Tuesday, April 30, 2013

[Paleontology • 2012] Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia taxonomy, in Jurassic mimicry between a hangingfly and a ginkgo from China | Insect mimic of ginko-like leaf Yimaia capituliformis


Reconstruction of Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia mimicking the leaves of Yimaia capituliformis.
This relationship was beneficial for both the insect mimic and plant model.
illustration: Chen Wang, Capital Normal University
 http://smithsonianscience.org


Abstract
A near-perfect mimetic association between a mecopteran insect species and a ginkgoalean plant species from the late Middle Jurassic of northeastern China recently has been discovered. The association stems from a case of mixed identity between a particular plant and an insect in the laboratory and the field. This confusion is explained as a case of leaf mimesis, wherein the appearance of the multilobed leaf of Yimaia capituliformis (the ginkgoalean model) was accurately replicated by the wings and abdomen of the cimbrophlebiid Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia (the hangingfly mimic). Our results suggest that hangingflies developed leaf mimesis either as an antipredator avoidance device or possibly as a predatory strategy to provide an antiherbivore function for its plant hosts, thus gaining mutual benefit for both the hangingfly and the ginkgo species. This documentation of mimesis is a rare occasion whereby exquisitely preserved, co-occurring fossils occupy a narrow spatiotemporal window that reveal likely reciprocal mechanisms which plants and insects provide mutual defensive support during their preangiospermous evolutionary histories.

Keywords: Cimbrophlebiidae, insect–plant association, Mecoptera, Mesozoic, Yimaiaceae



This fossil shows Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia, appearing similar to Y. capituliformis.

fossils show Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia, appearing similar to ginkgoalean leaf Y. capituliformis.

Insect mimic of ginko-like leaf discovered 165 million years after its extinction
A new species of hangingfly with wings that perfectly mimic the multi-lobed leaf of an ancient ginkgo-like tree has been discovered in China by scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the University of Maryland, as well as the College of Life Sciences at Capital Normal University, in Beijing. Exquisitely preserved in fossil sediments dating from the Middle Jurassic, the insect, newly named Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia, was discovered in 165 million-year-old deposits, as was the ginko-like tree, Yimaia capituliformis, the mimicked plant.



 


Y. J. Wang, C. C. Labandeira, C. K. Shih and D. Ren. 2012. Juracimbrophlebia ginkgofolia taxonomy, in Jurassic mimicry between a hangingfly and a ginkgo from China. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 20515-20516 http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/11/21/1205517109

Monday, April 29, 2013

[Ornithology / Thailand • 2013] White-breasted Woodswallow | นกแอ่นพงท้องขาว • New Record to Thailand from Chumphon, upper peninsular Thailand


นกแอ่นพงท้องขาว | White-breasted Woodswallow 
photo: Chukiat Nualsri | http://facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=555028184541331

White-breasted Woodswallow | นกแอ่นพงท้องขาว

New Record to Thailand from Chumphon, upper peninsular Thailand



ภาพยืนยันการค้นพบนกชนิดนี้เป็นครั้งแรกในประเทศไทย จากจังหวัดชุมพร

พบ"นกแอ่นพงท้องขาว"ครั้งแรกในเมืองไทย ที่ จ.ชุมพร

[Mammalogy • Extinct] Formosan Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa brachyura, a subspecies endemic to Taiwan, is now Extinct


Formosan clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa brachyura
Taiwan Endangered Mammals Postage Stamp 1992http://catstamps.org/checklists/Countries/TW_W.html


Taiwan's clouded leopard extinct
By Elizabeth Hsu 

 The Formosan clouded leopard, a subspecies endemic to Taiwan, is now extinct, according to a team of zoologists from Taiwan and the United States that had been trying for 13 years to find the animal.

"There is little chance that the clouded leopard still exists in Taiwan. There may be a few of them, but we do not think they exist in any significant numbers," zoologist Chiang Po-jen told media reporters Monday.

Chiang and Pei Jai-chyi, a professor at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology who is known as a leading figure in Taiwan's wildlife conservation movement, invited the team of zoologists in 2001 to search for the tree-dwelling cat in Taiwan's primary forests in Dawu Mountain, Jade Mountain and Taroko National Park.

