Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In Search of the Almiquí

Cuban and Japanese scientists, with backpacks, cameras and other equipment in tow, have begun a tour of sites in the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity, to pursue the study of Almiquí populations in this area, in a second phase. In the first stage, which began in 2012, they found seven adults (four males and three females) of Soledon cubanus –the scientific name of this endemic species- something that had not happened for the last hundred years. The discovery took place in the El Toldo plateau, in the same area that showed promising evidence of the presence of other specimens. This animal is a true living fossil whose ancestors bones have been found dating back 30 million years. This is a primitive mammal, and the few who possess venom. The investigations are part of an agreement signed between Cuba and Japan last year, which was restored due to its results, and is in effect for the five years 2012-2017. This time specialists from the Budgeted Unit of the Alejandro de Humboldt Environmental Services, Guantanamo, biologists from the University of Havana, and the Japanese Tsukuba, Hokkaido and Miyage Universities are participating. Using different methods of capture, the scientists will continue to study the behaviour of these nocturnal animals using recordings of the sonic and ultrasonic calls between them, for future use of a monitoring program for the species. Also, thanks to the Japanese support additional research may be made, like the advanced study of population genetics, which previously was almost impossible due to the financial and economic blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba. Saliva analysis will be done for the first time in Guantanamo and our country on this mammal, one of the few in the world whose secretions contains poison. They will assess their toxicity and possible ecological role and determine its possible role a priori in biomedical and other applications still unknown to science. With information from Juventud Rebelde

No comments: