Friday, July 31, 2015

A new isopod: Protracheoniscus sarii

Terrestrial isopods are commonly known as sowbugs, woodlice, pillbugs, and slaters. While most crustaceans need to live in water, the terrestrial isopods are the only larger group to become adapted for life on land. The only other crustaceans which include a small number of terrestrial species are amphipods (e.g. sandhoppers) and decapods (some crabs).  Like all members of the crustaceans, terrestrial isopods breathe through their gills, but these must stay moist to operate. This means the animals need to live in damp places, usually underneath something like decaying wood or leaves. 

Unable to return to the water to breed, females must carry water around with them. Fertilized eggs are deposited in a water-filled brood pouch, located beneath the thorax. When the eggs hatch, the young isopods must remain in the pouch until they can fend for themselves.

This new species was found in Khak-e Ali, Iran and named after Dr. Alireza Sari, professor in animal biosystematics at the University of Tehran. 

For the experts: Six species of terrestrial isopods from the province of Qazvin, central Iran, are recorded. Three species, Hemilepistus klugii (Brandt, 1833), Protracheoniscus ehsani Kashani, 2014 and Mongoloniscus persicus Kashani, 2014, were previously reported from the province. Hemilepistus elongatus Budde-Lund, 1885 and Protracheoniscus major (Dollfus, 1903) are recorded for the first time, and one species, Protracheoniscus sarii sp. n., is described as new. The diagnostic characters of the new species are figured.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A new fish: Bryconops munduruku

Today's new species belongs to the fish family Characidae. The characids or are a family of freshwater subtropical and tropical fish. Among those fishes are the tetras, comprising the very similar genera Hemigrammus and Hyphessobrycon, as well as a few related forms such as the cave and neon tetras. Fish of this family are important as food and also include popular aquarium fish species.

All these species live only in the Americas, most of them in Central and South America. Bryconops munduruku belongs to a genus that is restricted to freshwater drainages in South America. The species name is in reference to a tribe of Munduruku People, who settled on the right margin of the Tapajós River, giving rise to what today is the city of Aveiro, the type locality of the new species.

For the experts: A new species of Bryconops is described from a right tributary of the lower Tapajós River, State of Pará, Brazil. Bryconops munduruku, sp. nov., differs from its congeners, except B. inpai and B. piracolina, by having a black adipose fin (vs. adipose fin hyaline in alcohol) and, except B. inpai, by possessing two humeral blotches (vs. lack of humeral blotch or only one humeral blotch). Bryconops munduruku differs from B. inpai by having a uniform color pattern on the posterior portion of the side of the body (vs. a dark stripe extending posteriorly from the half of the anal-fin base onto the base of the middle caudal-fin rays). It differs further from B. inpai and B. piracolina by the presence of a black adipose fin that is hyaline along its base (vs. entirely black adipose fin in B. inpai and B. piracolina). The new species is allocated in the subgenus Creatochanes by having a maxillary bone with one to three teeth on both sides, and its posterior extension reaching the junction of second and third infraorbital bones.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A new mussel: Scabies songkramensis

Mussels of the family Unionidae are commonly referred to as pearly mussels or unionids. There are about 700 species worldwide with the highest diversity in North America, where there are approximately 290 species. 

Unionids are found in freshwater sources such as lakes, streams, and rivers. Interestingly, they are not found in high mountain lakes, probably due to a lack of proper fish hosts for their parasitic larval stage called glochidium. A glochidium has hooks, enabling it to attach itself to fish (e.g to the gills) for some time before it detaches and falls to the substrate where it changes the typical form of a juvenile mussel. This passive dispersal process helps distributing these mussel species into areas they otherwise would not be able to reach.

The species name of our newcomer refers to the Songkram River in Thailand, where this new species was found.

