Category Archives: coral

THE RACE: GG X – “I Came for the Waters”

No apologies for the Casablanca reference!

Members of Gulf of Guinea X, our third marine expedition, have recently returned from scuba-sampling the inshore waters of Príncipe. The expedition was led by Dr. Luiz Rocha, chair of our Ichthyology Department and his colleague, Dr. Sergio Floeter, of the University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. The group consisted of seven divers including a São Tomean graduate student, Hugulay Maia; the team operated out of Roça Belo Monte, courtesy of Africa’s Eden, and used the dive boat of Makaira Lodge with our old friend Bobby Bronkhorst as skipper.

Luiz team

GG X team: (above, l to r) L. Fontoura,, R. Morais, Dr. Luz Rocha (leader), J. Gasparini, Dr. Cadu, H. Maia, Dr. S. Floeter. (below) Hugulay Maia earned SCUBA certification on this research trip.

The marine component is particularly important to our understanding of the scope of the biodiversity of the Gulf of Guinea Islands. Readers will recall that Príncipe is geologically the oldest island of the archipelago, originally rising from the ocean floor in the Oligocene, some 31 million years ago.

margins
The early margins of the island (above),  now weathered to 100m below sea level, are very old habitats. We can expect this region to have unique (endemic) species because as we know that species in isolation change over time; evolution occurs in marine habitats just as it does in terrestrial environments. Most of the specimens and tissues are yet to be analyzed but there are some early exciting discoveries:

Clepticus africanus endemic
Clepticus africanus,  an endemic damselfish known only from the  Gulf of Guinea Islands, from Sao Tome to Annobon.

Corcyrogobius lubbocki type series only
Lubbock’s goby, Corcyrogobius lubbocki: These are the second living specimens encountered in Principe since the species was orginally described in 1988. Previously, the species was known only from Ghana, and Annobon, the southernmost island in the archipelago.

Sparisoma choati also on P type Neds dock Sparisoma choati, Tomio’s parrotfish.

In the October 2011 blog I reported that a new species of parrotfish (above) was being described from a specimen caught on rod and reel by Dr. Tomio Iwamoto (CAS) from the pier of our friend Ned Seligman, in São Tomé during GG II (below). It is not everyday that a new species is caught from an old friend’s dock!!  The GG X team just collected the first Príncipe specimens since then (above) and as you can see, they are quite different in coloration from the original specimen from the big island.

Sao Tome, 2008

Type locality of Tomio’s parrotfish, Ned Seligman’s dock, Praia Francesa, Sao Tome.

While in the field, Dr. Rocha wrote:

“We are surprised to see such clear signs of overfishing in an island with only ~7,000 inhabitants. We saw no sharks, and the few large fish were very scared, a tell tale of spearfishing.
Part of Hugulay and Renato’s work is to interview local fishermen and try to get more clues of how bad overfishing is here. And their interviews reveal a problem that was even bigger than we thought: there are reports of dynamite fishing!”

https://www.calacademy.org/blogs/gulf-of-guinea-expeditions/where-are-the-fishes-0

In earlier blogs, I have included quite a few images of large fish caught just offshore on Príncipe over the years (below),  so Dr. Rocha’s observations are disturbing.

cuda

Twenty kg+  barracuda, caught off Praia Lemba-Lemba, Principe in 2001.

The dynamite or blast fishing issue is an especially critical one, as underwater habitat can be permanently destroyed as a result. The activity was originally brought to the attention of local authorities some years ago; nevertheless, most of the local inhabitants in the fishing industry know about it according to the team, and indications are that it continues in spite of government efforts.
Príncipe was named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2013, and I am proud to add that the scientific results of our multidisciplinary expeditions played a positive role in the island’s recognition as a unique place on the globe.  Apart from the obvious long-term economic and environmental consequences of continued blast fishing, Príncipe’s World Biosphere status could make this activity extremely visible internationally and embarrassing. As of 2007, 403 inshore fish species have been listed for this tiny 10002 km island. Unchecked and unstudied over fishing in these idyllic tropical waters will disastrously degrade the incredible biodiversity levels of this ancient island.

