Albany Museum

Grahamstown, South Africa

Albany Museum

Grahamstown, South Africa
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A Megachile patellimana female with a leaf piece and a female with cut lengths of plastic are shown. Credit: Sarah Kathleen Gess Little is known about the nesting activities of some lineages of megachiline bees. Dr. Sarah Gess, affiliated with both Albany Museum and Rhodes University, South Africa, and Peter Roosenschoon, Conservation Officer at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, United Arab Emirates, made use of their earlier observations gathered during a survey on flower visitation in the spring of 2015, to fill some gaps in the knowledge of of three species from such lineages. Among their findings, published in the open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research, is a curious instance of a bee attempting to build brood cells using green pieces of plastic. Having examined two nests of the leafcutter bee species Megachile (Eurymella) patellimana, they report that one of the females nested in burrows in compacted sandy ground beneath a plant, and the other - in the banks of an irrigation furrow. However, while the former was seen carrying a freshly cut leaf, the latter seemed to have discovered a curious substitute in the form of green plastic. Later on, upon checking the nest, the researchers found that the phenomenon they had observed was no isolated incident - at least six identical pieces of narrow, tough, green plastic were grouped together in an apparent attempt to construct a cell. It turns out that the bee had been deliberately cutting off approximately 10-milimetre-long pieces with its large and strong toothed mandibles, before bringing them back to the nest. "Although perhaps incidentally collected, the novel use of plastics in the nests of bees could reflect ecologically adaptive traits necessary for survival in an increasingly human-dominated environment," the authors quote an earlier study. The two studied mason bee species (Megachile (Maximegachile) maxillosa and Pseudoheriades grandiceps) were seen to construct their nests using a mixture of resin and sand in pre-existing cavities, such as trap-nests, above the ground. The researchers note that resin is a common nest-building material among numerous species of mason bees, also known as resin bees. Previously, it has been suggested that apart from making the nest waterproof, the plant secretions may contain substances that fend off parasites. The authors' earlier paper exploring the flower visitation by bees and wasps in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is also published in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research. Explore further: Urban bees using plastic to build hives More information: J. Scott MacIvor et al, Bees collect polyurethane and polyethylene plastics as novel nest materials, Ecosphere (2013). DOI: 10.1890/ES13-00308.1


Liu X.,China Agricultural University | Price B.W.,Albany Museum | Price B.W.,Rhodes University | Hayashi F.,Tokyo Metroplitan University | Yang D.,China Agricultural University
Zootaxa | Year: 2011

The genus Platychauliodes Esben-Petersen is a group of fishflies endemic to South Africa. The group has not received attention in over 40 years. All three species of Platychauliodes are redescribed in detail and a key to the adults presented. Chauliodes tenuis McLachlan, 1869 and Platychauliodes woodi Barnard, 1931 are treated as junior synonyms of P. pusillus (McLachlan, 1867). Copyright © 2011 · Magnolia Press.


Liu X.,China Agricultural University | Price B.,Albany Museum | Price B.,Rhodes University | Price B.,Natural History Museum in London | And 4 more authors.
Systematic Entomology | Year: 2013

Taeniochauliodes is the most common and widely distributed fishfly genus in South Africa, with one historically recognized valid species Taeniochauliodes ochraceopennis Esben-Petersen. The present systematic revision of Taeniochauliodes has found that this genus consists of at least eight species: T. angustus sp.n., T. attenuatus sp.n., T. barnardi sp.n., T. fuscus sp.n., T. minutus sp.n., and T. natalensis sp.n. Description of all new species and a redescription of T. esbenpeterseni comb.n. & stat.rev. and T. ochraceopennis are made. These species all have relatively narrowly confined distributions. An interspecific phylogeny of Taeniochauliodes is estimated based on adult morphological data. The historical biogeography of this genus is discussed based on the phylogenetic results and the present distribution of each species, suggesting that the origin of Taeniochauliodes likely dates back to the Late Cretaceous. The earliest branch, which separates T. natalensis sp.n. from the remaining South African species, suggests an early vicariance event occurred between KwaZulu-Natal and more western parts of South Africa. Furthermore, speciation within Taeniochauliodes is hypothesized to be correlated with fragmentation of its forest habitat during the Plio-Pleistocene. © 2013 The Royal Entomological Society.


