From April 26, 2019 to May 12, 2019, the second part of the scientific and educational activities took place in the Caucasus, related to the implementation of the V4 & Eastern Partnership project (Visegrad Fund, project no. 21810533).
The project promoters (scientists and volunteers from the V4 countries, Azerbaijan and Georgia) organised a number of interesting events and workshops to increase the awareness of the importance of Caucasus biodiversity among the locals.
Field work related to the education of the colleagues and the general public was held this time in the surroundings of Tbilisi, Telavi and Akhmeta in Georgia, and in the surroundings of Zaqatala, Qax, Seki and Gabala in Azerbaijan.
In addition to the above events, the project promoters conducted several Workshops. The three workshops were held in Georgia (at State University of Telavi , Administration of the National Park in Akhmete, and Primary School in Telav) and two of them in Azerbaijan (Primary school in Qax and National Park Administration in Qax).
All events received a positive feedback from the local people, and several institutions even showed interest in establishing closer cooperation on biodiversity research.
While many of us are not sure of the answer to the question there are organisms who are unmistakable about it for a long time. We are not going to deal with any anthropocentric issues which trouble certain part of population but with a tiny aberrant group of insect. Therefor several following lines will be dedicated to flies marked as “Stalk-eyed flies“ or if you prefer to flies with the eyes on stalks. The two-winged flies belong predominantly to the tropical Diopsidae family and they only compose a small family of flies with the size of several tens of species. Due to their life-cycle and their way of life their presence is mainly adherent to humid places with decomposing vegetation e.g. in the surroundings of streams and rivers. One representative of this group (scientifically Diopsis macrophthalma) present in Africa is actually considered pest in the paddyfields 1. If you are impressed by their appearance or their way of life and you would like to see them live there is no need to travel that far because one representative of the family was recently also discovered in Europe and withal in our southern neighbouring Hungary2.
In some respect we hoped that we would also find the bizarre creatures during our recent expedition in Kenya but we started being sceptic after the look at the dry-washes and the droughty land. Eventually, we were successful in the north Kenyan mountain Mt. Kulal in the Nanta Mesi locality. It is a non-drying lakelet under the waterfall which is intensive used as a watering-place by the local shepherds during the dry season. We had no idea about the presence of the flies with the eyes of stalks until one of them trapped in the entomologic net. And that was it, we searched carefully the whole locality with the result – two specimen caught (although it could be better …). They are two specimen of the same species (belonging to the large group of similar species Diopsis apicalis – determination : Hans Feijen).
The bizarre creatures can be best observed at twilight (although it was at midnoon in our case) when they cluster every time at the same places. However, while females cluster narrowly to each other males are spaced out and they “fight“ for their place under the sun (better under the moon in this case). It is a kind of ritual during which the males compare the length of their eyes stalks and their span with each other. In the pursuit of maximization of the eyes stalks span some of the males turn to tricks with straight forelegs which visually elongate the distance between the two eyes stalks. There is no wonder at using such “falsehood“ though. There is truly a lot at stake and the process is cogently simple and straightforward in this case – the male with longer eyes stalks simply wins and gains more females3. There is a dog‘s chance for males with shorter stalks span for a successful upright transfer of his own genes and the famous assertion that “even a little clown can play a great theatre“ is not accurate in this case.
Scientists still speculate about the reason. The results of their research bring every time almost the same result: the male attractiveness rises with the length of their eyes stalks. That may suggest females themselves support the development of the extreme morphology of the males‘ eyes stalks by their sexual selection4. We could think “poor male“ at the thought of neverending stress on the growth of the eyes stalks. (Un)luckily, the natural selection counterworks the effects of sexual selection rather firmly and it eliminates from the population the individuals with too excessive demonstration of the badge by means of reduced viability (e.g. particular individuals are clumsier or more noticeable and therefor become an easy meat for their predators). Like the other animal species the case of “stalk-eyed fly“ males is not concerned with a kind of ill-nature or torture of the mankind from the side of females. The female choice is even here a pragmatic matter as the length of the eye stalk proves to be closely associated for instance with total largeness, the wing length as well as vitality or male fertility. Longer length of the stalks finally means the larger body and increased vitality of the father which results in the production of robuster and more vigorous descendants5. Moreover, the scientists found out that the gene with coded information on the longer eye stalk is concerned with the gene that enables to beget more male descendants6.