island biology

 This summer my colleagues Martim Melo, Ricardo Lima, Luis Ceríaco and I are all attending the international conference on island biology which is being held the University of the Azores. We are organizing a special symposium on the Gulf of Guinea Islands, and Dr. Lima is leading an afternoon sub-session on conservation. He is the author of a recent article (below) on habitat loss in São Tomé and Príncipe and hopefully the session will lead to a discussion of major ecological issues such as this and blast fishing.

http://www.econotimes.com/Deforestation-an-alert-from-the-islands-of-S%C3%A3o-Tom%C3%A9-and-Pr%C3%ADncipe-180253

Our work has enjoyed the support of the government since Gulf of Guinea I in 2001; one of our good friends, Jose Cassandra, is Regional President of Príncipe.

t office

Office of Hon. Jose Cassandra (left) with Dr. Maria Jeronimo and myself. A. Stanbridge phot. (GG IX)

Prior to a workshop on green economy by UNESCO, the people of Santo Antonio had a general clean-up of the town. Below are two photos of President “Toze,” helping clean up the Rio Papagaio (Parrot River) that runs through town. Suffice to say, he is a charismatic leader and a good friend.

tose river

tose river3

Another blog will be forthcoming soon as we prepare for the conference and GG XI in the Fall. It is also time to formulate our primary school education efforts for the coming season.

The parting shot:

parting third grade

One of our third grade classes! We will visit them and nearly 2000 other primary schoolers during GG XI when they are in the fourth grade.  A. Stanbridge phot. GG IX

PARTNERS:
The research expeditions and the primary school education program are supported by tax-deductable donations to the “California Academy of Sciences Gulf of Guinea Fund”* We are grateful for ongoing governmental support, especially to Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, Victor Bomfim, and Salvador Sousa Pontes of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for their continuing authorization to collect and export specimens for study, and to Ned Seligman, Roberta dos Santos and Quintino Quade of STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, our “home away from home”. GG VIII and upcoming GG XI have been funded by a generous grant from The William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation, and substantial donations from Mrs. W.H.V.“D.A.” Brooke, Thomas B. Livermore, Rod C. M. Hall, Timothy M. Muller, Prof. and Mrs. Evan C. Evans, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Sullivan Jr., Clarence G. Donahue, Mr. and Mrs. John Sears, and a heartening number of “Coolies”, and members of the Docent Council of the California Academy of Sciences. Once again we are deeply grateful for the support of the Omali Lodge (São Tomé) and Roça Belo Monte (Príncipe) for both logistics and lodging and for partially sponsoring our education efforts for GG VII and GG VIII.

*California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr.
San Francisco, CA 94118
USA

The Race: Two More New Species for São Tomé and Príncipe

Just as I was preparing to write more on the up-coming GG VII,  I received some great news. Long-time readers will recall that Gulf of Guinea III (B) in 2008 was a marine expedition that included a graduate student named Dana-Carrison Stone (see “Send in the Marines” and several subsequent blogs). Dana completed her MSC thesis a year or so ago, and has just published part of her dissertation that includes the description of two new species of barnacles. The publication is in ZooKeys 270.

dana-on-boat

Dana Carrison- Stone, off Príncipe Id with two boatmen and Dr. John McCosker, a specialist on marine eels here at CAS. Phot. B. Van Syoc – GG III
Dana’s barnacles grow on octocoral, also known as sea fans or gorgonians.  Some of the barnacles grow on a number of different host sea fans, but some are very host specific.

underwater

Dana off São Tomé examining a gorgonian for barnacles. Phot. M. P. Perez- GG III

conopea-saotomensis-barnacle3

Conopea saotomensis new species; Some of the gorgonian tissue has been cut away so that the shell of the new species can be readily seen. [D Carrison phot]

Dana discovered that the new C. saotomensis grows on at least 13 different species of sea fans, such as Eunicella, pictured below.

redwhitegorgonianwhole

Red and yellow gorgonian,  Eunicella, [ G Williams phot GG III]

conopea-fidelis

Conopea fidelis new species. [D. Carrison phot.)