In the search for the leopard that typically weighs 10-20 kilograms, the researchers set up some 1,500 infrared cameras and scent traps in the mountains but no evidence was found to suggest that the endemic clouded leopard still exists, according to Chiang.

Pei said the team concluded that the Formosan clouded leopard has become extinct because of humans' hunting and habitat destruction caused by human development.

The results were "disappointing," said one of the zoologists Liu Jian-nan, who is a post-doctoral fellow at the Biodiversity Research Center of Academia Sinica.

He said the search was driven by the faith that the endemic clouded leopard still existed in Taiwan and that the team would spot a live one.

Now the only Formosan clouded leopard left in Taiwan is the stuffed specimen at National Taiwan Museum, Liu said. The two live clouded leopards at Taipei Zoo are imported species from Southeast Asia, he added.

The research findings have been submitted to Oryx, an international conservation journal, and are expected to be published in the next six months, according to Liu.

Kuan Li-hao, a division chief at the Council of Agriculture's (COA) Forestry Bureau, said that after the report is published, the COA's Wildlife Conservation Advisory Committee will seek to verify the information and will decide whether the Formosan clouded leopard should be taken off the government's list of protected animals in Taiwan. 

By Elizabeth Hsu | Taiwan's clouded leopard extinct: zoologists



Taiwan Endangered Mammals Postage Stamp 1992

13 year search for Taiwan's top predator comes up empty-handed
Taiwan's clouded leopard extinct: zoologists

Saturday, April 27, 2013

[Microbiota • 2013] Biodiversity and functional genomics in the Human Microbiome


Figure 2. A map of diversity in the human microbiome. The human microbiome is dominated by four phyla: Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Proteobacteria.
In the center is a phylogenetic tree of organisms abundant in the human microbiome. Commensal microbes are indicated by circles, and potential pathogens are indicated by stars. The middle ring corresponds to body sites at which the various taxa are abundant and is color-coded by site [e.g., Ruminococcus (blue) is found mostly in the gut, whereas Lactobacillus (purple) is found mostly in the vagina]. The bar heights on the outside of the circle are proportional to taxa abundance at the body site of greatest prevalence [e.g., Streptococcus mitis (yellow) dominates the inside of the cheek, whereas the gut is abundant in a variety of Bacteroides]. The intensity of external colors corresponds to species prevalence in each body site.

Over the course of our lives, humans are colonized by a tremendous diversity of commensal microbes, which comprise the human microbiome. The collective genetic potential (metagenome) of the human microbiome is orders of magnitude more than the human genome, and it profoundly affects human health and disease in ways we are only beginning to understand. Advances in computing and high-throughput sequencing have enabled population-level surveys such as MetaHIT and the recently released Human Microbiome Project, detailed investigations of the microbiome in human disease, and mechanistic studies employing gnotobiotic model organisms. The resulting knowledge of human microbiome composition, function, and range of variation across multiple body sites has begun to assemble a rich picture of commensal host–microbe and microbe–microbe interactions as well as their roles in human health and disease and their potential as diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

Keywords: Human Microbiome Project; microbiota; metagenomics


Xochitl C. Morgan, Nicola Segata and Curtis Huttenhower. 2013. Biodiversity and functional genomics in the human microbiome. Trends in Genetics. 29(1), 51–58. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tig.2012.09.005

Friday, April 26, 2013

World Tapir Day



World Tapir Day is held each year on 27 April.



four species of Tapir; Malay Tapir (Tapirus indicus), Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), Lowland Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)  and Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii).




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

[Entomology • 2013] A new genus and species of fairyfly, Tinkerbella nana (Hymenoptera, Mymaridae) from Costa Rica, with comments on its sister genus Kikiki, and discussion on small size limits in arthropods




 Abstract
A new genus and species of fairyfly, Tinkerbella nana (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae) gen. n. and sp. n., is described from Costa Rica. It is compared with the related genus Kikiki Huber and Beardsley from the Hawaiian Islands, Costa Rica and Trinidad. A specimen of Kikiki huna Huber measured 158 µm long, thus holding the record for the smallest winged insect. The smallest size possible, as measured by body length, for flying insects and wingless arthropods is discussed.

