Monday, May 29, 2017

[Herpetology • 2017] Limnonectes quangninhensis • A New Species of Limnonectes (Anura: Dicroglossidae) from northeastern Vietnam

Limnonectes quangninhensis Pham, Le, Nguyen, Ziegler, Wu & Nguyen, 2017

Quangninh Wart Frog | Ếch nhẽo quảng ninh  || DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4269.4.8


A new species of Limnonectes is described from northeastern Vietnam based on morphological and molecular differences. Morphologically, the new species is distinguishable from its congeners on the basis of a combination of the following diagnostic characters: Large size (SVL 50.1–68.9 in males, 45.5–63.0 mm in females); males with moderately enlarged head (HL/SVL 0.48), head longer than wide; vomerine teeth present; external vocal sacs absent; rostral length short (RL/SVL 0.16 in males, 0.15 in females); tympanum distinct (TD/ED 0.63 in males, 0.60 in females); dorsal surface of head, body and flanks with flattened tubercles; dorsal surface of tibia possessing small tubercles; supratympanic fold present; dorsolateral fold absent; webbing formula I0–0II0–1/3III0–1/3IV1/2–0V; in life, dorsum yellowish brown with a dark brown marking; throat and chest white with dark brown marking; ventral surface of fore and hind limbs as well as belly white. In phylogenetic analyses, the new species is placed as the sister taxon to Limnonectes fujianensis with strong statistical support in all analyses.

Keywords: Limnonectes quangninhensis sp. nov., molecular phylogeny, taxonomy, Quang Ninh Province, Amphibia

ventral view of the holotype (IEBR 3907, male) of Limnonectes quangninhensis sp. nov.   

Etymology. The specific epithet “quangninhensis” refers to the type locality of the new species, Quang Ninh Province. For the common names we suggest Quangninh Wart Frog (English) and Ếch nhẽo quảng ninh (Vietnamese).

 The C. Pham, Minh D. Le, Tao T. Nguyen, Thomas Ziegler, Zheng J. Wu and Truong Q. Nguyen. 2017. A New Species of Limnonectes (Amphibia: Anura: Dicroglossidae) from Vietnam. Zootaxa.  4269(4); 545–558. DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4269.4.8

[Botany • 2017] Satyrium liltvedianum • A Newly Discovered Orchid Species from the Kogelberg Mountains of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa

Satyrium liltvedianum Van der Niet

• A new orchid species was discovered in the well-botanised Kogelberg Mountains.
• The new species was not present among historical museum collections.
• The new species resembles other Satyrium species, but is phylogenetically distinct.
• The compound β-Linalool dominates the floral scent, indicative of moth pollination.

Individuals of plant populations with traits which are inconsistent with any existing species description may represent intraspecific variants, products of hybridisation, or a novel species. To distinguish among these possibilities for a population of unusual Satyrium individuals from the Kogelberg Mountains in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), morphological traits and floral scent were documented, and phylogenetic analyses implemented. Plants from the Kogelberg population were characterised by long-spurred white flowers and a bifid rostellum. Floral scent was dominated by the common floral monoterpene volatile β-linalool. Although these traits characterise several southern African members of the genus, DNA sequences from the nuclear and plastid genomes of an accession from the Kogelberg population were highly distinct from other Satyrium species. The Kogelberg accession occupied an isolated phylogenetic position within the ‘Satyrium clade’ and was not sister to any other species with similar traits. There was weak support for membership of a clade of species with which plants from the Kogelberg population share the possession of lateral sepals that project at a perpendicular angle to the median sepal, and cover the side of the labellum, and which also produce β-linalool as dominant scent compound. Given the congruence of phylogenetic relationships inferred from plastid and nuclear DNA sequences respectively, a hybrid status of the Kogelberg population was rejected. Based on these results, the new species, Satyrium liltvedianum, which is uniquely characterised by the size, shape and orientation of sepals and lateral petals, is described in this study. Other Satyrium species with similar floral traits are pollinated by crepuscular moths, which therefore can also be inferred for the new species. A dichotomous key to the white-flowered, long-spurred Satyrium species of South Africa is provided. The restricted distribution range, a typical phenomenon for many CFR plant species, in combination with the isolated phylogenetic position, suggests that S. liltvedianum represents a palaeoendemic species.

Keywords: β-Linalool; Moth pollination; Orchidaceae; Palaeoendemic; Floral scent

Fig. 1. Satyrium liltvedianum in situ on 10 November 2009 at the type locality in the Kogelberg Mountains after the veld fire, showing maroon coloration of the stem, sheathing leaves and abaxial side of the bracts.

