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Kategorie: Milbenforschung

Mite Histiostoma sachsi (Astigmata): Juvenile dispersal instar deutonymph and its orientation behavior

Some animals live in environments, where there is (almost) no light available. It makes no sense to see in the dark, but it is important for a specimen to know, where it actually is, where it is going to, whether there is enough food and what the conspecifics are doing. Predators need to be recognized in time, and a sexual partner must be found. There is also need for an efficient communication between specimens of a species. How can all this be performed by mites of the Astigmata, which usually live inside decomposing soil habitats in a more or less permanent darkness?

 

Olfactory sense organs in mites of the Histiostomatidae

 

Histiostoma sachsi (Histiostomatidae, Astigmata) is such a mite, living inside cow dung or compost. It might have a rudimentary ability for a light perception, but has not visible or functional eyes. It cannot produce any sounds. It can only feel and smell. Seemingly very limited abilities, but the contrary is fact: Due to evolution this mite is perfectly adapted to its life-style. It can feel objects by touching on them using its body setation (= body hairs). And it smells by means of very specialized body hairs, which are called solenidia and appear in different types, shapes and functions. These mites don’t smell on the level of us humans, which would be very insufficient. If at all, it should be compared with a dog. I am always fascinated when seeing blind dogs and how perfectly they can interact with their environment, despite their handicap. That’s may be how the efficiency of olfactory perception abilities of such a mite must be imagined. They do not only perceive scent particles from other animals, plants and soil components. Even olfactory signals from their conspecifics will be correctly and differentiatedly interpreted. And that not only marginally.  Olfactory signals represent indeed the major mode of their intraspecific communication.

 

Chemical communication of mites of the Histiostomatidae

 

Communication always requires contributions from both sides, a signal and an answer. These mites smell the signal of a conspecific using their solenidia, and they answer by the secretion of biochemical components. For these purposes, they possess a huge and complex gland system located on the upperside of their backs. Volatile excretions aggregate inside a big and rounded reservoir and finally leak to the outside via a pore, called oilgland opening. These gland systems are located symmetrically on both sides, each with one reservoir and one pore.

The meaning of the sent volatile message simply depends on the composition of the correspondingbiochemical components. Even diffferent stereochemical configurations of the same molecule can have different meanings. Citral for instance is a major component and has in different stereoisomers different functions. Such cummunicative volatile signals are usually named pheromones. And mites of the Histiostomatidae can indeed produce different kinds of pheromnes via the same gland system. Aggregation pheromones inform specimens about a suitable place to stay together with their conspecifics, for example due to a sufficient amount of food resources. Alarm pheromones solicit mites nearby to flee from an unpleasant situation. Sexual pheromones attract adult partners to each other in order to perform the mating procedure. But the gland secretions can even more. As allomones, they communicate with specimens of other species. They function as defenses against predators or other dangerous cohabitants.

 

Deutonymphs need to find a carrier for dispersal

 

Another form of communicative interspecific interactions is performed by a specific juvenile instar, the deutonymph. It looks morphologically quite different from all other instars (heteromorphic situation), does not need or possess a functional mouth, has a thicker cuticle as protection against drying out and a complex sucker organ on its underside in order to attach itself to an insect or another bigger arthropod. Deutonymphs of the astigmatid mites search for bigger carrier-arthropods to get carried from one habitat to another (dispersal strategy  is calledphoresy). While doing so, they again use their specifically modified leg setation (hairs) on the first pairs of legs to perceive scents for the detection of a suitable and passing by carrier. Basically it is still unknown, whether the term „communication“ is indeed appropriate in this context as we don’t know yet about a mutual interaction between deutonymphs and their carriers, before the phoretic ride begins.

 

 

Olfactory orientation of the deutonymph of Histiostoma sachsi, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, February 2019.

 

Specific way of walking in deutonymphs

 

In detail, different kinds of behaviors can be observed in deutonymphs, when searching a carrier. The detailed behavioral patterns in this context can slightly differ between even closer related species. Deutonymphs of Histiostoma sachsi as all deutonymphs show a characteristic mode of walking, in which especially the first pair of legs plays an important role. During each step, performed by four pairs of legs, the first legs are lifted up much higher than all other hind legs. While doing so, they slightly tremble up and down. A behavior that mostly supports a better basic orientation inside a „jungle-„micro-landscape, being filled up with soil particles and decomposing plant tissues. But what H. sachsi deutonymphs additionally need in order to find their carriers is repeatedly to rest between the walking activities. Thus the first legs, which normally are still walking legs, are made free and that way available for the perception of carrier-scent-components only. These  namely are the legs that bear the highest densiy of solenidia.

 

Two different behavioral modes for an efficient orientation towards a carrier

 

Two different modes of resting with olfactory searching activities could be observed: In periodic intervals the deutonymph attached to the ground by using its sucking structures. They were then more or less laying on their entire undersides with only their forebodies slightly lifted up. By alternating moving the first legs up and down, olfactory information could be perceived from all directions without having the own body as a barrier to backwards. To improve its orientation situation, the deutonymph additionally turned on its own axis around, being stabilized by its sucking structures, which are flexible enough to follow these movements. When the deutonymph intended to continue its walk, it first needed to detach from the ground, which happened via muscle contractions that caused an abrupt detachment of the corresponding suckers. But main aim of the deutonymph is to find an elevated place, where the probability of a passing by carrier is especially high and from where a bigger insect (or other arthropod) can easier be ascended. There the second behavioral mode was performed. The deutonymph only fixed the edge of its hind body to the ground, again using the suckers on its underside, which are located close to this edge. This time the entire mite body stood in an upright position. The first legs again „waved“ alternating up and down and could under these especially elevated conditions even perceive scents from bigger distances. By occasionally slightly and alternating turning their upright bodies to both sides, olfactory information could be easier detected from all directions.

 

Carrier of H. sachsi still unknown

 

The frequency of such movements in mites increases typically as closer a suitable carrier approaches. But this was not yet observed or documented for Histiostoma sachsi. Its carrier inside the compost substrate is still unknown, which is why I so far could’t perform corresponding experiments. The species‘ describer, Scheucher (1957), found her mite specimens in cow dung and also didn’t identify the corresponding carriers there.

The observations presented in my video are part of my research project about morphologies and behaviors of deutonymphs in the Histiostomatidae.

 

Berlin, February 2019. All copyrights Stefan F. Wirth.

 

Months passing, but where has all the life gone?

