Thursday, April 24, 2014

[Entomology • 2014] Ampulex dementor • The Soul-Sucking Wasp by Popular Acclaim – Museum Visitor Participation in Biodiversity Discovery and Taxonomy

FIG 1: Ampulex dementor n. sp.,
female, holotype, in oblique lateral view. Pin digitally removed from image.
Photo: B. Schurian, MfN.

Taxonomy, the science of describing and naming of the living world, is recognized as an important and relevant field in modern biological science. While there is wide agreement on the importance of a complete inventory of all organisms on Earth, the public is partly unaware of the amount of known and unknown biodiversity. Out of the enormous number of undescribed (but already recognized) species in natural history museum collections, we selected an attractive example of a wasp, which was presented to museum visitors at a special museum event. We asked 300 visitors to vote on a name for the new species and out of four preselected options, Ampulex dementor Ohl n. sp. was selected. The name, derived from the ‘soul sucking’ dementors from the popular Harry Potter books is an allusion to the wasps' behavior to selectively paralyze its cockroach prey. In this example, public voting on a scientific name has been shown to be an appropriate way to link museum visitors emotionally to biodiversity and its discovery.

Michael Ohl, Volker Lohrmann, Laura Breitkreuz, Lukas Kirschey and Stefanie Krause. 2014. The Soul-Sucking Wasp by Popular Acclaim – Museum Visitor Participation in Biodiversity Discovery and Taxonomy. PLoS ONE. 9(4): e95068.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

[Herpetology • 2014] Mating Systems, Reproductive Success, and Sexual Selection in Secretive Species: A Case Study of the Western Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox

Figure 1. Sexual behavior in Crotalus atrox.
(a) Pair of C. atrox in coitus. Unknown male (left) with female CA-3, September 13, 2001.
Photo: Roger Repp. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090616.g001

Long-term studies of individual animals in nature contribute disproportionately to our understanding of the principles of ecology and evolution. Such field studies can benefit greatly from integrating the methods of molecular genetics with traditional approaches. Even though molecular genetic tools are particularly valuable for species that are difficult to observe directly, they have not been widely adopted. Here, we used molecular genetic techniques in a 10-year radio-telemetric investigation of the western diamond-backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) for an analysis of its mating system and to measure sexual selection. Specifically, we used microsatellite markers to genotype 299 individuals, including neonates from litters of focal females to ascertain parentage using full-pedigree likelihood methods. We detected high levels of multiple paternity within litters, yet found little concordance between paternity and observations of courtship and mating behavior. Larger males did not father significantly more offspring, but we found evidence for size-specific male-mating strategies, with larger males guarding females for longer periods in the mating seasons. Moreover, the spatial proximity of males to mothers was significantly associated with reproductive success. Overall, our field observations alone would have been insufficient to quantitatively measure the mating system of this population of C. atrox, and we thus urge more widespread adoption of molecular tools by field researchers studying the mating systems and sexual selection of snakes and other secretive taxa.

Figure 1. Sexual behavior in Crotalus atrox.
(a) Pair of C. atrox in coitus. Unknown male (left) with female CA-3, September 13, 2001.
(b) Pair of C. atrox in courtship below a den site. The lower body and tail of unknown male is wrapped over and around tail of female CA-44 (painted rattles), March 2012.
Photo: Roger Repp. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090616.g001

Rulon W. Clark, Gordon W. Schuett, Roger A. Repp, Melissa Amarello, Charles F. Smith and Hans-Werner Herrmann. 2014. Mating Systems, Reproductive Success, and Sexual Selection in Secretive Species: A Case Study of the Western Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox. PLoS ONE. 9(3): e90616. DOI:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

[Herpetology • 2014] Taxonomic Assessment of Alligator Snapping Turtles (Chelydridae: Macrochelys), with the description of two new species(; Macrochelys apalachicolae & M. suwanniensis) from the southeastern United States