Little is known about the nesting activities of some lineages of megachiline bees. Dr. Sarah Gess, affiliated with both Albany Museum and Rhodes University, South Africa, and Peter Roosenschoon, Conservation Officer at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, United Arab Emirates, made use of their earlier observations gathered during a survey on flower visitation in the spring of 2015, to fill some gaps in the knowledge of of three species from such lineages. Among their findings, published in the open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research, is a curious instance of a bee attempting to build brood cells using green pieces of plastic. Having examined two nests of the leafcutter bee species Megachile (Eurymella) patellimana, they report that one of the females nested in burrows in compacted sandy ground beneath a plant, and the other - in the banks of an irrigation furrow. However, while the former was seen carrying a freshly cut leaf, the latter seemed to have discovered a curious substitute in the form of green plastic. Later on, upon checking the nest, the researchers found that the phenomenon they had observed was no isolated incident - at least six identical pieces of narrow, tough, green plastic were grouped together in an apparent attempt to construct a cell. It turns out that the bee had been deliberately cutting off approximately 10-milimetre-long pieces with its large and strong toothed mandibles, before bringing them back to the nest. "Although perhaps incidentally collected, the novel use of plastics in the nests of bees could reflect ecologically adaptive traits necessary for survival in an increasingly human-dominated environment," the authors quote an earlier study. The two studied mason bee species (Megachile (Maximegachile) maxillosa and Pseudoheriades grandiceps) were seen to construct their nests using a mixture of resin and sand in pre-existing cavities, such as trap-nests, above the ground. The researchers note that resin is a common nest-building material among numerous species of mason bees, also known as resin bees. Previously, it has been suggested that apart from making the nest waterproof, the plant secretions may contain substances that fend off parasites. The authors' earlier paper exploring the flower visitation by bees and wasps in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is also published in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research. Gess SK, Roosenschoon PA (2017) Notes on the nesting of three species of Megachilinae in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, UAE. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 54: 43-56. https:/


McPhee B.W.,University of Witwatersrand | Mannion P.D.,Imperial College London | de Klerk W.J.,Albany Museum | Choiniere J.N.,University of Witwatersrand
Cretaceous Research | Year: 2016

The Kirkwood Formation of South Africa has long been recognized as having the potential to fill an important gap in the Mesozoic terrestrial fossil record. As one of the few fossil-bearing deposits from the lowermost Cretaceous, the Kirkwood Formation provides critical information on terrestrial ecosystems at the local, subcontinental (southern Gondwana), and global scale during this poorly sampled time interval. However, until recently, the dinosaurian fauna of the Kirkwood Formation, especially that pertaining to Sauropoda, has remained essentially unknown. Here we present comprehensive descriptions of several relatively well-preserved sauropod vertebrae collected from exposures throughout the formation. We identify at least four taxonomically distinct groups of sauropod, comprising representatives of Diplodocidae, Dicraeosauridae, Brachiosauridae, and a eusauropod that belongs to neither Diplodocoidea nor Titanosauriformes. This represents the first unequivocal evidence of these groups having survived into the earliest Cretaceous of Africa. The taxonomic composition of the Kirkwood Formation shows strong similarities to Upper Jurassic deposits, and raises questions regarding the taxonomic decline across the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary that has been previously inferred for Sauropoda. Investigation of the sauropod fossil record of the first three geological stages of the Cretaceous suggests that reconstruction of sauropod macroevolutionary patterns is complicated by a combination of sampling bias, an uneven and poorly dated rock record, and spatiotemporal disparity in the global disappearance of certain sauropod groups. Nonetheless, the close ecological relationship consistently observed between Brachiosauridae and Diplodocidae, as well as their approximately synchronous decline, suggests some equivalence in response to the changing faunal dynamics of the Early Cretaceous. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


de Moor F.C.,Albany Museum | de Moor F.C.,Rhodes University | Day J.A.,University of Cape Town
Hydrobiologia | Year: 2013

The Cape mediterranean region, part of South Africa's Cape Floristic Realm (CFR), is recognised for its rich diversity and high degree of endemism of terrestrial vegetation. We review the biodiversity of the aquatic flora and fauna using literature sources and museum data. Geological, palaeohistorical and climate data are examined in relation to the formation of the winter-rainfall regime. Prehistoric humans had minimal impact on the aquatic biotas. Patterns and processes relating to the present-day climate, ecosystem status, distribution and diversity of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates in the CFR are reviewed. The proportion of endemic CFR species relative to the total number of species known from southern Africa is estimated. Observed distribution patterns are evaluated against temperate Gondwana vicariance, old African migrations, the role of the ancient Cape fold mountains and Pangaea. The lack of Pleistocene glaciations in Africa, the oligotrophic nature of the river systems and the palaeohistorical origin and distribution of taxa are considered when assessing reasons for disjunct distribution patterns. Impacts of anthropogenic interference with aquatic ecosystems are evaluated. Fragmented jurisdiction of nature conservation authorities is seen as a problem for attaining adequate conservation of CFR aquatic ecosystems. Systematic conservation planning is under way for the region. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