I am standing in Berlin. The sky is a grey monotony. And while tiny waves gently wash around the little sandy beaches, tree skeletons surround the hidden bays on the Havel river. A semi-lucid vapor is covering the branchage of leafless treetops, already early in the afternoon. It is December in Berlin. The entire spectrum of bright summer colors is overlaid by muddy shades. Only larger groups of pine trees gleam in a greenish-black out of a giant cemetery of seemingly inanimate bodies of beeches, oaks, birches and maples. The cry of a heron in a far distance, but where has all the colorful and manifold life gone?

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) wrote („Journey of the Magi“):

„A cold coming we had of it, just the worst time of the year  For a journey, and such a long journey: the ways deep and the weather sharp, The very dead of winter…“

Shakespeare (1564-1616) on Sonnet  97:

„…What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen! What old December’s bareness everywhere!…“

Seeming emptyness of a Forest-waterside landscape in winter, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin December 2018. Please like my video also on Youtube, in case you really like it.

 

Bareness, emptyness, death, attributes being combined with winter since mankind exists. From the evolutionary point of view a serious problem that early humans  had to master. The seemingly emptyness was for them a very real lack of sources. They needed to prepare the winter time, food needed to be stored and protecting clothes to be stiched. There was no well organized international trade of goods, no fresh apples and pears in winter, no cheap winter jackets made in China. Winter meant to fear for the basic survival.

Today we live a different life, being independent from the seasons. Life today means for us to fear for the basic survival of our environment. What are the effects of a global climatic change? What the effects of our environmental pollution? What changes are independent from all that and just represent natural processess as they happened again and again since about 470 millions of years, when the first plants appeared on shore?

 

Most life does not disappear in winter, it just hibernates – alive!

 

The Berlin nature refuges around the forest Grunewald-terrain are interesting due to their complex mosaics of different habitats close to each other. Forest Grunewald in Berlin and the sandy beaches and bays along the Havel river offer space for lizards, an interstitial insect fauna, dry grassland visitors such as butterflies, wetland animals like frogs and newts, aquatic inhabitants like river lampreys, numerous bird species and inhabitants of wood in all kinds of decomposition stages such as bark beetles, longhorn beetles or hermit beetles.

 

Migration

 

Some animal inhabitants of the Grunewald/ Havel-area in summer migrate during the winter season, but most species stay. They hibernate and are even now in December still there.

 

Birds

 

Many birds show a strict migration behavior to avoid northern winters, others migrate in greater numbers, while some specimens stay, and some migrate only over smaller distances. Which of those migration behaviors is exactly performed by which bird species might depend on climatic conditions and is object of scientific research. NABU for example regularly starts projects, to which the general public can contribute with own observations. One of them takes place in early January and is named „Stunde der Wintervögel“ („the moment of winter birds“).

Common cranes Grus grus and greylag geese Anser anser normally migrate over bigger distances and numerous bigger routes towards southern winter refuges. Especially cranes are in summer for examples inhabitants of the Havelland Luch, thus prefer areas more western of Berlin. A trend was observed by ornithologists that more and more often, obviously corresponding with a global warming, troops of crane specimens stay instead of migrating southward.

Migration behavior of common cranes and greylag geese in Linum, autumn 2018, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Female of the red-backed shrike in Berlin (Köppchensee). The bird is a typical long-distance migrating animal. Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2018

 

Butterflies

 

The red admiral butterfly Vanessa atalanta is known as a migrating insect. The „normal“ case is that migration from Southern Europe towards Central Europe is performed in spring. There, a summer generation develops and in autumn either tries to migrate back southward or to hibernate as adult butterfly, where it hatched, for example in Germany. But specimens mostly do not survive their tries to hibernate during our cold winters. This makes the admiral to a rare example of our summer-fauna, which over here partly indeed dies out before winter begins. The migration routes of populations throughout Europe is still topic of research. The migration behaviors seem to change corresponding to a global warming.

Admiral butterfly in Berlin, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2018

 

River lamprey

 

Also the river lamprey Lampetra fluviatilis obligatory needs migrations over bigger distances. But these migrations do not correspond primarily with our cold seasons, but instead with the complexity of its life cycle. Larvae, which differ morphologically from adults, hatch in our freshwaters and develop as filter feeders within about three years, in which they  hibernate inside their aquatic freshwater habitats. They then migrate after a morphological metamorphosis towards the Sea. There they live as ectoparasites on fishes until they reach sexual maturity and then return into freshwater-rivers to reproduce and finally die. It is still subject of research, whether they return for their reproduction to the areas of their original larval development.

 

Hibernation

 

Sand lizard

 

The sand lizard Lacerta agilis  hibernates in hideaways, which are able to hold a temperature around 5°C. There they fall into winter numbness due to their unability to regulate their body temperature independently from the environment. Juveniles and adult genders start their hibernations  at different times.

Sand lizard juvenile, found in Berlin Grunewald/ Teufelsberg, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

Frogs

 

Toads and frogs hibernate after finishing their metamorphosis, juvenile and mature specimens spent a diapause as a total numbness such as in lizards. Amphibians and lizards are poikilotherm, thus their body temperature corresponds to their environment (some monitor lizards Varanus were found to have physiological abilities for a limited self regulation of their temperature, which is an exception within the taxon big Squamata).

Marsh frog Pelophylax ridibundus, pool frog Pelophylax lessonae and edible frog Pelophylax kl. esculentus survive the cold season in hideaways, which maintain acceptable environmental temperatures. While pool and edible frog hibernate on land, the marsh frog spends its diapause in aquatic habitats. Skin respiration then plays an even more imortant role, which is why these frogs require a high availability of oxygene. The edible frog is even from the evolutionary point of interest, as it represents a hybride between two closely related species, namely marsh and pool frog. It is in many of its populations non reproductive with other hybrides and needs one of the parental species to reproduce. But interestingly triploid specimens of the edible frog sometimes develop in populations and bear the complete genomic information of one of the parental species. These edible frogs can reproduce with other hybrides They can be found throughout Berlin. Such specimens are difficult to be determined morphologically, as they resemble in their outer appearance either to the marsh or the pool frog.

 

Sand wasps

 

Insects hibernate in different developmental instars, if holometabolic, egg, larva, pupa and adults are options, if hemimetabilic eggs, nymphs or adults perform the winter diapause. Some insects can even hibernate in all of their developmental instars.