FIGURE 7. Variation of carapace morphology in western (A; UF 21746), central (B; UF 52676), and Suwannee (C; UF 57967) lineages of Macrochelys. Most of the gross variation in post-cranial morphology is present within the caudal region of the carapace.
Macrochelys temminckii | M. apalachicolae M. suwanniensis

The Alligator Snapping Turtle, Macrochelys temminckii, is a large, aquatic turtle limited to river systems that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Previous molecular analyses using both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA suggested that Macrochelys exhibits significant genetic variation across its range that includes three distinct genetic assemblages (western, central, and eastern = Suwannee). However, no taxonomic revision or morphological analyses have been conducted previously. In this study, we test previous hypotheses of distinct geographic assemblages by examining morphology, reanalyzing phylogeographic genetic structure, and estimating divergence dating among lineages in a coalescent framework using Bayesian inference. We reviewed the fossil record and discuss phylogeographic and taxonomic implications of the existence of three distinct evolutionary lineages. We measured cranial (n=145) and post-cranial (n=104) material on field-captured individuals and museum specimens. We analyzed 420 base pairs (bp) of mitochondrial DNA sequence data for 158 Macrochelys. We examined fossil Macrochelys from ca. 15–16 million years ago (Ma) to the present to better assess historical distributions and evaluate named fossil taxa. The morphological and molecular data both indicate significant geographical variation and suggest three species-level breaks among genetic lineages that correspond to previously hypothesized genetic assemblages. The holotype of Macrochelys temminckii is from the western lineage. Therefore, we describe two new species as Macrochelys apalachicolae sp. nov. from the central lineage and Macrochelys suwanniensis sp. nov. from the eastern lineage (Suwannee River drainage). 
Our estimates of divergence times suggest that the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of M. temminckii (western) and M. apalachicolae (central) existed 3.2–8.9 Ma during the late Miocene to late Pliocene, whereas M. temminckii-M. apalachicolae and M. suwanniensis last shared a MRCA 5.5–13.4 Ma during the mid-Miocene to early Pliocene. Examination of fossil material revealed that the fossil taxon M. floridana is actually a large Chelydra. Our taxonomic revision of Macrochelys has conservation and management implications in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

Keywords: Macrochelys, Chelydridae, Morphology, Conservation, Fossil, Genetics, Phylogeography, Suwannee River, Apalachicola River

FIGURE 1. Map of sampling localities of Macrochelys used for morphological analyses. Multiple specimens were often collected from the same localities.

Macrochelys apalachicolae sp. nov.
 Apalachicola Alligator Snapping Turtle

Distribution. Restricted to river drainages bounded by the Choctawhatchee and Ochlockonee rivers in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
Etymology. Specific epithet refers to the new Latin apalachicol– (referring to the Apalachicola River) and the Latin –ae (treating the name of the river as a Latin cognate in the First Declension, genitive case), combined to form the composite noun apalachicolae.

Macrochelys suwanniensis sp. nov.
 Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle

Distribution. Restricted to the Suwannee River drainage in Florida and Georgia.

Etymology. Specific epithet refers to combination of the new Latin suwanni– (referring to the Suwannee River) and the Latin –ensis (belongs to the) to form the composite noun suwanniensis.

Thomas, Travis M., Michael C. Granatosky, Jason R. Bourque, Kenneth L. Krysko, Paul E. Moler, Tony Gamble, Eric Suarez, Erin Leone, Kevin M. Enge & Joe Roman. 2014. Taxonomic Assessment of Alligator Snapping Turtles (Chelydridae: Macrochelys), with the description of two new species from the southeastern United States. Zootaxa. 3786(2): 141–165.

