Andrew Short is a National Geographic Grantee and assistant professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. An entomologist by training, Short is currently in Suriname, South America searching for aquatic insects to study patterns of freshwater biodiversity that will inform both science and conservation.
I’ve mentioned waterfalls a few times in previous posts, but what I haven’t explained is one of the reasons we are always in close proximately to them: They are full of amazing beetles! Waterfall habitats (there is even a special term for them: Hygropetric) harbor a diverse and often completely unknown fauna of insects. This is not because these insects are rare per se, but because most entomologists don’t really look there when they are collecting.
So far on this trip, we have collected at least 10 new species of beetles in these waterfall habitats alone! While we don’t have nice photos from the lab of these particular beasts yet, here are some similar species of waterfalls in neighboring Venezuela:Examples of new species of waterfall beetles from Venezuela. We found these same kinds of beetles (though different new species) on Tafelberg. Photos by Andrew Short.
After several weeks here at Tafelberg, it was finally time to head back to Paramaribo. We lucked out with the weather a second time and our helicopter lift back to the airstrip went off without a hitch. From there, we loaded up into two small planes and left Tafelberg and the wilderness of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve behind.
The next full week was spent in Paramaribo sorting and preparing our specimens. The plants have to be pressed and oven dried, the fish have to be sorted, and the insects need fresh alcohol and need to be transferred to new containers. We also gave a presentation on our preliminary findings at the Nature Conservation Division at the Environmental Ministry.
The highlights of those findings, a few of which I’ve already mentioned, include increasing the number of known fish from Tafelberg from 2 to 5, recollecting several extremely rare species of plants including a possibly new species of bromeliad, two possibly new species of frogs, and an exceptional haul of interesting aquatic beetles that includes many new species that we are excited to look at in more detail back in the lab.