Thursday, April 9, 2020

A new millipede: Trachyjulus magnus

Millipedes are often found under mulch, dead leaves, or under piles of grass clipping. They thrive in places where the soil stays damp. There they eat dead leaves and decaying wood particles. In the fall, millipedes often migrate. They move out of their normal habitat. Colleagues suspect they may be trying to get ready for winter. However, they have also been seen migrating after a heavy rain has flooded their habitat. During these migrations, millipedes often find their way into our homes.

A good number of millipede species are well adapted to live in caves and so is our new species which was found in a cave in Southern Thailand. Its scientific name was chosen to indicate that it has the largest body size of all species known in the genus Trachyjulus


For the experts: A new, giant species of Trachyjulus from a cave in southern Thailand is described, illustrated, and compared to morphologically closely related taxa. This new species, T. magnus sp. nov., is much larger than all other congeners and looks especially similar to the grossly sympatric T. unciger Golovatch, Geoffroy, Mauri├Ęs & VandenSpiegel, 2012, which is widespread in southern Thailand. Phylogenetic trees, both rooted and unrooted, based on a concatenated dataset of the COI and 28S genes of nine species of Cambalopsidae (Trachyjulus, Glyphiulus, and Plusioglyphiulus), strongly support the monophyly of Trachyjulus and a clear-cut divergence between T. magnus sp. nov. and T. unciger in revealing very high average p-distances of the COI gene (20.80–23.62%).

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A new fungus: Ochraceocephala foeniculi

You've probably eaten fennel at some time in your life. Not everybody likes this vegetable although it is pretty versatile and rather healthy. The entire plant (including seeds) is edible. It's origin is in the mediterranean region and is one of Italy's most popular vegetables. In fact 85% of the world's fennel comes from Italy. Several diseases caused by fungi are known for fennel and researchers have just discovered and described a new one: Ochraceocephala foeniculi. This new fungus was named after the scientific name of fennel.

For the experts: A new disease of fennel is described from Sicily (southern Italy). Surveys of the disease and sampling were conducted during spring 2017 and 2018 in Adrano and Bronte municipalities (Catania province) where this crop is widely cultivated. Isolations from the margin of symptomatic tissues resulted in fungal colonies with the same morphology. Pathogenicity tests with one isolate of the fungus on 6-month-old plants of fennel reproduced similar symptoms to those observed in nature. Inoculation experiments to assess the susceptibility of six different fennel cultivars to infection by the pathogen showed that the cultivars ‘Narciso’, ‘Apollo’, and ‘Pompeo’ were more susceptible than ‘Aurelio’, ‘Archimede’, and ‘Pegaso’. Phylogenetic analyses based on a matrix of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS), the large subunit (LSU), and the small subunit (SSU) rDNA regions revealed that the isolates represent a new genus and species within the Leptosphaeriaceae, which is here described as Ochraceocephala foeniculi gen. et sp. nov. This study improves the understanding of this new fennel disease, but further studies are needed for planning effective disease management strategies. According to the results of the phylogenetic analyses, Subplenodomus iridicola is transferred to the genus Alloleptosphaeria and Acicuseptoria rumicis to Paraleptosphaeria.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A new grass: Poa magellensis

The Apennine Mountains are a beautiful mountain range along the length of the peninsular Italy.  Embedded in a really nice area of the Central Apennine in the Abruzzo region lies the Majella National Park. Colleagues did plant collections in this park and found a new meadow-grass species living on fairly high altitude (2700m).

The scientists names the new species after the region they found it (Magellan Mountains). 

For the experts: A new species, Poa magellensis sp. nov., is described and illustrated based on collections from the Majella Mountains in Central Apennine, Italy. It is morphologically similar to P. ligulata Boiss., but can be distinguished by green leaves, the basal ones adaxially lightly scabrous or sparsely hairy, longer ligules particularly in the upper leaves, panicles denser with primary branches sub-erect to erect, glumes with broader scarious margin, more acute glumes and lemmas, lemmas and paleas longer, rachilla hairy, calluses usually with a crown of hairs or shortly webbed, caryopses longer. A distribution map of the species is also presented.

Monday, April 6, 2020

A new moth: Stamnodes fergusoni

The Geometridae are a large family of moths (~23000 species). Their name is derived from the Ancient Greek geo for the earth, and metron for measure, which makes it earth-measurer. This refers to the looping fashion in which their larvae move. In English they are also called inchworm for the very same reason. Stamnodes fergusoni was found in Texas and named after the late Douglas C. Ferguson, renewed expert for geometrid moths of North America. He was in the process of describing this species before he passed away.

For the experts: Stamnodes fergusoni sp. nov. occurs from extreme southeastern Arizona through southern New Mexico east into western Texas, USA. Identity of the new species can be reliably determined by external features, genitalic characters, and COI haplotypes. Larvae are believed to be specialists on Salvia pinguifolia and S. ballotiflora. The adult and larval stages and male and female genitalia are illustrated, available DNA barcode data that support the recognition of the new Stamnodes are reviewed, and its life history briefly characterized.

Friday, April 3, 2020

A new frog: Leptobrachella suiyangensis

After a longer hiatus I am using the COVID-19 induced home isolation for a new attempt at this  blog that highlights new species that share this planet with us. They all have little stories to tell. My goal is only to quickly introduce them to a larger public. Enjoy!

Litter frogs (Family Megophryidae) are live in South East Asia. They are mostly famous for their elaborate camouflage which makes many of them look like dead leaves. A widely known species is the long nosed horned frog. Our new species was found during an expedition to montane evergreen forest in China. The species name refers to the location this species was found, Taibai Town in Suiyang County of Guizohu Province.


For the experts: This study describes a new species of the genus LeptobrachellaLeptobrachella suiyangensis sp. nov. from the Huoqiuba Nature Reserve, Suiyang County, Guizhou Province, China, based on morphological data and phylogenetic analyses (16S rRNA mtDNA). The new species can be distinguished from other congeners by the molecular divergence and by a combination of morphological characters, including body size, dorsal and ventral patterns, dorsal skin texture, size of the pectoral and femoral glands, degree of webbing and fringing on the toes and fingers, dorsum coloration, and iris coloration in life. Currently, the genus Leptobrachellacontains 75 species, 21 of which are found in China, including seven species reported from Guizhou Province. The uncorrected sequence divergence percentage between Leptobrachella suiyangensis sp. nov. and all homologous DNA sequences available for the 16S rRNA gene was found to be >4.7%. The new record of the species and its relationships with others in the same genus imply that species distribution, habitat variation, environmental adaptation, and diversity of the genus Leptobrachella in southwest China need to be further investigated.

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.