Monday, February 29, 2016

A new lizard: Varanus semotus.

Monitor lizards play an important ecological role in many island ecosystems in the southwest Pacific. Predatory mammals have never colonized the region due to the isolation of these islands. Instead, these large, active and intelligent lizards fill the role of top-predators and scavengers. The Pacific monitor lineage have been so successful at oversea dispersal that a number of different species now occupy almost every island from the Moluccas in Indonesia to the eastern Solomon Islands and even Micronesia.

The new species, which can grow to well over a meter in length, was named Varanus semotus, a Latin reference to the remoteness and isolation of the relatively small and partly volcanic island where the lizard was found (Mussau Island).

For the experts: We describe a new species of Varanus from Mussau Island, north-east of New Guinea. The new species is a member of the Varanus indicus species group and is distinguished from all other members by both morphological and molecular genetic characters. It is the third species of Varanus reported from the Bismarck Archipelago and the first record of a yellow tongued member of the Varanus indicus species group from a remote oceanic island. The herpetofauna of Mussau Island has not been well studied but the discovery of this new species is in accordance with recent findings indicating that the island may harbor several unknown endemic vertebrates. The distribution of the closely related Varanus finschi is also discussed in the light of recent fieldwork and a review of old records.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A new plant: Coprosma kawaikiniensis

Coprosma is a genus of flowering plants in the Rubiaceae family (better known as coffee family). It is found on islands of the Pacific Ocean such as New Zealand, Hawaii, Borneo, Java, New Guinea. The name Coprosma means "smelling like dung" and refers to the smell given out by the crushed leaves of a few species. 

The fruit of this plant is a non-poisonous juicy berry that was eaten by Māori children, and is also popular with birds. It is said that coffee can be made from the seeds. Another feature is that the leaves contain hollows in the axils of the veins; in these, and on the leaf stipules, nitrogen-fixing bacteria grow. This encourages certain kinds of mites to take up residence. Those feed on and reduce parasitic fungi which attack the leaf.

The new species is named after the location it was found, Kawaikini, the highest peak on Kaua‘i and one of the rainiest places on earth. Literally, Kawaikini means “the multitudinous waters” in Hawaiian.

For the experts: Coprosma kawaikiniensis K.R. Wood, Lorence & Kiehn (Rubiaceae), a rare endemic tree from Kaua‘i, Hawaiian Islands, is described and illustrated along with a previously undescribed endemic plant community, the Dubautia-Sadleria shrubland-fernland (DSSF). The new species differs from Hawai‘i congeners by its combination of opposite, long, elliptic to narrowly elliptic or ovate-elliptic leaves with revolute margins; caducous stipules 7–10 mm long, externally glabrous, densely hirtellous-pilose near the margins of the inner surface; unbranched inflorescences with peduncles 20–28 mm long; flowers 6–8 per cluster; and persistent calyx tube with 4–8 irregular dentate lobes. Known only from the windward slopes and ridges of southeastern Kaua‘i below the Kawaikini summit, Coprosma kawaikiniensis falls into the IUCN Critically Endangered (CR) Red List category.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A likely new grass snake: Natrix astreptophora

Grass Snakes are widely distributed across Europe and Asia; in many countries, this harmless reptile with the characteristic, pale crescent around the neck is among the most commonly encountered snakes.

As a hunter of amphibians and other small animals, the common Grass Snake, which can reach a length up to 150 centimeters, is tied to wet habitats, and these are increasingly threatened by the draining of wetlands, the regulation of river courses, and the intensification of fish farming. Today's new species, the Iberian Grass Snake, however, is much less dependent on the presence of water than its wide-spread relative. Many grass snakes fall victim to automobile traffic; around some of the larger lakes, tourism poses yet another threat to the grass snakes. The name was already given to this snake as a subspecies but it seems about to time to elevate it to a species.

