Friday, February 27, 2015

[Botany • 2015] How to Catch more Prey with Less Effective Traps: Explaining the Evolution of Temporarily Inactive Traps in Carnivorous Nepenthes Pitcher Plants


A worker ant collects sweet nectar from the trap of an insect-eating Nepenthes rafflesiana pitcher plant
photos: Ulrike Bauer, University of Bristol, U.K.

Abstract

Carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plants capture arthropods with specialized slippery surfaces. The key trapping surface, the pitcher rim (peristome), is highly slippery when wetted by rain, nectar or condensation, but not when dry. As natural selection should favour adaptations that maximize prey intake, the evolution of temporarily inactive traps seems paradoxical. Here, we show that intermittent trap deactivation promotes ‘batch captures' of ants. Prey surveys revealed that N. rafflesiana pitchers sporadically capture large numbers of ants from the same species. Continuous experimental wetting of the peristome increased the number of non-recruiting prey, but decreased the number of captured ants and shifted their trapping mode from batch to individual capture events. Ant recruitment was also lower to continuously wetted pitchers. Our experimental data fit a simple model that predicts that intermittent, wetness-based trap activation should allow safe access for ‘scout’ ants under dry conditions, thereby promoting recruitment and ultimately higher prey numbers. The peristome trapping mechanism may therefore represent an adaptation for capturing ants. The relatively rare batch capture events may particularly benefit larger plants with many pitchers. This explains why young plants of many Nepenthes species additionally employ wetness-independent, waxy trapping surfaces.

KEYWORDS: Nepenthes, plant–insect interactions, carnivorous plant, sprey capture, peristome ‘aquaplaning’, collective foraging


Ulrike Bauer, Walter Federle, Hannes Seidel, T. Ulmar Grafe and Christos C. Ioannou. 2015. How to Catch more Prey with Less Effective Traps: Explaining the Evolution of Temporarily Inactive Traps in Carnivorous Pitcher Plants.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2675




Cunning carnivorous plants catch more prey by letting some go news.mongabay.com/2015/0225-lbell-carnivorous-plants.html
Ant-Eating Plant Adjusts to Optimize Its Trapping Ability VOANews.com/content/ant-eating-plant-adjusts-optimize-trapping-ability/2598687.html
Carnivorous Pitcher Plant Catches Ants by Changing Slipperiness of Peristome – Ulrike Bauer (2015) NatureDocumentaries.org/8324/carnivorous-pitcher-plant-catches-ants-changing-slipperiness-peristome-ulrike-bauer-2015/

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

[Paleontology • 2015] A Miocene Hyperdiverse Crocodylian Community reveals Peculiar Trophic Dynamics in proto-Amazonian Mega-Wetlands


The massive wetlands once covered the Amazon River basin about 13 million years ago during the late middle Miocene. Three newly discovered species of crocodylians, including Kuttanacaiman iquitosensis (left), Caiman wannlangstoni (right) and Gnatusuchus pebasensis (bottom), look for clams, which they could likely scoop up with their mouths and crunch with their peglike teeth.
Illustration: Javier Herbozo  

Abstract

Amazonia contains one of the world's richest biotas, but origins of this diversity remain obscure. Onset of the Amazon River drainage at approximately 10.5 Ma represented a major shift in Neotropical ecosystems, and proto-Amazonian biotas just prior to this pivotal episode are integral to understanding origins of Amazonian biodiversity, yet vertebrate fossil evidence is extraordinarily rare. Two new species-rich bonebeds from late Middle Miocene proto-Amazonian deposits of northeastern Peru document the same hyperdiverse assemblage of seven co-occurring crocodylian species. Besides the large-bodied Purussaurus and Mourasuchus, all other crocodylians are new taxa, including a stem caiman — Gnatusuchus pebasensis — bearing a massive shovel-shaped mandible, procumbent anterior and globular posterior teeth, and a mammal-like diastema. This unusual species is an extreme exemplar of a radiation of small caimans with crushing dentitions recording peculiar feeding strategies correlated with a peak in proto-Amazonian molluscan diversity and abundance. These faunas evolved within dysoxic marshes and swamps of the long-lived Pebas Mega-Wetland System and declined with inception of the transcontinental Amazon drainage, favouring diversification of longirostrine crocodylians and more modern generalist-feeding caimans. The rise and demise of distinctive, highly productive aquatic ecosystems substantially influenced evolution of Amazonian biodiversity hotspots of crocodylians and other organisms throughout the Neogene.