Photograph by Herbert Stärker. 

Satyrium liltvedianum Van der Niet sp. nov. is morphologically similar to S. candidum, but differs from this species by having lateral sepals that overlap with the outside surface of the labellum and project at a ninety-degree angle from the median sepal instead of projecting from the same plane, and lateral sepals and petals that are approximately equal in size instead of smaller lateral petals than lateral sepals, and a median sepal that is narrower and longer than the lateral sepals instead of more or less similarly-sized.

TYPE.— Western Cape Province, 3418 (Somerset West): Steenbras Catchment area near Rockview Dam, Kogelberg Mountains (–BB), 18 Nov 2009, W.R. Liltved 120 (NBG, holo.).

Distribution: S. liltvedianum is known from a single population in the Steenbras Catchment area of the Kogelberg Mountains.

Etymology: This species is named in honour of William Rune Liltved (1960–) who, over the past two decades, has made an invaluable contribution to recording the orchids of the Cape Floristic Region. This work culminated in publication of the book, The Cape Orchids ( Liltved and Johnson, 2012).

Conservation status: Similar to several other orchids from the CFR, S. liltvedianum is known only from a single localised population of about 50 individuals (Linder and Kurzweil, 1999). The species is therefore considered highly vulnerable.

There are many reasons why efforts to discover and describe species should be ongoing. Only recognised taxa can be adequately conserved; the success of scientific research often depends on sound taxonomic classification; beneficial properties of species can only be communicated if a species has a formal name; and recently Dijkstra (2016) argued that because naming species is inherent to human nature, continued exploration for the vast majority of species that are still unknown will improve our consciousness of the natural world. Much of Earth's biotic diversity is currently highly threatened and many species are on the brink of extinction, or have recently gone extinct (Wake and Vredenburg, 2008; Barnosky et al., 2011;  McCallum, 2015), which provides a great sense of urgency to taxonomic enterprise. Several studies, including this study, have shown that new species are regularly still discovered in the field (e.g. Linder and Hitchcock, 2006 ;  Steiner, 2011). Therefore, taxonomy cannot solely rely on historical herbarium or museum collections, even from within relatively well-botanised areas such as the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve of the CFR, only 70 km from the city of Cape Town.

T. Van der Niet. 2017. Satyrium liltvedianum: A Newly Discovered Orchid Species from the Kogelberg Mountains of the Cape Floristic Region (South Africa).  South African Journal of Botany. 111; 126-133. DOI:   10.1016/j.sajb.2017.03.018
New species named after the man who co-wrote the ultimate Cape orchid book   @SciBraai

[Tunicata • 2017] Rhopalaea bilobata • A New Species of Sea Squirt (Ascidiacea: Diazonidae) from the Andaman Islands, India

 Rhopalaea bilobata 
Mondal, Raghunathan & Mondal, 2017 

 Rhopalaea bilobata, a new species of the class Ascidiacea, under the family Diazonidae has been described from the Andaman Islands of Andaman & Nicobar, India. The species was found in sandy bottoms, reef areas and artificial structures at a depth range of 10–40 m. This species has bilobed anal border, six lobed branchial and atrial siphons, transparent thorax with pigmented spots at the anus, between the two siphons and at the anterior end of endostyle, and ramified basal test. The species is closely related to R. idonetaRmacrothorax and R. tenuis in several sets of anatomical and morphological features.

Keywords: Anal border, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Ascidians, Rhopalaea, Tunicata.

Etymology: The species bears distinctive triangular bilobed anal border.

Distribution: India: Havelock Island, Trilby Island and Pongibalu of Andaman Islands.
Jhimli Mondal, C. Raghunathan and Tamal Mondal. 2017. A New Species of Sea Squirt, Rhopalaea bilobata (Ascidiacea: Diazonidae) from the Andaman Islands, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa.  9(5); 10187–10193.  DOI: 10.11609/jott.2620.9.5.10187-10193

Sunday, May 28, 2017

[Botany • 2017] Bulbophyllum jingdongense • A New Species in the Cirrhopetalum alliance (Orchidaceae) from South China and Laos

Bulbophyllum jingdongense 
A. Q. Hu, D. P. Ye & Jian W. Li


Bulbophyllum jingdongense, a new species from South China and Laos belonging to the Cirrhopetalum alliance (Orchidaceae), is described and illustrated. It is morphologically distinct from all other known species in the alliance on account of the following diagnostic characters: pseudobulbs compressed subglobose; sepals and petals with dense, reddish-purple papillae on abaxial surfaces; lateral sepals basally connivent along their lower edges, the upper edges strongly incurved and connivent at the middle and then becoming separate again towards their incurved, horn-shaped, obtuse apex; column with a single orange-yellow gland below the stigma; and stelidia well-developed, 2.5–3 mm long, truncate at base, acuminate, merging with the column wings on each side of the column. The conservation status of B. jingdongense is assessed and taxonomic notes are provided.