For the experts: The grass snake (Natrix natrix) is Europe's most widely distributed and, in many regions, most common snake species, with many morphologically defined subspecies. Yet, the taxonomy of grass snakes is relatively little studied and recent work has shown major conflicts between morphologically defined subspecies and phylogeographical differentiation. Using external morphology, osteological characters, and information from 13 microsatellite loci and two mitochondrial markers, we examine differentiation of the subspecies N. n. astreptophora from the North African Maghreb region, the Iberian Peninsula and neighbouring France. According to previous studies, N. n. astreptophora corresponds to a deeply divergent mitochondrial clade and constitutes the sister taxon of all remaining grass snakes. In the French Pyrenees region, there is a contact zone of N. n. astreptophora with another subspecies, N. n. helvetica. Our analyses of microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA reveal that the distribution ranges of the two taxa abut there, but both hybridize only exceptionally. Even though many morphological characters are highly variable and homoplastic in grass snakes, N. n. astreptophora differs consistently from all other grass snakes by its reddish iris coloration and in having significantly fewer ventral scales and another skull morphology. Considering further the virtual absence of gene flow between N. n. astreptophora and N. n. helvetica, and acknowledging the morphological distinctiveness of N. n. astreptophora and its sister group relationship to all remaining subspecies of grass snakes, we conclude that Natrix astreptophora (Seoane, 1884) should be recognized as a distinct species. Further research is needed to explore whether N. astreptophora is polytypic because a single sample of N. astreptophora from Tunisia turned out to be genetically highly distinct from its European conspecifics.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A new leafhopper: Bambusimukaria quinquepunctata

Leafhoppers are one of the ten largest families of plant-feeding insects with at least 20,000 species which is more than all species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians together. Leafhoppers have mouthparts for piercing and sucking, enabling them to feed on plant sap hence most of them are herbivores. However, some are known to eat smaller insects, such as aphids, on occasion. 

Chinese researchers have now found a species that feeds exclusively on bamboo, hence the genus name. The species name is a combination of the Latin words “quinque” (five) and “punctata” (spots), and refers to five small dark spots on head and thorax.

For the experts: A new genus and species, Bambusimukaria quinquepunctata gen. & sp. n., feeding on bamboo in Guizhou and Fujian, China, are described and illustrated. The characters of crown, frontoclypeus, forewing venations and male genitalia place the new genus in the tribe Mukariini.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A new snout moth: Minooa acantha

The family of Snout Moths, also referred to as Pyralid Moths, is named for the fact that many members have big snouts indeed, especially the Grass Moths, but not all of them.  In rest they immediately stand out among all other micro moths, for they keep their antennae over their wings. So any moth in rest having their antennae fully exposed belong to this group. 

Most of these small moths are inconspicuous and of no particular significance to humans. Some are more notable, however. Perhaps the most familiar are waxworms, which are the caterpillar larvae of the greater (Galleria mellonella) and lesser (Achroia grisella) wax moths (subfamily Galleriinae). They are pests of beehives, but are bred commercially as live food for small reptile and bird pets and similar animals. They are also used as fishing bait for trout fishing.

The new species belongs to a genus that had only one species so far. The name of the new species is derived from the Latin acanthus (spinose) which refers to some thornshaped structure at the male genitalia.

For the experts: The genus Minooa Yamanaka, 1996 was monobasic with Minooa yamamotoi Yamanaka, 1996 as the type species. Previously, the genus was only recorded from Japan (Yamanaka 1996; Yamanaka & Yoshiyasu 2013). The diagnostic characters of this genus are as follows: antenna of male ciliated ventrally, simple in female; forewing M1 stalked with R3+4+5 for short distance, M2 and M3 stalked for 1/4 length; hindwing with Rs and M1 stalked, M2 and M3 stalked for 1/4 length; male genitalia with a long process arising from base of sacculus; aedeagus with several thorn-shaped cornuti; female genitalia with ductus bursae broadened and wrinkled posteriorly; signum formed by minute sclerites.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A new plant species: Sciaphila yakushimensis

Certain plant species known as mycoheterotrophic plants have abandoned photosynthesis and instead live as parasites, exploiting their fungal hosts for nutrients. The lifestyle of these plants has resulted in a loss of xylem vessels and stomata, and a reduction of leaves to scales. They are small and only appear above ground when they are in flower or fruit, so accurate information on their distribution is limited. 

Japanese scientists have now discovered a new species this group on the subtropical Japanese island of Yakushima and named it after the location, Sciaphila yakushimensis.

For the experts: not available yet

Friday, February 19, 2016

Two new zoanthids: Epizoanthus inazum and Epizoanthus beriber

Zoanthids are a group of corals that live on coral reefs, the deep sea and many other marine environments around the world. Members of the genus Epizoanthus are generally found in association with other marine invertebrates such as hermit crabs, tubeworms, and gastropods.