KEYWORDS: Miocene, caimanine crocodylians, proto-Amazonia, Pebas System, molluscs, durophagy

the newly discovered species Gnatusuchus pebasensis, a crocodylian [13 million years ago] with a short face and rounded teeth that may have shoveled through the mud at the bottom of lakes and swamps to find prey, such as clams and other mollusks. A crocodylian is an order that includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gharials 
Model: Kevin Montalbán-Rivera

Excavated fossils from Peru show that seven species of crocodylian lived together in the same place at relatively the same time. The skulls and jaws, shown above, are extremely diverse, the researchers said. They include (1) Gnatusuchus pebasensis, (2) Kuttanacaiman iquitosensis, (3) Caiman wannlangstoni, (4) Purussaurus neivensis, (5) Mourasuchus atopus, (6) Pebas Paleosuchus, and (7) Pebas gavialoid.
Reconstructions: Javier Herbozo & Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi




Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, John J. Flynn, Patrice Baby, Julia V. Tejada-Lara, Frank P. Wesselingh and Pierre-Olivier Antoine. 2015. A Miocene Hyperdiverse Crocodylian Community reveals Peculiar Trophic Dynamics in proto-Amazonian Mega-Wetlands. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Crocs rocked pre-Amazonian Peru: New research uncovers 7 crocodile species in single 13-million-year-old bone bed http://phy.so/344017318 via @physorg_com
Ancient Croc with 'Shovel Mouth', Likely Enjoyed Clam Dinners, Roamed the Amazon http://shar.es/1WdZVx Photos: http://shar.es/1WdZED via @LiveScience

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

[Herpetology • 2015] Euphlyctis kalasgramensis • A New Species of Euphlyctis (Anura: Dicroglossidae) from Barisal, Bangladesh


Figure 3. Photographs illustrating diagnostic characters of Euphlyctis species.
 Ventral views of (A) Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis (adult male, institutional collection’s specimen number: RGCB-5695) and (B) Euphlyctis kalasgramensis sp. nov. (adult male, institutional collection’s specimen number: MHL-B1001) (C) dorso-lateral view of Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis (adult male, institutional collection’s specimen number: RGCB-5695) and (D) dorso-lateral view of Euphlyctis kalasgramensis sp. nov. (adult male, institutional collection’s specimen number: MHL-B1001).

 Abstract
A new species of the genus Euphlyctis is described from the Barisal district of Bangladesh and compared with its morphologically similar and geographically proximate congeners. The new species is highly divergent in comparison to other congeneric species on basis of sequence divergence in mitochondrial DNA gene sequences (ranging from 5.5% to 17.8% divergence). Euphlyctis kalasgramensis sp. nov. can be readily diagnosed by having the following combination of characters: snout-vent length (SVL) 30.44 – 37.88 mm, absence of mid-dorsal line, nostril–snout length 3% of SVL, nostril much closer to snout tip than eye, nostril–snout length 48% of distance from front of eyes to nostril, relative length of fingers (shortest to longest: 1 = 2 < 4 < 3), tibia length 59% of SVL, foot length 55% of SVL.

Figure 2. Photographs of Euphlyctis kalasgramensis sp. nov.
 (A) Dorso-lateral view of male (holotype) (B) Ventral view of male (holotype),
(C)
Ventral view of hand, (D) ventral view of foot, and (E) posterior view of thighs.

