After a wonderful day of sampling in the swampy forest, estuary, and beach area, the scientists returned to camp to share their findings and experiences. Here are some highlights from their day:
Marieka, the fungi expert, mentioned that the new campsite was wetter than the previous one. She focused on finding larger fungi, which are visually appealing and easier to understand. Although the area was still dry, she managed to collect a few fungi samples to add to the barcode database. Marieka emphasized the importance of DNA barcoding in South African mycology, as it aids in exploration, identification, and organization of fungi species. She expressed her excitement about being able to contribute meaningful data to the field, even if many of the collected sequences cannot be named yet.
Christian, from the insect team, discovered a coastal endemic dung beetle species, Scarabaeus bornemiza, which indicated the pristine nature of the sampling environment. However, his low point of the day was accidentally breaking Prof. Holm’s “kettie” (a type of slingshot).
Bezeng, who assisted the African Center for DNA Bar-coding, had a great day working with different researchers. He collected a Scaevola Plumieri, a plant with beautiful flowers, and his first collection from the Lobeliaceae family. Bezeng also had an enlightening conversation with Prof. Vincent Savolainen, which expanded his research interests.
Olivier, from the plant team, described their visits to dense forests and swamps. They made two interesting plant species observations: the first was a Drypetes natalensis, a stem fruit from the Euphorbe family that bears flowers on the trunk, and the second was an Inhambanella henriquesii, a Milk Pear tree from a localized distribution in South Africa. The latter species was a new discovery for their Southern Africa tree sampling.
Vincent, the DNA analysis expert from Imperial College London, was excited about Bezeng’s find of Gladiolus on the beach. He suggested that it might be Gladiolus inudensis and could be of interest to a PhD student he knows. Vincent mentioned that this finding indicated a rapid radiation of this species, even faster than animal evolutionary radiation.
Robin, the spider expert, found a retreat web, a unique web structure with tunnels, which spiders use to detect prey and potential threats. She caught some spiders and observed their behavior.
Richard, from the marine team, had a successful day with fish sampling, discovering four fish species, two crabs, and two terrestrial snails. His goal for the next day was to find mudskippers.
Brigitte, the ant expert, noticed that the camping area was dominated by a single ant species, possibly an invasive species. However, she found several new ant species outside the campsite, some of which spent most of their time underground or were predominantly active at night. Brigitte expressed her excitement about discovering these nests.
Lastly, Elmarie and Isa organized a team effort to prepare supper for the group, which became a highlight of the day for everyone.