David Faulkner prepares insect specimens in his preparations tent.
Collection of various insect specimens.
Dr. Jon Rebman, Dr. José Delgadillo, and Jan Emming in botany tent.
Carlos Flores prepares specimens.
Baja California Ratsnake (Bogertophis rosaliae).
Couch's Spadefoot Frog (Scaphiopus couchii) emerges after rains.
The loaming rain finally came and a light sprinkle came to Los Dolores.
I was able to hook up the satellite phone, and with my speedy 7k
connection, I logged onto the internet to see the band of moisture
sweeping across Baja California. The seas have remained calm, but
choppy, which is a worrisome concern since our departure from Los
Dolores is scheduled for tomorrow. We have had fortunate luck up until
now and we hope our departure will remain on schedule. Phase two of the
expedition will begin on November 16 as we relocate our base-camp to
San Evaristo and add Team Birds and Team Mammals into the equation.
Today we mostly prepared research specimens, organized camp, and
started packing up the gear. Over the week, Team Herp has been able to
document 24 species of amphibians and reptiles. Since the region
represents an enormous sampling gap, this work will represent the first
baseline data of the types of species found here. Of the known
amphibians and reptiles from the southern portion of peninsula, the
region potentially has 42 species (barring the discovery of undescribed
species). This information will be the beginning of a more detailed
analysis of species’ richness and habitat use.
As the rain began to fall, the Couch’s Spadefoot (Scaphiopus couchi)
frog emerged from the sandy soils and became active. This has been true
for many of the reptile species as well, especially following the
hurricanes from last September. It appears that all of the reptiles
species seen thus far are active only for the opportunity to forage and
no reproductive behaviors have been observed. Despite the wet
conditions of the past couple of months, many appear tied to their
seasonal hormonal cycles (shorter days means its time to lie dormant)
and will breed during the Spring.
I’m hoping to send a log tomorrow night, but we are headed back to
Ensenada Blanca if the weather doesn’t worsen. Communications logistics
are always more difficult when traveling since everything is packed.
Maybe I’ll be able to find an "intenet café" somewhere in Loreto to
send news of tomorrow’s transition.
Update from Team Arthropod
It would seem by now that everything about the insect and arachnid
fauna of Baja California would be known. This, however, is not the
case. Only a small portion of the terrestrial invertebrates have been
collected, and these specimens often represent only the most accessible
areas of the peninsula that can be reached by boat, plane, or car. Huge
sections of the region are only known by the people living there. This
is especially true of the area from Loreto to near La Paz along the
eastern shoreline facing the Sea of Cortés. The expedition’s base-camp
at Los Dolores is such a place.
Although only a small fraction of the insects can be observed,
collected, processed, and identified during the limited time spent
here, certain well-known groups can help fill in the gaps in our
knowledge of the region. One such group is the order Lepidoptera,
containing the butterflies. Having researched the available literature
and collections, the Butterflies of Baja California was published in
1992 with huge gaps in our understanding of butterfly flight periods,
distribution, abundance and diversity, and perhaps most of all, their
larval host plants and basic biologies, In six days of collecting
butterflies on flowers, in flight, on hilltops, and around mud puddles,
39 species have been recorded. Of these, 29 species were known only
from two or less records, and most of those were from offshore
locations such as Isla San José. No new species records have been
established for the peninsula, nor have any described butterflies not
previously seen in this region been found. However, the pattern of
butterfly distribution seems to reflect an attenuation, or narrowing of
the Cape fauna as one moves north toward Loreto and Santa Rosalia. For
this time of the year, and following the recent heavy rains, there is a
tremendous abundance of pierid butterflies that respond quickly to
these conditions. More specialized species are rare or totally absent.
As the other insect material is processed and analyzed, a clearer
understanding of this unique region of the world will be revealed. More
will need to be done, but perhaps a bit less than before this
Update from Team Botany
On 12 November 2003, the botany team stayed a bit closer to the main
base camp in order to recover from the long and strenuous hike to the
lake in Valle de Kakiwi on the previous day. However, this gave the
botanists the chance to do some exploring along the bottom of Arroyo
Dolores and on the local beach dunes and coastal bluffs. Due to the
large amount of rain that had fallen and run-off from the mountains
during the two hurricanes that passed over just before our arrival,
most of the herbaceous plant communities along the bottom of the arroyo
have been scoured away in the floods. Thus, it was difficult to find
any new plant records in the wetter areas of the watershed. We
collected only 8 different plants from the immediate locale, but did
find an entire hillside population of an uncommon endemic species
called Coulterella capitata in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Not
only is this species endemic to Baja California Sur, but the genus is
monotypic (with only one species) and is completely restricted to this
On 13 November 2003, the botany loaded into a panga (small boat) and
headed to a remote coastal canyon south of Rancho Los Burros. It can
almost be assured that no botanist has ever explored this canyon before
due to its remote nature and inaccessibility. In fact, we almost
capsized the panga trying to get ashore because of a steep rocky beach
and large powerful waves pounding on the shore. We made 18 collections
in this canyon, many of which are quite rare and endemic to this part
of the peninsula including Eucnide tenella, Perityle lobata, Marsdenia
carterae, Conobea polystachya, and Ferocactus rectispinus. The endemic
barrel cactus, Ferocactus rectispinus, was quite interesting because it
exhibited many gland spines near its flowers that were covered by ants.
These plants apparently produce nectar in the gland spines at the top
of the cactus that feed the ants that live around its base. In turn,
the ants are very territorial and seem to protect the plants from other
insects that might try to walk up the stem and damage the fresh,
delicate cells at the growing apex or steal nectar or pollen from the
flowers. This strategy is useful to not only to protect the plant from
small herbivores but also to promote outcrossing pollination because
the only bugs that can successfully visit the flowers without being
attacked by the ants are flying insects like butterflies and bees that
carry pollen from other individuals and other populations, in turn
increasing the genetic diversity of the species.
David Faulkner (the one man terrestrial arthropod machine) and Jon
Rebman (Team Botany)
From camp at 9:30pm