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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A new nudibranch: Doto carinova

Nudibranchs from the genus Doto are found in all of the world's oceans and are gastropod molluscs that feed on hydroids and cnidarians. Some of the nudibranchs that feed on hydroids can store the hydroids' stinging cells in their body wall. These stolen cells wander through the alimentary tract without harming the nudibranch. Once further into the organ, the cells are assimilated and brought to specific placements on the creature's hind body where they are used for defense.

The new species was captured at 277 m under the Weddell sea, its name is derived from the Latin words carina (= keel) and ova (= eggs), referring to a pronounced keel observed in the egg mass of the animal.

For the experts: Although several studies are devoted to determining the diversity of Antarctic heterobranch sea slugs, new species are still being discovered. Among nudibranchs, Doto antarctica Eliot, 1907 is the single species of this genus described from Antarctica hitherto, the type locality being the Ross Sea. Doto antarctica was described mainly using external features. During our Antarctic research on marine benthic invertebrates, we found D. antarctica in the Weddell Sea and Bouvet Island, suggesting a circumpolar distribution. Species affiliation is herein supported by molecular analyses using cytochrome c oxidase subunit I, 16S rRNA, and histone H3 markers. We redescribe D. antarctica using histology, micro-computed tomography (micro-CT), and 3D-reconstruction of the internal organs. Moreover, we describe a new, sympatric species, namely D. carinova Moles, Avila & Wägele n. sp., and provide an anatomical comparison between the two Antarctic Doto species. Egg masses in both species are also described here for the first time. We demonstrate that micro-CT is a useful tool for non-destructive anatomical description of valuable specimens. Furthermore, our high resolution micro-CT data reveal that the central nervous system of both Doto species possesses numerous accessory giant cells, suggested to be neurons herein. In addition, the phylogenetic tree of all Doto species sequenced to date suggests a scenario for the evolution of the reproductive system in this genus: bursa copulatrix seems to have been reduced and the acquisition of a distal connection of the oviduct to the nidamental glands is a synapomorphy of the Antarctic Doto species. Overall, the combination of thorough morphological and anatomical description and molecular analyses provides a comprehensive means to characterize and delineate species, thus suggesting evolutionary scenarios.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A new zoantharian: Sphenopus exilis

Credit: Takuma Fujii
Zoantharians are colonial cnidarians commonly found in a variety of marine environments. Many of them live in the shallow waters of the subtropical and tropical regions, where their large colonies can be found on coral reefs.

There are very solitary zoantharian species. Only three species are described, all reported more than 100 years ago from the Indo-Pacific region. Today's species, named Sphenopus exilis, is much smaller than the other three species and currently only known from two bays on the east coast of Okinawa Island. Its name was derived from the latin word exilis meaning slender or small, as polyps have an elongate and narrow foot.

For the experts: A new species of free-living solitary zoantharian is described from Okinawa, Japan. Sphenopus exilis sp. n. occurs on silty seafloors in Kin Bay and Oura Bay on the east coast of Okinawa-jima Island. Sphenopus exilis sp. n. is easily distinguished from other Sphenopus species by its small polyp size and slender shape, although there were relatively few differences between Sphenopus exilis sp. n. and S. marsupialis in the molecular phylogenetic analyses. Currently, very little is known about the ecology and diversity of Sphenopus species. Thus, reviewing each species carefully via combined morphological and molecular analyses by using newly obtained specimens from type localities is required to clearly understand and distinguish the species within the genus Sphenopus.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A new dragon lizard: Sitana marudhamneydhal

The ten species of fan-throated lizards of the genus Sitana are only found in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. These are rather beautiful little guys most often not larger than 20cm. Most of the species open ground patches.

The new species was named for its occurrence in the grassy plains as well as the seashore in Tamil Nadu, India. The name is a combination of two ancient Tamil words (Marudham = cultivable grasslands, Neydhal = land by the seashore). 

For the experts: A new species of Sitana to the ponticeriana group is described herein from southern Tamil Nadu, India. Sitana marudhamneydhal sp.nov. is most similar to Sitana visiri, from which it differs in body scalation and dewlap size. Much like Sitana visiri, the breeding of this species coincides with the North-East monsoon rains (October to December), an adaptation related to its geographic location which receives higher rainfall during the North-East monsoon than the South-West monsoon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A new leptostraca: Nebalia terazakii

Illustration from original publication

Leptostraca is an order of small, marine crustaceans which is believed to be the most primitive group of  its class, the Malacostraca as some species first appear in the fossil record during the Cambrian period. These crustaceans are unique in having their carapace compressed to such an extent that it forms a mussel-like shell held together by a strong adductor muscle. The new representative was found during a study on the biodiversity of the marine invertebrate fauna around Malaysia.

