Insect Communities

Our field research in Czech radio

For the recent series “Czech researchers in summer” of the Czech public radio focused on science, politics and culture (Cesky rozhlas Plus), Ondrej Novak has recorded two shorter reports from our field projects. Firstly, he shortly joined our last sampling campaign in Czech fly ash lagoons where we focus on the structure of freshwater communities. At a fly ash deposit of the Prunerov power plant, a short report of Rob and Vojtech Kolar was made when they emptied light traps and minnow traps. Shortly after, Ondrej Novak made a second report on collection of material for Paja’s diploma thesis focused on biodiversity of moths in burnt forests in the sandstone landscape of Kokořínsko. Sadly, Pája got sick and Rob thus had to take her place. Both episodes of the Magazín Leonardo can be downloaded here (ash lagoons, from ca 5:50) and here (burnt forests, from ca 5:10), both reports are in Czech.

Sylvain’s stay in Krakow

In July, Sylvain spent three weeks at the Zoological Museum of Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Thanks to all work of the museum staff with our material processing, he has finished sorting and identification of all Lymantriin specimens, one of our focal groups collected on Mt. Cameroon. Altogether, he has sorted over 4,400 specimens to ca. 200 morpho-species, based on both wing features and dissections of genitalia of several hundreds specimens. This hyperabundant group completes our huge dataset of Lepidoptera collected along the altitudinal gradient on Mt. Cameroon, they are currently under statistical analyses by Vincent.

Three tussock moths of Dasychira genus, most probably three different species. ©S. Delabye

Description of 9 new species of many-plumed moths

Our report on the newly discovered hotspot of biodiversity of many-plumed moths (Alucitidae) in the Mount Cameroon area has been published in the Zookeys journal just yesterday. Whilst from any other place in the tropical Africa, maximally few species (typically just one or two) of this group are known, we have reported already 15 species of many-plumed moths from our first two expeditions to Mount Cameroon (2014 and 2015). Nine of them were described as new for science in the paper: Alucita escobari, A. fokami, A janeceki and A. besongi were named after our close collaborators and friends; A. lidiyaA. ludmila, A. mischenini and A. olga were dedicated to colleagues and relatives of our Russian co-authors, and A. longipenis was named according to his long male genitalia. Four more species had never been recorded from Cameroon before. Such findings evidence how Mount Cameroon is crucial and unknown hotspot of biodiversity of global importance and how it is important to protect the local nature. In the meantime, our Russian colleagues are working on many-plumed moths from our later expeditions, many more interesting discoveries can be already promised.

Adult specimens of newly described Alucita escobari (left) and Alucita janeceki (right).

Full reference: Ustjuzhanin P., Kovtunovich V., Sáfián Sz., Maicher V., Tropek R. (2018)A newly discovered biodiversity hotspot of many-plumed moths (Lepidoptera, Alucitidae) in the Mount Cameroon area: first report on species diversity, with description of nine new speciesZookeys 777: 119-139.

Sampling of communities in post-industrial waters

Box-trapping in the Dříteč fly ash sedimentation lagoon. © A. Landeira-Dabarca

In mid-July, Eliska, Pavel and Robert, spent almost two weeks by sampling freshwater communities in fly ash deposits and various post-mining sites across Bohemia, together with several members of David Boukal’s groups. Altogether, 20 localities were successfully sampled by numerous methodological approches to describe their communities as well as possible. Sorting, identification and analyses of all these samples seem to be a big challenge for the next months. The next sampling campaign will be in mid-September, we will do our best to process at least most of the already collected samples till that time.

Rainiest journey to Mount Cameroon

Stepan, Jan, Hernani and our new PhD student Karolina has left to Cameroon on Monday. They will spend 7 weeks in the lower parts of Mount Cameroon altitudinal gradient collecting the last data within our large project on pollination networks. For most of this time, they will be accompanied by Stepan’s co-workers sampling more detailed data on pollinating birds. Currently, the wet season culminates in the area. As Mount Cameroon’s foothills are one of the rainiest places in the world, about 2-3 m of precipitations could be expected during this time. It makes it the most challenging expedition of the running project, we wish them good luck and look forward to whatever data they will bring!

Symbolically, our team is leaving Vienna during of a few rainy days in this dry summer.

Julie’s successful internship in our group

This weekend, Julie Desmist from Université Paris-Saclay has finished her two months internship in our research group. At the Biology Centre CAS, she was assissting on our projects focused on biodiversity of Afrotropical moths under supervision by Vincent and Robert. She has been trained in the entire processing of the collected material, including moths setting, preparations and identification. After the initial training she has been involved mainly in Vincent’s project on effects of disturbance by elephants on biodiversity of rainforest Lepidoptera. Simultaneously, Julie has repeatedly joined Paja’s field sampling of moths in burnt forest plots. Altogether, Julie has learned various methods of work with Lepidoptera, both in field and lab. Moreover, she has been substantially involved in our projects which will surely lead to a co-authorship on a research paper. We thus evaluate her intership as highly successful and wish her good luck for the future career! Anybody interested in internship in our group should visit this page.

Vincent’s visit in Munich

Recently, Vincent spent two weeks in the huge Lepidoptera collections of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich where all Geometridae collected during our Mount Cameroon project are stored. Thanks to our long-term collaboration with Dr. Axel Hausmann, all geometrid specimens are now set and ready for identification. Vincent helped with processing of this material, especially with identification to morpho-species, but some poorly known genera still hide a high number of cryptic diversity. Therefore, under Axel’s supervision, Vincent dissected several hundreds of specimens to improve their identification and sorting. We are glad that also this huge dataset is approaching its finalistation.

New postdoc in our group

Hernani training setting of our cameras.

Hernani Oliveira has recently joined our group as the new postdoc. Hernani is an ecologist and chiropterologist specialised in ecological networks of interspecific relationships. He will support our group in processing of our datasets on pollination networks from both Cameroon and Czechia. Currently, he is mainly getting familiar with our sampling methods, because he is going to join our next expedition to Mount Cameroon, to finish sampling of pollination networks along its altitudinal gradient. Being in Africa for the first time for the Mount Cameroonian intense wet season is surely a big challenge (not only) for him. Good luck during the fieldwork, as well as the next two and half years!

Pollen DNA sequencing in Krakow

Jan preparing aliquots under the laminar flow © T. Suchan

The last two weeks, Jan spent at the W. Szafer Institute of Botany in Krakow, Poland, where he worked on the continuation of his metabarcoding of pollen grains sampled from Mount Cameroonian butterflies. Extracted pollen samples, collected from 250 individual butterflies and moths along the altitudinal gradient, were transferred to the institute. There, under supervision of Dr. Tomasz Suchan, the DNA libraries were prepared and purified successfully. Sequencing still has to be performed, but the quality of the library promises good results. We hope for the final success!

Tree climbing course

Karolína and Jan during their first climbing steps.

In the last week, Jan, Karolina (new PhD student coming to our group in the next weeks), Hernani (our fresh new postdoc) and our friend Krystof Chmel participated on a tree climbing course organised by Slávek Hoblík from During the course, they have learned more about the equipment used for tree climbing, different knots, and different techniques of climbing trees at both low (3-8 meters) and high (20-30 meters) canopies. The course is highly relevant to our pollination research. All its participants will use the new experience during installing of cameras into canopies on Mount Cameroon in the coming field trip between late July and half September.