Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A new shark: Squalus clarkae

Eugenie Clark was a pioneer in shark biology, known around the world for her illuminating research on shark behavior. But she was a pioneer in another critical way, as one of the first women of prominence in the male-dominated field of marine biology.

Fondly labeled the "Shark Lady," Clark, who founded Mote Marine Laboratory and continued studying fishes until she passed away in 2015 at age 92, will now be recognized with another distinction: namesake of a newly discovered species of dogfish shark.

The species, named Squalus clarkae, also known as Genie's Dogfish, was identified from the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic Ocean.

For the experts: Sharks of the genus Squalus have slow reproductive rates coupled with low genetic diversity, as is typical of deep-water sharks, making this group slow to rebound from depletion due to overfishing. The number of species within Squalus has been expanding recently due to increased attention on taxonomic revision, and a growing research focus on little-known deep-water sharks in general. Here we use genetics and morphology to describe a new species of dogfish shark, Squalus clarkae sp. nov. from the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) which replaces Squalus mitsukurii in this region, and place it in the context of congeners from the Atlantic and elsewhere. Previously, S. clarkae sp. nov. was considered a part of the Squalus mitsukurii species complex, a group of closely related but distinct species. We sequenced the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I and the NADH Dehydrogenase II gene of S. mitsukurii from the type location in Japan, S. clarkae sp. nov. from the GoM, as well as three closely related species (S. cubensis, S. blainville, and S. megalops) and S. cf. mitsukurii from Brazil. Squalus clarkae sp. nov. is genetically distinct from other species with significant statistical support (>98.6% bootstrap support/posterior probability), and 2.8% divergent from S. mitsukurii in the type location of Japan. Morphological estimates also revealed differences between S. clarkae sp. nov., S. mitsukurii, and other Atlantic Squalus species, with S. clarkae sp. nov. exhibiting a longer body, smaller interorbital space, shorter caudal fin, and a differently-proportioned first dorsal fin. In general, dogfish sharks in the Atlantic and GoM are characterized by similar but distinct morphology, significant genetic variation, and small species ranges.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A new species of Bandy-Bandy: Vermicella parscauda

Bandy-bandies (genus Vermicella) are small (50–100cm) black and white burrowing elapid snakes with a highly specialized diet of blindsnakes. There are currently only five species known in this genus, all from Australia.

The species name was build with the Latin words pars (part) and cauda (tail) in reference to the tail length and formed bands on the tail.

For the experts:  Morphological and mitochondrial analyses of specimens collected from the Weipa area, Cape York, Queensland reveal the existence of a new species, which we describe as Vermicella parscauda sp. nov. Mitochondrial DNA analysis (16S and ND4) and external morphological characteristics indicate that the closest relatives of the new species are not V. annulata, which also occurs on Cape York, but rather species from Western Australia and the Northern Territory (V. intermedia and V. multifasciata) which like V. parscauda, occupy monsoon habitats. Internasal scales are present in V. parscauda sp. nov., similar to V. annulata, but V. intermedia and V. multifasciata do not have nasal scales. V. parscauda sp. nov. has 55–94 black dorsal bands and mottled or black ventral scales terminating approximately 2/3 rds of the body into formed black rings, suggesting that hyper-banding is a characteristic of the tropical monsoon snakes (V. intermedia, V. multifasciata and V. parscauda). The confined locality, potential habitat disruption due to mining activities, and scarcity of specimens indicates an urgent conservation concern for this species.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A new darkling beetle: Blaptogonia zhentanga

Darkling beetles are usually colored blackish, dark brown or grey, and often have a satiny sheen and few are metallic. This large beetle family also contains the better known flour beetles. These animals feed on both fresh and decaying vegetation, which unfortunately includes vegetable produce which is why several are known as commercially important pests of flour and other cereal products.

The new species was named after the type locality, Zhêntang in Tibet.

For the experts: A new species of the genus Blaptogonia Medvedev, 1998, B. zhentanga sp. n., is described from the southern Himalayas of China. Two fragments of mitochondrial protein-coding genes (COI, Cytb), one fragment of mitochondrial ribosomal RNA gene (16S), and one fragment of nuclear rRNA gene (28SD2) of the new species were obtained. A key to the known species of the genus is presented.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A new Orchid: Odontochilus putaoensis

The orchid genus Odontochilus comprises of about 40 known species. Most of them are small terrestrial plants, usually found in humid evergreen broadleaved forests of tropical Asia.

The new species is named after Putao, the northernmost town of Myanmar because the species was discovered in a vast area of undisturbed mountain forest next to it.

For the experts: Odontochilus putaoensis, a new species of Orchidaceae, is described and illustrated from Putao Township, Kachin State, Myanmar. Odontochilus putaoensis is close to O. duplex, but can be easily distinguished from the latter by having a light yellow lip, a bisaccate hypochile with a small, erect, blade-like and emarginate callus within each sac, a mesochile with a pair of dentate-pectinate flanges and a bilobed epichile with a pair of widely diverging lobes that are erect and concave. An identification key to the Southeast Asian species of Odontochilus and colour photographs of O. putaoensis are provided. A preliminary conservation assessment according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria is given for the new species.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A new spider crab: Paramaya mulli

The crab family Majidae comprises of about 200 marine species that often live in deeper waters. The legs can be very long in some species which gave them the name spider crab. This new member was found in the Bay of Bengal in India.

The species is named after the Mulli plant in Tamil mythology, from the classic poetic work Kurunthogai. Mulli is a coastal plant (Spinifex littoreus) with very sharp spines (mull is the Tamil word for spiny), a character shared with the new crab species.

