At last! A field guide to St Helena’s Invertebrates.
By Roger Key
St Helena must be the most ‘named-after’ 121km2 plot of land in the world, with no fewer than 89 species of invertebrate having ‘Helena’ somewhere in their name, with pride of place in names going to the pretty little golden-yellow cicadellid leafhopper Sanctahelenia sanctaehelenae. Six species have even been named after the island’s famous connection with Napoleon Bonaparte.
Known principally for the (sadly extinct) St Helena Giant Earwig Labidura herculeana, St Helena’s invertebrate fauna has an exceptionally high degree of endemnicity, with over 420 species (out of a known fauna of around 1400 species) found nowhere else in the world. At 30%, this is a very high proportion compared with similar-sized islands that are nearer to continental land masses. Were the UK and all of its Overseas Territories considered together, St Helena supports nearly a third of all the known endemic species of invertebrates, making the island extraordinarily important in terms of the conservation of biodiversity for which the UK has sole responsibility.
After over five years of preparation, ‘The Terrestrial and Freshwater Invertebrates of St Helena’ by Roger Key, Liza Fowler and David Pryce is at last published and available from the NatureBureau https://www.naturebureau.co.uk/terrestrial-freshwater-invertebrates-of-st-helena.
This is the first fully photographically illustrated guide to the island’s invertebrates. It covers about 70% of its 1400 recorded species, including most of its endemic species and alien invasive pests. It also includes several yet-to-be identified species that have been found on the island, probably including endemics that have not yet been scientifically described.
Although a very accessible field guide, rather than a definitive identification work with keys, it does cover all groups of terrestrial and freshwater species known from the island. It also gives an indication of the ‘Ease of Identification on a 1-5 scale at the family level in order to enable the user to gauge a level of confidence in using it to name species. An extensive ‘Further Reading’ includes references to most significant works to enable the user to identify some of the more difficult taxonomic groups on the island.
The guide also includes sections on the invertebrates’ habitats and all the threats to them, their conservation needs and an account of conservation work to date, and the history of invertebrate study from the 18th century to the present. It even covers their depiction on the island’s commemorative stamps.
Hopefully the guide will stimulate more interest in St Helena’s unique insect fauna, both on and off island. It’s launch coincides with biological recording and bar-coding initiatives and a project to control three invasive predatory invertebrates that threaten the island’s endemics.
Ascension Island’s brand-new invertebrate conservation project
By Vicky Wilkins
Ascension Island’s brand-new invertebrate conservation project started in July 2021, funded by the UK government’s Darwin Plus Initiative. This 3-year project is titled ‘From Pseudoscorpions to crickets: securing Ascensions Island’s unique invertebrates’ and is being led by Ascension Island Government’s Conservation and Fisheries Department (AICFD), with partners including MAIISG (via the Species Recovery Trust), the UK Centre for Hydrology and Ecology and the Natural History Museum (UK).
The project will provide the first strategically-planned survey of Ascension’s endemic and native terrestrial invertebrates; and fill a major knowledge gaps for the island’s globally-threatened biodiversity. The data generated for endemic species will be embedded into the National Biodiversity Action Plan and implemented by AICFD, and will be used for IUCN red listing. High-risk invasive non-native invertebrates will be identified, and training plus support materials established to allow targeted monitoring and control. Engagement resources and activities will raise the profile of Ascension’s endemic invertebrates. The project is currently finalising the recruitment of a Project Coordinator and so is at very early stage but we will continue to provide updates as the project progresses.
Update on the MAIISG project ‘help rescuing the desertas endemic cr land snails species from extinction’
By Dinarte Teixeira
After five months of project implementation, the vast majority of the “HELP Project” actions are in due course. The founder specimens of two of the four target species were collected and are currently part of an ongoing captive breeding program at the Chester Zoo and Bristol Zoo Gardens.
Moreover, the mice control action has been in place in the vicinity of the known target species distribution area—a bi-monthly monitoring scheme ongoing since June 2021.
Also, a workshop for species conservation planning will take place at Funchal on November/21, which will be the antechamber for the Multispecies Conservation Plan to be finalised until December/21.
new monograph on the Laparocerus from Macaronesia in preparation
By António Machado
During this particular period of semi-confinement, I have concentrated on preparing a monograph on the Laparocerus from Macaronesia. Laparocerus are endemic weevils to this region, with two species on NW Morocco (back-colonisation).
I have been studying them for 20 years, describing more than 100 new taxa. It is an extraordinary example of island evolution, and the genus holds the record of diversity in our region (25 subgenera, ca 240 species & subspecies )
The monograph is likely to be finished next year. It covers anatomy, natural history, taxonomy (description, photographs of imago, and line drawings of internal anatomy), phylogeny (5 genetic markers), faunistics, biogeography and evolution, with some comments on conservation (a few taxa considered extinct and some threatened).
By Dinarte Teixeira
We welcome to our group Nuria Macias, an entomologist and an Associated Professor from the Department of Animal Biology, Geology and Edaphology of the University of La Laguna since 2019. Nuria’s main research interests are the study of evolutionary biology, with a particular focus on adaptive radiations, through molecular and morphological approaches and using spiders as a model organism.
On her PhD, she has extensively worked towards understanding the evolution of the spider genus Dysdera in the Canary Islands, trying to decipher the patterns behind their exceptional adaptive radiation. She has been awarded two postdoctoral fellowships to conduct research at Aarhus University (Denmark) and the University of Kentucky (USA) to study the factors that promote morphological diversification due to food specialisation in Dysdera.
As a postdoctoral researcher was funded by a Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellowship working on a project that aims at revealing the main drivers of biodiversity in different biogeographical areas and ecosystems (islands vs. continents) by analysing the different components of biodiversity (taxonomic (TD), phylogenetic (PD) and functional diversity (FD), using spiders as model organisms.
IUCN SSC MAIISG membership renewal
By Vicky Wilkins and Paulo Borges
The IUCN SSC MAIISG membership renewal is now ongoing.
Included in the IUCN SSC Species Conservation Cycle 2021-2024, the members of the SSC MAIISG will be consulted about their availability to continue as an SSC MAIISG member for this new cycle
For this reason, pay particular attention to your email box. In the case of not being contacted by the IUCN, please let us know
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