However, the other new species, C. fidelis, is found only on a single species of gorgonian, Muriceopsis tuberculata see below, hence her choice of the species name, “faithful.”

muriceopsis-tuberculata

[G. Williams phot. CAS]
Ex São Tomé et Príncipe semper aliquid novi!
The Parting shot:

above-ponta-figo

Wash day at Generosa, Sao Tome.  B. Simison phot – GG VI.

PARTNERS
We are most grateful to Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, Victor Bomfim, and Salvador Sousa Pontes of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for their continuing authorization to collect and export specimens for study, and to Ned Seligman, Roberta dos Santos and Quintino Quade of STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, our “home away from home”.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund, Hagey Research Venture Fund of the California Academy of Sciences for largely funding our initial two expeditions (GG I, II). The Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) and Africa’s Eden provided logistics, ground transportation and lodging (GG III-V), and special thanks for the generosity of private individuals who made the GG III-V expeditions possible: George G. Breed, Gerry F. Ohrstrom, Timothy M. Muller, Mrs. W. H. V. Brooke, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murakami, Hon. Richard C. Livermore, Prof. & Mrs. Evan C. Evans III, Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Taylor, Velma and Michael Schnoll, and Sheila Farr Nielsen; GG VI supporters include Bom Bom Island and the Omali Lodge for logistics and lodging, The Herbst Foundation, The “Blackhawk Gang,” the Docent Council of the California Academy of Sciences in honor of Kathleen Lilienthal, Bernard S. Schulte, Corinne W. Abel, Prof. & Mrs. Evan C. Evans III, Mr. and Mrs. John Sears, John S. Livermore and Elton Welke. GG VII has been funded by a very generous grant from The William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation, and substantial donations from Mrs. W.H.V.“D.A.” Brooke, Thomas B. Livermore, Rod C. M. Hall, Timothy M. Muller, Prof. and Mrs. Evan C. Evans, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Sullivan Jr., Clarence G. Donahue, Mr. and Mrs. John Sears, and a heartening number of “Coolies”, “Blackhawk Gang” returnees and members of the Academy Docent Council. Once again we are deeply grateful for the continued support of the Omali Lodge (São Tomé) and Bom Bom Island (Príncipe) for both logistics and lodging and especially for sponsoring part our education efforts for GG VII.
Our expeditions can be supported by tax-deductable donations to “California Academy of Sciences Gulf of Guinea Fund”.

The Race: Critter and People Updates

It has been a busy couple of months, hence no posts on THE RACE.  In my last one, I hope I made it clear that scientists have senses of humor (my favorite ones do, anyway).  Here’s another fact you might not know; regardless of what he or she studies, there is probably not a single field biologist anywhere who does not have a secret dislike or even fear of one sort of critter or another.  With me, it has always been centipedes– even when I was a child.  I can’t bear the things!  And, naturally, there are some real monsters common on São Tomé.  The creatures in the shots below are about 10 inches long, sometimes they get larger!

Scolopendra subspinipes. D. Lin phot. GG II

S. subspinipes – Weckerphoto, GG III

These arthropods are more properly known as scolopendras, and they are voracious predators; the upper one is devouring a slug.  The two above are Scolopendra subspinipes, are native to Southeast Asia and thought to have been brought to the islands accidentally.  The Academy was just visited by Dr. Rowland Shelley, a specialist on millipedes from the North Carolina State Museum, who had a look at some of our critters.  He and his colleague, Dr. John Lewis of the UK identified these but, more exciting, the one pictured below.

Otostigmus productus DLin phot- GG II

This is a different species that was originally described from São Tomé over 120 years ago.  It is thought to also occur in West Africa; if this is the case, O. productus  is not an endemic species but it is probably naturally occurring.