Extremely rare Texas dino turtle even more endangered than first thought 

[Botany • 2014] Begonia intermedia • a new species of Begoniaceae from Hainan, China

Begonia intermedia D.K. Tian & Y.H. Yan

Begonia intermedia D.K. Tian & Y.H. Yan, a new species in Begonia sect. Diploclinium (Wright) A. DC (Begoniaceae) from Hainan, China, is described and illustrated. It differs from the morphologically similar B. fimbristipula Hance by its orchid-root-like rhizomes, later flowering and distinctive hairy bracts. Also, based on a molecular phylogenetic analysis, B. intermedia is distinct from B. fimbristipula.
Key words: China, Hainan, Begonia, new species

DAI-KE TIAN, CHUN LI, YUE-HONG YAN, XIANG-PENG LI & JING MENG. 2014. Begonia intermedia, a new species of Begoniaceae from Hainan, China. Phytotaxa. 166 (2): 114–122 

[Botany • 2014] Begonia wuzhishanensis • a new species (sect. Diploclinium, Begoniaceae) from Hainan Island, China

Begonia wuzhishanensis
C.-I Peng, X.H. Jin & S.M. Ku

Hainan is the largest island of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot and has the best preserved and most extensive tropical forests in China. A recent study on distribution of endangered species in China identifies southern Hainan as one of eight hotspots for plant conservation in the country. In continuation of our studies of Asian Begonia, we report the discovery of an attractive undescribed species, B. wuzhishanensis C.-I Peng, X.H. Jin & S.M. Ku, from Hainan Island.
Living plant of the new species, Begonia wuzhishanensis, was collected in 2009 and cultivated in the experimental greenhouse for morphological and cytological studies. It flowered consecutively in 2012 and 2013 in the experimental greenhouse, Academia Sinica. It was assigned to the large, heterogeneous sect. Diploclinium. The chromosome number of this new species was determined to be 2n = 26.
A careful study of literature, herbarium specimens and living plants, both in the wild and in cultivation, support the recognition of the new species Begonia wuzhishanensis, which is described in this paper. Begonia wuzhishanensis is currently known only from Fanyang, Wuzhishan Mountain in the center of the island. A line drawing, color plate, and a distribution map are provided to aid in identification.

Keywords: Begonia wuzhishanensis, Begoniaceae, Chromosome number, Flora of China, Hainan, New species, Sect. Diploclinium, Septal placentation

Ching-I Peng, Xiao-Hua Jin, Shin-Ming Ku, Yoshiko Kono, Han-Yau Huang, Hsun-An Yang. 2014. Begonia wuzhishanensis (sect. Diploclinium, Begoniaceae), a new species from Hainan Island, China. Botanical Studies. February 2014, 55:24, DOI

Saturday, April 19, 2014

[Mollusca • 2014] Revision of the Carnivorous Snail genus Indoartemon Forcart, 1946 and a new genus Carinartemis from Thailand (Pulmonata: Streptaxidae)

Fig. 2. Living snails of:
B, Carinartemis vesperus, new species, paratype CUMZ 6201 (shell width about 10 mm);
C, Carinartemis striatus, new species, paratype CUMZ 6205 (shell width about 12 mm).


Carnivorous land snails attributed to the genera Indoartemon Forcart, 1946 and Carinartemis, new genus, are recorded from Thailand for the first time. Indoartemon eburneus (Pfeiffer, 1861), I. prestoni (Gude, 1903) and I. medius, new species, were collected from central and northeastern Thailand. These two genera are easily distinguished: Carinartemis, new genus, possesses a distinctive sharp and wide peripheral keel that does not occur in Indoartemon. We provide the first description of the internal anatomy of Indoartemon and Carinartemis, new genus, and establish the presence of several distinctive characters. The new genus has two new distinctive species, Carinartemis vesperus, new species, and Carinartemis striatus, new species, from isolated limestone hills in western Thailand.
Key words. systematics, biodiversity, genitalia, predator, Streptaxidae, Thailand

Fig. 2. Living snails of: A, Indoartemon medius, new species, paratype CUMZ 5017 (shell width about 8 mm); B, Carinartemis vesperus, new species, paratype CUMZ 6201 (shell width about 10 mm); C, Carinartemis striatus, new species, paratype CUMZ 6205 (shell width about 12 mm).

