Friday, December 18, 2015

Three new fishing snakes

Commonly known as fishing snakes, the Synophis genus has been expanded with as many as three new species following a research in the Andean cloud forests of Amazonian Ecuador and Peru.

Although they are commonly known as fishing snakes, these reptiles most likely do not eat fish. Their diet and behavior are poorly known. So far, it has only been reported that one species feeds on lizards.

The fishing snakes have long been known to live in cloud forests on both sides of the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. Yet, it seems they have waited all along to make an appearance. The new species described herein, along with a recent description of one species from southwestern Ecuador, has duplicated the number of species of fishing snakes from four to eight over the span of several months.

For the experts: The discovery of three new species of Synophis snakes from the eastern slopes of the tropical Andes in Ecuador and Peru is reported. All previous records of S. bicolor from eastern Ecuador correspond to S. bogerti sp. n., which occurs between 1000–1750 m along a large part of the Amazonian slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. In contrast, Synophis zamora sp. n. is restricted to southeastern Ecuador, including Cordillera del Cóndor, between 1543–1843 m. Synophis insulomontanus sp. n. is from the eastern slopes of the Andes in central and northern Peru, between 1122–1798 m, and represents the first record of Synophis from this country. All three new species share in common a large lateral spine at the base of the hemipenial body. A molecular phylogenetic tree based on three mitochondrial genes is presented, including samples of Diaphorolepis wagneri. Our tree strongly supports Synophis and Diaphorolepis as sister taxa, as well as monophyly of the three new species described here and S. calamitus. Inclusion of Synophis and Diaphorolepis within Dipsadinae as sister to a clade containing Imantodes, Dipsas, Ninia, Hypsiglena and Pseudoleptodeira is also supported.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Another new frog: Xenopus eysoole

African clawed frogs of the genus Xenopus (especially Xenopus leavis) are used as model organisms for biological research. One would assume we know already the number of species in that group and other aspects of their diversity such as where they live and how they are related to one another. However, that is not the case. Researchers have now discovered half a dozen new species of the African clawed frog, and added back another to the list of known species. 

These clawed frogs, found in west and central sub-Saharan Africa, live in slow moving or stagnant water and are characterized by flattened bodies, vocal organs which can produce sound underwater, and claws on their first three toes.

One of the new species was named in consultation with the Fon of Oku and his advisors. Its name was derived from the Oku language. Roughly translated, the word eysoole (pronounced “ee-su-lay”) means “it will jump so hold it tightly,”.

For the experts: African clawed frogs, genus Xenopus, are extraordinary among vertebrates in the diversity of their polyploid species and the high number of independent polyploidization events that occurred during their diversification. Here we update current understanding of the evolutionary history of this group and describe six new species from west and central sub-Saharan Africa, including four tetraploids and two dodecaploids. We provide information on molecular variation, morphology, karyotypes, vocalizations, and estimated geographic ranges, which support the distinctiveness of these new species. We resurrect Xenopus calcaratus from synonymy of Xenopus tropicalis and refer populations from Bioko Island and coastal Cameroon (near Mt. Cameroon) to this species. To facilitate comparisons to the new species, we also provide comments on the type specimens, morphology, and distributions of X. epitropicalis, X. tropicalis, and X. fraseri. This includes significantly restricted application of the names X. fraseri and X. epitropicalis, the first of which we argue is known definitively only from type specimens and possibly one other specimen. Inferring the evolutionary histories of these new species allows refinement of species groups within Xenopus and leads to our recognition of two subgenera (Xenopus and Silurana) and three species groups within the subgenus Xenopus (amieti, laevis, and muelleri species groups).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A new sea cucumber: Stichopus fusiformiossa

Sea cucumbers are echinoderms which means their are closely related to starfish and urchins. They cucumbers are typically 10 to 30 cm in length, although the smallest known species is just 3 mm long, and the largest grows up to 3 m. As their name suggests, most sea cucumbers have a soft, cylindrical and elongated body.

Sea cucumbers can be found everywhere on the ocean floor but in remarkable high numbers on the deep seafloor, where they often make up the majority of the animal biomass.At depths larger than 8.9 km, sea cucumbers comprise 90% of the total mass of the macrofauna. Sea cucumbers form large herds that move at the bottom of the ocean, hunting for food.

Many sea cucumbers are valued as food and as a source of medicine, and Stichopus is a commonly exploited genus. Today's new species, found in the Straits of Malacca, Malaysia, is a member of this genus and its name is derived from the Latin words of fusiform (fusiformis) and bone (ossa).

