Poitiers his ‘major master project’ (alternative of our MSc thesis) which was fully done during his Erasmus practical traineeship in our group. Lucas spent with us the last six months during which he has been working on his own project entitled ‘Role of butterflies and sphingids in pollination networks on Mount Cameroon’. When processing our material and data collected at four different elevations and two seasons on slopes of Mount Cameroon, he learned a lot of new skills, including processing of video recordings, identification of butterflies and moths, analayses of their interactions with flowering plants and many others. Moreover, he has joined us for our field project in the Krkonoše Mts. in April. All these resulted in the successful defense, first rank in his year, and the MSc degree. Congratularions! The thesis is of such high quality that we will transform it into a manuscript for some scientific journal. If you are also interested in Erasmus (or other) internship in our group, check this site.

New publication on Leptotes butterflies

Rob has co-authored a study of phylogeny and biogeography of Leptotes butterflies which has recently been published in the respected entomological journal Systematic Entomology. Our analyses, also based on the butterflies collected in Cameroon, tracked the origin and biogeographic history of the studied butterflies. We have also proved Cycliurus to be a junior synonym of Leptotes and described a new species Leptotes durrelli from Madagascar and Mauricius, named after Gerald Durrell. Special attention has been paid to Leptotes pirithous, a common butterfly in Africa and Eurasia. We have shown it originated in Madagascar some 5-7 million years ago and expanded its wide range from there. Obviously, even common and overlooked butterflies can show some interesting stories!

Full reference: Fric Z.F., Maresova J., Kadlec T., Tropek R., Pyrcz T.W., Wiemers M. (2019) World travellers – Phylogeny and biogeography of the butterfly genus Leptotes (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae)Systematic Entomology 44: 652-665.

Dominik has defended his BSc thesis

Today, Dominik Anýž has defended his Bachelor thesis entitled “Importance of butterflies for pollination of flowering plants”. He reviewed available information on floral traits important for butterfly visitors and discussed it in relation to the psychophilous pollination syndrome. Consequently, he has reviewed studies of butterfly pollination efficiency. As expected, the role of butterflies strongly varies among (and sometimes even within) their families. His defense was evaluated by the best grade. Moreover, the thesis itself will deserve not so much additional work to be ready for submission to some ecological journal. Congrats and good luck in your BSc final examination!

Robert got the Purkyně Award

Robert and Jana receiving the Purkyně Award from Prof. Zažímalová, head of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

Last year, Jana Jersáková and Robert wrote a popularising paper on the current views on plant-pollinator interactions in Živa, the popularising journal of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Recently, this paper was awarded as the best popularising paper in 2018 and Jana and Rob got the Purkyně Award. At the same time, the paper brought a positive feedback from our colleagues. Congratulations and wishes for more popularising activities!

Tropical ecological conference in Edinburgh

Few weeks ago, Rob attended the conference Unifying Tropical Ecology: Strengthening collaborative science organised as the joint meeting of BES and gtö. Firstly, he presented our results on specialisation of pollination systems in higher elevations of Mount Cameroon. Two days later, he gave an invited talk on seasonal shifts of butterfly and moth communities along the elevational gradient of Mount Cameroon, a thesis chapter of Vincent who is still in Cameroon. Both talks brought interest of other tropical ecologists. Furthermore, Rob also made some arrangements of the 2021 meeting of the Society of Tropical Ecology which he will organise in Prague together with the Czech Society for Ecology. Last but not least, the meeting was fruitful for networking, both with old and new friends and colleagues.

Start of the transplant experiments

Jessica, Šárka and Andrea are preparing damselflies for the transplant experiment. © V. Kolář

Last week, we have started with transplants of freshwater organisms between polluted and unpolluted industrial waters. It is an important part of our joint project with David Boukal’s group which aims to reveal how industrial pollution changes the structure of freshwater communities. During this first setting, Andrea, Jessica, Vojta and Sarka (with a bit of help by Rob) have transplanted larvae of damselflies and natural communities of algae. Fingers crossed our transplants will survive!

Krkonoše Mts. pollination networks

Many group members spent the past weeks in the field on the slopes of the Krkonoše Mts. in northern Czech Republic. We were collecting data, mainly focusing on recording floral visitors of flowering plants in semi-natural forests along their altitudinal gradient. To get a comparable dataset, we followed our sampling protocol from Mount Cameroon. Although the weather was surprisingly good for most of our fieldwork, we managed to sample data in the lower part of the gradient, while the higher elevations will have to wait for next spring. We are looking forward to having the results!

Antigone and Lucas setting a camera on flowers of Mercurialis perennis. © Š. Janeček