Some zoanthids contain the substance palytoxin. Palytoxin is one of the most toxic organic substances in the world. Even in small quantities, the toxin can be fatal should it be ingested or enter the blood stream.

One new species, Epizoanthus inazuma, forms colonies resembling a classic lightning-bolt shape, hence it has been given a name meaning 'lightning' in Japanese. The second new species is also named in reference to its lifestyle as it bears the name of the local Palauan folklore character Beriber, who lived in a cave.

For the experts: Epizoanthus species are generally found in association with other marine invertebrates such as hermit crabs and gastropods. Although Epizoanthus spp. are relatively common, there is limited information about their diversity and ecology due to their habitats or hosts, often being below the depths of SCUBA diving (>~50 m). In particular, the Epizoanthus fauna of the Indo-Pacific Ocean remains poorly understood. In this study, the diversity of Epizoanthus species associated with eunicid worm tubes from shallow waters in the Pacific Ocean we investigated using molecular analyses (mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 = COI, mitochondrial 16S ribosomal DNA = mt 16S-rDNA, nuclear internal transcribed spacer region of ribosomal DNA = ITS-rDNA) combined with morphological and ecological data. The combined data set leads us to describe two new species; Epizoanthus inazuma sp. n. and Epizoanthus beriber sp. n. Both new species are found in low-light environments: E. inazuma sp. n. on mesophotic coral reef slopes and reef floors, or on the sides of overhangs; E. beriber sp. n. has only been found in caves. Morphological characteristics of these two new species are very similar to E. illoricatus Tischbierek, 1930 but the two new species are genetically distinct. Mesentery numbers and coloration of polyps may be useful diagnostic characteristics among eunicid-associated Epizoanthus species. These results demonstrate that there is high potential for other potentially undescribed zoantharian species, particularly in underwater cave habitats.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Two new elephantfish: Cryptomyrus ogoouensis and Cryptomyrus ona

Over 200 species of mormyrid fish live in fresh waters across Africa where they navigate in their environment and communicate using electric pulses, too weak to be felt by humans, in combination with highly sensitive electroreceptor cells embedded in their skin. These fish are sometimes called elephantfish because their mouth is often shaped like a trunk. They are also known for having large brain size and unusually high intelligence.

A new weakly electric mormyrid fish genus of two new species has been described from only three specimens collected over a period of 13 years in the rivers of the Central African country of Gabon. The genus has been named Cryptomyrus, meaning 'hidden fish' in Greek. Reflecting its river of origin (Ogooue), one species now bares the name Cryptomyrus ogoouensis, while the second - Cryptomyrus ona, is named after Gabonese environmental activist Marc Ona Essangui.

For the experts: We use mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data to show that three weakly electric mormyrid fish specimens collected at three widely separated localities in Gabon, Africa over a 13-year period represent an unrecognized lineage within the subfamily Mormyrinae and determine its phylogenetic position with respect to other taxa. We describe these three specimens as a new genus containing two new species. Cryptomyrus, new genus, is readily distinguished from all other mormyrid genera by a combination of features of squamation, morphometrics, and dental attributes. Cryptomyrus ogoouensis, new species, is differentiated from its single congener, Cryptomyrus ona, new species, by the possession of an anal-fin origin located well in advance of the dorsal fin, a narrow caudal peduncle and caudal-fin lobes nearly as long as the peduncle. In C. ona, the anal-fin origin is located only slightly in advance of the dorsal fin, the caudal peduncle is deep and the caudal-fin lobes considerably shorter than the peduncle. Continued discovery of new taxa within the “Lower Guinea Clade” of Mormyridae highlights the incompleteness of our knowledge of fish diversity in West-Central Africa. We present a revised key to the mormyrid genera of Lower Guinea.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A new caddisfly: Drusus sharrensis

Caddisflies belong to the order Trichoptera, and are closely related to butterflies and moth. As larvae they live in most freshwater habitats. For their own protection they live in cases, that they make themselves. They spin out silk, and either live in silk nets or use the silk to stick together bits of whatever is lying on the stream bottom, e.g. pebbles or debris. 

Most of the caddisflies are herbivorous, that is, they eat decaying plant tissue and algae. Their favorite algae are diatoms, which they scrape off of rocks. Some of them, though, are predacious: they eat other animals.

