Onychophora Newsletter

Nr. 7, February 1999


Editor and publisher: Julián Monge-Nájera, Biología Tropical, Universidad de Costa Rica 2060 San José, Costa Rica.

Editorial Board: Bernal Morera (Barcelona), Carlos Valerio and José Vargas (San José).



It is hard to believe that I have been publishing the Onychophora Newsletter for eight years... Well, anyway, this fifth number is almost fully dedicated to presenting an updated directory of the growing number of people interested in the "velvet worms". Of course you will also find some general news as well as a summary of what some active researchers are doing. I hope you will find this new edition useful. Until next time, best wishes to everyone.

J. Monge-Nájera


EDITORIAL

Tenth anniversary and the Internet


This may be the last Onychophora Newsletter to appear in printed form. Forthcoming issues will be exclusively available on the Internet. A temptative address to look for it is the Tropiweb section in: www.ots.duke.edu, but if you fail to find it there in the following months, look for Onychophora Online through yahoo, magellan, altavista or any other web searcher. I think that a good way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the newsletter is by placing it in the web, thus making it available worldwide at a lower cost. I thank all of you who have been with me throughout these years and specially the onychophora fans who have contributed material for this newsletter. Other findings that mark the anniversary are the breaking of the world size record for onychophorans (note below) and the discovery of amber preserved specimens (they are housed at the University of Oregon and we are still waiting for a satisfactory description as only a brief note in Science has been published).

Until next time, best wishes from sunny tropical Costa Rica!

J. Monge-Nájera


EDITORIAL

As we approach the end of the 20th century, onychophoroly seems to be in good condition, as you can see from the news included in this edition, but the number of published studies is low, possibly because some important researchers have retired, and because others are working on large papers that require years to finish. I hope that we will see more publications in forthcoming years, particularly much needed field studies and better DNA analyses. It is no secret that I am often dissatisfied with biochemical studies that consistently produce contradictory results and come from professionals with no previous experience with onychophorans. Molecular biologists should meet the quality standard that our Australian colleagues have set. Conservation biology is a must for the 21st. century. The Onychophora Newsletter has grown and this is good, but it has become impossible for me to finance the mailing of a printed version to all of you, so I am sending only this contents description and beg you to see the complete newsletter in my web page (Onychophora On-Line inside www.ots.ac.cr). Only libraries, and those of you who write mentioning lack of Internet access will receive the complete printed version. And finally: thank you very much to those who sent checks to help finance this edition.


Michael Ghiselin's Onychophora Bibliography Is Now Available


A highly comprehensive and carefully assembled bibliography on the Onychophora was prepared by one of the leading Darwinian authorities of the century, and well known expert about onychophoran evolution, Dr. Michael Ghiselin of the California Academy of Science. A first version of his growing database is available on-line to Internet users in the Onychophora On-Line page that is part of Tropiweb:http://www.ots.ac.cr or http://www.ots.duke.edu


The OTS site is growing rapidly and requires periodic reorganization, so if you fail to find it there, use a finder (such as Lycos, Altavista, Yahoo, Webcrawler or similar) and look for Onychophora On-Line or for my name. The onychophoran community (particularly students in countries with poor libraries) will no doubt be greatly indebted to Dr. Ghiselin for sharing his database.


Onychophoran Swarming In Tasmania


Dr. Robert Mesibov provides a very interesting observation about Tasmanian egg-laying onychophorans (Ooperipatellus decoratus Baehr 1977). 'Mass swarming' occurs on tree-trunks in wet forest (he was accompanied by German student Claudia Brockmann). Additionally, he comments on onychophoran conservation, a field in which he is a pioneer.


New Finding About The Onychophora Of La Selva


University of Colorado’s Dr. Terrence P. McGlynn tells us about his experience with onychophorans in La Selva, an Organization for Tropical Studies field station in Caribbean Costa Rica. He discusses possible associations among onychophorans, ants and habitat characteristics.


How Did Onychophora Legs Origiate?


A paper by a large team in which our good friend and well known onychophoran expert Dr. Muriel Walker was a member recently published "The origin and evolution of animal appendages" (Proc. Ntl. Acad. Sci. USA 94: 5162-5166). They wanted to know if the Distal-less (Dll) homeoprotein appeared in both protostomes and deuterostomes, suggesting a very old origin of the genes that control appendage growth. Studied taxa included the South African onychophoran Peripatopsis capensis. They suggest that the Dll gene evolved in association with antenniform outgrowths in a pre-Cambrian worm, and that it allowed independent development of parapodia in polychaetes and of "lobopodia" (oncopods) in onychophorans. They mention, however, that some of their results could also reflect crossreactivity of the Dll antibody to other proteins and that the Dll genes "could have been co-opted independently for appendage formation from some other function".