Mohammad Sajid Ali Howlader , Abhilash Nair, Sujith V. Gopalan and Juha Merilä. 2015. A New Species of Euphlyctis (Anura: Dicroglossidae) from Barisal, Bangladesh.
PLoS ONE. E 10(2)—e0116666: 1–13. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116666

[Herpetology • 2014] Bungarus persicus • A New Species of Krait, Bungarus (Elapidae, Bungarinae) and the First Record of that Genus in Iran


Bungarus persicus  
Abtin, Nilson, Mobaraki, Hosseini & Dehgannejhad. 2014

Abstract
We describe a new species of krait (Elapidae, Bungarus) from Baluchistan, Iran and that differs from all species of Bungarus except its closest relative Bungarus sindanus by having 17 dorsal midbody scale rows. The new species differs from the related allopatric Bungarus sindanus and B. caeruleus by a higher number of ventral plates and a different pattern and by an isolated occurrence in Baluchistan (Iran and Pakistan border region). The new species is especial by having a clear black spot in the loreal region and with an occasionally developed loreal plate (on both sides of head in the holotype).

Keywords: Bungarus; Bungarus persicus; new species; Iran


The distribution of Bungarus persicus sp. nov. (Sarbaz, Iran) (1 ) and the Ras Jiunri specimen (Baluchistan – Pakistan) (2 ) (Shockley 1949) and the known distribution of the Sindhi Krait, Bungarus sindanus sindanus in Pakistan and India (3–8 ) and Bungarus sindanus razai in northwestern Punjab, Pakistan and Afghanistan (9 – 12 ). The subspecies Bungarus sindanus walli and are not on the map but it is distributed to the east and southeast in India. The western border for Bungarus caeruleus in Pakistan is indicated by the black line (after Khan, 2002).

Elham Abtin, Göran Nilson, Asghar Mobaraki, Ashraf Ali Hosseini and Mousa Dehgannejhad. 2014. A New Species of Krait, Bungarus (Reptilia, Elapidae, Bungarinae) and the First Record of that Genus in Iran. Russian Journal of Herpetology. 21(4); 243 – 250 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

[Crustacea • 2015] Geosesarma dennerle & G. hagen • New Species of “Vampire Crabs” (Geosesarma De Man, 1892) from central Java, Indonesia, and The Identity of Sesarma (Geosesarma) nodulifera De Man, 1892 (Crustacea, Brachyura, Thoracotremata, Sesarmidae)


Fig. 6. Colours in life. A–C, Geosesarma dennerle, new species, Cilacap, Java;
D–F, G. hagen, new species, Cilacap, Java.

A, B, specimens from type series; C, male (13.1 × 11.7 mm) (ZRC 2014.0271). A, B: 7°25’59”S, 108°55’50”E, Cilacap, Java; F, 7°27’50”S, 108°50’16”E, Cilacap, Java; C–E, from aquarium trade, from Cilacap, Java
(Photographs: Chris Lukhaup [A, B, F]; Tan Heok Hui [C];
Oliver Mengedoht (specimens not preserved) [D, E]).

Abstract
 Two new species of land-dwelling sesarmid crabs of the genus Geosesarma De Man, 1892, are described from central Java, Indonesia. These species have been in the aquarium trade for many years and go by the popular name of “vampire crabs”. The two species, here named Geosesarma dennerle and G. hagen, are formally described and compared with their closest congeners in Java, G. noduliferum (De Man, 1892) and G. bicolor Ng & Davie, 1995. The identities of G. noduliferum, the type species of the genus, and G. confertum (Ortmann, 1894) are also clarified. 

Key words. Crustacea, Brachyura, Sesarmidae, Geosesarma, new species, taxonomy, Java, Indonesia


Geosesarma dennerle Ng, Schubart & Lukhaup, 2015
A, specimens from type series; C, male from aquarium trade, from Cilacap, Java; type locality

Geosesarma hagen Ng, Schubart & Lukhaup, 2015
[left] specimens from aquarium trade, from Cilacap, Java; D, type locality of G. hagen, new species; E, adult on bank of stream; F, an adult male of on moss covered stream bank.



Peter K. L. Ng, Christoph D. Schubart and Christian Lukhaup. 2015. New Species of “Vampire Crabs” (Geosesarma De Man, 1892) from central Java, Indonesia, and The Identity of Sesarma (Geosesarma) nodulifera De Man, 1892 (Crustacea, Brachyura, Thoracotremata, Sesarmidae). Raffles. Bull. Zool. 63.