The quite common red-banded sand wasp Ammophila sabulosa for example is part of the insect interstitial fauna and does not practise brood care, but maternal care. Females built up several single nests up to 20 centimeters into the soil, each of them containing only one cell for the deposition of always one egg. As food supply they hunt caterpillars preferrably of Noctuidae, stun them with a sting and carry them to their nests, which will be closed with soil particles afterwards. The last brood hibernates as pupa or larva inside the nest.

Sand wasp Ammophila sabulosa in Berlin, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2018

 

 

Grasshoppers

 

The grasshopper Sphingonotus caerulans is a thermophilic species, which is a typical inhabitant of sandy areas in Southern Europe. It also appears in Berlin. Its eggs are deposited into deeper soil layers and hibernate there.

Grasshopper Sphingonotus caerulans, male, found in Berlin (Köppchensee). Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2018

 

terrestrial Isopods

 

The common woodlouse Oniscus asellus for example hibernates as nymph or mature adult in hideaways inside deeper soil layers, dead wood or compost. These terrestrial curustaceans become inactive, when colder temperatures appear. Specimens can live over several years (usually about two years).

An example for a woodlouse, in this case a mediterranean species of genus Porcellio, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2018

 

Hibernating animal communities

 

Communities of different animal species often hibernate altogether. I focus here on inhabitants of micro habitats. Especially long living insect nests can bear greater numbers of cohabitants. But also deadwood or compost bear many different animal species side by side.

 

Ant nests

 

Nests of the red wood ant Formica rufa represent complex animal communities, as it is typical for ant nests generally. Besides ants and their brood noumerous nematode and mite species inhabit nest mounts of F. rufa. Additionally different larvae of other insect taxa can be members of the ant community, I even discovered the larvae of the green rose chafer sometimes inside red wood ant nests in the area of the Berlin forest Grunewald. Also several species of pseudoscorpions are known to science to be adapted for a survival in nests of F. rufa in Europe: commonly found are for example the species Allochernes wideri and Pselaphochernes scorpioides. Pseudoscorpion species of genus Allochernes are known to practice a dispersal strategy named phoresy. They use bigger and better motile insects as carriers and that way are transferred to new habitats. Besides ants, their suitable phoretic carriers seem to be dipterans. Also different mite and nematode taxa inside nests of the wood ant perform phoresy. A mite example is the species Histiostoma myrmicarum (Acariformes, Histiostomatidae), which seems to be carried by ants and eventually additionally also by other arthropodes.

The larva of the green rose chafer inside a nest of Formica rufa, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2011

Mite Histiostoma myrmicarum (Astigmata) collected from its hibernation habitat in the soil underneath an old oak in Berlin forest Grunewald, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2018

 

Formica rufa itself hibernates inside its nest in absence of eggs, larvae or pupae. Only the queen and workers remain during the cold season. Not much is known about other nest inhabitants. More research is needed.

Typical ant cohabitants (with Formica rufa) do not necessarily need to hibernate inside their ant nests. I collected deutonymphs of the mite Histiostoma myrmicarum in winter 2017/18 from soil (some centimeters deep) underneath an old oak in the absence of ants and their nest. The well scleotized deutonymph (phoretic dispersal juvenile stage) might represent the hibernation stage.

The advantage for organisms, living in ant nests, is a higher and constant temperature due to the ant worker’s nest-care-activities. Additionally the defensive behaviors of ants offer protection for those organisms being adapted (based on evolution) to survive inside ant nests.

Due to suitable temperatures, many organisms inside nests of the red wood ant might stay even active in winter. Interactions between ant nest-cohabitants can be very complex. An example is the Alcon large blue butterfly Phengaris alcon, being adapted to other ant species: Myrmica rudinodis and M. rubra. The caterpillar resembles an ant worker due to the morphology of its cuticle and the production of ant-similar pheromones. Ant workers fail for this imitation, carry the caterpillar into their nests and feed it. The butterfly’s larva hibernates inside the ant nest as larva, molts into pupa in the subsequent spring season and finally leaves the nest as adult butterfly. Still inside the ant nest, the caterpillar can become a victim of the parasitic wasp Ichneumon eumerus. Its female invades the ant nest, only after recognizing that caterpillars of the blue butterfly are indeed inside. It then confuses the antworkers due to the release of different chemicals and then attaches its eggs to the caterpillar. The wasp’s larva hibernates there and molts into its pupa inside the host’s pupa. The adult wasp afterwards leaves the ant nest.

Phoretic mites of the taxon Astigmata inside a nest of Myrmica rudinodis, found on island Usedom, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

Bark beetle galleries

 

Numerous mite and nematode species live inside the galleries of bark beetles. Such a complex fauna is known for many bark beetle species. Additionally the larvae of different other insects can be cohabitants. Depending on the species, they can perform all kinds of life-strategies: being predators of adult bark beetles or their offspring or of other gallery cohabitants, they can also be microorganism feeders and prefer the bark beetle galleries due to its ideal warmth-isolation or due to the specific micro-climate that is created there by the activities of all different inhabitant activities. Besides animals, also fungi and bacteria contribute to that climate.

Bark beetle Hylurgops ligniperda and phoretic mites, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2016

Wood associated nematode Diplogaster sp. found in the tree fungus Laetiporus sulphureus in Berlin, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2016

Mite deutonymphs of the Histiostomatidae mites inside the galleries of the bark beetle Tomicus destruens in Italy, Vesuvio National Forest, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2016

Bark beetle Ips typographus with some of its gallery-cohabitants, such as phoretic mites, found in SW-Germany (Saarland), copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2015

 

Furthermore the composition of species in a bark beetle gallery changes with an increasing age of a gallery. Secondary infections are often performed by other wood parasiting beetles, after the bark beetle brood finished its development and left the gallery. A secondary parasitism can for example be performed by longhorned beetles.

The bark beetle Dendroctonus micans for example infests several conifer species: Picea, Abies, Larix and Pinus. This bark beetle can hibernate in all its instars: eggs, larvae or adults. Adults can in spring sometimes be found in specific hibernation-chambers. In a research project with russian collegues, I isolated beetles of that species in the early spring season in Siberia (Russia) out of such a chamber on Pinus silvestris. Adjacent to attached substrate particles, I found nymphal stages of the phoretic mite Bonomoia opuniae, a species of the Histiostomatidae (Astigmata), which was even new to science at that time. I described this species, which I so far only know from those siberian samples. It is still unknown, whether it also appears in Central Europe.

