Thursday, October 8, 2020

Update (with Cranefly news)

Our AWS on Quelccaya has been decommissioned, and everything except deeply-buried tower tubing has been removed. Meteorological measurements spanning 2003 to 2018 are currently being analyzed; we welcome collaboration and data-sharing inquiries.

At least one aspect of our glacier field research will continue for another year. Also, we aspire to investigate the impact of continuing glacier recession on avian activity at Quelccaya (as reported here and here).

This week we learned more about a particular insect that was typically found at the AWS each time we visited for service and data recovery. Individuals and clusters of craneflies were observed beneath the snow surface in association with the AWS tower tubes (see above and below photos). We also observed craneflies on the snow surface near the AWS, elsewhere on the glacier, and at our glacier-margin camp. Craneflies appear to be an important food source for the many high-elevation bird species in the Quelccaya area (> 5,000m).

Cranefly photos were posted to iNaturalist after fieldwork in April 2014, seeking identification. These were identified this summer - after 6 years - based on a single specimen from Chacaltaya in Bolivia. Interestingly, this is the same location where the "Glacier Bird" (White-winged Diuca Finch, Idiopsar speculifera) was first observed in association with glaciers; Chacaltaya no longer exists.

The Quelccaya cranefly species is Dicranomyia hirsutissima. According to Pjotr Oosterbroek, author of "Catalogue of the Craneflies of the World", this is the highest known Cranefly record for all 15,000+ species found throughout the world.

This is yet another fascinating discovery from Quelccaya and the Cordillera Vilcanota, during nearly 50 years of investigation begun by Ohio State University scientists John Mercer and Lonnie Thompson.