The new caddisfly species was found during a field trip in the Sharr National Park in Kosovo, hence the species name. The aquatic insect belongs to the highly diverse genus Drusus, which is under threat of extinction because of the ongoing pollution activities and mismanagement of freshwater ecosystems.

For the experts: In this paper we describe Drusus sharrensis sp. n., from the Sharr Mountains in Kosovo. Males of the new species are morphologically most similar to Drusus krusniki Malicky, 1981, D. kerek Oláh, 2011 and D. juliae Oláh, 2011 but differ mainly in exhibiting (1) a differently shaped spinose area on tergite VIII; (2) intermediate appendages anteriorly curved in lateral view with broad tips in dorsal view; (3) inferior appendages with a distinct dorsal protrusion in the proximal half. Females of the new species are morphologically most similar to D. krusniki, D. kerek, D. juliae, and D. plicatus Radovanovic, 1942 but mainly differ in (1) segment X that is longer than the supragenital plate with distinctly pointed tips; (2) supragenital plate quadrangular with a distinct round dorsal protrusion; (3) a vulvar scale with a small median lobe. Results of phylogenetic species delimitation support monophyly of Drusus sharrensis sp. n. and recover it as sister to a clade comprising (D. pelasgus Oláh, 2010 + D. juliae + D. arbanios Oláh, 2010 + D. plicatus + (D. dacothracus Oláh, 2010 + D. illyricus Oláh, 2010)). The new species is a micro-endemic of the Sharr Mountains, a main biodiversity hotspot in the Balkan Peninsula. Main threats to the aquatic ecosystems of this part of the Balkan Peninsula are discussed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Two new geckos: Cyrtodactyulus rex and Cyrtodactyulus equestris

The extremely complex geological history of New Guinea has allowed many of its animals and plants the chance to grow different enough to make a name for themselves. In the case of two newly described and unusually large gecko species - only a noble name would do.

Both new species belong to the world's most diverse gecko genus Cyrtodactylus which comprises more than 200 species known to date. These reptiles are commonly called bent-toed or bow-fingered geckos due to their distinctive slender curved toes. They occur through Asia and Australia.

These 200 species vary greatly in size, build and colouration. However, one of the newly described species, called Cyrtodactyulus rex, meaning "king" in Latin, is with up to 17cm the largest species in the genus, and among the biggest of all geckos in the world. The second new species also bears a noble name -- Cyrtodactyulus equestris, meaning 'knight' in Latin. It is also considered a giant among its relatives with its length of up to 14 cm for the females.

For the experts: The diverse biota of New Guinea includes many nominally widespread species that actually comprise multiple deeply divergent lineages with more localised histories of evolution. Here we investigate the systematics of the very large geckos of the Cyrtodactylus novaeguineae complex using molecular and morphological data. These data reveal two widespread and divergent lineages that can be distinguished from each other, and from type material of Cyrtodactylus novaeguineae, by aspects of size, build, coloration and male scalation. On the basis of these differences we describe two new species. Both have wide distributions that overlap extensively in the foothill forests of the North Papuan Mountains, however one is seemingly restricted to hill and lower montane forests on the ranges themselves, while the other is more widespread throughout the surrounding lowlands. The taxon endemic to the North Papuan Mountains is related to an apparently lowland form currently known only from Waigeo and Batanta Island far to the west – hinting at a history on island arcs that accreted to form the North Papuan Mountains.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A new catfish: Isorineloricaria acuarius

And yet another new member of the family Loricariidae. That is the suckermouth armored catfish family with ~800 known species which is  a taxonomical nightmare full of undescribed and undiscovered species. These fish are noted for the bony plates covering their bodies and their suckermouths. Several genera are sold as "plecos" for the aquarium trade, with Hypostomus plecostomus being the most popular species.

The new species was found in Venezuela. The name acuarius is latin for needle maker. This is in reference to the numerous hypertrophied odontodes found on breeding males, which can make study of these fishes difficult.