The nymphal stages (protonymphs and tritonymphs) of that mite species might represent the hibernating instars. They were not fallen into a numbness after the collection and even remained active in a refrigerator, where my samples were stored subsequently for a while. I doubt that the mite in winter can pass through different generations as it would happen in a warmer climate, because the found mite nymphs appeared -also active- still rather weak in their cold environment. Thus I assume these nymphs to hibernate throughout the winter season. But there is still much research missing about the ecology/biology of bark inhabiting mites.

Adult beetles of Dendroctonus micans with deutonymphs of Bonomoia sibirica, Tyumen/ Siberia, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, 2017

 

 

Berlin, December 2018. Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

 

 

 

 

Male and female of Histiostoma sachsi and unsuccessful mating with a „stranger“

Mites of the Acariformes vary in very different forms and life-strategies. One taxon of very tiny and soft-skinned mites is named Astigmata. Within them the familiy Histiostomatidae is especially rich of species, most of them surely not yet described or discovered.

 

Modyfied mouthparts and a specific mode of dispersal

 

These mites feed on microorganisms using a complex mouthpart-apparatus with multifunctional abilities. They can be found in habitats, which dry out quickly. When it’s getting too dry, a specific instar of the mites takes a ride on insects or other bigger arthropods for dispersal to a new and fresh habitat ( strategy called Phoresy).

Histiostoma sachsi is one of numerous (often closely related) long haired (in females) species. It was originally in 1957 described from cattle-dung. I found it in compost.

 

Long upper-setation in females and tactile camouflage (mimesis)

 

Adult females are characterized by a long setation on their uppersides. They use them to hold parts of the old nymphal cuticle and soil particles on their backs. This seems to be due to a strategy named mimesis or camouflage. It’s a tactile camouflage as an optical sense in this kind of microhabitats plays almost no role.

 

Normal and unusual copulation position, trial of an interspecific copulation

 

Males mate their females via a dorsal copulation opening and thus need to ride on them. In H. sachsi, that copulation opening is located very close to the hind-edge of the body. That way it is even despite of the camouflage cover accessible. It seems even slightly being elevated out of the body surface in order to surmount adjacent soil particles. This is an adaptation of this particular species. It might share such morphological characters only with very closely related (not yet described) species In other members of genus Histiostoma, the copulation opening is usually more centered related to the hind body.

The copulation position requires that males insert their aedeagus („penis“) into the copulation opening. They additionally use their legs to grasp into the females body. That kind of leg arrangement and thus the whole copulation position can differ from species to species.

This is why copulations between members of different species already fail, because the right copulation setting does not fit, nor does the shape of the aedeagous. Nevertheless the phenomenon of unsuccessful trials for interspecific copulations can sometimes be observed in laboratory cultures. Such a trial is also visible in this video, where a male of Histiostoma feroniarum (also appears in my compost samples regularly) tries to mate a female of H. sachsi. It cannot even almost get in a proper copulation position and seems to hold on to the dorsal camouflage cover of the female. it could only remain in a transverse position related to the female body and thus not get access to the copulation opening, normal would be a longitudinal position with the sameame orientation of female and male.

Adult mites of the family Histiostomatidae (Astigmata) and a „false“ copulation. Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin December 2018. Please like my video also at Youtube, in case you like it.

 

Chemical communication and chemo-sensitive leg setation

 

Mites of the Astigmata communicate and find their general orientation due to chemo-sensitive setae, mostly on legs I and II, which are named solenidia. They are even on the magnification level of my footage well visible on the male’s legs. Although a direct body contact is not necessary for a innerspecific communication by chemically interpreting scents produced from mite glands, the observed male in my video repeatedly was seeking for intense body-contacts and obviously „observed“ his conspecific while doing so with its first two legs. This might have intensified the perception of pheromones.

It showed this behavior also, when passing by the „false copulation-pair“ described above. It additionally seemed to invest power in its leg movements as if it would try to remove the „competitor“ on the female, in this case even belonging to another species.

 

Competitive fights between males

 

That mites of the Histiostomatidae can use their strongly sclerotized first legs to fight under each other for an access to a female is known to me from my older observations about the species Histiostoma palustre and Histiostoma feroniarum.

 

Origin of the compost samples

 

The compost samples were collected in SW-Germany (Saarland in October 2018). The footage was recorded in December 2018 in Berlin.

 

Berlin December 2018, copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

Habitat compost: Mite Histiostoma sachsi carries old cuticle and dirt as camouflage

My parents have a compost area in their backyards. I use it as reference habitat for two mite species of the family Histiostomatidae (Astigmata): Since I began my research in 2000, the compost regularly contained Histiostoma feroniarum with its typical male dimorphism. Since summer 2017 another species appears additionally regularly: Histiostoma sachsi. Both species do not appear under the same conditions. While H. feroniarum prefers fresher decaying material, H. sachsi on visibly older decomposed tissue. There mite be even more mites of the Histiostomatidae exist in this complex compost habitat, but under my laboratory conditions, only the two named species were so far successfully reared out of samles always again. Regarding the determination of H. sachsi on a species level, I was more careful in my comments to a former video (June 17), in which I named it Histiostoma cf. sachsi due to doubts about a correct identification. Meanwhile, also due to the morphology of the deutonymph, I determine „my“ compost mite as Histiostoma sachsi Scheucher, 1957. But it is still to emphasize that Scheucher described H. sachsi from cattle dung, not from compost. But generally, both habitats can sometimes share the same inhabitants.

 

Adult females carry their old cuticles and „dirt“ on their backs as tactile comouflage

 

Biologically conspicuous is darkish material, which especially adult females carry on their backs. Unlike males, females posses elongated setae on their backsides. These setae support the holding of material such as old cuticle and soil particles. In slide preparations, this cover usually appears amorphic and contains substrate from the mite’s environment. My video footage indicates that the basis of this cover is a retained old cuticle from the former nymphal instar . That this cannot easily be proven with the light microscope is due to the very soft and fine character of the cuticles in these mites. Remnants might become decomposed by microorganisms after a while.

Compost: the habitat of the mite Histiostoma sachsi Scheucher, 1957 (Acariformes, Astigmata, Histiostomatidae). Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, please like my video also on youtube, in case you like it.

