The importance of the Cockpit Country for the conservation of Jamaica's invertebrate biodiversity cannot be properly appraised at the present time due to an insufficient database. Most groups of terrestrial invertebrates have not been collected to any extensive degree. For many species, the type locality is the only known site. Areas with high counts of species may reflect favorite, accessible sample sites rather than important centers of species diversity. Significant numbers of species have been collected and deposited in museums but not yet described scientifically. Also, sample sites for many of the identified individuals have remained unpublished. Reviews of species groups, including distribution and status are available for a small minority of invertebrate groups.

Selected invertebrate groups are presented below for which reviews have become available within the last 30 years or so.

a. Rotifers

Up to 1990, only 34 species of rotifers were known from Jamaica, and none from the Cockpit Country. Studies of a number of sites throughout Jamaica has added 177 species to this number, making 211 in all (Koste et al. 1993, Janetzky et al. 1995). One area studied intensively was the Windsor and Pantrepant region of the Cockpit Country. The site produced 29 species from rivers, 74 from natural and artificial pools, 37 from bromeliads, and 14 from water-filled snail shells; many rotifers occurred in more than one habitat. Relatively few rotifers are endemic to Jamaica (less than 10%). However, a new species was found in bromeliads in Windsor, which so far has not been reported from elsewhere. These microscopic organisms occupy the faunal foundation for the bromeliad food web.

b. Land and freshwater mollusks

Jamaican land snails have attracted considerable attention and have been collected from as early as 1795. In an unpublished account of species, Mehring (1965) lists about 450 species of shelled land snails from Jamaica. Further extensive collection, particularly by G. Goodfriend and G. Rosenberg have extended the number to 555 valid species, of which 499 (90%) are endemic to the island. Most of these species have very limited ranges and often do not occur across more than 1-4 parishes. The village of Auchtembeddie, on the southern periphery of the Cockpit Country, alone hosts 87 species of land snails, of which 69 (79%) are endemic - one of the highest densities of endemic land snails in the world (G. Rosenberg, pers. comm.). Dr. Rosenberg's project is ongoing and should result in improved distribution maps for all species. His work also includes detailed microhabitat descriptions, data that are lacking for most of Jamaica's snails because of the propensity of early collectors to send local persons into the field to collect shells with little regard for collection site descriptions or to collect during the daytime when live snails often are buried in the soil so as to prevent dessication. In some instances "rare" species are, in fact, common on hilltops -- merely more difficult to access (M. E. Agren, pers. comm.).

c. Land crabs of the subfamily Sesarminae

Studies during the last ten years almost doubled the number of known Jamaican land crabs of the subfamily Sesarminae from 5 to 9 species, including Sesarma windsor, which was discovered in the Cockpit Country (Schubart et al. 1998, Diesel et al., in press). These grapsid crabs evolved from a single ancestor within Jamaica and thus all are endemic to the island. They have adapted to different life styles in streams, caves, rocks and bromeliads. The Cockpit Country is a centre of their diversity with a species present in each of the four microhabitats. Metopaulias depressus responded to the lack of surface water by adapting to breeding in bromeliad tanks. Maternal care is extensive, including transport of snail shells into the bromeliad nursery to buffer the water, which becomes acidic from decomposing vegetation, and increase the availability of calcium needed for molt (Diesel 1989, 1992a, 1992b). In addition to maintenance of the nursery habitat, Metopaulias depressus also shows brood care by (1) defending the young agains predators, such as the endemic damselfly Diceratobasis macrogaster, which is also the only damselfly known to breed in bromeliads and (2) feeding the young. (Diesel 1989, 1992a, 1992b).

d. Lampyridae fireflies

Lampyrid fireflies (and Elateridae click beetles, known locally as peeny wallies and headlight beetles) have been a subject of both scientific and popular fascination. The first species of Jamaican fireflies to be mentioned in the literature were described by Patrick Browne in 1756. While only four species of fireflies had been described from Jamaica by the end of the 19th century, at present 48 species are recognized taxonomically; 45 are endemic to Jamaica (94% endemism). During the dry summer months, the hillsides of the Cockpit Country glow with the mate-attracting light dances of males. The remarkable phenomenon of synchronous flashing of the endemic Photinus synchronans (see Buck 1938) has been observed by S.E. Koenig in Windsor only during spring and summer months. Microdiphot cavernarum is known only from Windsor Great Cave (McDermott and Buck 1959). It is not known how many species of firefly occur in Cockpit Country because little scientific collecting has been undertaken.

e. Carabid beetles: the Bromeliarum group

One genus in the Carabidae family of predaceous ground beetles, which generally occur along waterside habitats, has shifted its ecology and become specialized to the confines of bromeliads in the Cockpit Country. The genus Colpodes consists of five species, all of which are endemic to Jamaica and occur in or are probably confined to bromeliads. They probably derived from a single winged carabid that may have first lived simply beside water and became ecologically specialized and radiated among bromeliads (Darlington 1970).

