Friday, August 19, 2016

[Ornithology / Behaviour • 2016] Evidence that Birds Sleep in Mid-Flight

Frigatebirds reaches a wingspan of over two meters. They are excellent gliders and can cover several hundred kilometers a day.
photo: B. Voirin    DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12468  

Many birds fly non-stop for days or longer, but do they sleep in flight and if so, how? It is commonly assumed that flying birds maintain environmental awareness and aerodynamic control by sleeping with only one eye closed and one cerebral hemisphere at a time. However, sleep has never been demonstrated in flying birds. Here, using electroencephalogram recordings of great frigatebirds (Fregata minor) flying over the ocean for up to 10 days, we show that they can sleep with either one hemisphere at a time or both hemispheres simultaneously. Also unexpectedly, frigatebirds sleep for only 0.69 h d−1 (7.4% of the time spent sleeping on land), indicating that ecological demands for attention usually exceed the attention afforded by sleeping unihemispherically. In addition to establishing that birds can sleep in flight, our results challenge the view that they sustain prolonged flights by obtaining normal amounts of sleep on the wing.

Figure 1: Measuring the brain state and flight mode of flying frigatebirds.
 (a) Great frigatebird Fregata minor with a head-mounted data logger for recording the electroencephalogram (EEG) from both cerebral hemispheres and head acceleration in three dimensions. A back-mounted GPS logger recorded position and altitude. Photo: B.V. (b) Overhead view of a great frigatebird skull showing (1) the position of the cranial bulge (shaded grey) overlying the hyperpallium of each hemisphere, (2) the position of the epidural electrodes (red dots, EEG; green dot, ground) and (3) the data logger (black rectangle) just posterior to the naso-frontal hinge (arrow). Scale bar is 10 mm. (c) All GPS tracks for individual birds coded with different colours. The Galapagos Islands are outlined with black lines and the study site (Genovesa) is marked by a star. Ocean depth (m) is coded with grey scale. (d) High temporal resolution (1 Hz) 10 min flight trajectory recorded with GPS from a frigatebird (see Supplementary Movie 1 for 3D visualization) showing the circling (soaring) and straight (gliding) flight modes typical of Fregatidae13 (Methods). (e) Altitude, ground speed and airspeed (computed from the GPS data in (d)), tangential and centripetal (radial) low-pass filtered acceleration, and the absolute value of total acceleration (measured by an accelerometer) for the flight in (d). 

Niels C Rattenborg, Bryson Voirin, Sebastian M. Cruz, Ryan Tisdale, Giacomo Dell’Omo, Hans-Peter Lipp, Martin Wikelski and Alexei L. Vyssotski. 2016. Evidence that Birds Sleep in Mid-Flight. Nature Communications. 7: 12468. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12468 

First evidence of sleep in flight
Birds engage in all types of sleep in flight, but in remarkably small amounts

[Paleontology • 2015] Lohuecosuchus megadontos • New Crocodyliforms from Southwestern Europe and Definition of a Diverse Clade of European Late Cretaceous Basal Eusuchians

 Lohuecosuchus megadontos
 Narváez, Brochu, Escaso, Pérez-García and Ortega, 2015


The late Campanian-early Maastrichtian site of Lo Hueco (Cuenca, Spain) has provided a set of well-preserved crocodyliform skull and lower jaw remains, which are described here and assigned to a new basal eusuchian taxon, Lohuecosuchus megadontos gen. et sp. nov. The reevaluation of a complete skull from the synchronous site of Fox-Amphoux (Department of Var, France) allows us to define a second species of this new genus. Phylogenetic analysis places Lohuecosuchus in a clade exclusively composed by European Late Cretaceous taxa. This new clade, defined here as Allodaposuchidae, is recognized as the sister group of Hylaeochampsidae, also comprised of European Cretaceous forms. Allodaposuchidae and Hylaeochampsidae are grouped in a clade identified as the sister group of Crocodylia, the only crocodyliform lineage that reaches our days. Allodaposuchidae shows a vicariant distribution pattern in the European Late Cretaceous archipelago, with several Ibero-Armorican forms more closely related to each other than with to Romanian Allodaposuchus precedens.

Systematic Paleontology



Allodaposuchidae clade nov.
Type species: Allodaposuchus precedens 

Definition: Allodaposuchus precedens and all crocodyliforms more closely related to it than to Hylaeochampsa vectiana, Shamosuchus djadochtaensis, Borealosuchus sternbergii, Planocrania datangensis, Alligator mississippiensis, Crocodylus niloticus, or Gavialis gangeticus.

Included species: Allodaposuchus precedens; Massaliasuchus affuvelensis; Musturzabalsuchus buffetauti; Arenysuchus gascabadiolorum; Allodaposuchus subjuniperus; Allodaposuchus palustris; Allodaposuchus hulki, Lohuecosuchus megadontos sp. nov.; Lohuecosuchus mechinorum sp. nov.