Fig. 1. Distribution map of Indoartemon spp. and Carinartemis spp.
Indoartemon spp (white circle): (1) Indoartemon cingalensis (Benson, 1853); (2) Indoartemon layardianus (Benson, 1853); (3) Indoartemon glacilis (Collett, 1898); (4) Indoartemon eburneus (Pfeiffer, 1861); (5) Indoartemon fuchsianus (Gredler, 1881); (6) Indoartemon bidens (Möllendorff, 1883); (7) Indoartemon tridens (Möllendorff, 1898); (8) Indoartemon laevis (Blanford, 1899); (9) Indoartemon prestoni (Gude, 1903); and (10) Indoartemon medius, new species.
Carinartemis spp. (black circle): (1) Carinartemis vesperus, new species; and (2) Carinartemis striatus, new species. 

Thanit Siriboon, Chirasak Sutcharit, Fred Naggs, Ben Rowson & Somsak Panha. 2014. Revision of the carnivorous snail genus Indoartemon Forcart, 1946 and a new genus Carinartemis from Thailand (Pulmonata: Streptaxidae). RAFFLES BULLETIN OF ZOOLOGY. 62: 161–174 

Friday, April 18, 2014

[Botany • 2014] Billolivia, a new genus of Gesneriaceae from Vietnam with five new species

Billolivia longipetiolata
photo: Lưu Hồng Trường |

Based on molecular and morphological data, the new genus Billolivia with five new species, B. longipetiolata, B. minutiflora, B. poilanei, B. vietnamensis and B. violacea, is described. IUCN conservation assessments are provided for the species.

Key words: Bayesian inference, Cyrtandra, ITS, maximum parsimony, molecular phylogeny, trnLF

David J. Middleton, Hannah Atkins, Luu Hong Truong, Kanae Nishii & Michael MÖller. 2014. Billolivia, a new genus of Gesneriaceae from Vietnam with five new species. Phytotaxa. 161(4): 241–269.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

[Ornithology • 2014] Molecular Phylogenetics and the Diversification of Hummingbirds

• We present a time-calibrated multilocus phylogeny for 284 species of hummingbirds
• Hummingbird diversification began ∼22 million years ago
• Hummingbirds diversified rapidly, but via heterogeneous clade-specific processes
• Invasion of new land areas such as the Andes and North America spurred diversification

The tempo of species diversification in large clades can reveal fundamental evolutionary mechanisms that operate on large temporal and spatial scale. Hummingbirds have radiated into a diverse assemblage of specialized nectarivores comprising 338 species, but their evolutionary history has not, until now, been comprehensively explored. We studied hummingbird diversification by estimating a time-calibrated phylogeny for 284 hummingbird species, demonstrating that hummingbirds invaded South America by ∼22 million years ago, and subsequently diversified into nine principal clades. Using ancestral state reconstruction and diversification analyses, we (1) estimate the age of the crown-group hummingbird assemblage, (2) investigate the timing and patterns of lineage accumulation for hummingbirds overall and regionally, and (3) evaluate the role of Andean uplift in hummingbird speciation. Detailed analyses reveal disparate clade-specific processes that allowed for ongoing species diversification. One factor was significant variation among clades in diversification rates. For example, the nine principal clades of hummingbirds exhibit ∼15-fold variation in net diversification rates, with evidence for accelerated speciation of a clade that includes the Bee, Emerald, and Mountain Gem groups of hummingbirds. A second factor was colonization of key geographic regions, which opened up new ecological niches. For example, some clades diversified in the context of the uplift of the Andes Mountains, whereas others were affected by the formation of the Panamanian land bridge. Finally, although species accumulation is slowing in all groups of hummingbirds, several major clades maintain rapid rates of diversification on par with classical examples of rapid adaptive radiation.