Keywords: Bulbophyllum, Cirrhopetalum alliance, new species, taxonomy, Monocots


Bulbophyllum jingdongense A. Q. Hu, D. P. Ye & Jian W. Li, sp. nov.  

Distribution:— Bulbophyllum jingdongense is currently only recorded from Yunnan Province in Southwest China and Khammouane Province in central Laos.

FIGURE 2. Bulbophyllum jingdongense, sp. nov.:
 A. Plants in natural habitat at holotype locality in Jingdong County, Yunnan Province, South China. B. Plants epiphytic on a pine tree in Jingdong County. C. Living collection from Nakai District, Khammouane Province, central Laos, brought into cultivation at the Biotechnology and Ecology Institute, Laos. D. Close-up of habit with inflorescence. E. Close-up of a single inflorescence. F. Close-up of the column, highlighting the orange-yellow gland below the stigma.
 (A, D, E & F from holotype A.Q.Hu et al. 803, photographed by A.Q. Hu; B from paratype Jian-Wu Li 4494, photographed by Jian W. Li; C from paratype HNL-KFBG 0409, photographed by S.W. Gale). 

 Ai-Qun Wu, De-Ping Ye, Stephan W. Gale, Richard M. K. Saunders, Gunter A. Fischer and Jian-Wu Li. 2017. Bulbophyllum jingdongense (Orchidaceae), A New Species in the Cirrhopetalum alliance from South China and Laos. Phytotaxa. 307(3); 199-204. DOI: 10.11646/phytotaxa.307.3.4

A New Species of Orchid Found in Jingdong, Yunnan 


[Ichthyology • 2017] Palatogobius incendius • A New Mesophotic Goby (Teleostei: Gobiidae) from the Caribbean, and the First Record of Invasive Lionfish Preying on Undescribed Biodiversity

Palatogobius incendius 
Tornabene, Robertson & Baldwin, 2017


A new species of deep-reef fish in the goby genus Palatogobius is described from recent submersible collections off Curaçao and Dominica. Video footage of schools of this species reveal predation by the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois spp.), the first record of undescribed fauna potentially being eaten by lionfish outside of its native range. We present molecular phylogenetic data for all valid species of Palatogobius and related genera, as well as a taxonomic key to the species of Palatogobius and a generic key to Palatogobius and related genera in the western Atlantic. Lastly, we discuss ecological and behavioral aspects of some deep-reef fishes in light of potential threats from invasive lionfish.

Fig 2. Palatogobius incendius, live in aquarium, USNM 415430, 18.3 mm SL, Curacao. Photo by Barry Brown. 

Fig 1. Palatogobius incendius, prior to preservation.
A) USNM 436470, tissue CUR15135, 19 mm SL, Curacao; B) USNM 436483, tissue CUR15148, 21 mm SL, Curacao; C) USNM 431354, tissue CUR14029, 22 mm SL, Curacao; D) USNM 435318, 18.1 mm, Curacao. Photos by Carole C. Baldwin. 

Palatogobius incendius Tornabene, D. Ross Robertson & Baldwin, sp. nov.

Diagnosis: Side of body with yellow/orange stripe along lateral midline, stripe continuing onto and extending entire length of caudal fin; second dorsal fin I,14–16; anal fin I,14–17; pectoral fin 18–20; no teeth on vomer; body scales absent except for occasionally 2 to 3 cycloid scales on base of caudal fin; interorbital pore C absent; interorbital pores D paired; eye diameter 7.0–9.0% SL.

Etymology: The specific epithet incendius is an adjective formed from the Latin root incendium meaning ‘fire.’ The scientific and proposed common names refer to the bright orange, yellow and reddish-pink coloration on the body, head and fins.

Fig 6. School of Palatogobius incendius at type locality, sta. CURASUB15-30, 152 m depth, Curacao. 

