Thursday, August 25, 2016

A new aphid: Yamatochaitophorus yichunensis

Image from original publication
Aphids are tiny soft-bodied insects with usually fairly long antenna. They come in different colours, have small eyes, and sucking mouthparts. They move slowly, and don't jump or hop. They are herbivores that suck plant juices out of the leaves, stems, or roots of plants. The juices they drink often have much more sugar than protein. Aphids have to drink so much sugary juice to be able to build their own protein that they excrete a lot of the sugar as they don't need it. The sugary fluid they excrete is called "honeydew", and many other insects feed on it, e.g. ants. They also protect the aphids, and sometimes even keep them in their nests for the winter and put them on new plants in the spring.

Unfortunately, aphids are also one of the worst groups of pests on plants. They damage plants directly by feeding on them, and they carry plant diseases from plant to plant. There can be millions and millions of aphids in a field which can cause a lot of damage to crops.

A new species of aphid has been found in Northern China feeding on Manchurian striped maple (Acer tegmentosum). The species was named after Yichun City where it was found in a forest garden.

For the experts: Yamatochaitophorus yichunensis sp. n. is described from specimens collected in northeast China on Acer tegmentosum (Aceraceae). Yamatochaitophorus is also a new generic record for China. Type specimens are deposited in the National Zoological Museum of China, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China (NZMC) and the Natural History Museum, London, UK (BMNH).


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A new frog: Pristimantis pulchridormientes

Image from publication
One extraordinarily diverse genus of frogs, Pristimantis, includes 465 recognized species, 131 of them from Peru. The mountainous terrain of the Andes probably led to the evolution of so many different ground-dwelling frogs, in which the eggs develop directly into tiny baby frogs without going through a tadpole phase.

The name of the new species is a composite of two Latin words: pulcher which means beautiful, and dormientes means sleeping. The name is in reference to the chain of mountains located within Tingo María National Park, above the city of Tingo Maria, locally known as Sleeping Beauty (Bella Durmiente), because it looks like a sleeping reclined woman.

For the experts: A new species of Craugastoridae frog encountered from 1000–1700 m in elevation in the premontane forests of the Peruvian central Andes is described. The new species is similar in appearance to many other species of Pristimantis, but is easily distinguishable from these species by having bright red coloration on the groin, posterior surface of thighs, and shanks. The new species is only known for two localities 27 km apart in the Huánuco Region.

Monday, August 15, 2016

A new snake: Geophis lorancai

Geophis lorancai, credit: Miguel Ángel de la Torre Loranca
Colubrid snakes of the genus Geophis comprise 49 currently recognized species widely distributed in Central and South America. These snakes, often called Latin American earth snakes are burrowing snakes which are seldom encountered and, consequently, have been poorly studied. 

The species was named after Biologist Miguel Ángel de la Torre Loranca, who found most of the specimens of the new species in the Sierra de Zongolica.

For the experts: A new species of the Geophis dubius group is described from the mountains of the Sierra Zongolica in west-central Veracruz and the Sierra de Quimixtlán in central-east Puebla. The new species is most similar to G. duellmani and G. turbidus, which are endemic to the mountains of northern Oaxaca and the Sierra Madre Oriental of Puebla and Hidalgo, respectively. However, the new species differs from G. duellmani by the presence of postocular and supraocular scales and from G. turbidus by having a bicolor dorsum. With the description of the new species, the species number in the genus increases to 50 and to 12 in the G. dubius group. Additionally, a key to the species of the G. dubius group is provided.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A new longhorn beetle: Falsoibidion bipunctatum

With their large antennae and often very colourful, shiny bodies longhorn beetles are small beauties. Their larvae, however, bore into wood, where they can cause extensive damage to either living trees or untreated lumber. The small to very large beetles are distributed worldwide and we know about 27,000 species to date.

The scientific name of this beetle family, Cerambycidae goes back to a figure of the Greek mythology. After an argument with the Nymphs, the shepherd Cerambos was transformed into a large beetle with horns.

A new species was discovered in Korea and named after the two black spots on its body. 

