AltSU’s zoologists discovered rare species of insects in Dagestan

22 May 2021 Department of Information and Media Communications
From April 26 to May 13, zoologists of the Institute of Biology and Biotechnology of Altai State University returned from an expedition to the Republic of Dagestan.

The team included Professor of the Department of Ecology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology, IBB, Doctor of Biological Sciences R. Yakovlev, Assistant of the Department of Zoology and Physiology, IBB Yu. Dyachkov and researcher at the South-Sibirian Botanical Garden A. Fomichev, experts on various groups of arthropods: lepidoptera, labiopods (chylopods) and spiders.

During the expedition, a significant number of localities were examined in the most fascinating regions of Dagestan: the sand dune Sarykum, the relict Samur liana forest, as well as various regions of mountainous Dagestan. The range of the surveyed biotopes was also wide, from sandy deserts to subtropical forests. Despite the fact that the full results of the expedition will be revealed only after the completion of the office processing of the materials collected, already now, according to AltSU’s scientists, it is safe to say that this material is extremely interesting.

And this is not surprising, since the biodiversity of the Eastern Caucasus has been studied much less than in the Western Caucasus, close to the Black Sea.

In the course of the expedition, extremely productive collections were made for the healopod centipedes. Before the research of AltSU’s  zoologists, only three species of these animals from the territory of Dagestan were known. In Yuri Dyachkov’s collections, about a dozen species from four different orders were previously identified, most of which turned out to be new to the fauna of Dagestan, and some of them, possibly, are new species to science. The most impressive was the capture of large (up to 15 centimeters in length) poisonous scolopendra, several individuals were brought to Barnaul alive. Now they feel great in special aquariums at the researcher’s house.

The collection of spiders was also very productive. A significant number of species were collected, among which there are clearly new to science. Particularly varied and interesting were non-web-spinning spiders from families such as wolf spiders (Lycosidae), gnafosidae spiders (Gnaphosidae) and dysderida spiders (Dysderidae). Two new spider families for the fauna of Dagestan were discovered: Segestriidae and Nesticidae. Of greatest interest is the discovery of spiders from the family Nescticidae, which are troglophiles (they like to settle in caves).

Despite the fact that diurnal butterflies were found in insignificant numbers (due to the early season), the collection of nocturnal representatives of this order of insects exceeded all expectations. Hawkmoths, black witch moths, saturniids, and other moths flew en masse to the light traps. Dozens of collected species of moths have not yet been recorded in the fauna of Dagestan, and some of them in the fauna of Russia.

In addition to lepidoptera, chylopods and spiders, the expedition members massively collected other arthropods: scorpions, pseudoscorpionы, beetles, bugs, diplopods, and woodlice. Materials on these groups will be transferred for processing to other zoologists of Altai State University, as well as specialists at the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Systematics and Ecology of Animals of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

During the expedition, attention was also paid to vertebrates. For example, 14 species of amphibians and reptiles were discovered and photographed, many of which are included in the Red Data Books of the Republic of Dagestan and Russia. Thus, the expedition of AltSU’s zoologists to Dagestan was of a complex nature.

It should be noted that the host country represented by the staff of the Dagestan Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Doctor of Biological Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Magomed-Rasul Magomedov, Director of the Mountain Botanical Garden, Doctor of Biological Sciences Zagirbeg Asadulaev), Dagestan State Reserve (Director Kurban Kuniev and Deputy Director for Research Hajibek Jamirzoev), Dagestan State University (Candidate of Biological Sciences  Abdulgamid Teymurov). Dagestan colleagues provided AltSU’s zoologists with transport, helped them in every possible way in their study of specially protected natural areas of Dagestan, gave advice and consultations. AltSU’s zoologists and their Dagestan colleagues already have agreements for the next field season, and the materials collected during this expedition will undoubtedly form the basis of many joint scientific publications.

The study was carried out as part of the program to support scientific and pedagogical staff of Altai State University, in particular, the project "Biological diversity of carnivorous herpetobionts of the Greater Caucasus: case study of model groups: spiders (Arachnida: Aranei) and labiopods (Myriapoda: Chilopoda)."

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