Friday, February 20, 2015

[Paleontology • 2015] Ichthyosaurus anningae • A New Species of Ichthyosaurus from the Lower Jurassic of West Dorset, England


Life restoration of Ichthyosaurus anningae.
Illustration: James McKay | DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2014.903260

ABSTRACT
We describe a new species of Lower Jurassic (Hettangian/Sinemurian–Pliensbachian) ichthyosaur, Ichthyosaurus anningae, sp. nov., from west Dorset, England, U.K. The holotype of I. anningae (DONMG:1983.98), at least a subadult, is from the lower Pliensbachian Stonebarrow Marl Member (Charmouth Mudstone Formation). It is the most complete ichthyosaur known from this time interval worldwide. The species is assigned to Ichthyosaurus on the basis of humerus, forefin, and pectoral girdle morphologies. Diagnostic features of the species include a short, robust humerus with prominent processes; a femur in which the proximal width is almost as large as the distal width; and a very small femur relative to the humerus (humerus/femur ratio >1.7). Four other specimens, at least three of which are juveniles, are referred to this species. The new species may display sexual dimorphism in humeral morphology, but this cannot be confirmed due to a lack of stratigraphic information. With the recognition of I. anningae, at least three and possibly as many as five ichthyosaur species, representing three genera, are known from the Pliensbachian.





 Lomax, D.R. and Massare, J.A.. 2015. A New Species of Ichthyosaurus from the Lower Jurassic of West Dorset, England. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2014.903260



Secret of extinct British marine reptile uncovered
A new species of ichthyosaur, an extinct marine reptile which was alive at the same time as the dinosaurs, has been identified from a fossil found on Dorset’s Jurassic coast.

[Entomology / Behaviour • 2015] Moth Tails divert Bat Attack: Evolution of Acoustic Deflection


Luna moth Actias luna
 photo: Geoff Gallice | flic.kr/p/7TwV7q

Abstract
Adaptations to divert the attacks of visually guided predators have evolved repeatedly in animals. Using high-speed infrared videography, we show that luna moths (Actias luna) generate an acoustic diversion with spinning hindwing tails to deflect echolocating bat attacks away from their body and toward these nonessential appendages. We pit luna moths against big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and demonstrate a survival advantage of ∼47% for moths with tails versus those that had their tails removed. The benefit of hindwing tails is equivalent to the advantage conferred to moths by bat-detecting ears. Moth tails lured bat attacks to these wing regions during 55% of interactions between bats and intact luna moths. We analyzed flight kinematics of moths with and without hindwing tails and suggest that tails have a minimal role in flight performance. Using a robust phylogeny, we find that long spatulate tails have independently evolved four times in saturniid moths, further supporting the selective advantage of this anti-bat strategy. Diversionary tactics are perhaps more common than appreciated in predator–prey interactions. Our finding suggests that focusing on the sensory ecologies of key predators will reveal such countermeasures in prey.

Keywords: antipredator defense; bat–moth interactions; Lepidoptera; Saturniidae


Jesse R. Barber, Brian C. Leavell, Adam L. Keener, Jesse W. Breinholt, Brad A. Chadwell, Christopher J. W. McClure, Geena M. Hill and Akito Y. Kawahar. 2015. Moth Tails divert Bat Attack: Evolution of Acoustic Deflection. PNAS. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1421926112


Why Do Luna Moths Have Such Absurdly Long Tails? http://on.natgeo.com/1D5tpvs via  @ngphenomena
Luna moths’ gorgeous wings throw off bat attacks  http://po.st/ZV8dO9 via @SmithsonianMag

[Ornithology • 2015] First Investigation on the Diet of the Eastern Grass Owl Tyto longimembris During the Nesting Period in Thailand


upper: Grass Owl Tyto longimembris longimembris - Chicks in nest
photo:  Akalak Kunsorn | orientalbirdimages.org
lower: Different sizes of pellets and prey’s skulls of eastern grass owl.