For the experts: The identity of the majid species of Paramaya De Haan, 1837, in the Indian Ocean is clarified with the collection of fresh specimens from the Bay of Bengal. Previously identified as P. spinigera (De Haan, 1837) which is known only from Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, the material from eastern India is here referred to a new species, P. mulli sp. n. The new species can easily be distinguished from all congeners by its relatively shorter pseudorostral and carapace spines, more swollen branchial regions, distinctly granulated male thoracic sternum, and the G1 is not prominently curved with the dorsal projection on the sub distal part short and the tip rounded.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

New parasitic wasps - Crocodile Dundee and Toblerone

Qrocodiledundee outbackense - Credit Jose Fernandez-Triana
A whooping 17 new genera and 29 new species of parasitoid wasps from around the globe were recently described from specimens at the Canadian National Collection of insects in Ottawa. The new species came from the tropics, including the Afrotropical, Australasian, Neotropical and the Oriental region. The lead author, Dr Jose Fernandez-Triana, colleague and friend, is a world renowned expert of the wasps and with his colleague Caroline Boudreault he published a monograph on these species.

Reported from the Australasian region, the genus Qrocodiledundee is not only a reference to the famous Australian comedy 'Crocodile Dundee', which also happens to be a favourite of the lead author,  but also refers to his own nickname. In the past, he used to track down and catch crocodiles for scientific study, and was even bitten by one, much like the fictional character played by Paul Hogan. The species name 'outbackense' refers to the Outback, the vast and remote interior of Australia.

Another favourite of the first author, the chocolate brand 'Toblerone' was used to generate the genus name Tobleronius. A segment in the midsection of the bodies of the wasps resembles the triangle pieces the chocolate brand is known for.

For the experts: As part of comprehensive studies on the world fauna of microgastrine parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) 17 new genera and 29 new species are described from the Afrotropical, Australasian, Neotropical and Oriental regions. The number of extant genera of Microgastrinae is increased by 21% and currently stands at 81. It is anticipated that more genera will be described in the near future, when phylogenetic studies of the group are advanced. The new taxa showcase unusual morphological traits such as atypical head and mouth part modifications, presence of partial occipital and epicnemial carinae, propodeum carination patterns, hind wing venation, trochantellus shape, tarsal claws, sculpture and shape of the first two metasomal tergites, and ovipositor teeth; in some cases, they also represent some of the largest species known in the subfamily. For every new genus putative autapomorphies, morphological diagnostic features, and DNA barcodes (whenever available) are presented, as well as brief discussions of some informal groupings of genera in the subfamily. However, no attempt is made to reassess the phylogeny of the entire Microgastrinae, as that will require more comprehensive analyses beyond the scope of the present work. The following 17 gen. n., authored by Fernandez-Triana, are described: Agupta, Austinicotesia, Billmasonius, Carlmuesebeckius, Gilbertnixonius, Janhalacaste, Jenopappius, Jimwhitfieldius, Kotenkosius, Markshawius, Ohenri, Qrocodiledundee, Silvaspinosus, Tobleronius, Ungunicus, Ypsilonigaster and Zachterbergius. The following 29 sp. n., authored by Fernandez-Triana and Boudreault, are described: Agupta danyi, Agupta jeanphilippei, Agupta raymondi, Agupta solangeae, Austinicotesia indonesiensis, Austinicotesia papuanus, Billmasonius cienci, Carlmuesebeckius smithsonian, Gilbertnixonius biem, Janhalacaste danieli, Janhalacaste guanacastensis, Janhalacaste winnieae, Jenopappius magyarmuzeum, Jimwhitfieldius jamesi, Jimwhitfieldius sydneyae, Kotenkosius tricarinatus, Markshawius erucidoctus, Markshawius francescae, Markshawius thailandensis, Ohenri gouletorum, Qrocodiledundee outbackense, Silvaspinosus vespa, Tobleronius orientalis, Ungunicus vietnamensis, Ypsilonigaster naturalis, Ypsilonigaster sharkeyi, Ypsilonigaster tiger, Ypsilonigaster zuparkoi, and Zachterbergius tenuitergum. The following four comb. n. are proposed: Jenopappius niger (de Saeger, 1944), Jenopappius aethiopica (de Saeger, 1944), Ypsilonigaster bumbana (de Saeger, 1942), and Ypsilonigaster pteroloba (de Saeger, 1944).

Monday, June 25, 2018

New goblin spiders

Xestaspis kandy (credit: Suresh P. Benjamin)
The goblins Bom, Snooky and Tumpy and the brownies Chippy, Snippy and Tiggy are fictional characters invented the English children's writer Enid Blyton, famous for her The Famous Five series and many more children books. I admit I read very many of those as a kid.

Some colleagues have now used the character names describe six new species of minute goblin spiders discovered in the diminishing forests of Sri Lanka. The spider family Oonopidae ,commonly known as goblin spiders, consists of over 1,600 described species. Most of them are tiny, measuring only about 1 to 3 millimeters. As a result they are seldom seen by people as they are too small to be easily noticed. They are generally found in leaf litter and under rocks, but they also make up a significant component of the spider fauna living in the canopy of tropical rainforests.

For the experts: Nine new species of goblin spiders are described in six different genera: Cavisternum bom n. sp., Grymeus dharmapriyai n. sp., Ischnothyreus chippy n. sp., Opopaea spinosiscorona n. sp., Pelicinus snooky n. sp., P. tumpy n. sp., Silhouettella saaristoi n. sp., S. snippy n. sp. and S. tiggy n. sp. Three genera are recorded for the first time in Sri Lanka: Cavisternum, Grymeus and Silhouettella. The first two genera are reported for the first time outside of Australia. Sri Lankan goblin spider diversity now comprises 45 described species in 13 different genera.