Tag Archives: Mosambique

Exposing the Indian Ocean staggering diversity: fieldtrip to Nuarro, northern Mozambique (October 2017)

Pursuing our goal to understand the diversity, origin and biogeography of the Indo-West Pacific biota, we went back to Mozambique to continue the exploration of the reef systems of the country. After a first fieldtrip to the subtropical southern coast of Mozambique in 2014, and a second during 2015 to the tropical Quirimbas islands (Vamizi I.) not far from the border with Tanzania, we visited this time for two weeks between the 15–28 October 2017 the coastal pristine reefs and mangroves of Memba District in Nuarro, Nangata Bay, together with Prof. João Macuio from the University Lurio, Pemba and Dr Yara Tibiriça based at Nuarro Lodge, that kindly organized the expedition.

The staggering diversity of the tropical Indo-Pacific is well known and the area between the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea (the Coral Triangle) is famous for hosting the highest marine diversity in the planet. However, for various reasons (political, economic, etc.) the Indian Ocean has been comparatively less surveyed, and much fewer studies are available for this region. Some recent publications are though showing that for corals and molluscs, at least, the region is extremely diverse, nearly comparable with the coral triangle.

We want to understand why is this region so diverse and whether the Indian Ocean harbours similar or a different faunal composition compared to the West Pacific Ocean. The traditional view is that most tropical species are broadly distributed across the Indo-West Pacific, but recent evidence from DNA studies suggests otherwise, but this is not yet well understood. If significant differences are found, then, understanding what may have driven speciation across both realms becomes a major quest.

Jorunna rubescens

Phyllidia varicosa

Plakobranchus sp.

Reticulidia suzanneae

Nuarro is a remote place, four and half hours driving from Nampula international airport, half of them through earth roads. It is located in beautiful Nangata Bay lined by fine white sands and calm turquoise waters. The area is characterized by a large diversity of marine habitats like sand flats, coral bommies, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and coralline drop-off walls plunging into the deep blue.

The expedition had its basecamp at Nuarro Lodge, an eco-lodge offering diving facilities and a research center. The lodge besides its hostel activities is engaged in social, educational, heath, and nature conservation programmes with the local communities helping to improve education standards for the younger generations, mitigate the impact of native diseases like malaria, and the sustainable use of nature resources. For this last goal a marine protected area was created in 2008.

João Macuio and Manuel Malaquias during a nudi photo session

Local fishermen in a wooden canoe

Measuring giant clams underwater

Yara Tibiriçá databasing the catch of the day

During two weeks we have surveyed the area for marine molluscs (sea slugs) and studied the impact of the marine protected area in the conservation of the highly sensitive and threatened giant clams (Tridacna spp.). The days at Nuarro began early, around 5.30–6am, with the sun already out and high in the blue sky. Waking up was not difficult, with the awesome strident ensemble of sounds from the many local different birds and the monkeys running and jumping on the thatched roofs of our housing! First sampling of the day around 8.30am, followed by a second one after lunchtime. The evenings were dedicated to study, photograph, identify, and database the catch of the day. We have collected approximately 68 species of sea slugs; 11 are new records to Mozambique and an additional 12 still undescribed. The conservation status of the populations of giant-clams was evaluated in areas under fishing pressure by the local communities and inside the marine reserve for comparison, and it was obvious the positive impact of the marine protect area.

Monkey jumping on the roof of our accommodation

A “family” of moray eels

Collecting in the mangroves

Crown-of-thorns starfish feeding on coral

Detail of a gorgonian coral

Garden eels

Nangata Bay, Nuarro

The flatworm Pseudoceros lindae

The days were busy and went far too fast, but there was time for a short social programme where we paid a visit to the local village and visited the primary school built by the lodge and met a group of local activists that work with the community to raise awareness for issues concerning hygiene, malaria, and other health matters, which regrettably still claim lives in the region far beyond acceptable numbers on the XXI century. Before the trip to Nuarro I was challenged to take a football ball with me for the local team. I have obviously eagerly done it, and it was a great delight to the see the joy of the players of the “Real Nangata” playing around with their new ball!