Iván Narváez, Christopher A. Brochu, Fernando Escaso, Adán Pérez-García and Francisco Ortega. 2015. New Crocodyliforms from Southwestern Europe and Definition of a Diverse Clade of European Late Cretaceous Basal Eusuchians. PLoS ONE. 10(11): e0140679. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140679

 Lohuecosuchus megadontos 
Narváez, Brochu, Escaso, Pérez-García and Ortega, 2015

[Ichthyology • 2008] Three New Pygmy Seahorse Species (Syngnathidae: Hippocampus) from Indonesia; Hippocampus pontohi, H. severnsi & satomiae

FIGURE 4. Live specimens of new species of pygmy seahorses from Indonesia.
AHippocampus pontohi: Bunaken, Sulawesi, M. Boyer; Bunaken, Sulawesi, M. Aw; Raja Ampat, West Papua, L. Tackett. BHippocampus severnsi: Bunaken, Sulawesi, S. Wong & T. Uno; Bunaken, Sulawesi, M. Severns (type specimens); Raja Ampat, West Papua, L. Tackett. CHippocampus satomiae: Derawan Kalimantan, S. Wong & T. Uno; Derawan, Kalimantan, J–S. Chen; Derawan, Indonesia, S. Onishi (type specimen).  

Three new species of pygmy seahorse are described from Indonesia: Hippocampus pontohi and H. severnsi from Bunaken Island, off Sulawesi, and H. satomiae from Derawan Island, off Kalimantan. They are considered to be closely related to each other and to Hippocampus colemani. All three species are morphologically distinguished from the larger species of seahorses by the following combination of characters: 12 trunk rings, low number of tail rings (26–29), the placement of brooded young within the trunk region of males, and extremely small size (<15 mm HT, <17 mm SL). They can be separated from the previously described species of pygmy seahorses (H. bargibantiH. deniseH. colemani and H. minotaur) based on meristics, proportions, colour and body ornamentation. All three new species have a single gill opening as does H. colemani. Hippocampus pontohi and H. severnsi also share distinctive fleshy appendages with H. colemani but can be separated from the latter based on their body shape, raised angular coronet, larger orbit diameter, narrower trunk, fewer tail rings, smaller overall size and in the case of H. severnsi also colour. Diagnostic features of H. satomiae include 9 pectoral fin rays, 13 dorsal fin rays, spinous exterior, and distinct raised coronet with laterally expanded anterior and posterior flanges.

Key words: Hippocampus pontohiHippocampus severnsiHippocampus satomiae, new species, taxonomy, Indo-Pacific, marine

FIGURE 4. Live specimens of new species of pygmy seahorses from Indonesia.
AHippocampus pontohi: Bunaken, Sulawesi, M. Boyer; Bunaken, Sulawesi, M. Aw; Raja Ampat, West Papua, L. Tackett. BHippocampus severnsi: Bunaken, Sulawesi, S. Wong & T. Uno; Bunaken, Sulawesi, M. Severns (type specimens); Raja Ampat, West Papua, L. Tackett. CHippocampus satomiae: Derawan Kalimantan, S. Wong & T. Uno; Derawan, Kalimantan, J–S. Chen; Derawan, Indonesia, S. Onishi (type specimen). 

Hippocampus pontohi sp. nov.  

Etymology. This species is named in honour of Hence Pontoh, the Indonesian dive guide who first brought these pygmy seahorses to our attention. 

Distribution and ecology. Hippocampus pontohi has been observed on the coralline algae Halimeda, as well as on the hydroid Aglaephenia cupressina (Müller and Severns, pers. comm.). Severns noted it particularly in areas where Halimeda is growing on reef walls. It has been recorded at a number of areas in Indonesia (Bunaken, Cape Sri, Sorong, Wakatobi, Lembeh Straits), at depths of between 11–25 m particularly on vertical walls or in rock fissures (Müller, pers. comm.). See figure 5A for map. 
Hippocampus pontohi is commonly found in pairs and, like H. denise, is relatively active (Müller, pers. comm.). Two of the specimens examined were pregnant (MZB 13593 and MZB 13596) and each contained approximately 11 embryos. Both were collected in July. 

Hippocampus severnsi sp. nov.

Etymology. Hippocampus severnsi is named in honour of Mike Severns who, with Hence Pontoh, collected the first specimens. 

Distribution and ecology. Hippocampus severnsi is known from Indonesia (Bunaken, Wakatobi, Raja Ampat Islands, Kawe Island), Japan (Ryukyu Islands), Papua New Guinea (Milne Bay, Madang), Solomon Islands (Mborokua) and Fiji at depths of 8–20 m. See figure 5B for map. It has been observed both during the day and the night but is apparently more active in the morning and late afternoon when it is not in direct sunlight (Müller, pers. comm.). In Indonesia it has been recorded in association with a yellow coloured bryozoan, Catenicella sp., on different kinds of hydrozoans including Lytocarpus phoeniceaAntennellopsis integerrima and Halicordyle disticha (Müller, perscomm.) as well as in sheltered spots on a reef wall in association with Halimeda (Brett, perscomm.). It is also recorded from fissures on current–swept walls where it will tend to occur on the side of the fissure that faces away from the current, but in all cases where there is some upward current (Müller, pers. comm.) and has been seen swimming over a fungiid coral (Hardt, pers. comm.). In Papua New Guinea it has been observed in a healthy reef passage with a regular current of up to two knots on a gorgonian of the genus Muricella at 12 m depth (Halstead, pers. comm.) and in Fiji it was found on gorgonian species, possibly Menella sp.? (Tackett, pers. comm.) 
The holotype of H. severnsi, collected in June, had approximately 11 embryos within its pouch

Hippocampus satomiae

Etymology. This species is named in honour of Miss Satomi Onishi, the dive guide who collected the type specimens. 