Jimmy A. McGuire, Christopher C. Witt, J.V. Remsen Jr., Ammon Corl, Daniel L. Rabosky, Douglas L. Altshuler and Robert Dudley. 2014. Molecular Phylogenetics and the Diversification of Hummingbirds. Current Biology.

Hummingbird Family Tree
In a 12-year-long study of 284 of the world’s 338 known hummingbird species, an international team of ornithologists has mapped the 22-million-year-old family tree of these tiny birds.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

[Mammalogy • 2014] Distribution of the Malay Civet Viverra tangalunga (Carnivora: Viverridae) across Southeast Asia: Natural or Human-mediated Dispersal?

Malay civet Viverra tangalunga
photo croix.gagnon

The Malay civet Viverra tangalunga Gray, 1832 is a fairly large viverrid that has a wide distribution in both the Sundaic and Wallacea regions of Southeast Asia. We investigated the genetic diversity of V. tangalunga by analysing the mitochondrial DNA of 81 individuals throughout its range in order to elucidate the evolutionary history of this species and to test the hypotheses of natural dispersal and/or potential human introductions to some islands and regions. Our phylogenetic analyses revealed that V. tangalunga has a low matrilinear genetic diversity and is poorly structured geographically. Borneo is likely to have served as the ancestral population source from which animals dispersed during the Pleistocene. Viverra tangalunga could have naturally dispersed to Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Belitung, and also to several other Sunda Islands (Bangka, Lingga, and Bintang in the Rhio Archipelago), and to Palawan, although there is possible evidence that humans introduced V. tangalunga to the latter islands. Our results strongly suggested that V. tangalunga was transported by humans across Wallace's Line to Sulawesi and the Moluccas, but also to the Philippines and the Natuna Islands. Our study has shown that human-mediated dispersal can be an important factor in understanding the distribution of some species in this region.  

Keywords: biogeography; Carnivora; human introduction; phylogeography; Southeast Asia; Sunda Shelf

Viverra tangalunga from Borneo, Sabah
photo: Kalyan Varma

Malay Civet Viverra tangalunga photographed by a camera trap at night
Gunung Palung Natioanl Park, West Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia.
photo: Tim Laman

Geraldine Veron, Maraike Willsch, Victor Dacosta, Marie-Lilith Patou, Adrian Seymour, Celine Bonillo, Arnaud Couloux, Siew Te Wong, Andrew P. Jennings, Jörns Fickel and Andreas Wilting. 2014. The Distribution of the Malay Civet Viverra tangalunga (Carnivora: Viverridae) across Southeast Asia: Natural or Human-mediated Dispersal? Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 170(4); 917–932 

Monday, April 7, 2014

[Herpetology • 2014] Calluella capsaRed Hot Chili Pepper: A New Calluella Stoliczka, 1872 (Anura: Microhylidae) from Sarawak, East Malaysia (Borneo)

Calluella capsa Das, Min, Hsu, Hertwig & Haas 2014

A new brightly-coloured (olive and red) species of microhylid frog of the genus Calluella Stoliczka 1872 is described from the upper elevations of Gunung Penrissen and the Matang Range, Sarawak, East Malaysia (Borneo). Calluella capsa, new species, is diagnosable in showing the following combination of characters: SVL up to 36.0 mm; dorsum weakly granular; a faint dermal fold across forehead; toe tips obtuse; webbing on toes basal; lateral fringes on toes present; outer metatarsal tubercle present; and dorsum greyish-olive, with red spots; half of venter bright red, the rest with large white and dark areas. The new species is the eighth species of Calluella to be described, and the fourth known from Borneo. A preliminary phylogeny of Calluella and its relatives is presented, and the new taxon compared with congeners from Malaysia and other parts of south-east Asia.