For the experts: Morphological and chromosomal characteristics of a number of unionid freshwater mussels were studied from northeastern Thailand. Karyotypes of eight species from seven genera (Chamberlainia, Ensidens, Hyriopsis, Physunio, Pseudodon, Scabies and Trapezoideus) were examined. Six species possess 2n = 38 karyotypes, whereas Scabies crispata and an unidentified Scabies sp. lack three small chromosome pairs, giving a diploid number of 32. Moreover, the karyotypes of the unidentified Scabies differ from S. crispata as it exhibits a telocentric chromosome pair (6m + 7sm + 2st + 1t). Most of the conchological characters also differ between the two species – adult size, colour pattern, muscle scars, pseudocardinal and lateral teeth. The name Scabies songkramensis sp. n. is proposed for the unidentified species, and its description is included in this paper. Interestingly, seven species contain mostly bi-armed chromosomes, but only the mud-dweller in stagnant water, Ensidens ingallsianus, contains predominantly five telocentric pairs. In addition, the marker chromosome characteristics of an unbalanced long arm, twisted centromere, a wider angle 180° arrangement, a twisted arm and telomeric end union reported in this study are described for the first time for unionid mussels.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A new true bug: Cystococcus campanidorsalis

Bush coconuts, also known as bloodwood apples, are a type of gall. Such galls are abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues. They can be caused by various parasites, from fungi and bacteria, to insects and mites. A researcher investigated the insect responsible for these bush coconuts and found that they were caused by a new species.

And a strange one it is:  These insects display sexual dichronism, with females giving birth first to males, and then to females once the males almost matured inside the gall. The wingless female nymphs cling to their winged adult brothers, hitching a ride out of the maternal gall when the males fly to find mates. This bizarre behaviour is called intersexual phoresy.

The new species was named Cystococcus campanidorsalis for the insect's bell-shaped back that plugs the entrance to the gall.

For the experts: Australia houses some unusual biota (insects included), much of which is undescribed. Cystococcus Fuller (Hemiptera : Sternorrhyncha : Coccoidea : Eriococcidae) currently comprises two species, both of which induce galls exclusively on bloodwoods (Myrtaceae: Corymbia Hill & Johnson). These insects display sexual dichronism, whereby females give birth first to sons and then to daughters. Wingless first-instar females cling to their winged adult brothers and are carried out of the maternal gall when the males fly to find mates – a behaviour called intersexual phoresy. Here, we use data from two gene regions, as well as morphology and host-use of the insects, to assess the status of a previously undescribed species. We describe this newly recognised species as Cystococcus campanidorsalis, sp. nov. Semple, Cook & Hodgson, redescribe the two existing species – C. echiniformis Fuller and C. pomiformis (Froggatt), designate a lectotype for C. echiniformis, and provide the first descriptions of adult males, and nymphal males and females for the genus. We have also reinterpreted a key morphological character of the adult females. This paper provides a foundation for further work on the genus, which is widespread across northern Australia and could prove to be useful for studies on biogeography and bloodwood ecosystems.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A new bat: Lonchophylla inexpectata

Lonchophylla mordax (Credit  Frederico Acaz Sonntag)
During their study of the bat genus Lonchophylla two Brazilian researchers found that some of the specimens had considerably paler fur and that some of their measurements were inconsistent with those of other specimens of the presumed species (Lonchophylla mordax). To their surprise, a closer look revealed that this was indeed a completely different species, previously unknown to science.

The new species was named Lonchophylla inexpectata - inspired by the surprise element in this new discovery. Using specimens from all currently recognised Brazilian representatives of the Lonchophylla genus, the scientists concluded that what they had thought a mere variation of the colouring, is in fact one of the species' distinguishable characteristics. Others include differences in the skull and the teeth morphology. Specimens from the 'unexpected' bat species had been misidentified for more than a century.

