The Race: Gulf of Guinea VI, Part I (the Science)
Things have been very busy here at the Academy of Sciences, and this is one of my tardier blogs! However, part of the hustle and bustle has been in planning our next expedition, Gulf of Guinea VI.
The first good news is that our new species of gecko from Príncipe is about to be formally published in the African Journal of Herpetology, possibly as soon as April. It is bad luck to give you its name before it is published, but here is what it looks like, and we are adding yet another endemic species to our wonderful islands!
Our new gecko near Bom Bom, Principe. Weckerphoto- GG IV
As readers know, our expeditions have largely been privately funded since GG III, and the friends who have helped us are always celebrated in the PARTNERS section below. However, I am going to take this early opportunity to thank the folks who are making the upcoming expedition financially possible: The Herbst Foundation, The “Blackhawk Gang,” the Docent Council of the California Academy of Sciences in honor of Kathleen Lilienthal, Prof. & Mrs. Evan C. Evans III, Bernard S. Schulte, John S. Livermore, John and Judy Sears and Elton Welke.
Here are the scientist participants in the upcoming GG VI which will run from 30 March until 5 May.
Dr. Tomio Iwamoto on Sao Tome. D Lin phot- GGI
Dr. Tomio Iwamoto is Curator Emeritus of our Ichthyology Department, and my good friend and flyfishing buddy. He is a veteran of GG I and GG II and has already published two scientific papers as a result of these expeditions. He has also worked with São Tomé and Príncipe fisheries people in deepwater trawling around the islands (see Shipboard Discoveries….June 2010 blog). During GG VI he wants to visit as many local fishing villages as he can on both islands to see what the most commonly caught fishes are. His goal is to produce a popular guide for the fishermen themselves! This will not be a scientific publication.
A Longfin crevalle jack described to science only 5 years ago. Sao Tome. A. Stanbridge phot- GG V
Dr. Brian Simison; limpet photo by T. Laupstad]
Dr. Brian Simison is a world authority on small monovalved molluscs known as limpets, commonly found firmly attached to rocks in the coastal littoral zones. So far as we know, this group has never before been sampled in São Tomé and Príncipe, and our expectations for new discoveries are high.
Crocidura tomensis, the Sao Tome shrew. Phot by Ricardo Lima, 2010
Brian is alsoDirector of the Academy’s Center for Comparative Genomics which is where all our genetic and molecular work is done. He became involved in our molecular analyses of the true status of the endemic São Tomé shrew (see Unique shrew…. August 2010 blog). Working with Eden Maloney, he discovered that the shrew on Príncipe, long thought to be a mainland species, may indeed also be an endemic to that island. While we collected DNA of this second shrew during GG II, we collected no adults. Assuming we receive permission from the Ministry, Brian and I will also try to secure a couple of adult Príncipe shrews. If this is indeed a unique species, we will need to be able do describe its anatomy formally.
Two graduate students will be joining us. The first is Rayna Bell who is doing her PhD on African tree frogs at Cornell University.
Oceanic tree frog, Hyperolius thomensis (phot RCD- GG I); Rayna Bell
Rayna will be looking at a potential hybrid zone between the oceanic tree frog (above, Hyperolius molleri) and the flambouyant São Tomé giant tree frog, H. thomensis of higher elevations, which I have featured in many of these blogs. There is something curious going on with the genetics of these species and one of Rayna’s projects will be to look at both populations from the molecular perspective.
Miko Nadel and lichens (from web)
Our other graduate student is Miko Nadel, who is doing his MSc in botany at San Francisco State University under the guidance of our favorite mycologist, Dr. Dennis Desjardin, describer of the now infamous Phallus drewesi of São Tomé. Recall that Drs. Desjardin (GG II & III) and Perry (GG III) learned that over 33% of the mushrooms of São Tomé and Príncipe are new to science. Miko informs me that there have been only a couple of scientific papers ever written on the lichens of the islands, and that was back in the 1880’s. So it is time for a more modern and thorough look at this flora.
Finally, we round the scientist group out with the irrepressible James Shevock, the Academy’s bryophyte (mosses and their allies) expert.
Jim Shevock with moss at the Omali. RCD phot-GG IV
The results of Jim’s efforts during GG IV are summarized in the image below. The largest uptick of new species for the islands is expected in the third paper, which we hope will be published this year.
Compilation and photo by RCD, GG IV (* this paper has since been published)
As in GG V, the new expedition will be accompanied by the world’s largest photographer, Andrew Stanbridge. His images from GG V are magnificent, and he is a most excellent and willing field companion. His work can be viewed on the web at www.andrewstanbridge.com
RCD and photographer Andrew Stanbridge. V. Schnoll phot - GG V
There will be two additional members of GG VI, both veterans of earlier expeditions, Ms Velma Schnoll and Ms Roberta Ayres, but I will reintroduce them in more detail in the second part of this blog which will be on our concurrent biodiversity education activities.
The parting shot:
The Jockey's bonnet, Principe. Photo by Eddie Herbst - 2011
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund Hagey Research Venture Fund of the California Academy of Sciences, (GG I, II), the Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) and Africa’s Eden for logistics, ground transportation and lodging (GG III-V), STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, and Victor Bomfim, and Salvador Sousa Pontes of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for permission to export specimens for study. Special thanks for the generosity of private individuals who have 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, Sheila Farr Nielsen, Corinne W. Abel and Mr. and Mrs. John Sears, Bernard Schulte, and John S. Livemore. Our expeditions can be supported by tax-free donations to “California Academy of Sciences Gulf of Guinea Fund”.