Distribution and ecology. Hippocampus satomiae is known from scattered localities in Indonesia, including Derawan (type locality), and Lembeh Strait (northern Sulawesi), as well as northern Borneo, Malaysia. See figure 5C for map. It congregates at night in groups of 3–5 individuals on small seafans, at depths of 15–20 m depth on the bottom below reef overhangs. Photographed individuals (in Boyer, 2007) from the Togean Islands, Indonesia on a species of Nepthea Auduoin, 1826 on the reef front in water as shallow as 5 m are tentatively identified as H. satomiae.
 During the day H. satomiae are difficult to find, even in areas where they are known to occur. At dawn individuals become active. Birth has been observed on a number of occasions and also photographed. At birth, the young are jet–black, about 3 mm in height and shaped similarly to the adults. They settle on the bottom near to their place of birth (Onishi, pers. comm.). 
The holotype, collected in October, was pregnant and carrying approximately eight young.  

Sara A. Lourie and Rudie H. Kuiter. 2008. Three New Pygmy Seahorse Species from Indonesia (Teleostei: Syngnathidae: Hippocampus). Zootaxa. 1963: 54–68. 

[PaleoMammalogy • 2016] Arktocara yakataga • A New Fossil Odontocete (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the Oligocene of Alaska and the Antiquity of Platanistoidea

Arktocara yakataga 
Boersma & Pyenson, 2016

Artistic reconstruction of a pod of Arktocara yakataga, swimming offshore of Alaska during the Oligocene, about 25 million years ago, with early mountains of Southeast Alaska in the background. The authors speculate that Arktocara may have socialized in pods, like today's oceanic dolphins, while possessing a much longer snout, like its closest living relative in the freshwater rivers of South Asia.
Linocut print art by Alexandra Boersma


The diversification of crown cetacean lineages (i.e., crown Odontoceti and crown Mysticeti) occurred throughout the Oligocene, but it remains an ongoing challenge to resolve the phylogenetic pattern of their origins, especially with respect to stem lineages. One extant monotypic lineage, Platanista gangetica (the Ganges and Indus river dolphin), is the sole surviving member of the broader group Platanistoidea, with many fossil relatives that range from Oligocene to Miocene in age. Curiously, the highly threatened Platanista is restricted today to freshwater river systems of South Asia, yet nearly all fossil platanistoids are known globally from marine rocks, suggesting a marine ancestry for this group. In recent years, studies on the phylogenetic relationships in Platanistoidea have reached a general consensus about the membership of different sub-clades and putative extinct groups, although the position of some platanistoid groups (e.g., Waipatiidae) has been contested. Here we describe a new genus and species of fossil platanistoid, Arktocara yakataga, gen. et sp. nov. from the Oligocene of Alaska, USA. The type and only known specimen was collected from the marine Poul Creek Formation, a unit known to include Oligocene strata, exposed in the Yakutat City and Borough of Southeast Alaska. In our phylogenetic analysis of stem and node-based Platanistoidea, Arktocara falls within the node-based sub-clade Allodelphinidae as the sister taxon to Allodelphis pratti. With a geochronologic age between ∼29–24 million years old, Arktocara is among the oldest crown Odontoceti, reinforcing the long-standing view that the diversification for crown lineages must have occurred no later than the early Oligocene.

Systematic paleontology

Cetacea Brisson, 1762
Odontoceti Flower, 1867 sensu Fordyce & Muizon, 2001
Platanistoidea (CCN) (node-based version of Fordyce, 1994)
Allodelphinidae (CCN) (node-based version of Barnes, 2006)

Arktocara, gen. nov. 

The skull of Arktocara yakataga on an 1875 ethnographic map of Alaska drawn by William Healey Dall, a broadly trained naturalist who worked for several US government agencies, including the Smithsonian, and honored with several species of living mammals, including Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli). Near the skull of Arktocara is a cetacean tooth, likely belonging to a killer whale (Orcinus orca), collected by Aleš Hrdlička, a Smithsonian anthropologist who worked extensively in Alaska, and an Oligocene whale tooth collected by Donald Miller, a geologist who worked for the US Geological Survey, and collected the type specimen of Arktocara. Donald Orth's dictionary of Alaskan place names, published by the USGS, bookends the image.
photo: James Di Loreto, Smithsonian 

Definitions. Crown group Platanista refers to the crown clade arising from the last common ancestor of all lineages descending from Platanista, including two subspecies of Platanista gangetica (P. g. gangetica (Lebeck, 1801) and P. g. minor Owen, 1853), as recognized by The Society for Marine Mammology’ Committee on Taxonomy (2015).

Type and only included species: Arktocara yakataga, sp. nov.

Etymology. The name Arktocara derives from the combination of arktos from Greek and cara from Latin, which together signify “the face of the North.” The only preserved material of the type specimen, USNM 214830 consists of the cranium, or its face, and its type locality is the furthest north that a platanistoid has ever been found.

Age. Same as that of the species.
Diagnosis. Same as that of the species.

Arktocara yakataga, sp. nov. (Figs. 2–10 and Table 1)

The skull of Akrtocara yakataga rests on an 1875 ethnographic map of Alaska drawn by William Healey Dall, a broadly trained naturalist who worked for several US government agencies, including the Smithsonian, and honored with several species of living mammals, including Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli). Near the skull of Arktocara is a cetacean tooth, likely belonging to a killer whale (Orcinus orca), collected by Aleš Hrdlička, a Smithsonian anthropologist who worked extensively in Alaska, and an Oligocene whale tooth collected by Donald Miller, a geologist who worked for the US Geological Survey, and collected the type specimen of Arktocara. Donald Orth's dictionary of Alaskan place names, published by the USGS, bookends the image.
photo: James Di Loreto, Smithsonian  

Holotype. USNM 214830, consisting of an incomplete skull lacking the rostrum anterior of the antorbital notches, tympanoperiotics, dentition and mandibles (see Fig. 2).