Abstract
 The eastern grass owl Tyto longimembris (นกแสกทุ่งหญ้า) was first detected in Thailand in July 2006 at Nong Lom, a grassland in open peat swamp located in the south part of Nong Bong Khai Non-hunting Area, Chiang Rai. Here, it is considered to be a rare resident. At this site, we studied the diet of eastern grass owl by analysing regurgitated pellets collected at their nests during the breeding season from December 2010 to February 2011. We collected 67 pellets from five nests and identified 33 mammal skulls. To identify prey species, DNA was extracted from skulls and was analysed based on molecular techniques. The dietary remains consisted of three murids (Muridae), with the house rat Rattus rattus the dominant species detected (16 skulls, 48.5 % occurrence), and the remainder being Asian house mouse Mus musculus (13 skulls, 39.4%) and ricefield mouse Mus caroli (4 skulls, 12.1%). 

Key words: eastern grass owl, diet, pellet, nocturnal raptor


Akalak Kunsorn, Siriwadee Chomdej, Narit Sitasuwan, Prasit Wangpakapattawong,Chatmongkon Suwannapoom and Brett K. Sandercock. 2015. First Investigation on the Diet of the Eastern Grass Owl During the Nesting Period in Thailand.  Raffles. Bull. Zool. 63: 27–32. 

Kasorndorkbua, C., Kunsorn, A. & Wongchai, C. 2008. Nesting records of eastern grass owl Tyto (capensis) longimembris in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. BirdingASIA. 9: 91–93.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

[Ornithology • 2015] Divergence in Morphology, Calls, Song, Mechanical Sounds, and Genetics supports Species Status for the Inaguan Hummingbird (Trochilidae: Calliphloxevelynaelyrura)


Male Inagua Lyretail Calliphlox lyrura in flight. Males differ from the Bahama Woodstar Calothorax evelynae in their longer “lyre”-shaped outer tail-feathers and magenta crown. Analyses of the song, courtship display, and DNA indicates the Inagua Lyretail is a separate species from the Bahama Woodstar. 
Photo: Anand Varma | VarmaPhoto.com DOI: 10.1642/AUK-14-108.1

ABSTRACT
The Bahama Woodstar (Calliphlox evelynae), a hummingbird endemic to the Bahama Archipelago, comprises two currently recognized subspecies: Calliphlox e. evelynae, found throughout the Bahamas and in the Turks and Caicos Islands, except on Great and Little Inagua; and C. e. lyrura, named for its unique, lyre-shaped outer tail feathers and found only on the islands of Great and Little Inagua. The two were originally described as separate species, partly on the basis of their divergent tail morphology, but were subsequently lumped by Peters (1945). These taxa are members of the North American “bee” hummingbird clade, which produce mechanical sounds with their tails during courtship displays. Changes in tail shape may produce significant acoustic divergence. To determine the extent of differentiation between lyrura and evelynae, we collected field recordings of calls, songs, and courtship displays from New Providence and Great Inagua islands and surveyed morphological variation across the archipelago. We sequenced 4 nuclear loci and 2 mitochondrial genes from 9 individuals of evelynae and 6 individuals of lyrura. Both sexes of lyrura and evelynae can be diagnosed by vocal calls, and males can be diagnosed by morphology, song, and courtship display. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on the genetic data indicate that the 2 populations are reciprocally monophyletic and that they diverged ∼0.69 mya. Our data indicate that lyrura is a unique evolutionary lineage that warrants species status under both the phylogenetic and the biological species concept.

 Keywords: Bahamas, Calliphlox evelynae lyrura, courtship, display dive, sonation, taxonomy

The Bahama woodstar (Calothorax evelynae): two males (left; lower right) with one female (top right).
Illustration by John Gould, 1880.