Photo shoot on Sao Tome. Dong Lin, Fabio Penny and Ricka Stoelting -RCD GGI

Ricka Stoelting (above at right), my grad student and GG I participant, is putting the finishing touches on her manuscript on the fabulous São Tomé, “cobra bobo.” After submitting it for publication, she will pursue her PhD at the University of Wisconsin.

Schistometopum thomense – Weckerphoto, GG III

Ricka’s research has shown that this remarkable legless amphibian, Schistometopum thomense is indeed a true endemic species, having gotten to the island by natural means.  By studying the genetics of these bright yellow burrowers, she has learned that there are two different genetic groupings of the caecilian on the island and this is possibly related to volcanic activity within the last million years.

Principe Jita. Lamprophis sp. Weckerphoto GG III

Our snake project on “cobra jita” (Lamprophis – see earlier blogs) is ongoing; my intern, Lisette Arellano (below) has returned from the University of California, Santa Barbara and is working down in our molecular lab as I write.  Last summer we learned that although they are very similar in appearance, the snakes on São Tomé and Príncipe are genetically distinct from one another based on Lisette’s analysis of the cytochrome b geneWe think that analysis of an additional nuclear gene will be useful.

Lisette Arellano at the Academy.  RCD

The big issue lies with the status of jita’s relatives on the mainland.  While we are now reasonably sure that the two island populations are separate species, we do not know what their relationships are to the at least 12 species of Lamprophis distributed widely in Africa; it is possible that either or both of our island snakes could belong to one these mainland species. Unfortunately  the relationships (systematics) of this whole group in Africa are poorly understood.  Dr. Chris Kelly of Rhodes University who is working on the entire complex has kindly sent us a number of tissue samples of Lamprophis from some West African localities, and these are what Lisette is analyzing now.  In June, Lisette is off to the University of Colorado to pursue her PhD.  Hopefully, we will have figured out our island snakes by then.

Dana Carrison off Principe.  Pola-Perez phot.  GG III B

Dana Carrison is an MSc candidate at San Francisco State University and was part of marine phase of GG III (see Send In the Marines).  She is the graduate student of Dr. Bob Van Syoc, a participant of both GG II and III marine expeditions.  Dana is nearing completion of her research on the barnacles she and Bob study and has this to say:

“The Gulf of Guinea II and III expeditions have led to the discovery of two new species of symbiotic barnacle of the genus, Conopea, originally described from the Straits of Gibraltar by Ellis in 1758. I have been using molecular and morphological methods to describe these new species and compare them with their closest barnacle relatives. I have also been comparing species of gorgonian coral with species of barnacle to see if there’s any sort of settling preference. So far I think that one of the new species of barnacle is found only on a singe species of gorgonian and the other is not.”

I should mention that the gorgonians to which Dana refers are studied by Dr. Gary Williams, also a Gulf of Guinea veteran of two expeditions.  Here are Dana’s new species:

Conopea new species #1   phot. D. Carrison

Conopea new species #2  D. Carrison phot

More anon and before our return to the islands.

Here’s the parting shot:

Chaplin, Executive Director, BomBom Island, Principe. Weckerphoto GG III

PARTNERS

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund, Hagey Research Venture Fund of the California Academy of Sciences, the Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) for logistics, ground transportation and lodging, STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, and Victor Bomfim, Salvador Sousa Pontes and Danilo Bardero of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for permission to export specimens for study, and the continued support of Bastien Loloumb of Monte Pico and Faustino Oliviera, Director of the botanical garden at Bom Sucesso. Special thanks for the generosity of private individuals, George G. Breed, Gerry F. Ohrstrom, Timothy M. Muller, Mrs. W. H. V. Brooke and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murakami for helping make these expeditions possible.

 

The Race: Return of the Marines Redux!