Type locality. The precise geographic coordinates for the type locality of Arktocara yakataga are unknown. The type specimen (USNM 214830) was discovered and collected in 1951 by United States Geological Survey (USGS) geologist Donald J. Miller (1919–1961), who was mapping what was then the Yakataga District of Alaska (now the Yakutat City and Borough) between 1944 and 1963. Archival notes housed with the specimen at USNM state that Miller found the specimen in the Poul Creek Formation within the then-Yakataga District (see Age, below). Therefore, we delimit the area for the type’s provenance to exposures of the Poul Creek Formation in the Yakutat City and Borough, Alaska, USA, in a grid ranging approximately from 60°22′N, 142°30′W to 60°00′N, 143°22′W (see Fig. 1). While the formation has been named from its exposures along Poul Creek, it has been suggested that the most abundant macrofossils from this unit have been collected from outcrops along Hamilton Creek, White River, and Big River near Reare Glacier (Taliaferro, 1932). It is possible that Miller collected USNM 214830 from one of these exposures.

Formation. Poul Creek Formation.

Age. Archival documentation accessioned in the Department of Paleobiology with USNM 214830 indicate that the type specimen was collected from an unknown locality exposed about 400–500 m below the top of the Poul Creek Formation, which has a total stratigraphic thickness of around 1.9 km (Plafker, 1987). The Yakutat terrane of Southeast Alaska consists of the Kulthieth, Poul Creek, and Yakataga Formations (Perry, Garver & Ridgway, 2009; Plafker, Moore & Winkler, 1994; Miller, 1971). The Kulthieth Formation consists of mostly organic-rich sandstones deposited in nonmarine alluvial, deltaic, barrier beach and shallow marine environments, and is Early Eocene to Early Oligocene (∼54–33 Ma) in age based on the fossil assemblages present (Perry, Garver & Ridgway, 2009). The Upper Eocene to possibly Lower Miocene (∼40–20 Ma) Poul Creek Formation conformably overlies the Kulthieth Formation (Plafker, 1987; Miller, 1971). It is estimated to be approximately 1.9 km thick, and is composed of siltstones and organic-rich sandstones, in part glauconitic recording a marine transgression, interrupted by deposits of the Cenotaph Volcanics (Plafker, 1987). Finally, unconformably overlying the Poul Creek Formation is the Miocene to Pliocene Yakataga Formation (Miller, 1971). It is composed mainly of tillite and marine strata (Perry, Garver & Ridgway, 2009).

The Poul Creek Formation itself is broadly constrained to approximately 40–20 million years in age, from the latest Eocene to possibly early Miocene in age (Plafker, 1987; Miller, 1971). The depositional age of the unit has been further constrained to ∼24 to ∼29 Ma, or a mid to late Oligocene age, based on detrital zircon fission-track analyses of young grain-age populations (Perry, Garver & Ridgway, 2009). Using the broadest time duration for the formation (∼20 million years) and the coarse stratigraphic thickness of the sediments within it (∼2 km), a constant rate of sedimentation would suggest that the stratigraphic position of USNM 214830 at 500 m below the top of the formation would be roughly equivalent to an geochronologic age of ∼25 million years, an estimate that is consistent to the detrital zircon analyses. Overall, we propose a late Oligocene, or Chattian age for Arktocara, although we cannot exclude a Rupelian antiquity.

Diagnosis. Arktocara is a small to medium sized platanistoid odontocete (approximately 2.26 m in total length), which belongs, based on one equivocal synapomorphy, to the node-based Platanistoidea: width: width of the premaxillae >50% of the width of the rostrum at the antorbital notch (character 51[1]). More convincingly, Arktocara belongs to Platanistoidea based on its affinities to other members of the Allodelphinidae that possess unequivocal synapomorphies of the Platanistoidea (see ‘Discussion’ for further comments on the relationship of Allodelphinidae within the Platanistoidea). We also note that, for the purposes of this diagnosis, we use a broad definition of Waipatiidae that includes Otekaikea spp. (see Tanaka & Fordyce (2015a)), and Squalodelphinidae sensu Lambert, Bianucci & Urbina (2014). See ‘Discussion’ for further comments on systematics of these groups.


Etymology. The species epithet ‘yakataga’ derives from the Tlingit name for the point of land along the southeast coast of Alaska between modern day Kayak Island and Ice Bay. This point, currently called Cape Yakataga, is located directly southwest of Watson Peak and represents the southeastern boundary of a floodplain drained by the Bering Glacier. The name Yakataga was first published by Tebenkov (1852: map 7), who was a cartographer and hydrographer of the Imperial Russian Navy, as “M[ys] Yaktaga” on an 1849 map of Alaska. The geographic place name has been alternatively spelled Cape Iaktag, Cape Yakaio, Cape Yakatag, and Yokataga Reef (Orth, 1967). According to the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS, 2016), developed by USGS in cooperation with the United States Board of Geographic Names (BGN), the name “Yakataga” means “canoe road,” referring to two reefs that form a canoe passage to the shore of the village.

Figure 12: Distribution map of fossil Allodelphinidae.
Mapped of fossil localities of allodelphinids, projected on a truncated Winkel Tripel map and centered on 25°N and 170°W. Occurrences for fossil data derive from location of type and referred localities for each taxon, are listed alphabetically by region, and are represented by orange dots.