Primary school build by the lodge at Nangata village

Real Nangata football club

View of Nangata village with a baubau tree

The Nuarro expedition would not have been possible without the gratitude and support of the Nuarro Eco-Lodge to which I am deeply indebted.  I am also thankful to Prof. Isabel Silva from the University Lurio, Pemba and to the Fisheries Department of the Cabo Delgado Province from granting collecting and exporting permits.

Manuel António E. Malaquias, Associate Professor

Natural History Museum of Bergen, Norway

 

Door #14: A world of colour and slime

Welcome to the world of Nudibranchs!

Flabellina rubrolineata (Mozambique) Photo: M. Malaquias

Flabellina rubrolineata (Mozambique) Photo: M. Malaquias

The nudibranchs are among the most beautiful animals in our seas. The palette of colours, shapes, and adaptations depicted by this group of gastropod molluscs has no parallel. Some species have no more than few millimetres where others can reach nearly half a meter. Some have a smooth skin, others are covered with long and delicate appendices.

Chromodoris boucheti (Mozambique) Photo: M. Malaquias

Chromodoris boucheti (Mozambique) Photo: M. Malaquias

Phillidia ocellata (Mozambique) Photo: M. Malaquias

Phillidia ocellata (Mozambique) Photo: M. Malaquias

Most are benthic, but some are pelagic drifting with the oceanic currents. Nudibranchs feed on sponges, bryozoans, crustaceans, and cnidarians and even can incorporate in their tissues nematocysts sequestered from their prey which they use in self-defence. Probably, the most striking feature of these gastropods is the lack of a shell and presence of bright colours. These colours are usually a warning signal indicating the presence of deterrent chemicals some of them with pH values as low as 1 or 2. Some of these chemicals are biologically active and have been investigated for the treatment of several types of cancer diseases.

Flabellina pedata (Norway) Photo: M. Malaquias

Flabellina pedata (Norway) Photo: M. Malaquias

Polycera quadrilineata (Norway) Photo: M. Malaquias

Polycera quadrilineata (Norway) Photo: M. Malaquias

-Manuel

Sampling for sea slugs in northern Mozambique (East Africa)

The "tree house", headquarters of the Conservation and Research project of Vamizi Island

The “tree house”, headquarters of the Conservation and Research project of Vamizi Island

An undescribed species of an aeolid. Vamizi Island.

An undescribed species of an aeolid. Vamizi Island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tropical waters of the Indian Ocean are part of the world’s richest biogeographical region – the Indo-West Pacific (IWP), where diversity picks its high in the “Coral Triangle” an area confined by the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea.

Within this vast realm, the east coast of Africa is probably the least studied area and Moçambique with one of the largest coastlines in the region and pristine mangrove, seagrass, and coral habitats hides a high and still largely unknown diversity of opisthobranch gastropods (sea slugs).

Phyllidia ocellata. Vamizi Island

Phyllidia ocellata. Vamizi Island

During January–February of 2014 I had the opportunity to sample in southern Moçambique together with local colleagues from the Zavora Marine Lab. The results have been so promising that we decided to organize a new fieldtrip but, this time to explore the fauna in the northern tropical latitudes of the country. In collaboration with the University Lúrio in Pemba and the Vamizi Conservation and Research Station managed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we setup during May 2015 a two weeks fieldtrip to Vamizi Island, a remote pristine sanctuary located in the northern range of the Quirimbas archipelago. The goals were to continue the inventory of the sea slug fauna of Mozambique and Indian Ocean but also to collect specific material for several ongoing projects at the University Museum of Bergen (Natural History) related to the systematics, biogeography, and speciation of these molluscs.

Cerberilla ambonensis. Vamizi island

Cerberilla ambonensis. Vamizi island

The first challenge was to reach Vamizi! Four flights, a five hours 4-wheels drive, and at last a boat trip – all of it during four days! But, the sight over the turquoise, calm, and warm waters of Vamizi was breathtaking and well worth the effort! We were very well welcomed by the team of the Conservation and Research Project of Vamizi and the management of Vamizi Island, which have provided all the necessary conditions for a successful and pleasant work.

The white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of Vamizi Island

The white sandy beaches and turquoise waters of Vamizi Island

The pristine coastline of Palma in northern Mozambique.

The pristine coastline of Palma in northern Mozambique.