The new species was named after the late Professor Dr. Makoto Terazaki, from the University of Tokyo.

For the experts: A new species of Leptostraca, Nebalia terazakii sp. n. is described and figured. The species was sampled from the coral reefs of Pulau Payar Marine Park, Langkawi, Malaysia. There are 32 existing species of Nebalia but Nebalia terazakii sp. n. can be distinguished from the other known species of Nebalia by the following combination of characters: the rostrum is 1.89 times as long as wide and the eyes have no dorsal papilla or lobes. Article 4 of the antennular peduncle has one short thick distal spine. The proximal article of the endopod of maxilla 2 is shorter than the distal, a feature peculiar to Nebalia terazakii sp. n., the exopod of maxilla 2 is longer than article 1 of the endopod, the posterior dorsal borders of the pleonites 6 to 7 are provided with distally sharp denticles, anal plate with prominent lateral shoulder and finally, the terminal seta of the caudal rami is 1.17 times the length of the entire rami.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A new orchid: Bulbophyllum pingnanense

Image from original publication
The genus Bulbophyllum is one of the largest among the orchids. In fact, with perhaps 2000 species it is one of the largest genera of flowering plants. For over a century this genus has been the focus of orchid collectors especially for some bizarre representatives.

This genus covers a huge range of forms, from tall plants with cane-like stems, to root climbers that wind or creep their way up tree trunks. Other members grow on other plants, and quite a number that have developed succulent foliage to a greater or lesser degree. Some species live on rocks and one species has almost become leafless and uses its pseudobulbs as the organs of photosynthesis.

Our new species is also growing on other plants and its name refers to the region in which it was found (Pingnan County).

For the experts: A new orchid species, Bulbophyllum pingnanense, is described and illustrated from Fujian, China. It is similar to B. brevipedunculatum and B. albociliatum in vegetative and floral morphology, but it can be distinguished from B. brevipedunculatum by having a longer dorsal sepal with longer white ciliate on margin, longer and lanceolate lateral sepals, and a glabrous lip. It can be distinguished from B. albociliatum by having a shorter inflorescence, and a longer dorsal sepal.

h/t Phytokeys

Friday, July 15, 2016

A new ant: Myrmica latra

Socially parasitic ants use the nests and workforce of other ant species to raise their own offspring. The queens of social parasites need to get inside the nests of other ants, where they will lay eggs which are reared by the workers of their host. 

The ant genus Myrmica consists of about 200 species widespread throughout the temperate regions of the Holarctic and high mountains in Southeast Asia. Some Myrmica species are known parasitic ants and so is today's new species, named after the Latin adjective for robber or thief.

For the experts: A new socially-parasitic species, Myrmica latra sp. n. is described based on a queen and male from Indian Himalaya. Its queen differs from other species by the distinctly narrower petiole and postpetiole, blunt and non-divergent propodeal spines, and a darker body colour. The taxonomic position of the three known Himalayan socially-parasitic Myrmica species is discussed, and M. ereptrix Bolton 1988 is transferred to the smythiesii species-group. It is supposed that M. nefaria Bharti 2012 is a temporary social parasite, but M. ereptrix and M. latra sp. n. are permanent social parasites, and a key for their identification is provided.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A new seasnail: Atlanta ariejansseni

from the original publication
The sea snail family Atlantidae comprises of planaktonic species with a microscopic body size (shell diameter of less than 1 cm). The foot of the snail has evolved into a muscular swimming fin allowing them to move in the open water. 

The snail was found in the Southern Ocean and named after Arie Janssen, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Netherlands, in recognition of his commitment and longstanding contributions to holoplanktonic gastropod research.