Platanistoids first appear in the fossil record in the late Oligocene, and reach peak richness in the early Miocene (Kimura & Barnes, 2016; Tanaka & Fordyce, 2015a). The oldest platanistoids with solid age constraints are the waipatiids, all found in the Oligocene-Miocene Otekaike Limestone of New Zealand (Graham et al., 2000; Benham, 1935; Fordyce, 1994; Tanaka & Fordyce, 2014; Tanaka & Fordyce, 2015a). Based on both the lithology and the presence of age-diagnostic planktic foraminifera and ostracod species, Waipatia hectori (Benham, 1935) is the oldest reported waipatiid, from the uppermost Duntroonian Stage of the Otekaike Limestone, approximately 25.2 Ma (Tanaka & Fordyce, 2015b). Arktocara is possibly very similar in age to Waipatia hectori, constrained to the Chattian Stage of the upper Oligocene in the Poul Creek Formation, approximately ∼24–29 Ma (Perry, Garver & Ridgway, 2009). Unfortunately, the lack of robust locality data for either Waipatia hectori or Arktocara makes impossible to determine which is the oldest.

Arktocara is, however, very clearly the oldest known allodelphinid, expanding the previously reported age range of Allodelphinidae by as much as 9 million years (Kimura & Barnes, 2016). Other allodelphinids span temporally from the early to middle Miocene, which largely matches the stratigraphic range of other platanistoid lineages (Fig. 11). Interestingly, Arktocara is among the oldest crown Odontoceti, reinforcing the long-standing view that the timing for the diversification for crown lineages must have occurred no later than the early Oligocene.

Lastly, Allodelphinidae appear uniquely limited, in terms of geography, to marine rocks of the North Pacific Ocean, with occurrences in Japan, Alaska, Washington State, Oregon, and California (see Fig. 12; Kimura & Barnes, 2016). Arktocara expands this geographic range to sub-Arctic latitudes. At approximately 60°N in the Yakutat City and Borough, Arktocara is the most northern platanistoid yet reported. The next most northern platanistoid reported is an incomplete and unnamed specimen from the late Chattian marine Vejle Fjord Formation in northern Denmark, approximately 56.7°N, 9.0°E (Hoch, 2000).

Alexandra T. Boersma​ and Nicholas D. Pyenson. 2016. Arktocara yakataga, a new fossil odontocete (Mammalia, Cetacea) from the Oligocene of Alaska and the antiquity of Platanistoidea.  PeerJ. 4:e2321. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.2321

New species of extinct river dolphin discovered in Smithsonian collection via @EurekAlertAAAS

Thursday, August 18, 2016

[Paleontology • 2014] Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni • A New Subspecies of Lyciasalamandra antalyana (Amphibia: Salamandridae) from the Lycian Coast, Turkey

Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni 
Akman & Godmann, 2014

 (a) Male from the type locality, Kırkgözhan, Yağca; (b) male, (c) female, and (d) juvenile from Kızılseki. 

A new subspecies of the Lycian salamander Lyciasalamandra antalyana is described from Yağcavillage (Antalya province) and Burdur province on the Lycian Coast, Turkey. It is distinguished from the nominotypical form by its dorsal colouration, multivariate morphometrics, and mitochondrial molecular markers.

Key words. Urodela, Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni ssp. n., 16SrDNA gene, Turkey.

Figure 2.  Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni(a) Male from the type locality, Kırkgözhan, Yağca; (b) male, (c) female, and (d) juvenile from Kızılseki.  

Bahadir Akman and Olaf Godmann. 2014. A New Subspecies of Lyciasalamandra antalyana (Amphibia: Salamandridae) from the Lycian Coast, Turkey. Salamandra. 50(3);125-132 · 

[Botany • 2014] Hieracium attenboroughianum • A New Species of Hawkweed (Asteraceae) from the Brecon Beacons, Wales, the UK

Hieracium attenboroughianum  T.C.G.Rich

Figure 3 Pictures of Hieracium attenboroughianum.
(a) Locality on NW side of Cribyn. (b) Habitat on Old Red Sandstone mountain rocks. (c) Plant. (d) Capitulum. 

Hieracium attenboroughianum is described from the Brecon Beacons, Wales. It is a member of the H. britannicum group in Hieracium section Stelligera Zahn, related to H. britannicoides P. D. Sell but differing in cupped, dark green leaves and sparse, medium simple eglandular hairs and many glandular hairs on the involucral bracts. About 300 plants occur on Old Red Sandstone mountain ledges on Cribyn (V.c. 42). It is named after David Attenborough. It is classified under the IUCN Threat Category ‘Endangered’.

Keywords: David Attenborough, endemic, Wales

Hieracium attenboroughianum  T.C.G.Rich

 Tim Rich. 2014. Hieracium attenboroughianum (Asteraceae), A New Species of Hawkweed.  New Journal of Botany. 4(3); 172-175. DOI:  10.1179/2042349714Y.0000000051


[PaleoIchthyology • 2008] Materpiscis attenboroughi • Live Birth in the Devonian Period: Placoderm Fish from the Gogo Area of north-west Western Australia

Materpiscis attenboroughi  Long, Trinajstic, Young & Senden, 2008 

Artist’s reconstruction of Materpiscis gen. nov. giving birth.
by B. Choo. DOI:  10.1038/nature06966 

Materpiscis attenboroughi  
Long, Trinajstic, Young & Senden, 2008

   a, Diagram showing position of embryo and yolk sac within the mother. b, Artist’s reconstruction of Materpiscis gen. nov. giving birth (by B. Choo).