Male Bahama Woodstar Calliphlox evelynae in flight. This species is found throughout the Bahamas except in Inagua, and has shorter tail-feathers than the Inagua Lyretail.
Photo: Anand Varma | VarmaPhoto.com DOI: 10.1642/AUK-14-108.1


Teresa J. Feo, Jacob M. Musser, Jacob Berv and Christopher James Clark. 2015. Divergence in Morphology, Calls, Song, Mechanical Sounds, and Genetics supports Species Status for the Inaguan Hummingbird (Trochilidae: Calliphlox evelynaelyrura). [Las divergencias en morfología, llamados, canto, sonidos mecánicos y genética apoyan el status de especie de Calliphloxevelynaelyrura (Trochilidae).] The Auk. 132(1): 248-264. DOI: 10.1642/AUK-14-108.1

RESUMEN
Calliphlox evelynae es un picaflor endémico del archipiélago de Bahamas e incluye dos taxa reconocidos actualmente como subespecies. Calliphlox e. evelynae se encuentra a lo largo de las Bahamas y Turks y Caicos, excepto en Gran y Pequeña Inagua. Calliphlox e. lyrura se encuentra solo en las islas de Gran y Pequeña Inagua, y debe su nombre a las plumas externas de la cola únicas con forma de lira. En parte basada en la morfología divergente de sus colas, evelynae y lyrura fueron descriptas originalmente como especies separadas, pero fueron agrupadas subsecuentemente por Peters (1945). Estos dos taxa son miembros del clado de picaflores “abeja” de América del Norte, que producen sonidos mecánicos con sus colas durante los despliegues de cortejo. Los cambios en la forma de la cola pueden producir una divergencia acústica significativa. Para determinar el grado de diferenciación entre lyrura y evelynae, colectamos registros de campo de llamados, cantos y despliegues de cortejo en Nueva Providencia y Gran Inagua, y estudiamos la variación morfológica a través del archipiélago. Secuenciamos cuatro loci nucleares y dos genes mitocondriales de nueve individuos de evelynae y de seis individuos de lyrura. Ambos sexos de lyrura y evelynae pueden ser diagnosticados por las llamadas vocales, y los machos pueden ser diagnosticados por la morfología, el canto y el despliegue de cortejo. Las reconstrucciones filogenéticas basadas en los datos genéticos indican que las dos poblaciones son recíprocamente monofiléticas, y se separaron hace aproximadamente 0,69 millones de años. Nuestros datos indican que lyrura es un linaje evolutivo único que justifica el estatus de especie bajo los conceptos de especie filogenético o biológico.

Palabras clave: Bahamas, Calliphlox evelynae lyrura, cortejo, exhibición de buceo, sonación, taxonomía


A New Species of Hummingbird? ...Data from morphology, behavior, genetics and geology support recognizing “Calliphlox evelynae lyrura” as a new species, says UC Riverside’s Christopher Clark http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/27199

A new species of hummingbird? http://phy.so/342947202 via @physorg_com
Inaguan Lyretail: Scientists Unveil New Species of Hummingbird | sci-news.com/biology/science-inaguan-lyretail-new-species-hummingbird-02510.html

http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/26133 | http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/26570 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

[PaleoMammalogy • 2015] Agilodocodon scansorius & Docofossor brachydactylus • Earliest-known Arboreal and Subterranean Ancestral Mammals from Middle Jurassic of China


Early mammals had a surprisingly wide range of adaptations, ranging from the tree-climbing Agilodocodon (top) to the swimming Castorocauda (in the water) and the burrowing Docofossor (bottom).
Illustration: April I. Neander | ScienceMag.org 

fossils of Docofossor (left) and Agilodocodon (right), the earliest-known subterranean and arboreal mammals.

What were the lives of the earliest mammals like? For many, what comes to mind is an image of a small, insect-eating creature that scurried about at night, hiding from dinosaurs and eking out a meager existence. After all, intense competition from the terrible lizards must surely have forced our very distant ancestors into very limited ecological niches.

While there’s some truth to this stereotype, more and more evidence suggests that early mammals were actually remarkably diverse. The fossils of two interrelated ancestral mammals, newly discovered in China, now help confirm that the wide-ranging ecological diversity of modern mammals had a precedent more than 160 million years ago.