For the experts: The Atlantidae (shelled heteropods) is a family of microscopic aragonite shelled holoplanktonic gastropods with a wide biogeographical distribution in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters. The aragonite shell and surface ocean habitat of the atlantids makes them particularly susceptible to ocean acidification and ocean warming, and atlantids are likely to be useful indicators of these changes. However, we still lack fundamental information on their taxonomy and biogeography, which is essential for monitoring the effects of a changing ocean. Integrated morphological and molecular approaches to taxonomy have been employed to improve the assessment of species boundaries, which give a more accurate picture of species distributions. Here a new species of atlantid heteropod is described based on shell morphology, DNA barcoding of the Cytochrome Oxidase I gene, and biogeography. All specimens of Atlanta ariejansseni sp. n. were collected from the Southern Subtropical Convergence Zone of the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific oceans suggesting that this species has a very narrow latitudinal distribution (37–48°S). Atlanta ariejansseni sp. n. was found to be relatively abundant (up to 2.3 specimens per 1000 m3 water) within this narrow latitudinal range, implying that this species has adapted to the specific conditions of the Southern Subtropical Convergence Zone and has a high tolerance to the varying ocean parameters in this region.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Two new bamboo worms: Paramaldane glandicincta and Maldane adunca

Credit: Yueyun Wang
Bamboo worms belong to the family Maldanidae which is part of the bristle worms. Their elongated segments, ending with an appendage give them the appearance of bamboo-shoots, hence their name. These often fragile marine inhabitants can be found in mud-walled tubes in shelf sediments.

The new species were found during re-examination of specimens collected from mud sediment in the offshore waters of Hainan Island (South China Sea) between 1959 to 1962. Both new names refer to specific characteristics of the body of the animals.

For the experts: Paramaldane, new genus, with type species Paramaldane glandicincta sp. n., and Maldane adunca sp. n. (Maldanidae, Polychaeta) are described based on material from the coast of south China. The new genus Paramaldane is similar to Maldane Grube, 1860 and Sabaco Kinberg, 1867, but it clearly differs from all genera within the subfamily Maldaninae by a unique combination of characters: the cephalic plate is almost circular with low, entire and smooth cephalic rim, nuchal grooves small and crescentic, lacking a collar on chaetiger 1, short companion notochaetae, a collar-like glandular band on the anterior part of the sixth chaetiger, and a well-developed anal valve. Paramaldane glandicincta sp. n. is characterised by having a glandular band on the anterior part of the sixth chaetiger, an almost circular cephalic plate, an entire and smooth cephalic rim, and small crescentic nuchal grooves. Maldane adunca sp. n. is characterised by a low cephalic rim, nuchal grooves with a strongly curved anterior part and isolated from the cephalic rim. Finally, a taxonomic key to genera of Maldaninae and a comparative table to species of Maldane are provided.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A new midge: Metapelopia peruensis

Chironomidae is a large family of flies whose members look much like mosquitoes. However, they do not possess the needle-like mouthparts of mosquitoes, so these midges do not bite (hence the name!). The males are easily recognized by their feathery (plumose) antennae and are often seen in large swarms over a landmark such as a rock or bush. Their larvae are very common in many aquatic environments, where they usually feed on algae or decomposing plant material. The flying adults have a short lifespan in which males often assemble into huge swarms. Females join these swarms to mate, and shortly after the males die. The adults rarely eat as their lifespan is so short they must focus on reproduction. 

The family Chironomidae is very diverse with over 8000 named species so far. As a result they are common in aquatic habitats around the world. The new species was discovered in Peru and named after its country of origin. 

For the experts: A new species of the monotypic genus Metapelopia is described and illustrated based on all life stages. Adults of the Metapelopia peruensis sp. n. can be easily distinguished from those of M. corbii by the color pattern of the legs and abdomen. Larvae and pupae were collected associated with algae accumulated on rocks.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A new plant bug: Psallops niedzwiedzkii

Image from original publication
With about 10000 species the family Miridae is the largest of the true bugs. There is a number of common names for members of this group, such as capsid bugs, mirid bugs, plant bugs, leaf bugs, or grass bugs. A good number of widely known species are notorious agricultural pests that pierce plant tissues, feed on the sap, and sometimes transmit viral plant diseases. Other species however, are predatory.

Today's new species was found in a forest in Ghana and named in honour of a friend of the authors.

For the experts: A new species from Ghana, Psallops niedzwiedzkii Herczek & Popov, sp. n. is described. The dorsal habitus, head and male genitalia are presented and some morphological features are discussed. A key, short descriptions and map of the distribution of the African species of the genus are also provided.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A new weevil: Evemphyron sinense

Credit: Dr Zhiliang Wang; CC-BY 4.0
Weevils are one of the most diverse insect groups. Over 60,000 species are currently known to science. They can be recognized by elbowed antennae and many of them have a prolonged snout. At the tip of this snout is their mouth. Depending on the species, weevils range in size from about 3 mm to over 10 mm in length. They are usually dark-colored—brownish to black. Some have scales or shiny hairs covering part of their bodies.