News Article | April 5, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

The next Great Dying is coming. In fact, it’s definitely already here. The last time our planet saw a dying-off of global proportions was approximately 250 million years ago, and most of the life on Earth was wiped out for good. Plants, land and marine vertebrates, and invertebrates were all devastated. Scientists call this incident the Permian-Triassic extinction event. Right now, we’re witnessing the sixth mass extinction that Earth has ever known. But this time, it’s not the devastating impact of an asteroid, violent volcanism, or the deep-freeze of an ice-age that’s purging the planet of its life forms. It’s us. So what is any intelligent, enterprising animal to do when faced with the potential demise of its own species and most of those around it? Prepare. A new study published in Scientific Reports may help us to predict how the further deterioration of environments and natural resources, due to the effects of climate change, will physiologically impact modern species, possibly even humans. A specimen of Lystrosaurus from the Albany Museum in Grahamstown, South Africa. Image: Ken Angielczyk When a series of eruptions out of several Siberian volcanos kicked off the Permian-Triassic extinction event, giant plumes of noxious carbon were released into the atmosphere, altering Earth’s climate and extinguishing most life on it. However, one genus survived the extinction event and continued to thrive long after. A team of international paleontologists recently took a closer look at fossil evidence of the growth patterns of this ancient mammal-like reptile, Lystrosaurus (elegantly known as “shovel lizard”), before and after the extinction boundary. What they discovered in fossil records, according to the study, was that Lystrosaurus exhibited two clever adaptations for survival in its newly inhospitable surroundings: living faster, and dying younger. Doesn't Lystrosaurus look a little bit like a giant naked mole-rat? Image: Wikipedia/Dmitry Bogdanov "Before the Permo-Triassic extinction, the famous therapsid Lystrosaurus had a lifespan of about 13 or 14 years based on the record of growth preserved in their bones," co-author Ken Angielczyk, a paleontologist at the Field Museum, said in a statement. "Yet, nearly all of the Lystrosaurus specimens we find from after the extinction are only 2-3 years old. This implies that they must have been breeding when they were still [relatively young] themselves." The decreased lifespan of Lystrosaurus also came with some physical changes, the authors noted. Because the ancient creature was only living about a quarter as long as it did before the extinction event, it became much smaller and less heavy—think pygmy hippo-sized to large dog-sized—but much more prolific. Lystrosaurus started to breed at a younger age, according to ecological simulations, and by doing so increased its chance of survival by 40 percent. Scientists don’t have to extrapolate much to apply this adaptation scenario to modern animals. Atlantic cod, the study notes, are already dramatically decreasing in size and are breeding as early as possible, due to commercial fishing which has removed much of the larger cod from wild populations. African monitor lizards, which are currently being over-hunted and exploited for the skin and pet trade, are displaying similar shifts. "With the world currently facing its sixth mass extinction, paleontological research helps us understand the world around us today," said Angielczyk in a statement. "By studying how animals like Lystrosaurus adapted in the face of disaster, we can better predict how looming environmental changes may affect modern species." But as extinction timelines reveal, not all species are as resilient as Lystrosaurus. At least 10,000 species disappear forever each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which is somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than natural extinction rates. Whether or not this modern epoch will have its winners and losers is yet to be seen. But for now, my money’s on the little guys.


Barber-James H.M.,Albany Museum | Barber-James H.M.,Rhodes University | Pereira-da-Conceicoa L.L.,Rhodes University
African Journal of Aquatic Science | Year: 2016

Rapid biomonitoring protocols, using biotic indices based on macroinvertebrate diversity to assess river ecosystem health, are widely used globally. Such quick assessment techniques are lauded for the rapid results obtained and the relatively easy protocol used to achieve an answer. However, do such quick assessments of water quality give enough information about ecosystems? Are important details being overlooked? When should a full faunal survey be used in preference? Important research programmes, including environmental impact studies, often misuse biomonitoring techniques, making influential management decisions using superficial, low-level data obtained using biomonitoring tools, inappropriate to address those management objectives. The value of using biomonitoring as a quick tool, versus a more detailed faunal assessment, is considered here. The assessment of teloganodid mayfly fauna occurring in South African rivers provides an example of the value of detailed studies versus superficial family level investigations, showing that a rapid biomonitoring approach should not be used as a shortcut when a more detailed survey is needed. Each situation should be assessed for its own merit in a given set of project circumstances. A checklist of criteria is presented, giving guidance on when rapid biomonitoring alone is valuable and when more detailed assessments would give a more relevant result. © 2016 NISC (Pty) Ltd.


Barber-James H.M.,Albany Museum | Barber-James H.M.,Rhodes University
African Entomology | Year: 2010

Three species of Prosopistoma Latreille, 1833 are currently described from Africa. The immature nymph of Prosopistoma deguernei Vayssire, 1893 was described from Senegal, and the nymph and winged stages of Prosopistoma africanum Gillies, 1954 are known from Tanzania. The southern African species Prosopistoma crassi Gillies, 1954, initially described as a nymph from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, has subsequently been collected in a number of South African rivers. Two further species from South Africa are described here, the nymph of Prosopistoma amanzamnyama sp. n., and the nymph and female subimago of Prosopistoma mccaffertyi sp. n.


The history of the early descriptions of Prosopistoma is reviewed, and the steps taken to trace the original material described as Prosopistoma variegatum Latreille, 1833 are outlined. Eaton (1884) designated P. variegatum as the "type" of the genus Prosopistoma. Because only the larva was described by Latreille (1833) and this material is no longer available, a larva of this species was selected as the neotype. Scanning electron micrographs of some of the key larval characters provide additional detail for morphological characters not previously described in the Prosopistomatidae. The associated adult male and subimaginal male and female collected from the same sites as verified larvae of P. variegatum are described for the first time. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

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