For our experts: We describe Lonchophylla inexpectata sp. n. from the Caatinga of Brazil. This new species can be distinguished from all known species of Lonchophylla that occur in Brazil by dental traits, cranial size, and fur colour. Specimens of L. inexpectata have been misidentified as L. mordax; but L. inexpectata is a pale-venter species, similar in external appearance to L. dekeyseri. We have found L. inexpectata in the Caatinga of North-eastern Brazil; L. mordax along the eastern border of the Caatinga and in the Atlantic Forest–Caatinga ecotone in North-eastern Brazil; and L. dekeyseri in the Cerrado of Mid-western Brazil, in the Brazilian Cerrado–Caatinga ecotone, and as far west as the Cerrado of Bolivia.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Two new dogbanes: Hoya ruthiae and Hoya bakoensis

Hoya bakoensis
Hoya ruthiae was named after the tropical botanist who collected the original plants, Ruth Kiew. It grows on limestone with its so far only location being Malaysia. Therefore, its conservation status is not yet known and the plant species is categorised as Data Deficient following the IUCN guidelines. However, it is widely available in cultivation.

The second new species, Hoya bakoensis, was discovered in 2015 and was named after its for now sole locality, the Bako National Park in Malaysia. The species prefers moist, shady kerangas heath forests near streams. Most often, it sprouts its seedlings in the openings of small ant nests from inside hollow tree trunks and climbs up its host tree likely in need for more light.

For our experts: Two new Hoya R.Br. species from Borneo are described and illustrated. The first, Hoya ruthiae Rodda was collected in Sabah on Bukit Baturong, a limestone outcrop. It is one of the few species in the genus to have clear exudate. It is compared with the morphologically related Hoya uncinata Teijsm. and Binn. The other, Hoya bakoensis Rodda, was collected in the kerangas forests of Bako National Park. It belongs to Hoya section Acanthostemma (Bl.) Kloppenb., a section with numerous members in the Philippines but under-represented in Borneo.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A new fish: Coryphopterus curasub

Marine biodiversity inhabiting shallow Caribbean coral reefs has been studied for more than 150 years, but much less is known about what lives at depths just below those accessible with conventional SCUBA gear. Thanks to the availability of a privately owned, manned submersible on the island of Curacao, the Curasub, scientists are now able to intensively study depths to 300 m (1,000 ft).

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution discovered a new small goby fish that differs from its relatives not only in its size and colors, but also in the depth of its habitat (70-80 m). They named the fish name Coryphopterus curasub in recognition of the submersible that was used in their deep-reef exploration.

For our experts: A new species of western Atlantic Coryphopterus is described from mesophotic depths off Curaçao, southern Caribbean. Coryphopterus curasub sp. n., is similar to C. dicrus in, among other features, having two prominent pigment spots of roughly equal intensity on the pectoral-fin base, the pelvic fins fused to form a disk, and no pelvic frenum. The two species can be differentiated by body depth (shallower in C. curasub at origin of dorsal fin and caudal peduncle); differences in the pigmentation on the head, trunk, and basicaudal region; and usually by total number of rays (spinous plus soft) in the second dorsal fin (10–11, usually 11, in C. curasub, 10 in C. dicrus). Coryphopterus curasub differs from other Coryphopterus species that have a prominent pigment spot on the lower portion of the pectoral-fin base (C. punctipectophorus and C. venezuelae) in, among other features, lacking a pelvic frenum. Coryphopterus curasub was collected between 70 and 80 m, the deepest depth range known for the genus. Collections of C. venezuelae at depths of 65–69 m extend the depth range of that species by approximately 50 m. Mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) data corroborate the recognition of C. curasub as a distinct species but do not rigorously resolve its relationships within the genus. A revised key to the western Atlantic species of Coryphopterus is presented.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A new frog: Rhombophryne longicrus

Credit: Frank Glaw
Meet the long-legged diamond frog, Rhombophryne longicrus, the newest species to increase the count of Madagascan amphibians once again. Like the rest of the diamond frogs, it is small and brown, but it is also very different.

Characterised by its unusually long slender legs, that are also the reason for its name, the new species is unable to burrow its way through the ground like most of its relatives do. However, it makes up for that with longer leaps.

Found in Sorata, a massif in northern Madagascar, which is yet to be put under protection, the long-legged diamond frog is thought by its discoverers to be a microendemic. If this is the case, this new species could turn out to be at great risk due to the ongoing deforestation and forest degradation in the area. 