Habitat and distribution: Palatogobius incendius has been collected on deep reefs from Curacao (119–128 m) and Dominica (88–168 m) and observed off Roatan, Honduras (94–201 m). The species occurs exclusively in hovering schools ranging in size from as small as 5 to 10 individuals (rare) to 50->200 individuals (Fig 6). Schools are most frequently found at the top or bottom of vertical walls off Curaçao and Dominica, but off Roatan we observed more than a dozen schools of P. incendius collectively comprising as many as 1000 individuals over a long, gradually inclining stretch of sand and small rocks from ~150–170 m depth. Over this stretch, P. incendius co-occurred with many individuals of P. grandoculus, which were closer to the bottom rather than hovering well off the bottom like P. incendius. Schools of P. incendius generally comprise individuals at multiple life stages, ranging from moderately developed larvae (~9 mm SL) to adults. Off Dominica we also observed larger swarms of minuscule fish (~5 mm TL) that could possibly be very recently recruited P. incendius larvae, given their size, abundance and depth range. Individuals in these swarms were too small to be captured, and were observed traveling only a few cm off the bottom rather than hovering in a cloud well above the substrate. These schools of post-larvae were 1–2 m wide and up to 5 m long, and moved steadily upslope at approximately 0.15 m/s, navigating laterally around obstacles in a fashion superficially similar to a wide chain of marching army ants.

Luke Tornabene and Carole C. Baldwin. 2017. A New Mesophotic Goby, Palatogobius incendius (Teleostei: Gobiidae), and the First Record of Invasive Lionfish Preying on Undescribed Biodiversity. PLoS ONE. 12(5): e0177179.  DOI:  10.1371/journal.pone.0177179

[Botany • 2017] Begonia ignita • A New Species (sect. Petermannia, Begoniaceae) with Orange Flowers from Sulawesi, Indonesia

Begonia ignita  C.W.Lin & C.I Peng

 Begonia ignita C.W.Lin & C.I Peng, a new species of Begonia sect. Petermannia from Sulawesi, Indonesia, is here described and illustrated. It is distinct from other species in Begonia section Petermannia by a character combination including a procumbent stem ascending only at the apex, symmetric or subsymmetric leaves, the presence of a pale band or maculation running parallel to the leaf margin, and orange tepals. A detailed comparison with a morphologically similar species, the Sulawesi endemic Begonia mendumiae M.Hughes, is provided. 

Keywords. Begonia ignitaBmendumiae, Indonesia, new species, Sulawesi

Fig. 2. Begonia ignita C.W.Lin & C.I Peng.
A, B. Habit, showing variation in leaf colours. C, D. 5-tepaled pistillate flower (occasional), face and side views. E. Inflorescence, showing 2-tepaled staminate flowers. F. Staminate flower, face view. G. 4-tepaled pistillate flower in inflorescence. H. 2-tepaled pistillate flower (occasional). I. Cross section of ovary showing axile, bilamellate placentae. (Photos: Y.-Z. Siaw) 

Begonia ignita C.W.Lin & C.I Peng, sp. nov. § Petermannia 

This species is distinct from other species in Begonia section Petermannia by a character combination including a procumbent stem ascending only at the apex, symmetric or subsymmetric leaves, the presence of a pale band or maculation running parallel to the leaf margin, and orange tepals.
 TYPE: Collected in Indonesia, Sulawesi, precise locality unknown, grown in cultivation in Bogor Botanic Gardens and vouchered on 9 October 2016 as Wisnu H. Ardi WI 117 (holotype BO; isotype SING). (Fig. 1, 2)

Distribution. Only known from cultivation; likely endemic to Sulawesi (see Notes). 

Etymology. The specific epithet refers to the flame-coloured tepals (Latin: igneus – flame-coloured).

C.-W. Lin, D.C. Thomas, W.H. Ardi and C.-I Peng. 2017. Begonia ignita (sect. Petermannia, Begoniaceae), A New Species with Orange Flowers from Sulawesi, Indonesia. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore. 69(1); 89–95. DOI: 10.3850/S2010098116000081

Saturday, May 27, 2017

[Botany • 2017] A Revision of Hoya (Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae) of Papuasia. Part I: Ten New Species, One New Subspecies and One New Combination

Hoya edholmiana, H. evelinae, H. krusenstierniana H. carrii
Simonsson & Rodda  

 The large majority of Hoya R.Br. species known from Papuasia were described in the first half of the 20th century and most of these are endemic. Along with Borneo and the Philippines the region is a centre of diversity of the genus. Since 2006 herbarium materials have been studied for a revision of Hoya of New Guinea along with field investigations on Papuasian Hoya since 2010. In the present paper we publish ten new species, Hoya brassii P.I.Forst. & Liddle ex Simonsson & Rodda, H. carrii P.I.Forst. & Liddle ex Simonsson & Rodda, H. edholmiana Simonsson & Rodda, H. evelinae Simonsson & RoddaH. juhoneweana Simonsson & Rodda, H. krusenstierniana Simonsson & Rodda, H. koteka Simonsson & Rodda, H. stenakei Simonsson & Rodda, H. versteegii Simonsson & Rodda and H. yvesrocheri Simonsson & Rodda, one subspecies, H. juhoneweana ssp. lindforsiana Simonsson & Rodda, and make one new combinationH. urniflora (P.I.Forst.) Simonsson & Rodda, which is also lectotypified. 