 

The phoretic dispersal instar, named deutonymph, in mites of the Astigmata controls its body position due to sticky leg endings and suckers on their undersides

 

Deutonymphs of H. sachsi represent one of my resent models to study mite-dispersal behavior. My research focus since a while concerns ultrastructure and function morphology of the deutonympal suckerplates and other structures to attach to insects for dispersal (this dispersal strategy is called phoresie). The anterior front-suckers on the suckerplate of the mite’s underside is extendable and very flexible, not only to find a suitable position on the insect carrier. When falling, the deutonymphs use it to lift their bodies up into a proper position again. Additionally they will try to get hold using „sticky“ lobe-shaped setae on the endings of legs I and II. Both is visible in my footage. The forelegs seem generally to make the first contact, when trying to get on a suitable carrier.

 

Deutonymphs of Histiostoma sachsi take a ride on other mites (Oribatida)

 

The suitable carrier of H. sachsi is unknown to me. Some astigmatid species have even a range of carrier-„hosts“. In my samples, deutonymphs at least attach to other mites, especially to mites of the Oribatida. This is in a very short scene visible in my video too.

 

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, Berlin December 2018

Biosphäre Potsdam: Schamloses Lohndumping?

Ich bin darin erfahren, wissenschaftlich beratend und kreativ unterstützend in einem naturkundlichen Museum mitzuwirken. Daher bewarb ich mich in Form einer Initiativbewerbung als wissenschaftlicher Berater und Mitgestalter sowie als Ausstellungsführer bei der Biosphäre Potsdam.

Meine Qualifikationen habe ich hierbei in Form eines fließenden Textes zusammengefasst. Die Reaktion war erstaunlich.

Zunächst wurde mir mitgeteilt, dass keine Position gemäß meiner Qualifikation zu vergeben sei. Man könne aber einen Job auf Geringfügigkeitsbasis anbieten. Ich bejahte für den Bereich „Führungen“ und via Honorar-Abrechnung.

Dann heißt es durch die Zuständige, Frau S. H.:

„Sehr geehrter Herr Wirth,

die Mitarbeit auf Honorarbasis betrifft unsere Führungen wie z. B. Biologische Vielfalt im Regenwald, Schmetterlinge der Tropen, Exotische Tier- und Pflanzenwelt und Workshops wie z.B. der Schoko-Crepe-Workshop. Nähere Einzelheiten können Sie auch unserer Homepage entnehmen.

Auch hier würde der Einsatz nach Bedarf erfolgen, abhängig von der Buchungslage und Ihren Einsatzmöglichkeiten. Wir können Ihnen ein Stundenhonorar von € 12,00 anbieten.“

Fand ich natürlich ein bisschen frech, einem promovierten Biologen, seit fast zwei Jahrzehnten in Forschung und beinahe ebenso lange in universitärer Lehre tätig, einen Stundenlohn anzubieten, den er nicht einmal als Student ohne Gewissensbisse akzeptiert hätte.

Frech ist zurückblickend eigentlich zu gelinde ausgedrückt. Es ist  aus meiner heutigen Sicht heraus gar eine schamlose Unverschämtheit und zeugt womöglich von fehlender Moral. Erst recht der gesamte weitere Umgang mit meiner Bewerbung.

Da ich jedoch eine Nebentätigkeit im biologischen Bildungssektor suche und benötige, fiel meine Antwort eher zurückhaltend aus: „Da ich … freiberuflich gemeldet bin, und zwar als Biologe, Fotograf und Videograf, ist es wichtig, dass Tätigkeiten vorwiegend in Zusammenhang mit einer dieser Berufsbezeichnung stehen. Daher bevorzuge ich Führungen zu den von Ihnen genannten biologischen Themen. Zusätzlich wären dann natürlich auch Workshop Aktivitäten denkbar, selbst dann, wenn Sie mit der Herstellung von Lebensmitteln zu tun haben. Der von Ihnen genannte Stundenlohn ist sehr weit von dem entfernt, was mir aufgrund meiner Hochqualifikationen zusteht. Aber heutzutage hat man (Anm: hinsichtlich der Gehaltsvorstellungen) keine Wahl mehr, daher mache ich es auch für 12 Euro. Mit unregelmäßigen Einsätzen habe ich keinerlei Probleme.“

Daraufhin erhielt ich keine Rückmeldung mehr. In einer Folge-Email beteuerte ich mein weiteres Interesse an dem Job, bat, die Kritik am Honorar nicht negativ zu werten und fragte, ob die Zusendung weiterer Unterlagen zum Nachweis meiner Qualifikationen erwünscht sei. In der Folge teilte mir eine gewisse Frau W. mit, Frau H. werde sich nach ihrer Rückkehr am elften Mai wieder bei mir melden. Natürlich meldete sich niemand. Hartnäckiges Nachfragen führte zunächst zu keiner Reaktion, weshalb ich schließlich um Löschung meiner Daten bat und meine Bewerbung entrüstet zurückzog. Erst dann folgten wieder zwei Antworten, man habe meine Daten wunschgemäß gelöscht, und: Der Bewerbungsprozess habe sich verschoben. Man bedanke sich für meine Geduld. Als ich daraufhin entgegnete, dass von (Anm: weitergehender) Geduld in meinem Fall (Anm: nach so langer Wartezeit) nicht die Rede sein könne, da der Grund für die fehlende Rückmeldung auf meine Anschreiben jedoch (Anm: vorgeblich) nur eine zeitliche Verzögerung sei, wolle ich meine Bewerbung nunmehr doch aufrecht erhalten. Die Antwort am darauffolgenden Werktag lautete, das Bewerbungsverfahren sei inzwischen abgeschlossen worden. So habe ich also fast einen ganzen Monat lang vergeblich auf eine von mir trotz widriger Bezahlung ausdrücklich erwünschten Nebentätigkeit, die sogar bereits explizit angeboten worden war, gewartet. Kritische Gedanken zum Lohndumping in moderner Zeit sind offenkundig im aktuellen Berufsleben unerwünscht, oder ist das nur in der Biosphäre Potsdam so?

Das Klima in Deutschland verschlechtert sich für seriöse Wissenschaftler zunehmend. Während die spirituell verblendete Kanzlerin wiederholt zur Rückbesinnung auf den christlichen Glauben aufruft, anstatt zu mehr Wissensdurst zu raten, breitet sich der Genderismus-Wahnsinn immer flächendeckender aus. Wer sich nicht dem Dogma unterwirft, beim Homo sapiens gäbe es keinen Geschlechtsdimorphismus, hat ein Problem. Denn Forschungsgelder fließen derzeit in Strömen in die sogenannte Genderforschung. Wer lieber die Biologie der Milben und Insekten untersuchen und verstehen möchte, ist out. Da muss man dann wohl auch für einen boshaften Katzenlohn arbeiten. Wenn aber nicht einmal der zustande kommt, weil man die Dreistigkeit besaß, die Unverhältnismäßigkeit der angebotenen Entlohnung kritisch am Rande zu erwähnen, dann ist etwas faul im Staate Deutschland, meiner Ansicht nach konkret übrigens auch bei der Biosphäre Potsdam.