For our experts: The Madagascar-endemic microhylid genus Rhombophryne consists of a range of partly or completely fossorial frog species. They lead a poorly known, secretive lifestyle, and may be more diverse than previously thought. We describe a new species from the high altitude forests of the Sorata massif in north Madagascar with unusual characteristics for this genus; R. longicrus sp. n. has long, slender legs, unlike most of its fossorial or semi-fossorial congeners. The new species is closely related to R. minuta, a much smaller frog from the Marojejy massif to the southeast of Sorata with similarly long legs. We discuss the morphology of these species relative to the rest of the genus, and argue that it suggests adaptation away from burrowing and toward a more saltatorial locomotion and an accordingly more terrestrial lifestyle. If this is the case, then these frogs represent yet more ecological diversity within the already diverse Cophylinae. We recommend an IUCN Red List status of Endangered B1ab(iii) for R. longicrus sp. n., because it is known only from a single site in a forested area of roughly 250 km2, which is not yet incorporated into any protected area.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A new Chameleonfish: Badis laspiophilus

The Chameleonfishes are a small family of perciform fishes. Members of this family are found in freshwater lowlands of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar and China. They are small fish with the largest species reaching a length of less than 7 cm and the smallest is shorter than 2 cm. 

Chameleonfishes are famous aquarium fish and several species can be found in the ornamental fish trade. From my own experience I'd say these fish are not recommended for beginners but rather more experienced hobbyists. 

This new species was found in the Torsa River drainage in India.  Its name laspiophilus is derived from the Greek words λάσπη (láspi̱; mud) and ϕίλοϛ (philos; friend), referring to the substrate of the type locality and the preferred habitat of the new species. 

Abstract: Badis laspiophilus is described from the Torsa River drainage, West Bengal, India. It can be distinguished from congeners by a combination of characters which include a small size (15.7–21.0 mm SL), 14–16 circumpeduncular row scales, interorbital width 6.7–8.9 % SL, upper and lower jaws 8.2–9.2 and 10.2–13.4 % SL, respectively, presence of two dorsalfin blotches and a single round blotch on the anal fin, and absence of cleithral, opercle and dorsolateral caudal peduncle blotches. Its benthic ecology is discussed and the Badis singenensis species group is diagnosed, of which B. laspiophilus and B. singenensis are considered members.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A new mullein: Verbascum kurdistanicum

Yes, this blog also covers plants on occasion. New plant species are not described at as high a rate as animals but there are still quite a few novelties every week. So, here we go, the first plant species in this new series. 

The genus Verbascum with the common name Mullein comprises of about 360 species. Many of them have a long history of use as a herbal remedy. Although Verbascum species are only native to Europe and Asia some made their way to North America with early settlers. Native Americans used the ground seeds of some of those species as a paralytic fish poison due to a high level of rotenone. This compound is still used by researchers especially during field expeditions to anesthetize fish and other aquatic live.

Verbascum flowers have also been used in the traditional medicine as tea, ointment, baths or compresses for treatment of disorders of the respiratory system, skin, veins, or the gastrointestinal tract. Of course nothing is known about the properties of the new species which was discovered in Turkey. Researchers found it on mountains in the Hakkâri province. The majority of the population is Kurdish and the region is part of the geo-cultural region of Kurdistan hence the species name.

Abstract: Verbascum kurdistanicum Fırat (Scrophulariaceae), is described and illustrated as a new species that is located in Hakkâri, Turkey. In this study, diagnostic morphological characters of this and closely related species (V. oreophilum K.Koch and V. pyramidatum M. Bieb) are discussed. Furthermore, distribution maps for the three taxa are provided.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A new mudworm: Polydora lingshuiensis

Mud worms are small, segmented, burrowing, tube-building worms. Often forming large colonies, they can smother other benthic invertebrates in the area. They usually collect bits of sediment and mud and excrete the mud after separating out the food. This mud will build up around the worms, creating a thick layer of sediment around the worm colony. In areas heavily populated with mud worms, over 40 worms can be present per square centimeter. This can have a significant impact on oyster beds, as they can be completely buried in sediment accumulated by these worms. Burial can be deadly to the oysters, leading to suffocation of the bed. Mud worms have been found in large numbers thriving in areas that have considerable oil pollution. They are very tolerant of pollution and will continue to grow and reproduce even in the presence of oil.