Keywords: Indonesia, Marsdenieae, Papua New Guinea

Hoya brassii P.I.Forst. & Liddle ex Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov.

Etymology. Named after Leonard John Brass (1900–1971), an Australian botanist who collected the type specimen in 1936 on the Fly River Expedition of the American Museum of National History (the second Archbold New Guinea Expedition).

Hoya carrii P.I.Forst. & Liddle ex Simonsson & Rodda sp. nov.

Etymology. Named after C. E. Carr (1892–1936), who first collected the taxon in 1935, and again in 1936, on a collecting expedition supported by the British Museum, London, which started in 1934. He died of malaria in June 1936, just a few months after discovering the second locality of Hoya carrii.

Hoya edholmiana Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov. 

 Etymology. Named after the siblings CharlizeDiesel and Evelize Edholm of Sweden, supporters of the first author’s work in PNG.

Hoya evelinae Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov.

Etymology. Named after the late Mrs Evelina Eriksson (1932–2009) of Sweden who supported the first author’s work in PNG.

Hoya juhoneweana Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov. 
subsp. juhoneweana 

Etymology. Named after the first author’s colleague, Foreting Juhonewe, who is also from Hoboc village. He has been of great importance for this research. He has eagerly tried to find more of this rare and diminishing Hoya and promoted its conservation in situ amongst his clan’s people.

Hoya juhoneweana subsp. lindforsiana Simonsson & Rodda, subsp. nov. 

Etymology. Named after Constantinus Lindfors in Sweden, a supporter of the first author’s work in PNG.

Hoya krusenstierniana Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov. 

Etymology. Named after the Krusenstiern family, supporters of the first author’s work in PNG.

Hoya koteka Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov. 

Etymology. Named after its elongated style-head that resembles the traditional koteka, or penis-gourd traditionally worn by male natives of New Guinea.

Hoya stenakei Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov. 

Etymology. Named after the late Mr Sten-Åke Svensson (1947 – 2011) of Sweden, whose children supported the first author’s work in PNG.

Hoya versteegii Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov.

Etymology. Named after its collector, G. Versteeg (1876–1943).

Hoya yvesrocheri Simonsson & Rodda, sp. nov. 

Etymology. Named after the Yves Rocher Foundation which supported the first author’s Hoya Project for five years during 2011–2015.

N. Simonsson Juhonewe and M. Rodda. 2017. Contribution to A Revision of Hoya (Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae) of Papuasia. Part I: Ten New Species, One New Subspecies and One New Combination. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore. 69(1); 97–147.  

[Botany • 2017] Acropogon mesophilus • A Rare and Threatened New Species (Malvaceae, Sterculioideae) from the Mesic Forest of New Caledonia [Novitates Neocaledonicae VI]

Acropogon mesophilus  Munzinger & Gâteblé


A new species, Acropogon mesophilus Munzinger & Gâteblé (Malvaceae, Sterculioideae), is described from New Caledonia. This species is endemic to non-ultramafic areas, along the southwestern coast of Grande-Terre. The species has large leaves, widely ovate to ovate, and entire, and might be confused with only two other endemic species, namely A. bullatus (Pancher & Sebert) Morat and A. veillonii Morat. However, A. mesophilus differs from the other two species most evidently by its leaves 3-nerved, flat, and with truncate to rounded bases, versus leaves 5-nerved, bullate, and with cordate bases. A line drawing and color photos are provided for the new species, along with a discussion of its morphological affinities and a preliminary risk of extinction assessment of Endangered.

Keywords: Acropogon, Malvaceae, mesic forest, New Caledonia, new species, Sterculioideae, taxonomy, threatened species, Eudicots

Acropogon mesophilus Munzinger & Gâteblé spec. nov.A. Overview of a single big tree. B. Flowering branch. C. Leaves. D. Inflorescence. E. Male (left) and female (right) flowers. 

Acropogon mesophilus Munzinger & Gâteblé, spec. nov. 