Aus dem Grunde empfehle ich qualifizierten Naturkundlern, sich besser andernorts zu bewerben.

Berlin, Mai 2018

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

 

The mite Histiostoma blomquisti and creationism in Louisiana/ USA

New Orleans is a dynamic and a very lively city, a city full of freedom and tolerance, a city of life style and of a unique cuisine. A mix-up of ethic groups and cultures, New Orleans, the modern city, a world metropolis.

But this is not Louisiana, it is an island, an exception, New Orleans is not even the capital of this Southern Federal State. The rest of Louisiana is landscape, swamps, wetlands, pine woods, red sand, even a Red River, harmless snakes and a touch of music, not any kind of music, Louisiana is the birthplace of Jazz.

LA is unfortunately also home land of a strict two class society, with the white race in a top position and the native Americans and the blacks on a level much further below. The latter inhabit usually the so called „no go-areas“. That’s where poverty lives, where a permanent existential emergency dominates the daily routine, and yes, where based on all this distress also criminality finds a new home again and again.

It’s a land, where racism is still alive, where colored people take over the minor jobs, while the whites reign over in high positions. A land of injustice, of inconsistency, a land of religious fanaticism.

Nevertheless, beauty can be found everywhere. When the setting sun illuminates the colorful water of the Red river or shines on lying around rusty metal scrap, then a  spectacle of glowing colors blinds the eyes of the audience. When I walked across the fields and forests, then I found an inspiring silence, a flood of harmonic nature impressions, giant millipedes of Polydesmida hiding under freely lying stone chunks, butterflies colonizing rotting fruits and fluttering with a gentle noise in the air, colorful water turtles taking their sun baths around ponds, and under suitable weather conditions I witnessed wedding celebrations of a very special kind: winged ants rose in the air to mate for their first and only time.

The most common ant species is the Red Imported fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta, a fascinating social insect, but far away from being native to Louisiana. It is a so called invasive species, which was transferred to the Southern US via ballast substrate of ships coming from Southern America. The high frequency of ant colonies in Louisiana makes that species to a worthwhile research object, and even especially being an unwelcome invader, which needs to be better understood to successfully be fought.

As most known ant species, also S. invicta is characterized by hosting a remarkable number of non-ant-inhabitants in their nests, for example mites. One mite species attracted a special attention due to its habit to appear in great numbers on winged ant females and rarely also on their males. Nobody was competent to describe it taxonomically, but I was, that’s why I travelled in 2009 to the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service in Pineville, funded by the German DFG (German Research Foundation). I was very friendly and courteously hosted by the 80 years old colleague John C. Moser, who supported my research by providing access to a microscope and preparation equipment. Although he did not participate directly in my taxonomic work, I honored his contributions of ideas and his interest in my work by offering him a co-authorship.

After the species description was already almost finished and the discussion was about the species‘ name, he unexpectedly insisted in the epitheton „blomquisti“, to honor his assistant Stacy Blomquist. Although he surely was depending on her young dynamic power, I was certainly not amused about this choice. Mrs. Blomquist appeared me being too much involved into the kind of spiritual devoutness, which seemed me to be typical for the whole land. But there was no way out, the species was finally named Histiostoma blomquisti Wirth & Moser, 2010. As a consequence, my name would be forever  connected with hers, an immutable fact. But I still have the freedom to emphasize that I until today think that a biological assistant without a high and internationally well known scientific reputation never deserves a species being named after her. I additionally insist in the fact that I unsolicited would never honor somebody I consider a religious activist with my scientific work. Thus I announce herwith my strict distance to Mrs. Blomquist, who accidentally became namesake of my species.

As all Southern US-States, Louisiana is a land dominated by the creationism, being part of the so called bible belt. I was told that the separation between blacks and whites even goes thus far that there exist black and white churches, but I experienced for sure that Chinese inhabitants are priviledged to be considered white, thus visiting the white churches.

Once I was invited to a private video evening. It was organized by a Chinese assistant of the research institute and a white colleague of him, a hobby marathon runner. They presented the 2003 US/ German/ British co-production „Luther“ with Joseph Fiennes in the main role. Directed by the British Eric Till, this very average movie with a Martin Luther, attractive, slim, completely unlike the historical original, fat with a strong penchant for alcohol, was a strange choice for me as a cineaste, but I expected an entertaining popcorn evening with discussions about good and bad movies. But what I then witnessed was very unexpected.

It was so silent that I could hear the air breath, the flies buzzing around, a mysterious expectation filled the room, while my two hosts stared to the screen, awaiting the first appearance of „Martin Luther“ with religious reverence and deistic adoration. I landed in a private divine service, and when Joseph Fiennes appeared for the first time, both raised their arms ecstatically into the air, praising Luther as the great only one. It kept going on like this, no popcorn for me, but very frequent cigarette breaks instead, I fled outside as often as I could.

It is a well known phenomenon that in areas of unjustice worldwide natives tend to protect their own conscience with an unfounded belief to stand under a special supervision by a god. Only a god of immorality and misanthropy claimes to have created the planet and all life on it within six days, only such a god supports the inequality of races and the discrimination of minorities.

Berlin, November 2017

Histiostoma blomquisti on fire ant queens

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth

 

Wird die Biodiversitätsforschung zunehmend in Zweit- und Drittweltländer verlagert und verliert dort durch Massenpublikationen mäßig vorgebildeter Forscher an Wert?

 

Es erscheint zunächst plausibel: Ein sinnvoller Naturschutz muss zwingend an genaue Kenntnisse unserer Natur anknüpfen. Da unsere natürliche Umwelt zu erheblichen Teilen biologisch belebt ist, ist die Artenkenntnis eine wichtige Grundlage, um unsere irdischen Ökosysteme und damit auch uns selbst zu erhalten.

Forscher gehen von insgesamt über acht Millionen Arten weltweit aus. Hierbei zeigen vor allem die Tiere eine hohe Artenvielfalt auf. Ein erheblicher Prozentsatz der Biodiversität, so der Fachterminus für Artenvielfalt, ist jedoch noch immer unbekannt.

