Brazil expedition: day 1

forest across the Rio Madeira

Actually, this is day 2, but it is day 1 of collecting. Yesterday, we (Giar-Ann Kung, and I) arrived at the same time as our Brazilian colleagues: Dalton Amorim, Danilo Ament, and Paula Riccardi. We did our shopping in Porto Velho, got a hotel, went out for dinner, and got ready for the next day.

Our main base for collecting in Rondonia is at Monte Negro, about 50 km from Ariquemes, but this wouldn’t be open to us until later in the day (it’s a Sunday). Dalton’s idea was to drive across the Rio Madeira and collect on the other side. This is particularly interesting to do because the Rio Madeira is a conspicuous breaking point for the distributions of many Amazonian creatures. Thus, on one side of the river you should get one species, and on the other side another.

unfinished bridge over the Rio Madeira

We were game, but there was no bridge. Seems the bridge is under construction, so we took a barge driven by a tugboat across the river as a ferry. On the way across we saw one river dolphin.


We also saw lots of forest destruction. Rondonia is still one of the frontiers of Amazonia, but it’s going fast. We were a skeptical that we would find decent forest close to Porto Velho. When we got across the river, however, we saw on our right quite a bit of good-looking forest. We pulled over to the side of the road to a small building in order to ask permission for access to this forest. While Dalton was in the building, another car pulled up beside us, and it turned out to belong to the owner of the site. Dalton talked for a few minutes to this very friendly fellow, who was more than happy to allow us to have access for our collecting.

We drove on a dirt road for just a couple of kilometers before stopping in some pretty decent forest. According to the owner, there were monkeys, tamarins, and other mammals still in the forest; sadly, however, the site was slated for urban development.

most of our field team

We put up two Malaise traps, and then collected there for a couple of hours. Danilo found an ant nest in a rotting stump, and collected some phorids there. The ants turned out to be a Pheidole colony, from which we got 2 to 3 species of Apocephalus ant decapitating flies. Danilo also found a colony of Dolichoderus ants, from which we collected two Microselia females, a relatively rarely collected parasitoid genus.

All too soon, it was time to leave. We packed up everything except the Malaise traps, which we left to collect, went back to the hotel to clean up, and then did the 3.5 hour drive to Monte Negro. We’re going back to the other side of the river for a couple of days on our way back, though. It’s a great spot, full of diversity, and we might as well salvage some of what’s there before it’s all destroyed.

Tomorrow: our 1st field day at Monte Negro.

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