For the experts: We review the complex history of those species included in the Hypostomus emarginatus species complex and recognize them in Isorineloricaria and Aphanotorulus. Isorineloricaria consists of four valid species: I. acuarius n. sp., I. spinosissima, I. tenuicauda, and I. villarsi. Aphanotorulus consists of six valid species: A. ammophilus, A, emarginatus, A. gomesi, A. horridus, A. phrixosoma, and A. unicolor. Plecostomus annae and Hypostoma squalinum are placed in the synonymy of A. emarginatus; Plecostomus biseriatus, P. scopularius, and P. virescens are placed in the synonymy of A. horridus; Plecostomus winzi is placed in the synonymy of I. tenuicauda, and one new species, I. acuarius is described from the Apure River basin of Venezuela. Aphanotoroulus can be distinguished from Isorineloricaria by having caudal peduncles that do not become greatly lengthed with size and that are oval in cross section (vs. caudal peduncle proportions that get proportionately longer with size and that become round in cross-section), and by having small dark spots (less than half plate diameter) on a light tan background (vs. spots almost as large as lateral plates on a nearly white background.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Two new tree frogs: Kurixalus berylliniris, Kurixalus wangi

Frogs of the genus Kurixalus belong to the family Rhacophoridae, tree frogs that mainly live in tropical forests. This family also contains the spectacular flying frogs who have extensive webbing between their hands and feet, allowing them to glide through the air.

Kurixalus frogs are not known to glide through the air and they are distributed from Himalayan front ranges of eastern India southward and eastward to Cambodia, Vietnam, southern China, Taiwan, and the Ryukyu Islands. Two new species were found on Taiwan.

The scientific name of the first species, Kurixalus berylliniris,is Latin and means 'green-coloured iris' (see image). The second species was named after pioneer herpetologist Ching-Shong Wang.

For the experts: Two new species of rhacophorid tree frog were identified in Taiwan. In both new taxa, derived reproductive characteristics of laying eggs in tree holes and oophagous tadpoles are shared with Kurixalus eiffingeri, but they are divergent from each other in molecular genetics, mating calls, and tadpole and adult morphology. The morphological characteristics and the molecular phylogenetic evidence support the hypothesis that the two new species, Kurixalus berylliniris sp. n. and Kurixalus wangi sp. n., are both monophyletic lineages.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A new algae: Umbraulva kuaweuweu

Marine algae, or limu, are very important in Hawaiian culture, used in foods, ceremonies and as adornments in traditional hula. Some new species of limu were collected between 200-400 feet, depths not typically known for marine algae.

Scientists consulted with the Native Hawaiian community to develop meaningful names for new species to honor the great importance they have in Hawaiian culture. The name of the new species was inspired by the Hawaiian god of prosperity (Kū) and the area north of Maui, and is intended to refer to “grass of Kū”.

For the experts: Ulvalean algae (Chlorophyta) are most commonly described from intertidal and shallow subtidal marine environments worldwide, but are less well known from mesophotic environments. Their morphological simplicity and phenotypic plasticity make accurate species determinations difficult, even at the generic level. Here, we describe the mesophotic Ulvales species composition from 13 locations across 2,300 km of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Twenty-eight representative Ulvales specimens from 64 to 125 m depths were collected using technical diving, submersibles, and remotely operated vehicles. Morphological and molecular characters suggest that mesophotic Ulvales in Hawaiian waters form unique communities comprising four species within the genera Ulva and Umbraulva, each with discrete geographic and/or depth-related distributional patterns. Three genetically distinct taxa are supported by both plastid (rbcL and tufA) and nuclear (ITS1) markers, and are presented here as new species: Umbraulva kaloakulau, Ulva ohiohilulu, and Ulva iliohaha. We also propose a new Umbraulva species (Umbraulva kuaweuweu), which is closely related to subtidal records from New Zealand and Australia, but not formally described. To our knowledge, these are the first marine species descriptions from Hawai‘i resulting from the collaboration of traditional Hawaiian nomenclature specialists, cultural practitioners and scientists. The difficulty of finding reliable diagnostic morphological characters for these species reflects a common problem worldwide of achieving accurate identification of ulvalean taxa using solely morphological criteria. Mesophotic Ulvales appear to be distinct from shallow-water populations in Hawai‘i, but their degree of similarity to mesophotic floras in other locations in the Pacific remains unknown.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A new Xenoturbellid: Xenoturbella monstrosa

A pink flatworm-like animal known by a two species found in waters off Sweden has puzzled biologists for nearly six decades. The animal's position on the tree of life shifted ever since the first species, named Xenoturbella bocki, was found in 1950. It was classified as a flatworm, then, in the 1990s as a simplified mollusk. In recent years, Xenoturbella has been regarded as either close to vertebrates and echinoderms, or as a more distant relative on its own branch further away. Knowing where Xenoturbella belongs is important to understand the evolution of organ systems, such as guts, brains and kidneys, in animals.