Jeder vernünftige Mensch würde doch an dieser Stelle schlussfolgern, dass Biologen und insbesondere Zoologen händeringend benötigt würden, um zu dem Mammutprojekt „Biodiversitätsforschung“ Beiträge leisten zu können. Doch weit gefehlt! Deutsche Stellenangebote suchen in der Regel nach Pharma-Mitarbeitern oder versuchen stellenlose Wissenschaftler unter ihrem Leistungsniveau in Großlaboratorien der medizinischen Forschung unterzubringen. Der Rest bleibt ohne Anstellung und muss mitunter als Hatz-IV-Bezieher ein klägliches Dasein fristen.

Und die Biodiversitätsforschung? Die ist längst nicht mehr in Deutschland zuhause. Nur wenige Grüppchen sind bundesweit verteilt übrig geblieben, und die investieren mehr Zeit damit, ihre Ellbogen zu stärken, um ihre Fördermittel gegen Konkurrenten zu verteidigen, als in gute Forschung.

Machtregierungen denken an nichts anderes als an ihren Machterhalt, kurzsichtiges Agieren, denn was nach ihnen passiert, ist ihnen völlig gleichgültig. Steuergelder wandern in die Geldbörsen gieriger Politiker, und das in rauen Mengen, und nicht dahin, wo sie hingehören: in die langfristige Sicherung der Zukunft.

In der Zwischenzeit sterben Arten zu Hunderten aus, noch bevor sie überhaupt entdeckt und beschrieben werden können, und mit ihnen vergehen mitunter ganze Ökosysteme.

Dabei verfügte Deutschland über eine seit Jahrhunderten gewachsene Tradition in qualitativ hochwertiger Forschung in den Naturwissenschaften. Gerade in der Biologie waren deutsche Wissenschaftler weltweit bekannt für präzise Gedanken und sorgfältige Terminologien sowie gründlich durchdachte Hypothesen.

Inzwischen sind deutsche Spezialisten im Umfeld der Biologie entweder auf Dauer arbeitslos oder zu Überlebenskünstlern geworden. Die USA haben das Feld übernommen, sie investieren immense Forschungsgelder in die Grundlagenforschung. Und das doch mit für das Land typischen Einschränkungen. Wer sich einen US-Wahlkampf anschaut, wer Hollywood-Action-Filme konsumiert, der weiß, dass subtiles Gedankengut oft nicht Sache der US-Amerikaner ist. So auch allzu häufig nicht in den Naturwissenschaften.

Terminologien, die wir sorgsam voneinander abgrenzen, werden gerne lax pauschalisiert verwendet. Feinheiten des Artbegriffes? Für manche Systematiker völlig uninteressant! Die USA sequenziert vorwiegend, das ist zeitgemäß und erfasst die Artenvielfalt objektiv und genau, so jedenfalls glaubt man. Einwände werden nicht selten als unmodern verworfen. Aber welches Gen kodiert denn nun für die Artgrenze? Blöde Frage, kein bekanntes natürlich,  die Grenzen, die legen wir einfach willkürlich fest. Aber wer um alles in der Welt wählt denn dann das Material nach sinnvollen Kriterien aus, das überhaupt zur Sequenzierung gelangt? Gute Frage, so die Antwort, hier werden nach wie vor Spezialisten benötigt, aber bitte, günstig müssen sie sein und produktiv im Akkord. Ich berichte hier aus meinen eigenen Erfahrungen im Bereich der systematischen Milbenforschung.

Der Einwand „Qualität gibt es nicht günstig“ wird kaltlächelnd in den Wind geschlagen. Geld spart man, indem man diese Forschungsleistung in Zweit- und Drittweltländer verlagert. Ich habe selbst miterlebt, dass einflussreiche US-amerikanische Forscher die Arbeit nicht hinreichend vorgebildeter russischer Kollegen explizit motivieren und gutheißen, denn diese Sorte Forscher macht häufig, was ihr gesagt wird, ohne kritische Rückfragen, ohne eigene Einfälle und innovative Ansätze. Wer in Zweit- und Drittweltländern forscht (das gilt auch für die russischen Milbenforscher, die ich kennenlernte) wird aus landeseigenen Kassen verhältnismäßig fürstlich entlohnt. Umfassende Kompetenz ist oft nur eingeschränkt wichtig. Vor allem nämlich gilt es, dem jeweiligen politischen System freundlich gesonnen zu sein, denn ansonsten kommt es erst gar nicht zum Studium.

Auf entsprechendem Niveau befindet sich die Forschung nicht nur im fernen Sibirien, sondern auch in Ägypten oder etwa dem Iran. Ich mache wohl Witze? Nein, nein, ich habe das alles selbst gesehen. Zeckenforschung in Kairo: Mir verschlug es den Atem, schon alleine, weil der Begriff der Tierethik dort völlig unbekannt zu sein schien. In Russland war ich angestellt. Ja zumindest kann man sich im westsibirischen Tjumen vernünftige und hochwertige Mikroskope leisten, auch wenn es mitunter an der Fähigkeit, diese adäquat zu bedienen, hapert. Ergänzende sinnvolle Arbeitsmaterialien hat man hingegen oft nicht und kennt man auch nicht. Manches Zeiss- oder Leica-Mikroskop, einst neuwertig erstanden, sieht nun aus, als entstamme es einem Second-Hand-Markt. Auf Nachfrage heißt es dann, man habe mit der Zange diese und jene Schraube gelöst und diese anschließend nicht mehr dran bekommen. Mikroskop-Kameras sind vorhanden, es kann sie aber keiner bedienen, weder für qualitative hochauflösende Fotografie noch für ebensolche Videografie.

Während also russische Forscher der Stadt Tjumen in maroden Räumlichkeiten aus Zeiten des Kalten Krieges unter undichten Decken ihrer Arbeit nachgehen, diese regelmäßig unterbrechen müssen, um die Eimer unter dem tropfenden Dach auszutauschen, freut sich der US-amerikanische Protecteur. Denn der glaubt allen Ernstes, dass die enorme Herausforderung, neue Arten zu entdecken und zu beschreiben, am besten von denen erfüllt werden kann, die über kein weitreichendes biologisches Grundwissen verfügen, die keine kritischen Fragen stellen, die niemals eigene Ansätze entwickeln und sich die Bohne scheren um läppische uninteressante Phänomene wie kryptische Artengruppen oder Zwillingsarten. Stattdessen wird hohe Quantität geboten. Pro Forscher fünfzehn bis zu dreißig Artbeschreibungen im Jahr sind Ehrensache. Was noch vor zehn Jahren in Deutschland für harsche Kritik gesorgt hätte, macht den Milbenforscher aus Tjumen zum „Leading Scientist“. Eine durchaus angenehme Position, denn ein „Leading-Scientist“ muss sich um wenig sorgen. Sogar die private Wohnung wird ihm mit öffentlichen Mitteln finanziert.