I have just heard that Alex Kim, the student at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology in Virginia has received the new freshwater prawns GG III (B) collected for him and is in the process of extracting DNA from the fresh tissues. As I mentioned in the last couple of blogs, Alex is a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, and we are very interested in his progress.  His results will add to our understanding of our own work and the biodiversity of these islands.  When Alex first contacted me, I had some concern that we might have neglected to bring prawns back with us from GG I and II.  We had, of course, and Alex has been studying some of the preserved specimens er brought to him in December.  Just yesterday I found an image of Dr. Tomio Iwamoto carefully processing these some of these same prawn specimens in 2006 on São Tomé (during GG II). This will give you an idea of the size of the critters Alex is studying (although there are two species on the islands – I am not sure which one this is!)

 

Tomio Iwamoto on Sao Tome.   RCD phot. GG II

The marine biologists of GG III (B) are busily sorting through their material, and I thought an early update was in order.   In the last blog I mentioned that the Dr. Williams had done very well with his octocorals (also known as gorgonians or sea fans), and so had Dr. Van Syoc and Dana Carrison with their barnacles. Dana is Bob Van Syoc’s graduate student at San Francisco State University.

 

Dana Carrison during a more northerly field trip. NOAA photo  

Bob Van Syoc found an undescribed barnacle species on São Tomé during GG II, and it appears that Dana has now confirmed this for Príncipe as well.  And there may well be other new barnacle species; it is just too soon to tell.  Dana is studying the relationship between these barnacles and Dr. Williams’ sea fans.  This is an obligate relationship – some species of sea fans are always found in association with certain species of barnacles.

 The barnacle Conopea calceola on a gorgonian.  D. Carrison phot. GG III

Note that the barnacle settles on the gorgonian, and the gorgonian’s tissue (red, in this case) grows up around it.  Along with describing new species and adding to our island biodiversity list, Dana is testing the hypothesis that the different species of barnacles have a preference for certain species of gorgonian upon which to settle. Dana got about 30 different Príncipe barnacles but has not yet begun identifying them or comparing them to the GG II barnacles collected in São Tomé.  Also included in her collections are at least three different gorgonians and their associated barnacles that were not collected previously by the Academy expeditions.

 

  Undescribed species of Conopea on a different species of gorgonian.  D. Carrison phot. GG III

New barnacle species or the relationships of freshwater prawns may not sound exciting to you.  In our biodiversity race, we are studying everything we can, as biodiversity is the sum of all living species in a given area; thus, everything is important as a measure of the uniqueness and past history of these ancient islands.  Think of our mushroom work: before we started, there were only four species known from São Tomé and none from Príncipe; now the people of the islands know that there are at least 220 species, many of them undescribed and unexpected.  The same is true for the ant lions I have documented earlier, and I fully expect similar results when analysis of our collections of diatoms and spiders are completed.  The story of biodiversity can never be told by the study of furred and feathers critters alone. 

Here’s the parting shot:  

 

Incipient Dr. Uyeda with collecting party, Nova Cuba, Principe. Weckerphoto GG III 

PARTNERS 

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund, Hagey Research Venture Fund of the California Academy of Sciences, the Société de Conservation et Développement  (SCD) for logistics, ground transportation and lodging, STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, and Victor Bomfim, Salvador Sousa Pontes and Danilo Bardero of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for permission to export specimens for study, and the continued support of Bastien Loloumb of Monte Pico and Faustino Oliviera, Director of the botanical garden at Bom Sucesso. Special thanks for the generosity of private individuals, George F. Breed, Gerry F. Ohrstrom, Timothy M. Muller, Mrs. W. H. V. Brooke and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murkami for helping make these expeditions possible.   

The Race: Return of the Marines!

 This is a brief update on the return of our people last weekend from Gulf of Guinea III (B). They were the marine component of the 2008-2009 expeditions (see Send in the Marines).  The focus of four of the group was the waters of Príncipe, the much older of the two islands.  The two fish people, Dr. John McCosker and David Catania went a week earlier to dive in São Tomé; neither had been to the islands before, and much of our earlier fish work was freshwater in nature. After the second group of four arrived, the whole expedition flew to Príncipe courtesy of SCD, one of our main sponsors (see “Partners,” below).   