As the following days would unravel the pristine coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves would not disappoint with their incredible diversity of sea slugs and all kinds of colourful marine live. Yet, and contrary to the experience of the previous year where we have collected in several southern sub-tropical areas of Moçambique (Vilankulo, Barra, Paindane, Zavora), this time was not so easy to find sea slugs and often each of us would not collect more than 4 to 10 specimens per dive; but steadily over the 2-weeks of fieldwork we reached the exciting number of about 85 species, with approximately 60 new records for Mozambique and around 14 new to Science. This seems to be a pattern on many pristine tropical areas; low abundances but high diversity of sea slugs.

Photographing the daily catch

Photographing the daily catch

The "crew". Left to right: Erwan Sola (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Isabel Silva (University Lúrio, Pemba / Vamizi Conservation and Research Project), Yara Tibiriçá (Zavora Marine Lab), Manuel Malaquias (University Museum of Bergen), and Joana Trindade (Vamizi Conservation and Research Project)

The “crew”. Left to right: Erwan Sola (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Isabel Silva (University Lúrio, Pemba / Vamizi Conservation and Research Project), Yara Tibiriçá (Zavora Marine Lab), Manuel Malaquias (University Museum of Bergen), and Joana Trindade (Vamizi Conservation and Research Project)

Transferring specimens to ethanol at Palma beach (Palma village not far from the border with Tanzania), under the puzzled eyes of a group of locals.

Transferring specimens to ethanol at Palma beach (Palma village not far from the border with Tanzania), under the puzzled eyes of a group of locals.

University Lurio. Newly graduated students with supervisors and opponents.

University Lurio. Newly graduated students with supervisors and opponents.

The farewell to Vamizi was not easy; the beauty, warm, and peaceful atmosphere of Vamizi together with its incredible underwater diversity and colours will last surely forever in our memories. Yet, the journey was not over! We headed to the town of Pemba for the last three nights where some formalities were still on the agenda.

Professor Isabel Silva from the University Lúrio in Pemba and member of the Vamizi Island Conservation and Research Project and a join-organizer of our expedition, have invited each member of the team to give a seminar at the university and to act as opponents on the defence of several theses of “licenciatura”. While my colleagues have talked about the sea slugs of Moçambique and the coral reefs of Vamizi Island, I decided to get a away from my field of research (but not of interest!) and discourse about “wired animals” such as loriciferans, xenoturbellids, kinorhynchs, and others… Biological diversity is definitely much more than turtles, sharks, whales, and manta-rays…, even goes beyond colourful sea slugs!

 

Melibe sp. Vamizi Island

Melibe sp. Vamizi Island.

Is this a slug? Yes it is! Marionia arborescens. Vamizi Island

Is this a slug? Yes it is! Marionia arborescens. Vamizi Island.

Chromodoris cf. quadricolor. Vamizi Island

Chromodoris cf. quadricolor. Vamizi Island.

Chromodoris boucheti. Vamizi Island

Chromodoris boucheti. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura punctata. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura punctata. Vamizi Island.

Chelidonura mandroroa. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura mandroroa. Vamizi Island.

Chelidonura electra. Vamizi Island

Chelidonura electra. Vamizi Island.

Phyllodesmium cf. magnum. Vamizi Island.

Phyllodesmium cf. magnum. Vamizi Island.

Cadlinella ornatissima. Vamizi island.

Cadlinella ornatissima. Vamizi island.

Baby green turtles recovered from a damaged nest, with a rare case of albinism in this group of reptiles.

Baby green turtles recovered from a damaged nest, with a rare case of albinism in this group of reptiles.

Conservation on the move; Release of green baby turtles on the beach at Vamizi Island.

Conservation “on the move”; Release of green baby turtles on the beach at Vamizi Island.

Philinopsis pilsbryi. Vamizi Island

Philinopsis pilsbryi. Vamizi Island.

Coconut crab. Extinct to nearly extinct in many islands of the Indo-Pacific. Vamizi Island.

Coconut crab. Extinct to nearly extinct in many islands of the Indo-Pacific. Vamizi Island.

Another resident of Vamizi Island locally named "jibóia".

A “slimy” resident of Vamizi Island locally named “jibóia”.

A kingfisher bird. Vamizi Island.

A kingfisher bird. Vamizi Island.

A surprising guest found in my bedroom.

An uninvited guest in my bedroom.

A weaver bird. Vamizi Island.

A weaver bird. Vamizi Island.

-Manuel