We are done, exhausted too, and our clothes are getting to the point where there is a risk of them walking away on their own.
We have several dozen specimens of the Idiobdella species from Silhouette and one Mahebdella miranda from Mahe (which we suspect is the same species as the former anyway).
In short, we have accomplished what we set out to do on this expedition. And maybe more.
We are fearful for our new friends in Madagascar... we have read that there were people killed in the last few days in Taomasina.
Fairly certain that we have found new species in Madagascar, this means we do not have every species known from that mini-continent we developed such an affection for.
Scientifically speaking the work has really just begun. Our principal limiting factor now is the getting into the field as we have done these 6 weeks but the real data derive from the months of lab work ahead of us. Dissecting the leeches preserved in formalin so as to characterize them morphologically (and determine which are known or are new to science), isolating DNA from others to characterize them genetically and then use all of those data to figure out their relationships.
Have these terrestrial leeches really been here for over 100 million years? Did they get here some other way? What is the strange erpobdellid from Fort Dauphin? Are the Malagasy leeches each other's closest relatives? Is Idiobdella even in the same group?
We should have the answers to these questions soon enough. And we will post those epilogues here from this site as the information comes together.
We neglected to mention that Evon was featured in "Maneaters of Madagascar" on the National Geographic Channel on March 10th… it will probably be aired again so watch your local listings.
For the time being, thanks for tuning in every other day or so. It has been our intention to convey a sense of the trepidation, the excitement as well as even the drudgery and the frustrations that the kind of work we love entails. We hope this has come across well without being too idiosyncratic. We hoped too that we could express how this plays out in a larger context of the lives and interests of others we encountered along the way.
In the end we are, of course, painfully aware that leech biodiversity and systematics probably does not crop up at too many dinner conversations. Who knows… maybe it will a little more now.
We owe a considerable debt of gratitude to the National Science Foundation and in particular to the generous funding from the Niarchos Foundation for providing the bulk of the support for our expedition here. The unforeseen circumstances may well mean that our second expedition to Sri Lanka planned for May might no longer be possible.
On the chance that we still have the resources to pull off that next expedition, check back in a couple of months for Blood Lust II
We should be home in a few days.