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Belize sei2011forweb


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A report on field work from the
Subterranean Ecology Institute, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation.

Published in: Education, Technology, Sports
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Belize sei2011forweb

  1. 1. The 2011 Belize <br />Biospeleology Expedition<br />The Subterranean Ecology Institute, Inc.<br />© SJTaylor/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  2. 2. In April 2011, an expedition to southern Belize<br />was undertaken by a team which<br />included 3 professional biospeleologists<br />and other experts who set out to<br />document previously unstudied<br />subterranean biodiversity<br />© JKKrejca/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  3. 3. Fieldwork focused<br />on caves and karst<br />in the Toledo District<br />of southern Belize<br />
  4. 4. the team members<br /><br />
  5. 5. Led by local Mayan guides, we visited several caves over a period of about two weeks<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  6. 6. Along the way, we admired many natural wonders of the jungle<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  7. 7. Some of the caves have large skylights, with trees growing in them. These skylights also function as natural pitfall traps, bringing energy into the caves to feed the organisms that live in the darkness, with little access to other energy sources.<br />© CMSlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  8. 8. This is a baited bottle trap, being placed in a pool in a cave in hopes of catching <br />some aquatic troglobites.<br />© CMSlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  9. 9. Cave inhabiting crickets, such as this one, were common inhabitants of the twilight zone of the caves. They probably exit the cave at night to forage on the forest floor.<br />Family Gryllidae: Subfamily Phalangopsinae: <br />Tribe Luzarini: SubtribeAmphiacustina: Mayagryllus sp.<br />© JKKrejca/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  10. 10. Each place we stopped to sample in the caves, we collected data on light availability, temperature, wind, relative humidity, and substrate. These data are carefully recorded on field sheets, and are associated with numbered sample jars.<br />Humidity<br />Meter<br />© MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  11. 11. Two small cave invertebrates we found feeding on a piece of debris<br />Diplura: Campodaeidae<br />Isopoda: Trichoniscidae<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  12. 12. Amblypygids, tailless whip scorpions, are<br />large arachnids. They were common in <br />the caves, but likely are not <br />cave-limited species.<br />© JKKrejca/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  13. 13. This harvestman (Opiliones) is a troglobitic,<br />or cave-limited, species. It has a small eyespot,<br />visible in this image, but it is much reduced in <br />comparison to closely related surface species.<br />It is amost certainly an undescribed species –<br />our first discovery! <br />© SJTaylor/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  14. 14. The delicate webs of larval fungus gnats, or webworms (Diptera: Mycetophilidae) were present in many of the caves. We are unsure of which adult fly species these larvae are associated with. In temperate North America, there are other species of these flies whose larvae make a web with a somewhat different construction.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  15. 15. Looking into one of the cave entrances, you can see from the size of the four people, that the passage was often quite large.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  16. 16. A tiny fungus found growing on a piece of organic debris in one of the caves. Fungi play an important role in cave ecosystems, helping to break down organic debris, and providing food for other inhabitants.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  17. 17. One of our team closely examines an amblypygid (tailless whip scorpion).<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  18. 18. We spend many hours doing just this, closely examining all surfaces in search of tiny cave invertebrates, and carefully recording our findings on field forms.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  19. 19. This animal represents one of the most exciting new discoveries from our trip. This is a Schizomid, or Shorttailedwhipscorpion, and is an undescribed new species discovered during our bioinventory. <br /> It is a distant relative of spiders, mites, ticks, scorpions. <br />© SJTaylor/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  20. 20. We spent a lot of time trying to photo-document our trip, so we can better explain what we found, and why it is important. We were fortunate to have several good photographers on the trip.<br />© JKKrejca/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  21. 21. In the lush jungle, cave entrances were sometimes hard to see!<br />© JKKrejca/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  22. 22. This tiny trichoniscid isopod is an eyeless troglobite, distantly related to “pillbugs.”<br />It is likely a new, undescribed species.<br />© SJTaylor/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  23. 23. Another one of the more exciting discoveries was this tiny, cave adapted and undescribed new pseudoscorpion species.<br />© SJTaylor/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  24. 24. A cave-adapted millipede (Diplopoda), likely an undescribed species.<br />© SJTaylor/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  25. 25. One of the many kinds of spiders that were collected. Some of these will likely turn out to be new species, once we’ve had them examined by appropriate experts. <br />© JKKrejca/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  26. 26. Although this, and several other scorpions, were found in the caves, none appeared to be cave-limited, or cave adapted, species.<br />© SJTaylor/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  27. 27. Big, beautiful passage, deep within a cave in southern Belize.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  28. 28. Fruit bats<br /> are important<br /> pollinators in the<br /> tropics. The plants they pollinate include fruit trees utilized by humans. Caves provide critical shelter needed for the bats to rear their young. Here, an adult is roosting with four younger individuals. The feces of these bats, in turn, provides a rich food source for the invertebrates living in the caves.<br />© MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  29. 29. We sometimes made rather extreme efforts to locate cave animals in unusual habitats. This cave pool is more than 15 feet deep.<br />© MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  30. 30. © MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  31. 31. In addition to sampling the caves, we also attempted to collect groundwater invertebrates by using a baited trap lowered down into several water wells.<br />© JKKrejca/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  32. 32. Using heat and light, tiny invertebrates were extracted from leaf litter collected at the caves using this device, called a Berlese funnel.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  33. 33. A typical hike back from the caves.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  34. 34. Prior to conducting our fieldwork, we worked closely with the Belizian Institute of Archeology to obtain research permits, as they are responsible for all research activities in the caves. We also worked with the Belize Forest Department to obtain a collecting permit. Finally, we work with customs in both Belize and the USA, as well as US Fish & Wildlife, to obtain final clearance and approval to bring materials back to the laboratory where we are now sorting and studying our findings. <br />© MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  35. 35. Bruno Kuppinger, a local licensed tour guide, proved indispensible in providing logistical support and helping us arrange for local guides.<br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  36. 36. Cooling off at the end of the day after a long hike<br />© MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  37. 37. © MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  38. 38. We thank:<br />Dr. John Morris, Director of Research, Belize Institute of Archeology<br />Dr. Jaime J. Awe, Director, Belize Institute of Archaeology <br />Mr. Hector Mai, Belize Forest Department<br />Bruno Kuppinger, Toledo Cave & Adventure Tours<br />Shirley & the staff at Sun Creek<br />Dr. Keith Prufer, University of New Mexico<br />Phil Walker & Alan Braybrooke of SWCC<br />Ira Taylor<br />Jason Valdes<br />All of our Mayan guides<br />Belize Institute of Archeology<br />Belize Forest Department<br />Subterranean Ecology Institute<br />National Speleological Foundation<br />Illinois Natural History Survey<br />University of Illinois <br />The Nature Conservancy<br />Zara Environmental, LLC<br />University of Arkansas<br />South Wales Caving Club (SWCC)<br />Billy Valdes Custom House Brokers<br />© MESlay/SEI 2011<br /><br />
  39. 39. The 2011 Belize <br />Biospeleogy Expedition<br />received major support<br />from the<br />as well as a grant from the<br />National Speleological Foundation<br />International Exploration Fund<br /><br />© GHoese/SEI 2011<br />