Da ist es nicht verwunderlich, dass der Russe, der sich in derart existenzieller Wohlbehütung weiß, kaum Gründe sieht, irgendetwas an seiner Arbeitsweise zu ändern. Im Gegenteil soll alles wie gehabt bleiben. Deswegen werden die Texte einer Artbeschreibung für jede neue Art auch nur geringfügig abgewandelt. Ich habe das nicht nur selbst gesehen, sondern mir wurden diese Arbeiten auch regelmäßig zur sprachlichen Bearbeitung vorgelegt. Denn, auch Ehrensache, Russen beherrschen die englische Sprache in der Regel nicht, obwohl es sich dabei um die internationale Wissenschaftssprache handelt. Wen wundert’s, dass meine Korrekturen immer dieselben waren, es existierte nicht einmal die Flexibilität, um schon mehrfach kritisierte Mängel in der Folge zu beherzigen.

Artbeschreibungen ohne die geringste Kenntnis zur Biologie und Ökologie der betroffenen Spezies sind im Grunde ohne Aussage und daher kein Beitrag zu einer sinnvollen Biodiversitätsforschung. Biologische Untersuchungen wurden in meinem sibirischen Forschungsinstitut vorsätzlich, oft mit dem Argument der Undurchführbarkeit, verweigert, in Wahrheit, weil der Zeitaufwand zu groß wäre. Schließlich sollen pro Jahr akkordweise Publikationen veröffentlicht werden, ansonsten wäre man schließlich kein „Leading-Scientist“ mehr. Meine Nachfragen zur Arbeitsweise wurden oft erstaunlich beantwortet. Warum man die lebend zur Verfügung stehende Art nicht gleich auch in Kultur bringe, oder wenigstens zur Lebendbeobachtung erhalte, wollte ich wissen. Die Antwort: „Womit soll ich die Milben denn füttern?“. Auf meinen Hinweis, dass man auch mithilfe des normalen Lichtmikroskops hochqualitative Videos lebender Tiere aufzeichnen kann, wurde schroff entgegnet: „mit dem Lichtmikroskop? Das geht nicht!“.

Ich habe während meines Aufenthaltes in Russland „nur“ drei Publikationen veröffentlicht, mich an einer weiteren zudem maßgeblich beteiligt, dann aber aufgrund der schlechten Qualität des Endwerkes meine Benennung als Coautor explizit untersagt. Im Gegensatz zu den russischen Kollegen habe ich alle Milbenarten, an denen ich forschte, immer auch gezüchtet und biologisch untersucht, und hierzu jeweils gigabyte-weise Videomaterial erstellt. Aus russischer Sicht eine lachhafte Zeitverschwendung, die man sich im Nachhinein aber durchaus zunutze gemacht hat. So wurden meine Beobachtungen zum Verhalten der Deutonymphen der von mir beschriebenen Art Bonomoia sibirica in einem russischen Stipendien-Zwischenbericht frech und schamlos als Ergebnisse russischer Forschungsarbeit ausgegeben, ohne Nennung meiner Urheberschaft. Dass es sich um Beobachtungen handelt, die im Rahmen meiner Artbeschreibung publiziert wurden, in der ich alleiniger Autor war, schien hierbei unerheblich zu sein.

 

Die Biodiversitätsforschung kann nicht eben mal schnell und am Fließband durch weitgehend unkundige Forscher erledigt werden, die nie eine hochqualifizierende Ausbildung in den Bereichen Artbegriff und Ökologie erfahren haben. Ich appelliere an die deutsche Regierung, zu erkennen, dass hierzulande im Gegensatz zur unbekümmerten Arbeitsweise anderswo– noch – qualifizierte Wissenschaftler vorhanden sind. Diese gilt es nicht auszuhungern und dadurch auszumerzen, sondern zu fördern. Denn was gibt es Wichtigeres als ein Verständnis unserer Umwelt, um diese durch sinnvolle Maßnahmen erhalten zu können. Diese Menschen können hierzu wichtige Beiträge liefern!

Es ist kurzsichtig, stattdessen ausschließlich in die Entwicklung moderner Technologien zu investieren. Kürzlich lese ich, dass man sich derzeit lieber Fragen widmet wie: Wie können wir uns die Goldvorkommen der Weltmeere nutzbar machen, Stichwort Tiefseeuntertagebau. Gier anstelle wissenschaftlicher Verantwortung!

Einflussreiche US-Forscher denken allerdings weitaus pragmatischer als ich. Warum neben Russland nicht auch Drittweltländer in die Biodiversitätsforschung einbeziehen? So wurde ich vor etwa einem halben Jahr durch einen jungen iranischen Forscher angeschrieben, der seine Kontaktaufnahme mit der Empfehlung eines einflussreichen US-amerikanischen Kollegen begründete. Ich sollte ihn ehrenamtlich dabei unterstützen, eine Publikation in einem internationalen Peer-Review-Journal unterzubringen. Im Grunde nicht die schlechteste Idee, wenn man berücksichtigt, dass man hierdurch Zugriff auf Artenmaterial erhält, das aus Krisenregionen stammt, in die westliche Forscher nur ungern einen Fuß setzen würden. Der Kollege hat dann auch gleich mit Milben aufwarten können, die in Kriegsgebieten des Irak gesammelt wurden. Da will man dann auch großzügig sein und fragt lieber nicht nach, warum nur ein Entwicklungsstadium zur Verfügung steht und warum nicht der Versuch unternommen wurde, die Art lebend in Kultur zu bringen. Tatsächlich habe ich mich über mehrere Monate hinweg ehrenamtlich auf den jungen Forscher aus dem Iran eingelassen, um dann aber festzustellen, dass dort scheinbar alle mir wichtigen akademischen Grundvoraussetzungen fehlten. Eine mit aller Kraft gerade so durchgeboxte internationale Publikation hätte folgende Konsequenzen gehabt: Für mich keine, ihm hingegen wäre dafür vermutlich umgehend eine Professur verliehen worden. Ich habe meine Kooperationsbereitschaft daher inzwischen eingestellt.

Copyrights Stefan F. Wirth, September/ Oktober 2017