Finding a new species of a two-winged fly for Slovakia does not happen on a daily basis (even though a Man named Mucha (fly) sometimes finds a new fly 🙂 .….)
But finding 14 of them, that is something!
Our scientists from the Department of Ecology at University of Prešov in Prešov and the Entomology Department of the National Museum in Praque can be proud of such a considerable success. In collaboration with more collectors, from whom they have gained a great many of entomologic material from the whole territory of Slovakia in the recent period, they could manage to find fourteen new species of flies for Slovakia and even new species for science (species that have not been registrated anywhere in the world and so they are or were unknown in science). All the species belong to the family of sandfly (scientifically called Psychodidae). They are tiny two-winged creatures only a few millimetres long and they markedly remind of butterflies. Their Slovak name – kútovky (pl., sg.-kút – means a corner) was probably implied from their behaviour. Their adults especially the synanthropic species (living close to people) like to sit in a various corners.
The discovery that really deserves our attention are already known but still extremely rare species which were only observed in several localities in the world to this day as well as the discovery of epidemiologically interesting sandflies which can transmit agents of various diseases or cause myiasis (diseases caused by larvae parasiting in a human body). The article about these discoveries was published in the scientific periodical and you can read it here …..
Several results are also expected in the field of the other two-winged flies families (in some cases preliminarily affirmed already). We will learn about the definite results later due to the time-consuming work … Only qualitative and particular study (which is unfortunatelly still not financed effectively in our country) is the basic condition for reaching noteworthy discoveries not only in Slovakia but also worldwide. This is also suggested by other notified issues of the scientists of the Department of Ecology in Prešov who work on both the study of two-winged flies and the study of the ecology of hydroecosystems and agroecosystems.
The author of the blog: Jozef Oboňa, Department of Ecology FHNS UP
Nasiternella regia was first found and described by Riedel at the beginning of the 20th century, just in 1914 on the basis of the finding in Romania. Although several more specimen have been found in Albania and Austria during several years since the period, the total number of the specimen constituting the worldwide repertory of the genus could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Since the half of the 20th century the biggest genus of the Pediciidae family disappeared into thin air…
If we are in accordance with the rules of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): a species is considered extinct when no living individual of the species has been found for at least 50 years, we could consider this species extinct. (EX).
Nevertheless, thanks to new findings of the noteworthy species from Slovakia and Romania we know that this is not the case. It is interesting that there was almost nothing known about the species except its existence. Its larva and pupa were not known and there was no idea about its place of living …
Although not complete today we dispose of considerable knowledge (more info here and here). Nasiternella regia is closely associated with dendrotelmata which are water-filled tree holes, generally in drier and warmer regions. Larvae, not known by now, represent “the top“ predator of the dendrotelmata ecosystems. Pupation also takes place in dendrotelmata and the imagoes spend most of of their life in the ecosystems. Nasiternella is probably active past the day. Although it is quite big and its wings are big accordingly (to 2.5 cm long), it is a very weak flier. The way it searches its partner and new biotopes- dendrotelmata has not been found by now as the observation was always carried during its walk neither its flight.
Its mysterious life spent almost all in trees hollows constitutes its protection against predators and it is a probable reason why it could remain unnoticed up to this day. However, its prospect of survival is uncertain due to the consideration of hollows in trees being a sign of a tree “sickness“ and therefor such trees are undesirable in most of commercially used forests …
To resume ….