With claws for climbing and teeth adapted for a tree sap diet, Agilodocodon scansorius is the earliest-known tree-dwelling mammaliaform (long-extinct relatives of modern mammals). The other fossil, Docofossor brachydactylus, is the earliest-known subterranean mammaliaform, possessing multiple adaptations similar to African golden moles such as shovel-like paws. Docofossor also has distinct skeletal features that resemble patterns shaped by genes identified in living mammals, suggesting these genetic mechanisms operated long before the rise of modern mammals.

These discoveries are reported by international teams of scientists from the University of Chicago and Beijing Museum of Natural History in two separate papers published Feb. 13 in Science.

“We consistently find with every new fossil that the earliest mammals were just as diverse in both feeding and locomotor adaptations as modern mammals,” said Zhe-Xi Luo, PhD, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago and senior author on both papers. “The groundwork for mammalian success today appears to have been laid long ago.”

......

Earliest-known Arboreal and Subterranean Ancestral Mammals Discovered



Stem mammaliaforms (also known as “stem mammals”) are long-extinct relatives to the extant mammals (crown Mammalia). Docodonts are such a lineage of stem mammaliaforms. Their morphologies provide evidence for the ancestral mammalian condition.



A new docodontan mammaliaform from the Middle Jurassic of China has skeletal features for climbing and dental characters indicative of an omnivorous diet that included plant sap. This fossil expands the range of known locomotor adaptations in docodontans to include climbing, in addition to digging and swimming. It further shows that some docodontans had a diet with a substantial herbivorous component, distinctive from the faunivorous diets previously reported in other members of this clade. This reveals a greater ecological diversity in an early mammaliaform clade at a more fundamental taxonomic level not only between major clades as previously thought.

Qing-Jin Meng, Qiang Ji, Yu-Guang Zhang, Di Liu, David M. Grossnickle and Zhe-Xi Luo. 2015. An Arboreal Docodont from the Jurassic and Mammaliaform Ecological Diversification. Science. 347(6223); 764-768; doi: 10.1126/science.1260879


A new Late Jurassic docodontan shows specializations for a subterranean lifestyle. It is similar to extant subterranean golden moles in having reduced digit segments as compared to the ancestral phalangeal pattern of mammaliaforms and extant mammals. The reduction of digit segments can occur in mammals by fusion of the proximal and intermediate phalangeal precursors, a developmental process for which a gene and signaling network have been characterized in mouse and human. Docodontans show a positional shift of thoracolumbar ribs, a developmental variation that is controlled by Hox9 and Myf5 genes in extant mammals. We argue that these morphogenetic mechanisms of modern mammals were operating before the rise of modern mammals, driving the morphological disparity in the earliest mammaliaform diversification.

Zhe-Xi Luo, Qing-Jin Meng, Qiang Ji, Di Liu, Yu-Guang Zhang and April I. Neander. 2015. Evolutionary Development in Basal Mammaliaforms as revealed by A Docodontan. Science. 347(6223); 760-764; doi: 10.1126/science.1260880



  


Found: Two sophisticated mammals that thrived during the age of the dinosaurs http://news.sciencemag.org/evolution/2015/02/found-two-sophisticated-mammals-thrived-during-age-dinosaurs
2 Jurassic Mini Mammal Species Discovered in China http://shar.es/1oLGia via @LiveScience
Meet the furry Jurassic period critters that outwitted the dinosaurs http://wapo.st/1KSD36z



[Herpetology • 2015] Molecules and Morphology Reveal Overlooked Populations of Two Presumed Extinct Australian Sea Snakes; Aipysurus foliosquama & A. apraefrontalis


Fig 2. Photographs of A,C: Aipysurus apraefrontalis (SAMA R68142) from Ashmore Reef;
and B, D: A. foliosquama (WAM R150365) from Barrow Island. 