The extinct placoderm fishes were the dominant group of vertebrates throughout the Middle Palaeozoic era, yet controversy about their relationships within the gnathostomes (jawed vertebrates) is partly due to different interpretations of their reproductive biology. Here we document the oldest record of a live-bearing vertebrate in a new ptyctodontid placoderm, Materpiscis attenboroughi gen. et sp. nov., from the Late Devonian Gogo Formation of Australia (approximately 380 million years ago). The new specimen, remarkably preserved in three dimensions, contains a single, intra-uterine embryo connected by a permineralized umbilical cord. An amorphous crystalline mass near the umbilical cord possibly represents the recrystallized yolk sac. Another ptyctodont from the Gogo Formation, Austroptyctodus gardineri, also shows three small embryos inside it in the same position. Ptyctodontids have already provided the oldest definite evidence for vertebrate copulation8, and the new specimens confirm that some placoderms had a remarkably advanced reproductive biology, comparable to that of some modern sharks and rays. The new discovery points to internal fertilization and viviparity in vertebrates as originating earliest within placoderms.

Placodermi McCoy, 1848
Ptyctodontida Gross, 1932

Materpiscis attenboroughi gen. et sp. nov.

Etymology. Generic name from the Latin meaning ‘mother fish’; species name in honour of Sir David Attenborough, who first drew attention to the Gogo fish sites in his 1979 series Life on Earth.

Holotype. WAM 07.12.1 (Western Australian Museum, Perth).

Age and locality. From the Stromatoporoid camp locality, Gogo Station, near Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia (Late Devonian, early Frasnian).

Diagnosis. A small aspinothoracid ptyctodontid fish having an anteriorly pointed nuchal plate that participates in the posterior margin of the skull roof, broad roughly triangular-shaped preorbitals that meet mesially; the marginal plate has a large postorbital region with parallel rows of tubercles adorning it; the submarginal is strap-like and strongly curved mesially; robust triturating tooth plates that meet only at anterior tips, superognathals with moderately high anterior dorsal process. The body is scaleless.

Dr John Long of Museum Victoria in Melbourne holds a model of a placoderm fish fossil that was was found in the Gogo area of north-west Western Australia and was named Materpiscis attenboroughi.
 Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images 

John A. Long, Kate Trinajstic, Gavin C. Young and Tim Senden. 2008. Live Birth in the Devonian Period. Nature. 453; 650-652. DOI:  10.1038/nature06966 

Oldest Live-Birth Fossil Found; Fish Had Umbilical Cord

[Herpetology • 2016] Scale Morphology and Micro-Structure of Monitor Lizards Varanus spp. (Squamata: Varanidae) and their Allies: Implications for Systematics, Ecology, and Conservation

Varanus macraei is restricted to Batanta Island off the coast of New Guinea

Photographed by André Koch  
  DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4153.1.1 


We analysed scale morphology and micro-structure from five different body regions using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) across all nine recognized subgenera of the monitor lizard genus Varanus including 41 different species investigated. As far as we are aware, this qualitative visual technique was applied by us for the first time to most monitor lizard species and probably also to the primary outgroup and sister species Lanthanotus borneensis. A comprehensive list of 20 scalation characters each with up to seven corresponding character states was established and defined for the five body regions sampled. For the phylogenetic approach, parsimony analyses of the resulting morphological data matrix as well as Bremer and bootstrap support calculations were performed with the software TNT. Our results demonstrate that a variety of micro-ornamentations (i.e., ultra- or micro-dermatoglyphics) as seen in various squamate groups is hardly present in monitor lizards. In several species from six out of nine subgenera, however, we found a honeycomb-shaped micro-structure of foveate polygons. Two further samples of Euprepiosaurus Fitzinger, 1843 exhibit each another unique microscopic structure on the scale surface. Notably, the majority of species showing the honeycombed ultra-structure inhabit arid habitats in Australia, Africa and the Middle East. Therefore, it can be inferred that this microscopic scalation feature, which has also been identified in other desert dwelling lizard species, is taxonomically and ecologically correlated with a xeric habitat type in varanids, too. In addition, the systematic affiliation of V. spinulosus, an endemic monitor lizard species from the Solomon Islands with an extraordinary scale shape, is discussed in the light of current hypotheses about its phylogenetic position within the Varanidae. Due to its unique scalation characteristics, in combination with other morphological evidence, a new monotypic subgenus, Solomonsaurus subgen. nov., is erected for this enigmatic monitor lizard species. Furthermore, we propose a taxonomic splitting of the morphologically and ecologically heterogeneous subgenus Euprepiosaurus comprising the Pacific or mangrove and the tree monitor lizards, respectively, again based on the SEM data. Thus, for the members of the highly arboreal V. prasinus species group erection of a new subgenus, Hapturosaurus subgen. nov., is justified based on the autapomorphic scale shape in concert with further morphological, phylogenetic and ecological evidence. In addition, V. reisingeri originally described as a distinct species is considered conspecific with the wide-spread V. prasinus due to joint synapormorphic features in the ventral scale micro-structure. Consequently, V. prasinus is (again) rendered polytypic with the taxon reisingeri being assigned subspecies status here.

        In conclusion, the established scalation characters allow discrimination of single species even among closely-related Varanus species, such as the members of the V. indicus species group. Together with a recently published identification key for Southeast Asian monitor lizards based on macroscopic phenotypic characters (Koch et al. 2013), the SEM-pictures of the present study may serve as additional references for the microscopic identification of CITES-relevant monitor lizard skins and products, respectively.