Xenoturbella has a very simple body plan: it has no brain, no through gut, no excretory system, no organized gonads, or any other defined organs. 

The new species, Xenoturbella monstrosa, was found in Monterey Bay and the Gulf of California, and measured 20-centimeters. It was named for its extraordinary size (20 cm).

For the experts: The discovery of four new Xenoturbella species from deep waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean is reported here. The genus and two nominal species were described from the west coast of Sweden1, 2, but their taxonomic placement remains unstable3, 4. Limited evidence placed Xenoturbella with molluscs5, 6, but the tissues can be contaminated with prey7, 8. They were then considered deuterostomes9, 10, 11, 12, 13. Further taxon sampling and analysis have grouped Xenoturbella with acoelomorphs (=Xenacoelomorpha) as sister to all other Bilateria (=Nephrozoa)14, 15, or placed Xenacoelomorpha inside Deuterostomia with Ambulacraria (Hemichordata + Echinodermata)16. Here we describe four new species of Xenoturbella and reassess those hypotheses. A large species (>20 cm long) was found at cold-water hydrocarbon seeps at 2,890 m depth in Monterey Canyon and at 1,722 m in the Gulf of California (Mexico). A second large species (~10 cm long) also occurred at 1,722 m in the Gulf of California. The third large species (~15 cm long) was found at ~3,700 m depth near a newly discovered carbonate-hosted hydrothermal vent in the Gulf of California. Finally, a small species (~2.5 cm long), found near a whale carcass at 631 m depth in Monterey Submarine Canyon (California), resembles the two nominal species from Sweden. Analysis of whole mitochondrial genomes places the three larger species as a sister clade to the smaller Atlantic and Pacific species. Phylogenomic analyses of transcriptomic sequences support placement of Xenacoelomorpha as sister to Nephrozoa or Protostomia.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A new ciliate: Urosomoida sejongensis

Ciliates are protozoan organisms. They common almost everywhere there is water and often they form relationships with bacteria. There are roughly 8,000 species of Ciliophora known to date but species estimates go all the way up to 30,000.

Ciliates get their name from their method of locomotion: they swim using cilia, short, hairlike projections of cytoplasm composed of pairs of microtubules surrounded by cell membrane. Ciliates represent the most complex of cells, having an elaborate cytoskeleton, cilia and two different kinds of nuclei.

Today's new species was discovered in freshwater of King George Island, Antarctica. Its name was derived from King Sejong Station (Korea Antarctic Research station) because the species was discovered nearby.

For the experts: In this study, a new “non-oxytrichid Dorsomarginalia” ciliate, Urosomoida sejongensis n. sp. discovered from freshwater of the King George Island, Antarctica, was investigated using morphological, morphometrical, and molecular methods. Morphology of U. sejongensis is characterized as follows: body shape slender to elongated; cortical granules spherical and colorless, groups of granules formed patchy distribution; ring-shaped structures scattered in cytoplasm; 27–30 adoral membranelles with undulating membranes in Oxytricha pattern; usually 17 frontal-ventral-transverse (FVT) cirri composed of 3 frontal, 1 buccal, 4 frontoventral, 3 postoral ventral, 2 pretransverse ventral and 4 transverse cirri; 1 right and 1 left marginal rows; 3 dorsal kineties with 1 dorsomarginal row, 3 caudal cirri; 1 micronucleus between 2 macronuclear nodules. This new species mainly differs from other congeners by the combination of following morphological features: a micronucleus, cortical granules, and ciliatures (e.g., adoral membranelles, FVT cirri). Urosomoida sejongensis shows a nucleotide similarity of 97.3% with U. agilis, type of this genus, using the SSU rDNA sequence. Molecular phylogeny shows a non-monophyletic relationship among Urosomoida species and emphasizes the need for further morphogenetic studies of this genus and other related species to resolve morphological convergences.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A new tarantula: Aphonopelma johnnycashi

Tarantulas have gained notoriety for their imposing appearance and perceived threat to humans, but this fear is largely unfounded and most species do not readily bite and are not dangerous. As a spider researchers puts it, they are really just teddy bears with eight legs.