Nearly all known weevils are vegetarians both as larva and adults. Hardly any plant is not affected by at least one species of weevil. Females of the leaf-roller weevils also cut a hardwood leaf and roll it, laying one egg inside each one. Our new species belongs to such a group but here the females cut shoots to lay their eggs. This rather confusing detail led to the description of a new genus with a name based on the classical Greek expression for confusion (emphyros). The species name refers to the country of origin, China.

For the experts: A new genus Evemphyron Alonso-Zarazaga, Lv & Wang, gen. n., belonging to Attelabidae Rhynchitinae, is described. Its single species, Evemphyron sinense Alonso-Zarazaga, Lv & Wang, sp. n., was reared from larvae found inside seed pods of the legume Callerya dielsiana (Fabaceae, Millettieae) in Sichuan Province (China). The species is figured and placed in the Deporaini because of the presence of minute labial palpi, the strongly crescentic apex of the postmentum, and the apodemes of male IX sternite and female VIII sternite curved sinistro-anterially near their cephalic end. It shows 3-segmented labial palpi and male sex patches on the procoxae, characters that suggest a basal position in the tribe.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A new sleeper goby: Caecieleotris morrisi

Sleeper gobies (Eleotridae) are found predominantly in the tropical Indo-Pacific. About 180 species are known and many pass through a planktonic stage in the sea. Some spend their entire lives in the sea but the majority of the adults live in freshwater streams and brackish waters. A few species are troglobitic which means they live in caves all their life.

Our new species, the Oaxaca Cave Sleeper, is one of them and well adapted to the cave environment. It does not have eyes or pigment, but it has a shovel-shaped head and well-developed sensory papillae, which contain its taste buds. It has not been collected or seen in more than 20 years and lives in a cave system threatened by damming.

The species was named after Thomas L. Morris, the discoverer and collector of this new fish. He is a renowned cave diver and speleobiologist, and respected conservationist devoted to the protection of karst habitats.

For the experts: Caecieleotris morrisi, new genus and species of sleeper (family Eleotridae), is described from a submerged freshwater cave in a karst region of the northern portion of the State of Oaxaca, Mexico, Río Papaloapan drainage, Gulf of Mexico basin. The new species represents the first cave-adapted sleeper known from the Western Hemisphere and is one of only 13 stygobitic gobiiforms known worldwide, with all others limited in distribution to the Indo-Pacific region. The new taxon represents a third independent evolution of a hypogean lifestyle in sleepers, the others being two species of Oxyeleotris (O. caeca and O. colasi) from New Guinea and a single species, Bostrychus microphthalmus, from Sulawesi. Caecieleotris morrisi, new species, is distinguished from epigean eleotrids of the Western Atlantic in lacking functional eyes and body pigmentation, as well as having other troglomorphic features. It shares convergent aspects of morphology with cave-dwelling species of Oxyeleotris and B. microphthalmus but differs from those taxa in lacking cephalic pores and head squamation, among other characters. Description of C. morrisi, new species, brings the total number of eleotrid species known from Mexico to 12. Seven of these, including the new species, occur on the Atlantic Slope.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A new planthopper: Iuiuia caeca

Credit: Rodrigo Ferreira; CC-BY 4.0
Planthoppers are insect of the infraorder Fulgoromorpha, which consists of some 12,500 described species worldwide. The name comes from their resemblance to leaves and other plant parts and from the fact that they often jump for quick transportation in a similar way to that of grasshoppers.

This new planthopper species is only the second dwelling exclusively in the subterranean depths of Brazil from its family. Surviving without seeing the light of the day at any point of its life, this species has neither the eyes, nor the vivid colouration, nor the functional wings typical for its relatives.

The planthopper is called Iuiuia caeca, with the genus name (Iuiuia) referring to the locality, where it was found, and its species name (caeca) translating to 'blind' in Latin.

For the experts: A new obligate cavernicolous (troglobitic) species in the planthopper family Kinnaridae is described from Brazil, and a new genus is established, as it could not be placed in any of the existing genera. Information on distribution and ecology is given. This is the second record of a troglobitic representative of this family from Brazil, and only the 6th cavernicolous kinnarid species worldwide.