"Bio-blitz" in U.S. Park Uncovers Astounding Array of Species

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Few of the scientists were completely satisfied with the conditions. The bird people said it was two weeks past the optimum spring migration time. The fungus people said they could have used more rain. The beetle people said they were limited by the cool weather. The moth people would have preferred more humidity, with thunderstorms threatening, if possible.

Despite all that, a new record was clearly within reach.

The beetle people and the moth people had renewed their rivalry, with each side collecting more than 300 species—although each side claimed weather conditions and collection methods gave their adversary an advantage.

The day's booty included one moth, the Anna Tiger, not seen in Connecticut in 80 years, as well as other rare or unexpected bird, dragonfly, crustacean, and fish species.

Unusual Creatures

It was a fine day for parasites and those who love them.

Even though she hadn't slept all night, Janine Caira still answered to the informal title "head parasite person" with a friendly smile.

Caira, a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut, had too much fun to sleep at all on Friday night. She pumped her fist as she described one coup pulled off by the parasite team: scraping up in the road an opossum that had been killed by a car and extracting from its digestive system a nematode—a gray, worm-like parasite several inches long.

"All we have to do is look at organisms for 24 hours, and people care about what we see," said Caira, describing her enjoyment of the "bio-blitz." Her regular specialty is parasites that inhabit stingrays and sharks.

"The coolest fly we got is one that looks like a killer whale and doesn't have a mouth," entomologist Vicente Sanchez called out to Nick Baker, the British naturalist who will be the on-air host of the National Geographic documentary when it airs in August. The cameras swooped in to capture the bulbous, parasitic fly, oestridae, in an exquisite close-up.

(c) 2001 The Hartford Courant

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