Finally, several months delayed is a post about my recent field work in South Africa that took place in December 2015. I put together my tweets from the field and they can be accessed at this storify story.
This field trip was funded by the Global Genome Initiative (GGI) with the purpose of increasing the holdings of flies (Diptera) available for genome or genomic sequencing in the NMNH Biorepository. For that purpose, I sent a liquid nitrogen dry shipper to South Africa and back via FedEx. During the field work I kept the dry shipper in the back of my field vehicle.
The field vehicle in Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape (note: I did not collect in the national park).
The liquid nitrogen dry shipper secured in the back of the bakkie (a.k.a. pickup truck).
I proposed this field work in order to visit a particularly diverse place in the Nama Karoo of South Africa called Willowmore. This small town and its surroundings in the south-eastern Nama Karoo (Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, 33°17'00''S 023°29'00''E) are particularly diverse for asiloid flies with 1 species of apiocerid flies, 62 assassin flies, and 11 mydas flies known to date. The article by Londt (1998, download PDF) nicely summarizes the Asilidae species that were collected by Dr. J. Brauns in and around Willowmore in the first quarter of the 20th century. Other collections also house specimens from J. Brauns and a single new genus and species to this list, Ammodaimon sp. (USNMENT00995300, see record), was discovered in the USNM collection. So, this area is a great place to collect asiloid flies (and other Diptera).
During this field trip I visited several different habitats from coastal dunes and riverine habitats to several kinds of Karoo veld and habitats as can be seen from the following habitat photographs.
1. Coastal dunes and dune vegetation at Riet River Mouth near Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, where Afroleptomydas sp. and Ectyphus pingius Gerstaecker, 1868 (Mydidae) and a Neolophonotus species (Asilidae) were collected.
2. Riverine habitat of the Groot Rivier at Meiringspoort, Western Cape, where Stichopogon sp. (Asilidae) was collected perching on the rocks.
3. Nama Karoo north of Olifantskop Pass, Eastern Cape, where on a roadside Acnephalomyia, Neolophonotus, and Trichardis species (Asilidae) were collected.
4. Nama Karoo mountain side near Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, where a Neolophonotus and a Afroscleropogon species (Asilidae) were collected.
5. Nama Karoo at Aberdeen Nature Reserve outside of Aberdeen, Eastern Cape, where Apiocera braunsi Melander, 1907 (Apioceridae) and Anypodetus, Habropogon, Microstylum, Neolophonotus, Promachus, Smeryngolaphria, and Trichardis species (Asilidae) were collected.
6. Nama Karoo at Aberdeen Nature Reserve outside of Aberdeen, Eastern Cape. This is one of the pans at which I caught Apiocera braunsi Melander, 1907 running around the margins near the vegetation.
7. Nama Karoo on the De Zeekoe Guest Farm near Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, where an undescribed genus of Mydidae as well as Afroscleropogon, Daspletis setithoracicus (Ricardo, 1925), Leptogaster aganniphe Janssens, 1957, Microstylum, Nusa infumata (Loew, 1851), Synolcus, Sisyrnodytes, Trichardis, and Trichoura tankwa Londt, 1994 (Asilidae) were collected.
8. Vegetated dune ridge in Goukamma Nature Reserve near Knysna, Western Cape, where an Afroleptomydas species (Mydidae) as well as Damalis, Pegesimallus, and Sisyrnodytes species (Asilidae) were collected.
9. Coastal forest in Goukamma Nature Reserve near Knysna, Western Cape, where Oligopogon penicillatus Loew, 1858 (Asilidae) was collected. In my phylogenetic work on Asilidae, I was unable to place this genus with morphological data (it is currently incertae sedis) and now we can utilize molecular data as I collected a few specimens in liquid nitrogen.
In the end, I didn't even make it to Willowmore as I found many other suitable collecting localities and time was limited on this 10-day trip.
I was able to collect the following genera / species (I still need to identify several taxa to the species level):
Apioceridae: Apiocera braunsi Melander, 1907
Asilidae: Acnephalomyia sp., Afroscleropogon sp., Anypodetus sp., Damalis sp., Daspletis setithoracicus (Ricardo, 1925), Habropogon sp., Hyperechia sp., Leptogaster aganniphe Janssens, 1957, Microstylum sp., Neolophonotus sp., Nusa infumata (Loew, 1851), Oligopogon penicillatus Loew, 1858, Pegesimallus sp., Promachus sp., Sisyrnodytes sp., Smeryngolaphria sp., Stenopogon sp., Stichopogon sp., Synolcus sp., Trichardis sp., Trichoura tankwa Londt, 1994 and two species of Stenopogoninae currently undetermined to genus.
Mydidae: Afroleptomydas sp., Ectyphus pinguis Gerstaecker, 1868, and an undescribed genus.
For the majority of these species, specimens were preserved both in ethyl-acetate and pinned for morphological work and proper identification as well as in liquid nitrogen for genome and genomic sequencing in the future. An example record of a pinned fly can be viewed on the USNM collection web-site (USNMENT01115072) and a liquid nitrogen-preserved fly on the Global Genome Biodiversity Network (GGBN) data portal (AA8IQ31).
I was also able to collect several species of bee flies (Bombyliidae), hover flies (Syrphidae), and stiletto flies (Therevidae) as well as a horse fly (Tabanidae) and a tachinid fly (Tachinidae) species.
Below are some photographs I was able to take of flies in the field.
1. Leptogaster aganniphe Janssens, 1957 (Asilidae: Leptogastrinae).
2. Microstylum sp. (Asilidae: Stenopogoninae).
3. Microstylum sp. (Asilidae: Stenopogoninae).
4. Oligopogon penicillatus Loew, 1858 (Asilidae: incertae sedis).
5. Synolcus sp. (Asilidae: Asilinae).
6. Trichardis sp. (Asilidae: Laphriinae).
7. Trichoura tankwa Londt, 1994 (Asilidae: Willistonininae).
8. Daspletis setithoracicus (Ricardo, 1925) (Asilidae: Stenopogoninae).
South Africa is a beautiful place to visit and the Nama Karoo especially. I was fortunate to be able to see Meerkats for the first time through Meerkat Adventures at the De Zeekoe Guest Farm near Oudtshoorn, Western Cape.
The last afternoon of my stay in South Africa I spent in the Addo Elephant National Park where I saw plenty of Loxodonta africana (Blumenbach, 1797) and other mammals.
Did you know that the Nama Karoo has an incredible diversity of tortoises? Here is just one of them, the Angulate Tortoise Chersina angulata (Schweigger, 1812).
Posted by Torsten Dikow.
Thanks to the Eastern and Western Cape authorities for collecting permits. Thanks also to Dolf Grobler and J.D. Glinister for helping me with field work on the De Zeekoe Guest Farm property.
Updates: 2016-11-05 - the identification of a few species has been changed/updated.