Type:— NEW CALEDONIA. Province Sud: Boulouparis, Camp Brun, le long de la Diahot, 130 m, 21°49’29.85”S, 165°54’50.71”E, 30 September 2015, Gâteblé 711 (holotype P-01069417!; isotypes G!, K!, MEL!, MPU-028533!, MO!, NOU-081994!, NOU-081995!, P-01069418!). 

Diagnosis:— Acropogon mesophilus Munzinger & Gâteblé differs from A. bullatus and A. veillonii by its flat, ovate leaf blade, with base truncate to rounded, three main palmate veins and many evident domatia, and by its yellow sepals with 2–4 grayish-purple stripes per calyx lobe.

Etymology:— The plant is named after the mesic forests where it grows.

FIGURE 2.— Acropogon mesophilus Munzinger & Gâteblé spec. nov. (A–F), A. bullatus (G) & A. veillonii (H):
A. Overview of a single big tree. B. Flowering branch. C. Leaves. D. Inflorescence. E. Male (left) and female (right) flowers. F. Follicles. G–H. Inflorescences.

Gâteblé 711 (A–B), Gâteblé et al. 685 (C), Gâteblé 719 (D), Le Borgne 58 (E–F), Gâteblé & Butaud 733 (G), photos by G. Gâteblé (A–D & G), T. Le Borgne (E–F) & J.-F. Butaud (H).   DOI:  10.11646/phytotaxa.307.3.2 

Jérôme Munzinger and Gildas Gâteblé. 2017. Novitates Neocaledonicae VI: Acropogon mesophilus (Malvaceae, Sterculioideae), A Rare and Threatened New Species from the Mesic Forest of New Caledonia. Phytotaxa. 307.3; 183-190. DOI:  10.11646/phytotaxa.307.3.2

[Cnidaria • 2017] Sinularia mesophotica • Search for Mesophotic Octocorals (Cnidaria, Anthozoa) and Their Phylogeny. II. A New Zooxanthellate Species from Eilat, northern Red Sea

Sinularia mesophotica 
Benayahu, McFadden, Shoham & van Ofwegen, 2017   

An octocoral survey conducted in the mesophotic coral ecosystem (MCE) of Eilat (Gulf of Aqaba, northern Red Sea) yielded a new species of the speciose reef-dwelling genus Sinularia. It features encrusting colony morphology with a thin, funnel-shaped polypary. Sinularia mesophotica sp. n. (family Alcyoniidae) is described and compared to the other congeners with similar morphology. Both the morphological and molecular examination justified the establishment of the new species, also assigning it to a new genetic clade within Sinularia. The results highlight its unique phylogenetic position within the genus, and this is the first described species of a mesophotic zooxanthellate octocoral.

Keywords: Octocorallia, taxonomy, new species, mesophotic coral ecosystem, Eilat, Red Sea

Figure 4. Underwater photographs of Sinularia mesophotica sp. n. A patch of colonies 

Systematic description

Order Alcyonacea Lamouroux, 1912
Family Alcyoniidae Lamouroux, 1912

Genus Sinularia May, 1898

Sinularia mesophotica sp. n.

Figure 1. Sinularia mesophotica sp. n.; A Holotype ZMTAU Co 37425 B paratypes ZMTAU Co 37492.
Scale bar: 1 cm (A also applies to B). 

Diagnosis: The holotype is part of an encrusting colony with a thin, funnel-shaped polypary, also featuring a curly margin (Fig. 1A). In a side-view its maximum dimensions are 5 × 2.5 cm. Polyps with tentacle rods and collaret sclerites (Fig. 2A–C). Tentacle rods up to 0.10 mm long (Fig. 2A). Collaret consists of almost straight spindles, up to 0.20 mm long (Fig. 2B), and shorter bent ones, up to 0.14 mm long (Fig. 2C). Surface layer of the polypary with clubs (Fig. 2D), some featuring a central wart, while in others it is less discernible, or even absent. Clubs vary from 0.10 mm long to 0.25 mm long, and a few with poorly developed heads attain 0.27 mm (Fig. 2E). Surface layer of the colony base contains clubs up to 0.22 mm; some similar to those of polypary, and others have wide heads (Fig. 3A). Polypary and base interior bear spindles, some branched, up to 3.2 mm long (Fig. 3B), with well-spaced simple tubercles (Fig. 3C).

Etymology: The new species name reflects its mesophotic habitat.

Figure 4. Underwater photographs of Sinularia mesophotica sp. n.  B funnel-shaped morphology of colonies. 

