Happy New Year! The First Rooster Call of 2017

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On a small farm near the botanical garden in Okinawa City, a rooster sang its first song of 2017 – the “year of the rooster”. His was the first song of the dawn chorus, a daily event that arouses every type of bird sound on the island of Okinawa – from the sweet melody of the Ryukyu Robin (Akahige) to the harsh screeching of the Brown-eared Bulbul (Hiyodori).


– The first rooster call of 2017 –

This biological symphony has the sun as its conductor, as the conditions just before dawn are especially favorable for singing: the air is cool, the wind is quiet, and the light is low enough to afford a modicum of safety. For male birds, the dawn chorus provides a time for each individual to broadcast “I am still here”, and to assess which of its neighbors can say the same. For female birds, this can be a convenient time to determine which is the superior songster, or to share in the chorus.


– The dawn chorus –

Arilab’s post-doc Nick uses the rooster and its chorus as a way to monitor Okinawa’s ecosystems. The number of different bird species that join the rooster in its song each morning is an indicator of the ecosystem’s health. A varied and noisy morning suggests a healthy environment, whereas a silent morning suggests that some species have gone missing. The rooster’s song was recorded using a network of automated recorders placed in forests and fields across Okinawa.

– Content written by the OIST media section.

December 2016 Joint Lab Meeting with Tsuji Lab

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On December 5, arilab had another joint lab meeting with the Tsuji lab from the University of the Ryukyus.

Yoshi, the coordinator of the OKEON Churamori Project, gave a presentation on the current status of the project. Compared to a year ago, the project has made great progress, with 72 SLAM traps, 24 weather stations, and some camera traps and acoustic traps set up. Specimens are being sorted and ant species are being identified, the database is up and running and already holds a lot of data, much GIS data has been compiled and many models created, and the website is also complete.

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From the Tsuji lab side, Dr. Kaori Tsurui, part of the Center for Strategic Research Project, gave a presentation titled “Interactions between guppies and mosquitofish: a good system for studying evolutionary ecology”.

After the talks, both labs went out together and continued discussion.

Rare ant found in OKEON sample

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A rarely-collected ant species, Protanilla lini, has been identified from a SLAM trap sample that was collected from Hentona High School (site04) between September and October last year. Protanilla lini belongs to the subfamily Leptanillinae. All members of the family are small, subterranean and often blind ants that are very rarely collected. We know very little about their biology, but we believe they are predators of larger prey such as centipedes or earthworms. It is likely that they perform some form of “dracula ant feeding behavior”, where the adults hunt large prey, but instead of feeding on it themselves they take their larvae to the prey, the adults then drink the haemolymph (or “blood”) of the larvae without causing any physical damage.

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Distribution of Protanilla lini, image from antmaps.org

 

This species has been recorded only in Taiwan and Okinawa. It has been collected only once before in Okinawa, and a couple of times in Taiwan.

The information and the specimen images were provided by our staff scientist Paco Hita Garcia.

Soundscape of Okinawa during Obon

On top of SLAM traps that collect arthropod samples and weather stations that record physical parameter data, acoustic traps that gather sound data are also set up at various OKEON field sites. The soundscape of the sites differ based on their habitats and their proximity to urban areas, as illustrated by the sounds collected during the period of Obon in Okinawa.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. During Obon, Bon dance (bon odori) is performed to welcome the spirits of the dead. The bon dance performed in Okinawa is known as eisa. Across different OKEON sites we can hear different eisa dances with different species either in the foreground or the background. For example, in Nago the eisa dance is in the background, with sounds of many cricket species (Hexacentrus unicolor, Cardiodactylus guttulus, Ornebius kanetaki, Ornebius longipennis) in the foreground while in Nakagusuku the eisa song is in the foreground. By contrast, given its well-preserved continuous forests far from civilization, the soundscape of Yanbaru consists only of natural sounds.

Below are the soundscapes of four different OKEON sites during Obon as well as part of their spectrograms:

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Soundscape of Nago on the night of Obon, recorded from Nago Castle Park

Link to sound here

nakagusuku

Soundscape of Nakagusuku on the night of Obon, recorded at Nakagusuku Park

Link to sound here

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Soundscape of Naha on the night of Obon, recorded from Sueyoshi Park.

Link to sound here

yanbaru

Yanbaru Forest on the night of Obon, recorded at the Yanbaru Discovery Forest Park.

Link to sound here

Sound data contributed by our Post-Doctoral researcher Nicholas Friedman.

OKEON Churamori Project presented at International Congress of Entomology 2016

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The nearly one-week long XXV International Congress of Entomology, under the theme Entomology without Borders, took place in Orlando this year from September 25-30. It brought together the largest delegation of scientists and experts in the history of the discipline with over 7000 participants and over 2000 talks, with topics ranging from biodiversity conservation to ecology and evolution to science communication.

Yoshi, a staff scientist of arilab and the coordinator of the OKEON project, represented the rest of the OKEON team at the conference by presenting a poster on the project. The poster, titled OKEON Chura-mori Project: A new environmental monitoring project in Okinawa, Japan , introduced the project and described its various components, including GIS, field network, genomics pipeline, as well as emphasized its collaborative nature by outlining the various partners of the project.

You can see the original poster here.