For the experts: A new species of the genus Falsoibidion Pic, 1922 (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae, Cerambycinae, Callidiopini) from Korea is described. Habitus and genitalia of male and female of the new species are illustrated.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A new ant: Paratopula bauhinia

(c) The University of Hong Kong
While some might think that new species are only discovered in deep pristine forests, this new ant species was found just a few hundred meters from the campus of  University of Hong Kong during a night field course. The unusually large size of the ant (about 7mm long) and its golden appearance piqued the curiosity of  a research assistant of the School of Biological Sciences, to collect it for further detailed inspection. 

The newly described species has been given the scientific name Paratopula bauhinia, in reference to the Bauhinia flower, symbol of Hong Kong. Indirectly, the name also refers to the arboreal nature of the ant. Indeed, this species seems to live on trees and forage only at dusk and at night where it can be found on lower vegetation and human-made structures. 

For the experts: Despite its relatively large size among the Myrmicinae of the Indomalayan region, collection events of Paratopula Wheeler are rare. Here we discuss the discovery of Paratopula in Hong Kong and present Paratopula bauhinia sp. nov as a new species. This addition brings the number of globally described species for the genus to twelve species, four of which are known only from the reproductive caste. Paratopula bauhinia sp. nov. can be distinguished from previously described species by the combination of the following features: 10 teeth on the masticatory margin of mandibles, apically acute hairs, a rounded median portion of the anterior margin of the pronotum, postpetiole broader than long, and straight, blunt propodeal spines. A revised key for the eight species of Paratopula known from the worker caste is provided. Additionally, the female caste of Rotastruma stenoceps Bolton is described for the first time. The rarity of these two genera are also discussed on the basis of their potentially nocturnal and arboreal habits.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A new water scavenger beetle: Elocomosta lilizheni

The beetle family Hydrophilidae contains about 3000 aquatic species found all over the world. The name water scavenger beetles is not an accurate description of the beetle's habit. Larvae are mostly predatory while the adults may be vegetarians or predators in addition to scavenging.

Some hydrophilid species have been reported as pests in fish hatcheries.Other species are voracious consumers of mosquito larvae, and are therefore considered as potential biological control agents.

The new species was found in China and named after the collector, Dr. Li-zhen Li, an entomologist at Shanghai Normal University.

For the experts: A new species of the genus Elocomosta Hansen, 1989 (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae: Sphaeridiinae: Coelostomatini), E. lilizheni sp. n., is described from Guangxi Province, China. It is compared in detail with the only other known species of the genus, E. nigra Hansen, 1989 from Borneo, and the genus is diagnosed from the remaining coelostomatine genera. The new species is unusual among Hydrophilidae by having extremely reduced eyes.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Two new ants: Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion

Credit: OIST
The ant genus Pheidole is huge containing perhaps more than 1000 species. They are widespread across the globe. Most Pheidole colonies contain two castes of workers: the "minor" workers, and the "major" workers, or "soldiers". The latter generally have enormous heads and mandibles in comparison to their body size.

Both new species appear dragon-like due to their large and distinctive spines and were recently found in the tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea. Although they lacks fire-breathing capabilities, the unique, spiny characteristics of the ants reminded the scientists who discovered them of the mythical dragons from the fantasy series and inspired them to name the ants after the 'Game of Thrones' dragons.

For the experts: The ant genus Pheidole—for all of its hyperdiversity and global ubiquity—is remarkably conservative with regard to morphological disparity. A striking exception to this constrained morphology is the spinescent morphotype, which has evolved multiple times across distantly related lineages of Indoaustralian Pheidole. The Pheidole cervicornis group contains perhaps the most extraordinary spinescent forms of all Pheidole. Here we present a taxonomic revision of the P. cervicornis group, and use microtomographic scanning technology to investigate the internal anatomy of the thoracic spines. Our findings suggest the pronotal spines of Pheidole majors, are possibly skeletomuscular adaptations for supporting their disproportionately large heads. The ‘head support hypothesis’ is an alternative to the mechanical defense hypothesis most often used to explain spinescence in ants. The P. cervicornis group is known only from New Guinea and is represented by the following four species, including two described here as new: P. barumtaun Donisthorpe, P. drogon sp. nov., P. cervicornis Emery, and P. viserion sp. nov. The group is most readily identified by the minor worker caste, which has extremely long pronotal spines and strongly bifurcating propodeal spines. The major and minor workers of all species are illustrated with specimen photographs, with the exception of the major worker of P. cervicornis, which is not known.