Schlinger Expedition to the Republic of South Africa & Namibia
Fall 1996 Schlinger Expedition (Oct.
27 to Dec. 5) to the Republic of South Africa and Namibia, organized
by Mike Irwin, sampled the insect fauna from Pietermaritzberg to
Capetown to the Kalahari, with all the members of the expedition
present as the expedition moved into the Clanwilliam area (Nov.
11 to Nov. 18). These participants included Evert Schlinger, Mike
Irwin, David Yeates, Brian Wiegmann, Don Webb,
Steve Gaimari, Mark Metz, and Kevin
Holston. Mike and Ev arrived in South Africa first and collected
in Natal, traveling through the Mkuzi game reserve area, Ndumu,
and the Drakensberg mountains. Mike and Ev also left Africa last;
with David, they continued north from Clanwilliam to collect in
the Namib and Kalahari deserts as the other members of the expedition
prepared for their return to the United States. In the Clanwilliam
area, we collected along the southwest
coast to inland karoo, consisting of heath and scrub vegetation
with low shrubs and succulents, searching for elusive therevids.
collected specimens of several therevid genera including Neotabuda,
Orthactia, Phycus, and Rupellia; most of the material
has not yet been curated or determined to genus, and it likely includes
several undescribed species. Type specimens will be deposited in
the Natal Museum (South African species) and the Namibian National
Insect Collection, National Museum of Namibia (Namibian species).
We collected most of the therevids and other insects by using a
diversity of malaise traps, which differed in size and in structural
design. We also netted specimens as
they were spotted or by sweeping the vegetation, and we sieved
larval therevids from the sand. Specimens for molecular studies,
to be conducted in Brian Wiegmann's lab, were collected and placed
into 100% ethanol. We sorted through the malaise trap samples each
night and pinned the therevids and many other insects (mostly flies!).
The rest were layered with soft material for later curation.
might be expected by the number of dipterists on this expedition,
many interesting flies were collected, as well as other distinctive
members of the South African insect fauna. We collected asilids,
bombyliids, chamaemyiids, empids, nemestrinids, syrphids, and vermileonids,
to name a few dipteran families. Larvae of Heterotropus,
a genus of flies currently placed in Bombyliidae but with an unclear
relationship to other asiloid genera, were collected as we sifted
for therevid larvae. Adults were also taken. We also encountered
huge wingless tettigoniids (Orthoptera);
buprestids (Coleoptera) with outlandish, colorful tufts of hair;
spindle-winged nemopterids (Neuroptera); and a wide array of sphecids
interactions with the arthropod fauna were usually short and to
the point, but our interactions with other members of the South
African fauna were varied and usually not as confrontational. Included
among the birds we saw in South Africa are bee-eaters, weaverbirds,
the blue crane, and the ubiquitous Cape francolin and pied crow.
On one occasion, a large, black cobra raised up and spread its hood
in protest against the approach of our vehicles, but retreated into
the roadside grass before we could attempt to reconcile our differences.
We caught glimpses of mongooses and hyrax, watched eland, Thompson's
gazelles, kudu, and other antelopes, and had the opportunity to
acquaint ourselves with the Chacma baboon.
A troop of about thirty baboons in the Cedarberg Mountains decided
that Brian was collecting where he should not have been: in their
territory. Those of us who saw the look on Brian's face as he leapt
out of the bushes onto the road are still not sure if all the barks
and screams we heard were only from the baboons.
such entertaining interludes, this expedition has increased our
understanding of the family Therevidae. The South African material
will play a critical role in determining the worldwide distribution
and evolutionary relationships among the lineages within this family.
Fall 1996 Schlinger Expedition received invaluable assistance in
Pietermaritzberg from Michael J. Samways and Ray M. Miller of the
University of Natal,
and David Barraclough, Brian Stuckenberg, and Jason Londt of the
Natal Museum. In Capetown, we were fortunate to have Hamish Robertson
of the South African Museum and Tim Maggs and Al Lastovica of the
University of Capetown as our hosts. Support in Namibia was provided
by Eugene Marais at the National
Museum of Namibia, Windhoek, and Mary Seely of the Namib Desert
Research Station, Gobabeb.
Collecting Trips & Expeditions