Tarantulas within the genus Aphonopelma are among the most unique species of spider in the United States. One aspect of this distinctiveness that is particularly intriguing is the extreme size differences that can be found between species. Some species are quite impressive, reaching 15 cm or more in leg span, while others can fit on the face of an American quarter-dollar coin.

The new species was named after the singer-songwriter Johnny Cash because it was found in California near Folsom Prison (famous for Cash's song "Folsom Prison Blues") and because mature males are generally solid black in coloration (paying homage to Cash's distinctive style of dress where he has been referred to as the "Man in black").

For the experts: This systematic study documents the taxonomy, diversity, and distribution of the tarantula spider genus Aphonopelma Pocock, 1901 within the United States. By employing phylogenomic, morphological, and geospatial data, we evaluated all 55 nominal species in the United States to examine the evolutionary history of Aphonopelma and the group’s taxonomy by implementing an integrative approach to species delimitation. Based on our analyses, we now recognize only 29 distinct species in the United States. We propose 33 new synonymies (A. apacheum, A. minchi, A. rothi, A. schmidti, A. stahnkei = A. chalcodes; A. arnoldi = A. armada; A. behlei, A. vogelae = A. marxi; A. breenei = A. anax; A. chambersi, A. clarum, A. cryptethum, A. sandersoni, A. sullivani = A. eutylenum; A. clarki, A. coloradanum, A. echinum, A. gurleyi, A. harlingenum, A. odelli, A. waconum, A. wichitanum = A. hentzi; A. heterops = A. moderatum; A. jungi, A. punzoi = A. vorhiesi; A. brunnius, A. chamberlini, A. iviei, A. lithodomum, A. smithi, A. zionis = A. iodius; A. phanum, A. reversum = A. steindachneri), 14 new species (A. atomicum sp. n., A. catalina sp. n., A. chiricahua sp. n., A. icenoglei sp. n., A. johnnycashi sp. n., A. madera sp. n., A. mareki sp. n., A. moellendorfi sp. n., A. parvum sp. n., A. peloncillo sp. n., A. prenticei sp. n., A. saguaro sp. n., A. superstitionense sp. n., and A. xwalxwal sp. n.), and seven nomina dubia (A. baergi, A. cratium, A. hollyi, A. mordax, A. radinum, A. rusticum, A. texense). Our proposed species tree based on Anchored Enrichment data delimits five major lineages: a monotypic group confined to California, a western group, an eastern group, a group primarily distributed in high-elevation areas, and a group that comprises several miniaturized species. Multiple species are distributed throughout two biodiversity hotspots in the United States (i.e., California Floristic Province and Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands). Keys are provided for identification of both males and females. By conducting the most comprehensive sampling of a single theraphosid genus to date, this research significantly broadens the scope of prior molecular and morphological investigations, finally bringing a modern understanding of species delimitation in this dynamic and charismatic group of spiders.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A new thrips: Odontothrips moringa

Thrips are very common insects that most of the times go unnoticed because they are very tiny (1 mm long or less). They are slender insects with fringed wings which feed on many different plants and animals by puncturing them and sucking up the contents.

Although they have wings thrips are not very good flyers, however they can be carried long distances by the wind. The word thrips is used for both the singular and plural forms, so there may be many thrips or a single thrips. You might know this already from the words sheep, deer and moose.

Many thrips are pests of crops due to the damage they cause by feeding on developing flowers or vegetables. 

Today's new species was found in India and named after its host plant Moringa.

For the experts: The Holarctic genus Odontothrips of Megalurothrips genus-group was established by Amyot & Serville in 1843 with type species Thrips phaleratus Haliday (Mound & Palmer 1981, Mirab-balou & Chen 2011). This genus is known by 32 species from the Palearctic and Nearctic regions (ThripsWiki 2015), and these species are flower-living and mainly associated with flowers of family Fabaceae (Xie et al. 2010). The pest status of Odontothrips species is uncertain, but some species are reported to cause superficial damage to the flowers on which they feed. O. confusus Priesner is reported as a pest on lucerne in France and Czech Republic (Pitkin 1972), and also on legumes in Romania (Pustai et al. 2015). O. loti (Haliday) is reported as a major pest on Alfalfa in north China, where it feeds on tender leaves and causes leaf curling, whitening and withering (Kou et al. 2011).