Yehuda Benayahu, Catherine S. McFadden, Erez Shoham and Leen P. van Ofwegen. 2017. Search for Mesophotic Octocorals (Cnidaria, Anthozoa) and Their Phylogeny. II. A New Zooxanthellate Species from Eilat, northern Red Sea. ZooKeys. 676: 1-12.  DOI:  10.3897/zookeys.676.12751

Friday, May 26, 2017

[Paleontology • 2017] Luskhan itilensis • Plasticity and Convergence in the Evolution of Short-Necked Plesiosaurs

Luskhan itilensis 
Fischer, Benson, Zverkov, Soul, Arkhangelsky, Lambert, Stenshin, Uspensky & Druckenmiller, 2017

  Reconstruction by Andrey Atuchin.

• A new unusual pliosaur marine reptile is described from the Cretaceous of Russia
• Ecomorphological convergence is assessed in short-necked plesiosaurs
• Pliosaurs repeatedly evolved longirostrine piscivorous forms
• Profound convergence characterizes the evolution of short-necked plesiosaurs

Plesiosaurs were the longest-surviving group of secondarily marine tetrapods, comparable in diversity to today’s cetaceans. During their long evolutionary history, which spanned the Jurassic and the Cretaceous (201 to 66 Ma), plesiosaurs repeatedly evolved long- and short-necked body plans. Despite this postcranial plasticity, short-necked plesiosaur clades have traditionally been regarded as being highly constrained to persistent and clearly distinct ecological niches: advanced members of Pliosauridae (ranging from the Middle Jurassic to the early Late Cretaceous) have been characterized as apex predators, whereas members of the distantly related clade Polycotylidae (middle to Late Cretaceous) were thought to have been fast-swimming piscivores. We report a new, highly unusual pliosaurid from the Early Cretaceous of Russia that shows close convergence with the cranial structure of polycotylids: Luskhan itilensis gen. et sp. nov. Using novel cladistic and ecomorphological data, we show that pliosaurids iteratively evolved polycotylid-like cranial morphologies from the Early Jurassic until the Early Cretaceous. This underscores the ecological diversity of derived pliosaurids and reveals a more complex evolutionary history than their iconic representation as gigantic apex predators of Mesozoic marine ecosystems suggests. Collectively, these data demonstrate an even higher degree of morphological plasticity and convergence in the evolution of plesiosaurs than previously thought and suggest the existence of an optimal ecomorphology for short-necked piscivorous plesiosaurs through time and across phylogeny.

Keywords: Plesiosauria, Thalassophonea, convergence, ecomorphology, morphospace, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Luskhan itilensis, plasticity, evolution

Luskhan itilensis 
  Reconstruction by Andrey Atuchin. 

Plesiosauria Blainville, 1835 
Pliosauridae Seeley, 1874
Thalassophonea Benson & Druckenmiller, 2014 
Brachaucheninae Williston, 1925 sensu Benson & Druckenmiller

Luskhan itilensis gen. et sp. nov

Etymology: The Volga river area is the heartland of Golden Horde from the Mongol Empire. In Mongolian and Turkic mythology, ‘‘luuses’’ are spirits and masters of water, and ‘‘khan’’ means chief. ‘‘Itil’’ is the ancient Turkic name of the Volga.

Holotype, Horizon, and Locality: YKM 68344/1_262, a nearly complete, three-dimensionally preserved skeleton excavated in 2002 by one of us (G.N.U.) in the upper portion of the Speetoniceras versicolor Zone, upper Hauterivian, Lower Cretaceous on the right bank of the Volga river, 3 km north of the Slantsevy Rudnik village, western Russia. The horizon is level g-5 in local stratigraphy

Valentin Fischer, Roger B.J. Benson, Nikolay G. Zverkov, Laura C. Soul, Maxim S. Arkhangelsky, Olivier Lambert, Ilya M. Stenshin, Gleb N. Uspensky and Patrick S. Druckenmiller. 2017. Plasticity and Convergence in the Evolution of Short-Necked Plesiosaurs. Current Biology. DOI:  10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.052 

New species of fossil marine reptile, by Valentin Fischer @UniversiteLiege via @EurekAlert

[Ornithology • 2017] The Role of Niche Divergence and Geographic Arrangement in the Speciation of Eared Pheasants (Crossoptilon, Hodgson 1938)

 Wang, Liu, Liu, Chang, Wang & Zhang, 2017  DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.05.003 

• The phylogenetic relationship of Eared Pheasants was resolved based on 45 loci.
• Asymmetric historical gene flow occurred between both parapatric and allopatric sister species.
• Allopatric sister species exhibit significantly divergent ecological niches whereas parapatric sister species show niche conservatism.
• Ecological divergence may have been the main factor that promoted ecological niche divergence.