Only several individuals of the species are known world over and they can be counted on the fingers of three hands. The largest living population of the species is only known in Slovakia at present (plus casually caught specimen in Romania is also published). We can only hope that Nasiternellaregia is more common and that it can be found in more regions. However, it is covered from our view due to its mysterious life. Nasiternella is another reason why we should be much more concerned about remaining also the old trees in our foreststs as they are appropriate biotope for many precious, rare and endangered species.
Author of the blog: Jozef Oboňa, Department of Ecology FHNS UP.
It is Už in Ukraine and Uh in Slovakia. It is an interesting river in the Ukraine-Slovakia borderland. It is the object of our research aimed at the inventory of the species and the biodiversity of chosen groups of water insects. It is the purpose of our expedition.
Two members and a former student of the Department of Ecology took part in the first stage of the expedition in August 2015 which was organized in order to fulfil the tasks of the “Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Diptera biodiversity trip along the Uzh river, Ukraine” project which was financially supported by the organisation: FAN (B) – Förderkreis für allgemeine Naturkunde (Biologie).
The beginnings are usually difficult and this action was no exception. We had much to do to manage the communication with the Ukrainian side. The news from the Ukraine scared and stressed our wives. To be honest we were also a bit concerned before the start of the journey as the media kept on feeding us with various shocking news from the region. Apart from the conflict in the east of Ukraine we had to consider the potential threat of “the fight of the clans“ associated with the “fight of the good and the bad policemen“ which had initiated close to the border with Slovakia before our journey. And that was our target destination … However, after several minutes there we found the situation being calm, people were nice … at least in the west of the country. Ukraine, as we saw it, is beautiful with admirable nature, full of smiling and welcoming people. In some respect it reminded us Slovakia in the words of our parents. The few negative factors about Carpatho-Ukraine can be regarded the shattered roadways (which did not bother the local drivers) and ever-present rubbish (more than in Slovakia).
As a scientific expedition behoves just after our arrival to Uzhorod we took the direction to the water. We began to work in the river Uzh down the metropolis of the Carpatian-Ukraine. Besides the insect, which was the main purpose of our expedition, we were often followed by bathing children and even the adults in Uzh and also in its several tributaries (another analogy with the past of our country?). The water was (un)pleasantly warm and it provided us with almost no freshness in the extreme – hot weather though it was nice for the “holidaymakers“. The surroundings was also briliant. However, due to the findings in the water and around we would not recommend it for bathing or water sports. More attentive look into it could clearly show objects of various usage and origin – also rubbish in the streams and near them. The natives paid little attention to the municipal and often intensive organic pollution therefore we were not trying to spoil their pleasure by our opinions and recommendations.
Our aim was neither enlightenment nor relaxation. We wanted to get down the mainstream of the river Uzh and its tributaries almost to the source of the river situated close to the village of Stužica and we wanted to collect more material for further study in appropriate localities. So the hard work began. We were collecting the specimen of larvae of aquatic invertebrates during the day, we searched the imagoes in the rivers vicinity and we were catching the adults by attracting them on light near the place we stayed at night.
Generally, we have visited more than 25 chosen localities during our tour but due to the extreme hot weather and drouth we have only collected the specimen from 19 places.
The most beautiful localities included mainly the tributaries of the river in the locations out of the habitation. They were also the places of our greatest interest from the point of biodiversity of aquatic insects although we need more time for exact results, their processing and publishing. We are still expecting the second part of the expedition the next spring. It will be mostly focused on forested localities of little intervention (by the beef-cattle gauchoes, holiday-makers and by the energy producers) of the Uzh catchment.
Here we would like to thank the organization FAN (B) –Förderkreis für allgemeine Naturkunde (Biologie) for their financial support of the project. We also thank to our wives for their understanding, patience and their support.
The authors of the blog: Jozef Oboňa and Peter Manko, Department of Ecology FHNS UP.