f. Scolytid and platypodid beetles

The most 'recent' review recorded 62 species of Scolytidae (Bark beetles) and 7 species of Platypodidae (Ambrosia beetles) from Jamaica and included all known records from the island (Bright 1972). Nearly 40% (26 species) were described as new to science. The number of endemic species was tentatively given as 31. However, the discussion of regional and global distribution was extremely difficult since these beetles are very poorly known elsewhere in the Caribbean and Central America. A large majority of 25 of the 31 endemic species has only been taken at the type locality. This includes four species that were obtained from single sites in the Cockpit Country. The total number of island endemics from this area was 6. As with other invertebrate research, sampling efforts seemed to be biased towards the Blue Mountain region. Nine species were exclusively collected at Hardwar Gap alone, and the total number of island endemics occurring in the Blue Mountains amounted to 20.

Many species of Scolytidae elsewhere in the tropics have been identified as serious pests of trees, both hardwoods and conifers. In addition to the physical destruction of the wood by the tunneling activities, damage also is caused by fungal staining of sapwood (Hogue 1993). While injured trees and cut timber are most susceptible, some species infest live trees. Single-species plantations particularly are vulnerable to heavy infestation (Haack et al. 1989).

g. Butterflies

Jamaica's butterfly fauna comprises 119 species of which 19 species and 12 subspecies are endemic to the island. At least 95 of the 119 butterfly species have been seen in the Cockpit Country .

The area is of particular importance for the following three endemic species:

Aphrissa hartonia (Hartonia): Only known from a few localities in the Cockpit Country; although Perkins identified the adults frequently visiting Guango (Saman saman), the food plant of the larvae is unknown.

Atlantea pantoni (Jamaican Patch): Restricted almost entirely to the Cockpit Country; published sightings are confined to the south-southeast districts of Troy, Tyre, Wilson Run and Cockpit Mountain; unpublished accounts include Burnt Hill Road (A. Haynes-Sutton); the food plant of the larvae is unknown.

Pterourus homerus (Giant Swallowtail Butterfly) , is a Jamaican endemic and the largest of the true Swallowtail butterflies in the World. It is endangered and listed in Appendix 1 of CITES. P. homerus historically ranged in at least seven parishes across the island (Brown and Heineman 1972) but at present is mainly restricted to two isolated areas, the Cockpit Country in the west and the Blue Mountains and adjoining John Crow mountains in the east (Smith 1994). However the persistence of the eastern population is of major concern due to the high mortality from egg parasitism by very tiny wasp, that appears to be facilitated by high levels of forest degradation in its breeding areas (Garraway and Bailey 1993). Hence, due to its remoteness and difficult terrain that makes this population less vulnerable, the Cockpit Country may represent the only viable population of P. homerus. However, little is known about the ecology and status of this Western population.

P. homerus was historically seen in the Mount Diablo area, and we are currently negotiating with a European zoo group to obtain funding for surveys and outreach in this neglected area.

h. Cave-dwelling invertebrates

The invertebrate fauna of Jamaican caves has been documented in greater detail than the terrestrial invertebrates owing to concerted studies undertaken in the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s (Peck 1997). Across the island, about 250 free-living macroscopic species are now known from 52 caves. Forty two species (26 terrestrial and 16 aquatic) are considered to be troglobites, specialized for subterranean life, and are associated with bat guano and other food sources coming from outside the cave or are predators of the guano scavengers. Although Cuba, which is 10 times larger than Jamaica, hosts numerically more troglobites (44 aquatic and 30 terrestrial) Jamaica unequivocally hosts the highest densities of any island in the West Indies.

Each cave offers a different environment, some being food-poor and others having large deposits of organic food materials, such as flood debris or bat guano. The result is that each cave hosts a unique assemblage of species represented by diverse taxa of worms, mollusks, archnids, harvestmen, pseudoscorpions, mites, crabs and shrimp, isopods, crustaceans (isopods and copepods), centipedes and millipedes, cockroaches, earwigs, crickets, hemipteran bugs, beetles, moths, ants, wasps, and flies. For a complete list see Peck (1992).

Actual or potential economic importance of invertebrates

Major pollinators of native and commercially important plants include bees, butterflies, and moths. Insects also help decompose organic material and prey on pests. No information was found identifying native species as crop pests along the periphery of the Cockpit Country.

Butterflies are the most conspicuous diurnal invertebrates. The diversity of butterflies found in the Cockpit Country and the year-round observance of adult lifeforms render favorable conditions for visitors. Butterfly ranching in the buffer zone of the Cockpit Country, to support an educational display house located in a tourist area (e.g., Ocho Rios), offers the potential for sustainable use of common, non-threatened species, with generated revenues directed back to species research and habitat conservation (for examples, see New 1997).


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