Some species of the genus Polydora, such as our new species, can also live in hard calcareous materials, such as corals, coralline algae, and mollusk shells. These shell-boring species can bore into the shells of abalones, oysters, mussels, and scallops to build a large number and a wide variety of burrows inside the shells. Polydora lingshuiensis is such a shell-boring species and was found in mudtubes on the surface of oyster shells but also from burrows in the inner shell surface. The scientists named them in reference to the Lingshui County, Hainan Province, China where they found the new species.

Abstract: A new polydorin species, Polydora lingshuiensis sp. n., which is found not only in burrows of pearl oyster shells (shellboring type) but also in mudtubes on the surface of pearl oyster cages (tube-dwelling type), is described with the use of light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and molecular phylogeny. Morphological and molecular distinctions between P. lingshuiensis and other related species reveal that P. lingshuiensis is a valid new species. The reproduction characteristic that the eggs of P. lingshuiensis are gathered together in one hollow cylinder is another piece of evidence confirming that it is indeed a valid new species. Sequence comparisons based on nuclear 18S rDNA, 28S rDNA, and mitochondrial 16S rDNA show that strains of the shell-boring type possess as high as 99.9% to 100% sequence identity relative to those of the tube-dwelling type. This finding evidently indicates that these species types are conspecific. We also find that a comparison of mitochondrial 16S rDNA sequences can provide a higher resolution of polydorin species than those of the nuclear 18S rDNA because the former has a higher interspecific/intraspecific difference ratio. Phylogenetic analyses based on 18S rDNA sequences indicate that all P. lingshuiensis samples group together to forming a sister clade to Polydora uncinata and thus fall within Polydora aura/P. uncinata clade. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A new frog: Allobates tapajos

This new species belongs to a group of frogs (Dendrobatoidea) that are mostly known for their brightcolor and poisonous skin. Nevertheless, about half of the species are actually cryptic and dullcolored. The Brazilian species of the genus Allobates are leaf litter inhabitants of forests and are defined by a very short 4th finger and a swollen third finger in adult males. These frogs are usually pretty small, e.g. the new species measures ~1.5 cm.

The species name refers to the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon River. The new species was collected nearby.

Abstract: We describe the fourth species of nurse-frog genus Allobates occurring in the southeastern Brazilian Amazonia. The new species is sympatric with Allobates femoralis, Allobates masniger and Allobates magnussoni, and inhabits the margins of streams in forested areas within Parque Nacional da Amazônia, on the western bank of the Tapajós River. Snout-to-vent length ranges between 14.9–16.1 mm among males and 15.6–16.5 mm among females. The species is distinguished by the light brown background color of dorsum, with irregular dark brown blotches appearing from eye level to the urostyle region. In life, ventral surfaces of males are golden yellow on throat and chest, and white to yellow on abdomen. Ventral surfaces of females are predominantly white, except for light yellow on chin. The dark brown lateral band has a diffuse lower edge ventrolaterally. Dorsal surface of thigh is cream, with a longitudinal dark brown band extending dorsally from vent to knee. Tail musculature of tadpoles is robust, bifurcating dorsally over the body and reaching about two-thirds of the body length. Advertisement calls consist predominantly of continuous pairs of notes, but other note arrangements are also emitted. Notes have ascending frequency modulation and average peak frequency ranging between 5.3–5.9 kHz. First and second notes of the same note pair are similar in amplitude, duration and frequency spectrum. Successive note pairs are split by approximately regular silent intervals (0.30–0.49 s). The species lays its eggs inside rolled or folded dead leaves on the leaf litter. Egg capsules and jelly nests are opaque. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

A new ghost shrimp: Lepidophthalmus statoni

Most ghost shrimp live in burrows in muddy bottoms of the world's oceans. Most of the species live in shallow water, with only three taxa living below 2,000 m. They are also sometimes called mud shrimp. Their burrows are often preserved over a long time, and the fossil record of the group reaches back to the late Jurassic.