Keywords: Mymaridae, Tinkerbella, Kikiki, Dicopomorpha, Alaptus, smallest insect, smallest arthropods






A new species of tiny fly named after the fairy in "Peter Pan" is mind-blowingly miniscule, with delicate wings trimmed in fringe.
Tinkerbella nana is a newly discovered species of fairyfly from Costa Rica. Fairyflies are a type of chalcid wasp, and almost all are parasites, living on the eggs and larvae of other insects. It's a gruesome way to live, but it makes fairyflies useful for farmers, who sometimes import them to control nasty pests.
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John T. Huber & John S. Noyes. 2013. A new genus and species of fairyfly, Tinkerbella nana (Hymenoptera, Mymaridae), with comments on its sister genus Kikiki , and discussion on small size limits in arthropods. Journal of Hymenoptera Research.32: 17–44. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/JHR.32.4663


Huber JT, Beardsley JW (2000b) A new genus of fairyfly, Kikiki, from the Hawaiian Islands (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae). Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society 34: 65–70.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

[Ornithology • 2006] The Rediscovery and Song of the Rusty-throated Wren Babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis


Rusty-throated Wren Babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis

Rusty-throated Wren Babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis was described by Ripley (1948) from a netted specimen collected on 5 January 1947 at about 1,600 m near Dreyi (near or now possibly known as Lohitpur/Lohatipur) in the Lohit River drainage of the Mishmi Hills, in what is now Arunachal Pradesh state, north-east India, at c.28°0′N 96°17′E. The species was not encountered again in the twentieth century, no doubt due to the inaccessibility of the Mishmi Hills, an area that even Indian citizens need a permit to visit. However, in the late 1990s the permit requirements were relaxed so that foreigners could visit.
..............


Mishmi Wren-babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis at Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, India.

The Rediscovery and Song of the Rusty-throated Wren Babbler Spelaeornis badeigularis

Rediscovery of the Rusty-throated Wren Babbler (Spelaeornis badeigularis)

Mishmi Wren-babbler at Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, India. http://prasanbirds.blogspot.com/2012/11/mishmi-wren-babbler-at-mehao-wildlife_12.html

[Ornithology • 2008] Convergent Evolution of Hawaiian and Australo-Pacific Honeyeaters from Distant Songbird Ancestors


Until the 1980s, when the last one went extinct, five species of Hawaiian honeyeaters sipped nectar from Hawaii's flowers. These songbirds, illustrated at lower left (Hawaii ‘o’o) and upper center (kioea), have always been considered Australasian honeyeaters (family Meliphagidae; two on right branch) and share many similarities in form, behavior, and ecology. However, DNA sequence analysis of museum specimens by Fleischer, James, and Olson reveal that the Hawaiian species are distantly related to meliphagids and instead form a new songbird family, the Mohoidae, related to Holarctic waxwings (shown at upper left), neotropical silky flycatchers, and related families. The mohoids and meliphagids are a remarkable example of convergent evolution and are the only bird family known to go extinct over the past few centuries.

Summary
The Hawaiian “honeyeaters,” five endemic species of recently extinct, nectar-feeding songbirds in the genera Moho and Chaetoptila, looked and acted like Australasian honeyeaters (Meliphagidae), and no taxonomist since their discovery on James Cook's third voyage has classified them as anything else. We obtained DNA sequences from museum specimens of Moho and Chaetoptila collected in Hawaii 115–158 years ago. Phylogenetic analysis of these sequences supports monophyly of the two Hawaiian genera but, surprisingly, reveals that neither taxon is a meliphagid honeyeater, nor even in the same part of the songbird radiation as meliphagids. Instead, the Hawaiian species are divergent members of a passeridan group that includes deceptively dissimilar families of songbirds (Holarctic waxwings, neotropical silky flycatchers, and palm chats). Here we designate them as a new family, the Mohoidae. A nuclear-DNA rate calibration suggests that mohoids diverged from their closest living ancestor 14–17 mya, coincident with the estimated earliest arrival in Hawaii of a bird-pollinated plant lineage. Convergent evolution, the evolution of similar traits in distantly related taxa because of common selective pressures, is illustrated well by nectar-feeding birds, but the morphological, behavioral, and ecological similarity of the mohoids to the Australasian honeyeaters makes them a particularly striking example of the phenomenon.