Keywords: Reptilia, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), species determination, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The attractive Varanus macraei is restricted to Batanta Island off the coast of New Guinea. It is probably highly threatened by the commercial pet trade.
Photographed by André Koch

Yannick Bucklitsch, Wolfgang Böhme and André Koch. 2016. Scale Morphology and Micro-Structure of Monitor Lizards (Squamata: Varanidae: Varanus spp.) and their Allies: Implications for Systematics, Ecology, and Conservation. Zootaxa. 4153(1);   DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4153.1.1

André Koch, Thomas Ziegler, Wolfgang Böhme, Evy Arida and Mark Auliya. 2013. Pressing Problems: Distribution, Threats, and Conservation Status of the Monitor Lizards (Varanidae: Varanus spp.) of Southeast Asia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago.  Herpetological Conservation and Biology. 8(Monograph 3); 1-62.

[Entomology • 2016] Epidaus wangi • A New Assassin Bug (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Reduviidae) from Tibet, China

Epidaus wangi 
  Chen, Zhu, Wang & Cai, 2016


Epidaus wangi Chen, Zhu, Wang & Cai, sp. nov. (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Reduviidae: Harpactorinae) from Tibet, China, is described and illustrated based on male and female specimens. The new species is morphologically similar to E. tuberosus Yang, 1940. The new species represents the first record of Epidaus species from Tibet.

Keywords: Hemiptera, taxonomy, reduviid, Epidaus, new species, China

Zhuo Chen, Guangxiang Zhu, Jianyun Wang and Wanzhi Cai. 2016. Epidaus wangi (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Reduviidae), A New Assassin Bug from Tibet, China.
  Zootaxa. 4154(1); 89–95.   DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4154.1.6

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

[Ichthyology • 2016] Eye Lens Radiocarbon reveals Centuries of Longevity in the Greenland Shark Somniosus microcephalus

Greenland Shark Somniosus microcephalus 
photo: Nick Caloyianis DOI:  10.1126/science.aaf1703

Deep living for centuries
We tend to think of vertebrates as living about as long as we do, give or take 50 to 100 years. Marine species are likely to be very long-lived, but determining their age is particularly difficult. Nielsen et al. used the pulse of carbon-14 produced by nuclear tests in the 1950s—specifically, its incorporation into the eye during development—to determine the age of Greenland sharks. This species is large yet slow-growing. The oldest of the animals that they sampled had lived for nearly 400 years, and they conclude that the species reaches maturity at about 150 years of age.

A Greenland Shark Somniosus microcephalus off Baffin Island, Canada. 
photo: Nick Caloyianis 


The Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus), an iconic species of the Arctic Seas, grows slowly and reaches >500 centimeters (cm) in total length, suggesting a life span well beyond those of other vertebrates. Radiocarbon dating of eye lens nuclei from 28 female Greenland sharks (81 to 502 cm in total length) revealed a life span of at least 272 years. Only the smallest sharks (220 cm or less) showed signs of the radiocarbon bomb pulse, a time marker of the early 1960s. The age ranges of prebomb sharks (reported as midpoint and extent of the 95.4% probability range) revealed the age at sexual maturity to be at least 156 ± 22 years, and the largest animal (502 cm) to be 392 ± 120 years old. Our results show that the Greenland shark is the longest-lived vertebrate known, and they raise concerns about species conservation.

Julius Nielsen, Rasmus B. Hedeholm, Jan Heinemeier, Peter G. Bushnell, Jørgen S. Christiansen, Jesper Olsen, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Richard W. Brill, Malene Simon, Kirstine F. Steffensen and John F. Steffensen. 2016. Eye Lens Radiocarbon reveals Centuries of Longevity in the Greenland Shark (Somniosus microcephalus). Science. 353(6300); 702-704. DOI:  10.1126/science.aaf1703

Slow Sharks Sneak Up on Sleeping Seals (and Eat Them)? via @NatGeo

[Botany • 2014] Siliquamomum alcicorne • A New Species (Zingiberaceae) from southern Vietnam

Siliquamomum alcicorne 
Škorničk. & Trần H.Đ.

Siliquamomum alcicorne (Zingiberaceae: Alpinioideae) from central Vietnam is described and illustrated here. It is compared to the other two species so far known in the genus, S. tonkinense and S. oreodoxa. A key to the three species and a map of their distribution are given. The genome size of each species has been estimated by FCM analysis. The occurrence of flexistyly in the genus Siliquamomum is reported here for the first time.

Keywords. Alpinioideae, flexistyly, flow cytometry, genome size, Siliquamomum oreodoxaSiliquamomum tonkinense, Vietnam, 2C value

Siliquamomum alcicorne Škorničk. & Trần H.Đ., sp. nov.
Similar to Siliquamomum tonkinense Baill. in its robust habit, but differs in having more leaves per leafy shoot (8–11 vs. 3–6), sessile leaf blades (vs. petiolate) and an anther which is deeply divided up to 1/3 from apex with two spathulate, green lobes (as opposed to an emarginate apex without a prominent anther crest).