One of the most contentious theories in current ecology is the ecological niche conservatism, which is defined as conservatism among closely related species; however, the ecological niche can also be shifted, as documented in several cases. Genetic drift and ecological divergent selection may cause ecological niche divergence. The current study aims to test whether the ecological niche is conserved or divergent and to determine the main factor that drives ecological niche divergence or conservation. We analyzed the phylogenetic relationship, ecological niche model (ENM) and demographic history of Eared Pheasants in the genus Crossoptilon (Galliformes: Phasianidae) to test niche conservatism with respect to different geographically distributed patterns. The phylogenetic relationship was reconstructed using ∗BEAST with mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) and 44 unlinked autosomal exonic loci, and ENMs were reconstructed in MAXENT using an average of 41 occurrence sites in each species and 22 bioclimatic variables. A background similarity test was used to detect whether the ecological niche is conserved. Demographic history was estimated using the isolation with migration (IM) model. We found that there was asymmetric gene flow between the allopatric sister species Crossoptilon mantchuricum and C. auritum and the parapatric sister species C. harmani and Ccrossoptilon. We found that ecological niches were divergent, not conserved, between Cmantchuricum and Cauritum, which began to diverge at approximately 0.3 million years ago. However, the ecological niches were conserved between C. crossoptilon and C. harmani, which gradually diverged approximately half a million years ago. Ecological niches can be either conserved or divergent, and ecological divergent selection for local adaptation is probably an important factor that promotes and maintains niche divergence in the face of gene flow. This study provides a better understanding of the role that divergent selection has in the initial speciation process. The platform combined demographic processes and ecological niches to offer new insights into the mechanism of biogeography patterns.

Keywords: Crossoptilon; Eared-pheasant; Divergent selection; Ecological niche modeling; Genetic drift; Gene flow

Fig. 1. Map of the study area indicating the occurrence points used in for the background similarity test of Ecological Niche Models (ENMs) and the location of DNA samples used in demographic analyses. (The occurrence points (circles) were from bird-watching records (, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility ( and our unpublished survey data. Occurrence points that were far from each other (at least 10 km) and were randomly chosen in ArcGIS software were used for the background similarity test. The study area was the minimal convex polygon of those occurrence points with an additional 200 km. Triangles represent the locations of DNA samples. The area surrounded by the black dashed line was the study area used for the background similarity test. 

Pengcheng Wang, Yang Liu, Yinong Liu, Yajing Chang, Nan Wang and Zhengwang Zhang. 2017. The Role of Niche Divergence and Geographic Arrangement in the Speciation of Eared Pheasants (Crossoptilon, Hodgson 1938). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. In Press. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.05.003

Thursday, May 25, 2017

[Ichthyology • 2017] Compsaraia iara • A New Species of Deep-Channel Electric Knifefish Compsaraia (Apteronotidae, Gymnotiformes) from the Amazon River

Compsaraia iara
Bernt & Albert, 2017
  DOI: 10.1643/CI-16-529 
The deep channels of large rivers throughout the humid Neotropics are occupied by diverse and abundant assemblages of electric knifefishes. Historically this habitat has been poorly sampled, but extensive benthic trawling efforts in the Brazilian Amazon in the 1990s produced large numbers of electric fishes especially in the family Apteronotidae. A large number of these specimens, initially identified as Porotergus, have been found to belong within Compsaraia, a genus with two species described from the Orinoco and western Amazon. From this material we describe a new species, from the Amazon River in Brazil, and provide a new diagnosis for the genus. This species is readily distinguished from congeners by a short, rounded snout and small, subterminal mouth with reduced dentition. This species inhabits large rivers in the Eastern and Central Amazon between Ilha Grande de Gurupá and the mouth of the Rio Içá. This description brings the total number of valid apteronotid species to 95.

Fig. 3. Detail of head and pigmentation for Compsaraia samueli (top), MUSM 37172, 241 mm TL, and Compsaraia iara, FMNH 128428, 235 mm TL in lateral view (A), dorsal view (B), and ventral view (C). Scale bar equals 1 cm. 

Compsaraia iara, new species

Etymology.— This species is named for the Iara, a water nymph from Tupi-Brazilian folklore said to reside in the rivers of the Brazilian Amazon and often blamed for the disappearance of fishermen. A noun in apposition. 

Maxwell J. Bernt and James S. Albert. 2017. A New Species of Deep-Channel Electric Knifefish Compsaraia (Apteronotidae, Gymnotiformes) from the Amazon River.
 Copeia. 105(2); 211-219.  DOI: 10.1643/CI-16-529