In the steps of the entomologists

Saturday 15th November, from base camp in Kumawa.

To begin with, let’s reassure those who are worried. We heard that there had been a tsunami in the area but we have not seen any of it.

Today, I interviewed Yayuk and Arnaud, who are both interested in soil-dwelling and underground arthropods. Yayuk is specialized in springtails (Collembola), and Arnaud in a group of beetles (Coleoptera). Yayuk explains to me how they collect soil fauna. They take samples of soil litter from different forest environments and let it dry in basket-sieves placed above big transparent plastic funnels that end in alcohol flasks. When the litter dries, insects crawl down to the bottom looking for humidity. They eventually slide into the funnel and find themselves trapped in the alcohol. Then, all Yayuk and Arnaud need to do is to collect them. But the most difficult part of the job is still ahead. They have to observe the insects and sort them out family by family. However, to determine which species they belong to, they will have to wait until they get back to the LIPI institute because this cannot be done without a good microscope.

Yayuk, collecting soil fauna — Copyright : S. Quérouil / IRD

Yayuk collecting soil fauna — Copyright : S. Quérouil / IRD

Arnaud plans to carry out genetic analyses to complete the analysis based on anatomical criteria. He points out that hardly anything is known about Lengguru insects, or even about those from Papua. Therefore, many new species can be expected to be discovered.

Arnaud with his insects vacuum-collecting device — Copyright : B. Fromento / IRD

Arnaud with his insects vacuum collector — Copyright : B. Fromento / IRD

(translated by Marion Escudié, L2 SVC–Life & Earth Sciences–UM2, France)