TYPE: Vietnam, Kontum Province, Kon Plong Dist., Xã Hiếu, 14°38’57.7”N 108°24’57.7”E, 1223 m, 24 April 2012, J. Leong-Škorničková, Nguyễn Q.B., Trần H.Đ., E. Záveská JLS-1560 (holotype SING; isotypes E, PR, VNMN). (Fig. 1)

Key to the species of Siliquamomum
1a. Pseudostem with 3–6 leaves; petiole 2.5–9 cm long (northern Vietnam & southeastern Yunnan, China) ........................................................... S. tonkinense 
1b. Pseudostem with 8–13 leaves; petiole inconspicuous or up to 2 cm long ........... 2 

2a. Pseudostems up to 2 m long, petiole inconspicuous, anther with prominent spathulate crest-lobes above each theca (central Vietnam) ................ S. alcicorne 
2b. Pseudostems up to 0.9 m long, petiole up to 2 cm long, anther with minute sharp point above each theca (southern Vietnam) ......................................... S. oreodoxa

J. Leong-Škorničková, H.Đ. Trần, Q.B. Nguyễn and O. Šída. 2014. Siliquamomum oreodoxa (Zingiberaceae): A New Species from southern Vietnam. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore. 66(1): 39–46.

[PaleoMammalogy • 2016] Microleo attenboroughi • A Tiny New Marsupial Lion (Marsupialia, Thylacoleonidae) from the early Miocene of Australia

Microleo attenboroughi 
Gillespie, Archer & Hand, 2016  

Illustration: Peter Schouten


Microleo attenboroughi, a new genus and species of diminutive marsupial lion (Marsupialia: Thylacoleonidae), is described from early Miocene freshwater limestones in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland, Australia. A broken palate that retains incomplete cheektooth rows demonstrates that this new, very small marsupial lion possessed the elongate, trenchant P3 and predominantly subtriangular upper molars characteristic of thylacoleonids, while other features of the premolar support its placement in a new genus. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that Microleo attenboroughi is the sister taxon to all other thylacoleonids, and that Thylacoleonidae may lie outside Vombatomorphia as the sister taxon of all other wombat-like marsupials including koalas. However, given limited data about the cranial morphology of M. attenboroughi, Thylacoleonidae is concluded here, conservatively, to be part of the vombatomorphian clade. This new thylacoleonid brings to three the number of marsupial lion species that have been recovered from early Miocene deposits at Riversleigh and indicates a level of diversity previously not seen for this group. It is likely that the different size and morphology of the three sympatric taxa reflects niche partitioning and hence reduced competition. Thylacoleonids may have been the dominant arboreal predators of Cenozoic Australia.

 Keywords: Thylacoleonidae; marsupial lion; new genus; new species; early Miocene; Riversleigh


Class MAMMALIA Linnaeus, 1758
Superorder MARSUPIALIA Illiger, 1811

Order DIPROTODONTIA Owen, 1866
Suborder VOMBATIFORMES Woodburne, 1984


Genus MICROLEO gen. nov.

Type Species. Microleo attenboroughi new genus and species

Etymology. From micro meaning small (Greek) and leo meaning lion (Latin). The species name honours Sir David Attenborough for his dedication and enthusiasm in promoting the natural history of the world and the palaeontological treasures of the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in particular.

Microleo attenboroughi new genus and species

Microleo attenboroughi n. gen. et sp., Holotype QM F41143: 

 FIGURE 1. 1) right maxilla and 2) left maxilla in occlusal view, stereo images; 3) interpretive drawing of right maxilla; 4) interpretive drawing of left maxilla. 5) Paratype QM F42676, occlusal views of m3 (stereophotos). 
FIGURE 2.  right maxilla. 1) buccal view; 2) interpretive drawing in buccal view; 3) lingual view; 4 ) interpretive drawing in lingual view.

Abbreviations: aabc, accessory anterobuccal cusp; abc, anterobuccal blade; ac, anterior cusp; alc, anterolingual crest; lb, longitudinal blade; mcl, metaconule; mcus, medial cusp; me, metacone; pa, paracone; pbb, posterobuccal basin; pbc, posterobuccal crest; pc, posterior cusp; plc, posterolingual crest; pr, protocone. Scale bar equals 5 mm.

 Holotype. QM F41143, an incomplete palate consisting of partial left and right maxillae (Figure 1.1-4, Figure 2). The left maxilla preserves M2-3, roots for P3-M1, alveoli for M4, and the maxillary root of the zygomatic arch. The right maxilla preserves P3-M2, alveoli for P1-2 and M1. QM F42676, paratype, is a left m3 (Figure 1.5).

Type Locality and Horizon. The Type Locality is Neville’s Garden Site, D Site Plateau, Riversleigh World Heritage Area, Boodjamulla National Park, northwestern Queensland. Neville’s Garden Site is early Miocene in age (radiometrically dated at 18.24±0.29 Ma and 17.85±0.13 Ma: Archer et al., 1997; Arena, 2004; Travouillon et al., 2006; Woodhead et al., 2016).

Diagnosis. Microleo attenboroughi is attributed to Thylacoleonidae on the basis of its bicuspid, blade-like P3 and its weakly-crenulated, subtriangular bunodont molars. Microleo attenboroughi is smaller than all other thylacoleonids (see below). Generic distinction is based primarily on its unique P3 morphology.

FIGURE 3. Cladistic relationships of Microleo attenboroughi within Thylacoleonidae and Vombatiformes: 1) strict consensus tree of nine most parsimonious trees obtained in the phylogenetic analysis (tree length = 272 steps; see Appendices 1, 2); 2) time-tree of thylacoleonid phylogeny. 

Anna K. Gillespie, Michael Archer and Suzanne J. Hand. 2016. A Tiny New Marsupial Lion (Marsupialia, Thylacoleonidae) from the early Miocene of Australia. Palaeontologia Electronica 19.2.29A: 1-25.