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A new octocoral: Briareum cylindrum

Octocorals resemble the stony corals in general appearance and in the size of their polyps, but lack the distinctive stony skeleton. Also unlike the real corals, each polyp has only eight tentacles, each of which is feather-like in shape, with numerous side-branches. They are colonial organisms, with numerous tiny polyps embedded in a soft matrix forming the visible structure of the colony.

The new species was found off the coast of Malaysia and named cylindrical shape of its sclerites. 

For the experts: The status of Indo-Pacific Briareum species (Cnidaria, Octocorallia, Briareidae) is reviewed by presenting their sclerite features and habitus descriptions. Following the re-examination of type material, museum specimens and newly collected specimens, a species identification key is provided. The species distributions are discussed and updated distribution ranges are depicted. Moreover, a new taxon, B. cylindrum sp. n. is described and depicted, whereas B. excavatum (Nutting, 1911) is synonymised with B. stechei (Kükenthal, 1908). Briareum hamrum (Gohar, 1948) is recorded from the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea for the first time. Consequently, in total four Briareum species are recognized in the Indo-Pacific; B. hamrum from the western Indian Ocean, and B. cylindrum sp. n., B. stechei, and B. violaceum from the central and eastern Indo-Pacific region.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A new daddy longleg: Cryptomaster behemoth

The Cryptomaster daddy longlegs belong in the largest and incredibly diverse harvestman suborder, called the Laniatores, which are characterized by having relatively short legs and preference for hiding underneath logs, stones and leaf litter in tropical and temperate forests. Typical for many of these well over four thousand species is that they might inhabit very restricted geographic regions and yet be strikingly diverse.

The genus was until recently represented by a single species, Cryptomaster leviathan. Bearing the name of the huge notorious Hebrew monster Leviathan, it won its name because of its excessive size when compared to its relatives within its family.

Following this trend, the new species was named Cryptomaster behemoth after another large monster known from the Book of Job.

For the experts: The monotypic genus Cryptomaster Briggs, 1969 was described based on individuals from a single locality in southwestern Oregon. The described species C. leviathan Briggs, 1969 was named for its large body size compared to most travunioid Laniatores. However, as the generic name suggests, Cryptomaster are notoriously difficult to find, and few subsequent collections have been recorded for this genus. Here, we increase sampling of Cryptomaster to 15 localities, extending their known range from the Coast Range northeast to the western Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon. Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data reveal deep phylogenetic breaks consistent with independently evolving lineages. We use discovery and validation species delimitation approaches to generate and test species hypotheses, including a coalescent species delimitation method to test multi-species hypotheses. For delimited species, we use light microscopy and SEM to discover diagnostic morphological characters. Although Cryptomaster has a small geographic distribution, this taxon is consistent with other short-range endemics in having deep phylogenetic breaks indicative of species level divergences. Herein we describe Cryptomaster behemoth sp. n., and provide morphological diagnostic characters for identifying C. leviathan and C. behemoth.

A new toad: Blythophryne beryet

The new toad species is only 24 mm long and occupies mostly evergreen forests across five of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, India. Being active at night, the little amphibian can be regularly seen all year round, rested on the leaf surface of herb bushes. During daytime, it tends to hide under leaf litter on the forest floor.

Not only a new species but also a new genus which was named after the initiator of herpetological studies in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the first Curator of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Edward Blyth. The species name was derived from the word 'beryet', referring to 'small frog' in Andamanese.

For the experts: A new bufonid amphibian, belonging to a new monotypic genus, is described from the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, Republic of India, based on unique external morphological and skeletal characters which are compared with those of known Oriental and other relevant bufonid genera. Blythophryne gen. n. is distinguished from other bufonid genera by its small adult size (mean SVL 24.02 mm), the presence of six presacral vertebrae, an absence of coccygeal expansions, presence of an elongated pair of parotoid glands, expanded discs at digit tips and phytotelmonous tadpoles that lack oral denticles. The taxonomic and phylogenetic position of the new taxon (that we named as Blythophryne beryet gen. et sp. n.) was ascertained by comparing its 12S and 16S partial genes with those of Oriental and other relevant bufonid lineages. Resulting molecular phylogeny supports the erection of a novel monotypic genus for this lineage from the Andaman Islands of India.