For the experts: Five sea cucumber species including one new species of the genus Stichopus are reported from the shallow coral reefs of Straits of Malacca. The new species Stichopus fusiformiossa has unusual fusiform spicules in the tentacles, which are not found in the other species of the genus. Pseudo-tables and large perforated plates are newly recorded for Stichopus hermanni Semper, 1868 and Stichopus vastus Sluiter, 1887, respectively.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A new frog: Dendropsophus bromeliaceus

Some tree frog species spends the tadpole stage of their life in pooled water that accumulates in bromeliad plants. These frogs are often related to species that have a larval phase always associated with temporary or lentic water bodies (i.e. ponds and swamps).

Bromeliads are remarkably important for some local life. The accumulation of rainwater between their leaves provides refuge, moisture, and water for a very diverse associated fauna.

Our new treefrog was named bromeliaceus refers to the reproductive habit of the new species. The suffix aceus is Latin, meaning belonging to.

For the experts: We describe a new treefrog species of Dendropsophus collected on rocky outcrops in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Ecologically, the new species can be distinguished from all known congeners by having a larval phase associated with rainwater accumulated in bromeliad phytotelms instead of temporary or lentic water bodies. Phylogenetic analysis based on molecular data confirms that the new species is a member of Dendropsophus; our analysis does not assign it to any recognized species group in the genus. Morphologically, based on comparison with the 96 known congeners, the new species is diagnosed by its small size, framed dorsal color pattern, and short webbing between toes IV-V. The advertisement call is composed of a moderate-pitched two-note call (~5 kHz). The territorial call contains more notes and pulses than the advertisement call. Field observations suggest that this new bromeligenous species uses a variety of bromeliad species to breed in, and may be both territorial and exhibit male parental care.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A new dragonfly: Umma gumma

Today's new species is actually just one out of sixty newly discovered and described species from Africa. What is also remarkable is that nine of the 60 dragonflies were discovered by an employed biologist, all others in a teacher's and environmental consultants' free time. With this research, the number of dragonfly species known from Africa increases by almost 10%, from 700 to 760 species.

All dragonflies are bound to freshwater, which covers less than 1% of the planet's surface. Nonetheless, it is home to about 10% of all animal species. As freshwater is used so intensively, life is most threatened there. The beauty and sensitivity of dragonflies provides a perfect symbol of freshwater heath and biodiversity. Their presence is also an indicator of good water quality. 

Does anybody recognizes the species name? Perhaps only those that are about my age and older. It refers to the 1969 Pink Floyd album Ummagumma

For the experts: Man knows just one fifth of the nine million species of animal, plant, fungus and protist thought to inhabit our planet. Dragonflies and damselflies are regarded as well-known, however. Nevertheless we describe 60 new species, the most to be named at once in 130 years, adding one to every twelve species known in Africa. Each species is colourful and can often be recognised even from a photograph, showing that not all unknown life is indistinct and concealed. The species’ beauty and sensitivity can raise awareness for the densest and most threatened biodiversity: freshwater covers less than one percent of Earth’s surface, but harbours ten percent of animal species, of which a third may be at risk of extinction. Most of them, like dragonflies, are insects. They are popular indicators of habitat value and quality, but without a name cannot be added to the IUCN Red list. As habitats are rapidly disappearing, more exploratory and descriptive research is needed, support for which has waned. Nature, natural historians and the archives of life they build together are all under threat: our 60 new species are therefore as much an act of desperation as urgency. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

A new goby: Nesogobius tigrinus

One of the largest families of fishes are the Gobies. More than 2000 species are currently known but it seems that there are many goby species we haven't discovered yet. Gobies include some of the smallest vertebrates in the world, such as Trimmatom nanus and Pandaka pygmaea, which are under 1 cm long when fully grown.

Gobies can be found all over the world in tropical and temperate near shore-marine, brackish and freshwater environments. On coral reefs, they constitute 35% of the total number of fishes. Gobies are elusive bottom-dwellers building burrows they occupy as pairs. Some species live inside the bodies (e.g. sponges) or burrows of invertebrates.

The new species was found around Kangaroo Island in Australia and its name was derived from Latin for 'banded'.

For the experts: Nesogobius is one of two goby genera with all species wholly restricted to temperate Australian waters. Described here is a new member of the genus discovered during near-shore marine and estuarine fish sampling along the central southern Australian coastline. The tiger sandgoby Nesogobius tigrinus sp. nov. is distinguished from other congeners by a combination of colouration including four prominent vertical black bars on males; morphological characters involving body scales (large), head scales (naked), body depth (slender) and gill opening (wide); meristic counts including a lack of second dorsal and anal fin spines; and mitochondrial DNA sequence divergence. The species appears to be a narrow range endemic, restricted to specific sub-tidal habitat in the unique sheltered embayments of northeast Kangaroo Island. This study forms part of ongoing investigations to more fully describe the biodiversity and conservation requirements of the
regional ichthyofauna.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A new plant: Aporosa tetragona

The plant genus Aporosa belongs to the family Phyllanthaceae. Most species of this large family (2000 species) occur in the tropics. Nearly half of them belong to the genus Phyllanthus known from horticulture and as potted plant. Some species have also been used for the medicinal properties. The genus Aporosa is native to South East Asia and parts of Australia.