New Study On Onychophoran Leg And Integument


Chantal Gabriel (cjgab@yahoo.com), a third year biology student at the University of Natal in South Africa is beginning a study of integument and leg structures of two local species, Peripatopsis moseleyi and Opisthopatus cinctipes. If she sends reports of her results, I will include them in a future edition.


Onychophora Of Mexico


The second volume of The Arthropoda of Mexico will be published by the prestigious Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) before the end of 1999. It will include a chapter on Mexican Onychophora written by J. Monge-Nájera The chapter reviews the biology of the phylum as well as the history of research in Mexico, the state of collections and estimates the number of undescribed species. Of particular interest for non-Mexican readers may be the statistical analysis of bibliometric trends about the phylum that covers more than 150 years of technical literature.


Onychophora And The Evolution Of Arthropoda


The Aragon Entomological Society will publish a new volume of their thick Boletín de la Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa dedicated to the latest about evolution and phylogeny of Arthropoda. Antonio Melic, its editor, has reported that it will include a section about Onychophora. The Boletín traditionally presents extensive reviews of an impressive quality and is based in Zaragoza.


How To Collect And Preserve Onychophorans


Onychophorans are rare animals and should be preserved with the greatest care to guarantee scientific value and to justify removal from the genetic pool of each species. This guide explains how to find them and how to properly preserve them for museum and for DNA study (in Spanish, a volunteer for translating it into English is wanted).


Costa Rican Studies About Onychophoran Evolution


A journalistic account written by Andrea Brenes and published in a university bulletin, that describes the Costa Rican contribution to our knowledge of onychophoran evolution.


Updated Directory Of People Interested In Onychophorans


Finally an updated directory, with complete addresses (including e-mail in some cases) and geographically classified, is available on-line in this edition.


German Volunteer To Scan Slides


I was contacted by a German biologist who kindly offered to scan material from the Ruhberg collection of onychophoran photographs. Unfortunately, I lost all his data when my computer crashed (I was without Internet access for months). If you know him, please help us re-establish contact.


ONLY IN Onychophora On-Line:


The ascent of life: a comparison of the philosophical views of Alexander Skutch and Stephen Gould using onychophorans as a guide

A life of change: the external body changes of onychophorans from embryo to adult

The evolution of Onychophora: on-line version of the published study that placed 150 years under a Darwinian perspective

Onychophoran habitats: on-line version of the only published comparison of onychophoran habitats

Onychophorans versus scorpions: on-line version of the published study about why these two groups of small predators took different evolutionary roads.

Photos from the Böckeler expeditions to Costa Rica, including Ira Richlings slides of a dark giant onychophoran from the Atlantic versant.


Keep visiting the page for these sections and for related news

The ascent of life: a comparison of the philosophical views of Alexander Skutch and Stephen Gould using onychophorans as a guide

· A life of change: the external body changes of onychophorans from embryo to adult

· The evolution of Onychophora: on-line version of the published study that placed 150 years under a Darwinian perspective

· Onychophoran habitats: on-line version of the only published comparison of onychophoran habitats

· Onychophorans versus scorpions: on-line version of the published study about why these two groups of small predators took different evolutionary roads.

· Photos from the Böckeler expeditions to Costa Rica, including Ira Richlings slides of a dark giant onychophoran from the Atlantic versant.

How To Help


You can assist by providing text, images, translations, volunteer work and small money contributions (if so, please state if you want to remain anonymous).

Text: send in Rich Text Format or Microsoft Word as e-mail attachment, in diskette or if these are impossible, in printed form.

Images: send photographs, drawings, paintings, etc. in Jpeg, GIF, Tiff or Photoshop format as e-mail attachment, in diskette or if these are impossible, in printed form.

Translations: our official language is English to reach the greatest readership, but I have sections in other languages for lack of time to translate them: if you can do a better job than an automatic translator, please let me know.

Volunteer work: if you can help produce the next newsletter, or are coming to Costa Rica and want to help just for the satisfaction, let me know.

Money: Globalization hit Costa Rican industries because markets were open to large foreign companies, but it also had one good effect; Costa Rican banks now accept checks in dollars from any bank of the world, so money orders and the like are no longer necessary. Contact me for additional information.