Key words: Calluella capsa sp. nov., Microhylidae, systematics, new species, Gunung Penrissen, Matang Range, Malaysia

Das, Indraneil, Pui Y. Min, Wayne W. Hsu, Stefan T. Hertwig & Alexander Haas. 2014. Red Hot Chili Pepper. A New Calluella Stoliczka, 1872 (Lissamphibia: Anura: Microhylidae) from Sarawak, East Malaysia (Borneo). Zootaxa. 3785(4): 550–560.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

[Ichthyology • 2014] Complementary Redescription of Anacanthobatis ori (Wallace, 1967) and its assignment to Indobatis n. g. (Elasmobranchii, Anacanthobatidae), with comments on other legskates

Indobatis ori (WALLACE, 1967) Black legskate


Anacanthobatis ori is one of the least known species of the family Anacanthobatidae with only four juvenile specimens reported. The species remained assigned to the genus Anacanthobatis sensu lato due to the lack of an adult male as external and skeletal clasper characters are the essential diagnostic features for the differentiation of genera and subgenera within the family Anacanthobatidae. Since an adult male of A. ori became available, along with an adult female and six further juveniles, the authors reinvestigated the species and present its so far unknown diagnostic characters of clasper morphology and skeleton and scapulocoracoid. The clasper turned out to be the most complex one of all known anacanthobatids as the external components flag, slit, pseudosiphon-like cavity, pecten, and two sentinas are not known from any other anacanthobatid species. Furthermore, a dorsal terminal 1 cartilage is present but displaced proximally of the terminal clasper skeleton, the outer edge of dorsal terminal 2 is deeply serrated, the ventral terminal has a very long, curved, strap-like process, and the proximal part of accessory terminal 1 is embedded in the cavity of the baseball-glove-like head of accessory terminal 2. Due to the strong differences in external and internal clasper characters to all other known anacanthobatid species, A. ori is placed in its own, newly erected genus, Indobatis.

Keywords: leg skates, western Indian Ocean, deep water, generic status, clasper features, Crurirajidae

Weigmann, Simon, Matthias F. w. Stehmann & Ralf Thiel. 2014. Complementary Redescription of Anacanthobatis ori (Wallace, 1967) and its assignment to Indobatis n. g. (Elasmobranchii, Anacanthobatidae), with comments on other legskates. Zootaxa. 3779 (2): 101–132

[Ichthyology • 2014] Osteology of Kryptoglanis shajii, a stygobitic catfish (Teleostei: Siluriformes) from Peninsular India with a diagnosis of the new family Kryptoglanidae

Kryptoglanis shajii was recently described from a public well in Kerala, India. Its systematic position among catfishes has remained unresolved partly due to lack of morphological information. We present here a detailed osteological description of the skeleton of K. shajii and discuss its unusual skeletal features. Unlike most other catfishes Kryptoglanis has a fifth vertebra that is well-separated from the Weberian complex, a character shared only with the Diplomystidae, Helogenes and with the troglobitic or phreatic ictalurids Trogloglanis, Prietella and Satan. There is no trace of the dorsal fin or its supporting skeleton and the caudal fin skeleton consists of a single hypural plate articulating with five rays. Kryptoglanis has a number of reductive features, which may be interpreted as developmental truncations. It lacks the vomer, metapterygoid, all infraorbital bones except the antorbital, the mesocoracoid, and the pectoral fin spine.
 The phylogenetic position of Kryptoglanis remains unclear, even though the reduced condition of the palatine may point to a closer relationship with the Siluridae. Our osteological analysis of Kryptoglanis demonstrates that this genus cannot be accommodated into any known catfish family and we therefore propose the new family Kryptoglanidae for it.

 Vincent, M. & Thomas, J. 2011. Kryptoglanis shajii, an enigmatic subterranean-spring catfish (Siluriformes, Incertae sedis) from Kerala, India. Ichthyological Research, 58 (2): 161-165.
Britz, R., Kakkassery, F. & Raghavan, R. 2014. Osteology of Kryptoglanis shajii, a stygobitic catfish (Teleostei: Siluriformes) from Peninsular India with a diagnosis of the new family Kryptoglanidae. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters. 24 (3) [2013]: 193-207.