During a botanical survey of Mt. Hon Ba in Khanh Hoa Province, South Vietnam the new species was found. The species name reflects the quadrangular shape of the ovaries in the flowers and fruits.

For the experts: A new species, Aporosa tetragona Tagane & V. S. Dang, sp. nov., is described and illustrated from Mt. Hon Ba located in the Khanh Hoa Province, South Vietnam. This species is characterized by tetragonal pistillate flowers and fruits, which are clearly distinguishable from the other previously known species of the genus. The morphology and phylogeny based on rbcL and matK of this species indicated that the new species belongs to section Appendiculatae Pax & K. Hoffm.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A new bat: Otomops harrisoni

The bat genus Otomops belongs to the family of the so called free-tailed bats (Molossidae). Most species of this genus are distributed in South East Asia and only two are known to occur in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. 

Today's new species was found in the highlands of Ethiopia and its common name is quite a mouthful: Harrison’s large-eared giant mastiff bat.  The new species was named after the late renowned mammalogist, taxonomist and bat expert Dr. David L. Harrison (1926–2015).

For the experts: The paucity of data for the molossid bat Otomops throughout its range has hindered our ability to resolve the number of Otomops species present within the Afro-Malagasy region (including the Arabian Peninsula). This paper employed an integrative approach by combining morphometric (cranial morphology) and molecular (mitochondrial cytochrome b and Dloop sequences, nuclear intron sequences and microsatellites) data to identify the number of Otomops taxa occurring in the Afro-Malagasy region. Three taxa were identified, two of which could be assigned to existing species, i.e. O. martiensseni and O. madagascariensis. The third taxon, previously recognised as O. martiensseni (Matschie 1897), is described herein as a new species, Otomops harrisoni sp. nov., and can be differentiated from O. martiensseni s.s. based on both molecular and morphometric data. Locality data of specimens belonging to O. harrisoni suggest that its distribution range extends from the Arabian Peninsula through to Eritrea and south to Ethiopia and Kenya.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Four new plant bugs

Two entomologists from the University of California, Riverside, examined 761 specimens from museum collections and determined that some were mislabeled and were actually species that were not yet known to science.

They placed them into a new genus that is called Restiophylus. "Restio" comes from the name of  the host-plant  family Restionaceae, and "phylus" indicates that it is classified in the subfamily Phylinae.

The four new species are R. hypolaenae, R. leptocarpi, R. lyginiae, and R. meeboldinae. All of them were named for the association with particular host-plant groups.

For the experts: The phyline fauna of Australia has only recently been shown to be highly diverse, both at the species and the genus levels. Here, a new genus and four new species of Australian Phylinae (Hemiptera: Miridae) are described. The species of Restiophylus, n. gen., occur on two genera of the rush-like Restionaceae, Hypolaena Brown 1810 and Leptocarpus Brown 1810, and on one genus of the closely related Anarthriaceae, Lyginia Brown 1810. Habitus images, illustrations of male genitalia, scanning micrographs, an identification key, and distribution maps for the new species are provided as well as digital images and distribution maps for the hosts. Consistent with the geographic distribution patterns of many other Australian Phylinae, the four new species are restricted to the Mediterranean-type biome of Western Australia. A cladistic analysis based on 55 morphological characters, four ingroup taxa, and 31 outgroup taxa is presented, providing evidence for the monophyly of this new genus and its placement in the tribe Semiini, and potentially as sister to the subtribe Exocarpocorina.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A new Black-eyed Satyr: Euptychia attenboroughi

A beautiful new Black-eyed Satyr species has become the first butterfly named in honour of the popular naturalist and TV presenter Sir David Attenborough - one of my personal heroes. Although not the first animal to be named after Attenborough, the butterfly is so rare that it is known only from lowland tropical forests of the upper Amazon basin in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil.

The butterfly's atypical wings in comparison to its relatives, have been the reason the colleagues took to plenty of diagnostic characters to define its taxonomic placement. The peculiar patterns and morphology initially led the researchers to think the species could be even a new genus but DNA evidence confirmed that it belongs to the genus Euptychia.