As I posted earlier, our first nudibranch (sea slugs) specialist, Dr. Marta Pola-Perez, was on the GG III (B) expedition.  Below are photos of a few of the critters she found.

A possible new species of Phidiana, Principe. Pola-Perez phot. GG III

Flabelina arveloi, Principe.  Pola-Perez phot. GG III

 

Hypselodoris bilineata, Principe. Pola-Perez phot. GG III

As I wrote before, Dr. Bob Van Syoc, his graduate student, Dana Carrison and Dr. Gary Williams are looking at corals and barnacles and the association between the two life forms.  Dana’s dissertation topic concerns the relationship between what we think is a new species of barnacle and one of Gary’s octocorals (sea fans). 

  

A Sao Tome sea fan (Eunicella). G. Williams phot. GG III

This group did quite well on Príncipe; Bob and Dana collected a barnacle species previously known only from the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, Megabalanus azoricus, thus adding to the island diversity list.  Gary thinks he has now collected more species of octocorals in São Tomé and Príncipe than are found on the Galapagos Islands. 

 

Grad student, Dana Carrison, with sea fan on Principe. B. Van Syoc phot. GG III

 Dana, Gary Williams and John McCosker, Principe. B. Van Syoc phot. GG III

Of particular interest is that Bob found a species of shore barnacle at Bom Bom on Príncipe otherwise known only from South Africa. He thinks it was probably brought in by barge carrying building supplies.  So far it seems to be confined to the vicinity of the Bom Bom pier. 

 

Bom Bom pier at night, Principe. Weckerphoto GGIII

John and Dave also well.  Although they said the diving was “spotty” they did manage to sample a bunch of neat stuff, including at least one definite new species. 

A new species of Serranus from both islands.  D. Catania phot. GG III 

Ichthyologists frequently find new species just by exploring fish markets.  Below is a pot of jacks for sale which John and Dave cannot identify to species.  They will need to compare the DNA of these fishmarket critters with other known species in the genus.

Unidentified species of Caranx in the fishmarket.  J. McCosker phot. GG III

As I have written before, another way for ichthyologists to sample the marine fauna is to get permission to buy odd specimens directly from beach seiners.

 

 Sao Tome beach seine. J. McCosker phot. GG III] 

This group was fishing in the bay near Omali Lodge (Marlin Beach Hotel), and like Dr. Iwamoto did during GG I,  John and Dave dealt directly with the seiners for unique specimens.  Detirmining the identity of all of this material takes a great deal of time, but for now it looks as though the Marines of GG III (B) did quite well. 

I received some great news while the group was gone. Recall that I mentioned the marine group was going to collect some freshwater prawns for DNA work in a project by high school student Alex Kim in Virginia.  Well, the group got the prawns and by now they are back east being investigated by Alex and his mentor from George Mason University, Prof. Patrick Gillevet.  But the great news is that Alex is one of 40 finalists in the INTEL SCIENCE TALENT SEARCH; his project and scholarship are obviously gaining recognition, and we at the Academy are proud to be able to help out.

Alex has his own website: http://amphidrome.wordpress.com/  

Here’s the parting shot:  

  

Growing up on Principe. R. Wenk photo. GG III 

PARTNERS We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund, Hagey Research Venture Fund of the California Academy of Sciences, the Société de Conservation et Développement  (SCD) for logistics, ground transportation and lodging, STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, and Victor Bomfim, Salvador Sousa Pontes and Danilo Bardero of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for permission to export specimens for study, and the continued support of Bastien Loloumb of Monte Pico and Faustino Oliviera, Director of the botanical garden at Bom Sucesso. Special thanks for the generosity of private individuals, George F. Breed, Gerry F. Ohrstrom, Timothy M. Muller, Mrs. W. H. V. Brooke and Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murakami for helping make these expeditions possible.