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Biodiversity and biogeography of Opilioacarida from Brazil

Research Scholar

Leopoldo Ferreira de Oliveira Bernardi, Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology (Brazil)
Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira, Co-Researcher
Hans Klompen, Faculty Mentor

Biography

Leopoldo Ferreira de Oliveira Bernardi did his undergraduate studies in biological science, as well as his graduate studies in applied ecology, at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. His PhD studies are focused on the biogeography and taxonomy of the mite order Opilioacarida. During his studies he has published one book chapter and 19 papers in scientific journals, participated in 21 regional and international meetings and published 32 abstracts in conference proceedings. He is aiming for a faculty position at a Brazilian university, to teach and do research on taxonomy and ecology of mites.

What is the issue or problem addressed in your research?

The mite order Opilioacarida conserves many morphological aspects that make it one of the primitive groups among the living Acari. This order is one of the smallest of the acarine goups, yet is widely distributed throughout the tropical and temperate zones of the world. Eight of its ten known genera are present in the Old World, and only two, Neocarus and Caribeacarus, are found in the Americas. In North and Central America, the knowledge about this order has improved over the last 10 years, and now we have 12 species described. But in South America only three species have been described so far, Neocarus ojastii Lehtinen from Venezuela, Neoacarus potiguar Bernardi et al., and Neocarus platensis (Silvestri) from Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. However, the family Opilioacaridae in Brazil is represented by numerous undescribed species (about 12) distributed throughout all regions of the country.

What methodology did you use in your research?

In this study we take a step towards improved knowledge of the Brazilian Opilioacaridae by describing new species and improving knowledge of phylogenetic relationships and biogeographic distribution of the Brazilian species. For this purpose, mite collection have been made in most Brazilian states, with an special emphasis on both caves and karst areas. In addition, Opilioacaridae in biological collections in Brazil and the USA were studied. The majority of the material was studied as slide-mounted specimens. Identification and the drawings of the new specimens have been done with a phase contrast microscope connected to a drawing tube.

What are the purpose/rationale and implications of your research?

The phylogenetic analysis was based on morphological characters, and was analyzed using parsimony analysis. This study documents distribution of this interesting but poorly known group, initiates studies of the evolution of the group in Brazil, and provide added data to guide conservation efforts.