Ghost shrimp belong to a taxonomic group formerly called Thalassinidea. The 560 members of the group have been redistributed to two groups (Gebiidea and Axiidea). The common name leads to some confusion because a small mostly transparent shrimp genus (Palaemonetes) commonly sold for use in freshwater aquaria is also referred to as ghost shrimp. 

Abstract: A new species of Lepidophthalmus lacking a ventral median sclerite on the second abdominal somite is described from coastal waters of the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Lepidophthalmus statoni sp. nov., originally recognized only as a unique population in allozyme studies, is sympatric with the ventrally plated species Lepidophthalmus manningi Felder & Staton, 2000, but more closely resembles Lepidophthalmus louisianensis (Schmitt, 1935) from the northern and northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Apparently restricted to intertidal and shallow subtidal tropical waters, the new species is known to range from western Campeche to middle-upper reaches of Veracruz, Mexico. As many members of the genus, it commonly inhabits euryhaline inlets, estuaries, and protected shorelines, including richly organic muddy to clayey sands and sandy muds adjacent to shoreline vegetation. Coloration is documented and discussed as a tool to facilitate field identifications, as are morphological characters.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A new Gecko: Cnemaspis mahsuriae

This little (< 4 cm) guy belongs to one of the most diverse genera of geckos. Most of the species in this group live in South East Asia and so does our newcomer, found on the Peninsular Malaysia. This is the third species of Cnemaspis to be described from the Langkawi Archipelago. All three species are distant cousins with varied geographical origins and researchers think they are insular endemics.

Abstract: A new, diminutive species of Rock Gecko Cnemaspis mahsuriae sp. nov. of the affinis group, is described from Gunung Raya on Pulau Langkawi, Kedah, Peninsular Malaysia and is differentiated from all other species in the affinis group by having a unique combination of characters including a maximum SVL of 36.6 mm; keeled subtibials and ventrals; 21–24 paravertebral tubercles; no tubercles in the lateral caudal furrows; caudal tubercles not encircling tail; no precloacal pores; 23–26 subdigital lamellae on the fourth toe; no white ocelli in the shoulder region; no yellow postscapular band; and faint yellow bars on the flanks. Cnemaspis mahsuriae sp. nov. is a forest-dwelling species living in close sympatry or paraptry with the insular endemic C. roticanai Grismer & Chan. The Langkawi Archipelago harbors a unique mix of Malaysian and Indochinese taxa and the frequency of new discoveries from this group of islands is increasing.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A new ant: Tetramorium cavernicola

The widely distributed ant genus Tetramorium is among the most species-rich ant genera in the world. Currently, we know 600 species, but scientists expect the total count to be closer to 700 or more species. Most of those species are found in the tropics and subtropics and Madagascar is the place where it is by far the most species-rich ant genus. 

Colleagues have now found and described a new member of the genus: Tetramorium cavernicola

The name of the new species is Latin and means “cave dweller” or “cave inhabitant”. It refers to the fact that the species is known only from a cave in Ankarana.

Abstract: In this study we provide an update to the taxonomy of the ant genus Tetramorium Mayr in Madagascar. We report the first record of the T. setigerum species group in Madagascar and describe the only Malagasy representative as T. cavernicola sp. n., which is known only from a cave in Ankarana. In addition, we provide an overview of the 19 proposed Malagasy species groups, and discuss their zoogeography and relationships to other groups and larger lineages within the hyper-diverse genus Tetramorium. At present, we recognise a highly unique Malagasy Tetramorium fauna with 113 species endemic to the island of Madagascar out of a total of 125 translating into an endemism rate of 93%. We hypothesise that this fauna is based on one or a few colonisation events from the Afrotropical region, with subsequent adaptive radiation in Madagascar. Furthermore, we present an updated and illustrated identification key to the Tetramorium species groups in the Malagasy region.