For the experts: Two new species of Euptychia Hübner, 1818 are described from the upper Amazon basin: E. attenboroughi Neild, Nakahara, Fratello & Le Crom, sp. n. (type locality: Amazonas, Venezuela), and E. sophiae Zacca, Nakahara, Dolibaina & Dias, sp. n. (type locality: Acre, Brazil). Their unusual facies prompted molecular and phylogenetic analyses of one of the species resulting in support for their classification in monophyletic Euptychia. Diagnostic characters for the two species are presented based on wing morphology, wing pattern, presence of androconial patches on the hindwing, and genitalia. Our results indicate that the projection of the tegumen above the uncus, previously considered a synapomorphy for Euptychia, is not shared by all species in the genus. The adults and their genitalia are documented, and distribution data and a map are provided.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A new fish: Hemigrammocapoeta menderesensis,

The week ends with another new fish species: The genus Hemigrammocapoeta is likely among the leaders when it comes to the length of the genus name. Hemigrammocapoeta is not only quite a mouth full but also a small genus of the family Cyprinidae. So far it comprises of just four species. This new description makes if five. 

All of the species are threatened by habitat loss, particularly due to water pollution and unsustainable water extraction for agriculture.

The new name was derived from the Büyük Menderes River, the type locality.

For the experts: Hemigrammocapoeta menderesensis is distinguished from all other species of Hemigrammocapoeta in Anatolia by the following combination of characters (none unique to the species): lateral line incomplete; 6–17 perforated scales and 36– 41 +1–2 scales in lateral series; 7½–8½ scale rows between lateral line and dorsal-fin origin, 3–4 scale rows between lateral series and anal-fin origin; dorsal fin commonly with 7½ branched rays; anal fin with 5½ branched rays; 15–17 gill rakers on the first brachial arch; pharyngeal teeth 2.4.5–5.3.3; mouth small, subterminal, horseshoe shaped and without barbel; lips developed and somewhat fleshy; upper lip not covering nostril gape; lower lip with two lateral lobes and median pad; lateral lobes smaller and shorter than half width of median pad; numerous papillae on lower and upper lips.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A new rove beetle: Pseudophanias spinitarsis

The beetle family Staphylinidae, better known as rove beetles, is currently the largest group of beetles. It contains about 60 000 species in thousands of genera.  Most rove beetles are predators of insects and other kinds of invertebrates, living in forest leaf litter and similar kinds of decaying plant matter. They are also commonly found under stones, and around freshwater and oceanic margins.

One subfamily (Pselaphinae) comprises of  about 170 species of  cave-associated beetles that occur all over the world. Our new species represents a new member in this group. It was found in the Mahendra cave in central Nepal. The name of the new species refers to the modified male pro- and mesotarsi.

For the experts: The genus Pseudophanias Raffray is one of the 30 extant genera of the Tmesiphorini (Yin et al. 2013), its members are distinct in possessing small, unmodified maxillary palpi, and often strongly modified antennae in the male. Achille Raffray described (Raffray 1890a, 1890b, 1895, 1905) all ten hitherto known species that occur in West Malaysia (Penang; 4 spp.), Singapore (2 spp.), and Indonesia (Sumatra; 4 spp.). All of these are localized species, with four collected from sifted litter samples in forests, and the rest of uncertain ecological status. In this paper we describe a new species with remarkably elongate body form and appendages, collected by Dr. Petar Beron (Sofia, Bulgaria) in a cave (Mahendra Gupha) in central Nepal. While the genus Pseudophanias requires a complete revision, this species is quite distinctive in comparison to its nemoricolous relatives.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A new snake: Synophis zaheri

Synophis is a genus of snakes belonging to the family Dipsadidae. Its species are distributed throughout Colombia and Ecuador and have not been found elsewhere. Little is know about these snakes. One of the species is known only through one male specimen found a while ago.

The newest member of the genus was found in the Andean cloud forests of south west Ecuador. It was named after the Brazilian herpetologist Hussam El-Dine Zaher, for his contributions to South American herpetology and snake systematics.

For the experts: Within Dipsadinae, some recent authors have recognized a tribe Nothopsini containing the genera Diaphorolepis, Emmochliophis, Nothopsis, Synophis, and Xenopholis, on the basis of a number of putative morphological synapomorphies. However, molecular results suggest that Nothopsis, Synophis, and Xenopholis do not form a monophyletic group, while the remaining taxa are unsampled in recent molecular phylogenies. Here, DNA-sequence data for some Diaphorolepis and Synophis species are provided for the first time, as well as additional new sequences for Nothopsis and some Synophis species. Including these and other existing data for nothopsine species, previous studies showing that Nothopsini is not a natural group are corroborated. Nothopsini Cope, 1871 is restricted to Nothopsis. Diaphorolepidini Jenner, 1981 is resurrected and re-delimited to include only Diaphorolepis, Emmochliophis, and Synophis. Finally, Xenopholis remains Dipsadinae incertae sedis. Known material of Diaphorolepidini is reviewed to generate revised and expanded descriptions and diagnoses at the tribe, genus, and species level. Numerous cryptic species are likely present in S. bicolor and S. lasallei. Finally, a new population from the low-elevation cloud forests of SW Ecuador is reported upon, which is genetically and morphologically distinct from all other species, that is here named Synophis zaheri sp. n.