Abstract

The critically endangered leaf-scaled (Aipysurus foliosquama) and short-nosed (A. apraefrontalis) sea snakes are currently recognised only from Ashmore and Hibernia reefs ~600km off the northwest Australian coast. Steep population declines in both species were documented over 15 years and neither has been sighted on dedicated surveys of Ashmore and Hibernia since 2001. We examine specimens of these species that were collected from coastal northwest Australian habitats up until 2010 (A. foliosquama) and 2012 (A. apraefrontalis) and were either overlooked or treated as vagrants in conservation assessments. Morphological variation and mitochondrial sequence data confirm the assignment of these coastal specimens to A. foliosquama (Barrow Island, and offshore from Port Hedland) and Aapraefrontalis (Exmouth Gulf, and offshore from Roebourne and Broome). Collection dates, and molecular and morphological variation between coastal and offshore specimens, suggest that the coastal specimens are not vagrants as previously suspected, but instead represent separate breeding populations. The newly recognised populations present another chance for leaf-scaled and short-nosed sea snakes, but coastal habitats in northwest Australia are widely threatened by infrastructure developments and sea snakes are presently omitted from environmental impact assessments for industry. Further studies are urgently needed to assess these species’ remaining distributions, population structure, and extent of occurrence in protected areas.



Kate L. Sanders, Tina Schroeder, Michael L. Guinea and Arne R. Rasmussen. 2015. Molecules and Morphology Reveal Overlooked Populations of Two Presumed Extinct Australian Sea Snakes (Aipysurus: Hydrophiinae). PLoS ONE. 10(2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115679

Friday, February 13, 2015

[Botany • 2015] Thismia hongkongensis • A New Mycoheterotrophic Species (Thismiaceae) from Hong Kong, China, with Observations on Floral Visitors and Seed Dispersal


 Thismia hongkongensis S.S.Mar & R.M.K.Saunders
Flower structure in Thismia hongkongensis sp. nov. A Mature flower, showing outer tepals (ot), inner tepals (it) and abscission zone (ab) at the base of the perianth tube. B Entire plant (S.S. Mar 1, HK).
doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.46.8963

Figure 1. Flower development in Thismia hongkongensis sp. nov.
A, B Root system, with young flowering stalk developing (arrowed). C–G Developing flower, photographed over a 17-day period (10th, 14th, 16th, 19th and 23rd May, respectively) (S.S. Mar 1, HK). I, J Post-fertilization flower, showing abscission of perianth tube.
Photos by S.S. Mar. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.46.8963

Abstract
A new species, Thismia hongkongensis S.S.Mar & R.M.K.Saunders, is described from Hong Kong. It is most closely related to Thismia brunonis Griff. from Myanmar, but differs in the number of flowers per inflorescence, the colour of the perianth tube, the length of the filaments, and the shape of the stigma lobes. We also provide inferences on the pollination ecology and seed dispersal of the new species, based on field observations and interpretations of morphology. The flowers are visited by fungus gnats (Myctophilidae or Sciaridae) and scuttle flies (Phoridae), which are likely to enter the perianth tube via the annulus below the filiform tepal appendages, and exit via small apertures between the filaments of the pendent stamens. The flowers are inferred to be protandrous, and flies visiting late-anthetic (pistillate-phase) flowers are possibly trapped within the flower, increasing chances of pollen deposition on the receptive stigma. The seeds are likely to be dispersed by rain splash.

Keywords: Burmanniaceae, China, mycoheterotrophic, pollination, rain splash dispersal, Thismia, Thismiaceae, new species


Figure 3. Fruit structure in Thismia hongkongensis sp. nov.
A
Flower (rear right), immature fruit, shortly after fertilization (left), and mature fruit with exposed seeds (front). B Two fruiting individuals, each with three fruits.

 Photos by S.S. Mar. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.46.8963

Figure 3. Fruit structure in Thismia hongkongensis sp. nov.
C
Lateral view of fruiting specimen, illustrating elongated fruit stalk. D Mature fruit with exposed seeds. E Dehydrated fruit. F Rehydrated fruit, after rainfall.

Photos by S.S. Mar. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.46.8963

Shek Shing Mar and Richard Saunders. 2015. Thismia hongkongensis (Thismiaceae): A New Mycoheterotrophic Species from Hong Kong, China, with Observations on Floral Visitors and Seed Dispersal. PhytoKeys 46: 21-33. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.46.8963