On the cover: Until the 1980s, when the last one went extinct, five species of Hawaiian honeyeaters sipped nectar from Hawaii's flowers. These songbirds, illustrated at lower left (Hawaii ‘o’o) and upper center (kioea), have always been considered Australasian honeyeaters (family Meliphagidae; two on right branch) and share many similarities in form, behavior, and ecology. However, DNA sequence analysis of museum specimens by Fleischer, James, and Olson reveal that the Hawaiian species are distantly related to meliphagids and instead form a new songbird family, the Mohoidae, related to Holarctic waxwings (shown at upper left), neotropical silky flycatchers, and related families. The mohoids and meliphagids are a remarkable example of convergent evolution and are the only bird family known to go extinct over the past few centuries.
Illustration by John Anderton.

Figure 2. Illustrations of Three of the Five Species of Hawaiian “Honeyeaters” and Three Representative Meliphagid Honeyeaters 
The three Hawaiian taxa represent the three primary morphological types found in Hawaiian “honeyeaters” (Mohoidae: [A], Moho nobilis; [C], Chaetoptila angustipluma; and [E], Moho braccatus). The three meliphagids include one from New Zealand ([B], Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), one from Australia ([D], Anthochaera carunculata), and one from Samoa ([F], Gymnomyza samoensis).

Paintings by John Anderton 

R Fleischer, H James, S Olson. 2008. Convergent Evolution of Hawaiian and Australo-Pacific Honeyeaters from Distant Songbird Ancestors. Current Biology. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2008.10.051

When is a Honeyeater not a Honeyeater& The Tricks of Convergent Evolution http://on.natgeo.com/11bsyFs   
Picture of the Week — Hawaiian Honeyeaters http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2008/12/picture-of-the-week%e2%80%94hawaiian-honeyeaters via @SmithsonianMag

Friday, April 19, 2013

[Paleontology • 2013] Dahalokely tokana • An abelisauroid theropod dinosaur from the Turonian of Madagascar | New carnivorous dinosaur from Madagascar raises more questions than it answers


 Dahalokely tokana, holotype 

Abstract

Geophysical evidence strongly supports the complete isolation of India and Madagascar (Indo-Madagascar) by ~100 million years ago, though sparse terrestrial fossil records from these regions prior to ~70 million years ago have limited insights into their biogeographic history during the Cretaceous. A new theropod dinosaur, Dahalokely tokana, from Turonian-aged (~90 million years old) strata of northernmost Madagascar is represented by a partial axial column. Autapomorphies include a prominently convex prezygoepipophyseal lamina on cervical vertebrae and a divided infraprezygapophyseal fossa through the mid-dorsal region, among others. Phylogenetic analysis definitively recovers the species as an abelisauroid theropod and weakly as a noasaurid. Dahalokely is the only known dinosaur from the interval during which Indo-Madagascar likely existed as a distinct landmass, but more complete material is needed to evaluate whether or not it is more closely related to later abelisauroids of Indo-Madagascar or those known elsewhere in Gondwana.


Outline of Dahalokely tokana with a human for scale,
showing known bones in white and missing areas patterned after related animals.



Figure 2. Dahalokely tokana, holotype (UA 9855)
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062047

Etymology: The generic name, from the Malagasy dahalo (bandit) and kely (small), references the small size of the animal relative to many abelisauroids. The species epithet, tokana (Malagasy, lonely), references the organism’s isolation on the landmass of Indo-Madagascar. The suggested, generalized pronunciation based on the Malagasy language is “dah-HAH-loo-KAY-lee too-KAH-nah.”



New carnivorous dinosaur from Madagascar raises more questions than it answers
The first new dinosaur named from Madagascar in nearly a decade, Dahalokely tokana was a carnivore measuring 9-14 feet long. Its fossils were found in 90-million-year-old rocks of northernmost Madagascar, from the time when Madagascar and India were a single isolated land mass. Dahalokely is potentially ancestral to later dinosaurs of both regions, and shortens a 95-million-year gap in Madagascar's dinosaur fossil record by 20 million years.


Farke, A. A., and J. J. W. Sertich. 2013. An abelisauroid theropod dinosaur from the Turonian of Madagascar. PLOS ONE. 8(4). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062047

Thursday, April 18, 2013

[Herpetology • 2013] Beddomixalus bijui & Mercurana myristicapalustris • Two novel Genera and one New Species of Treefrog (Anura: Rhacophoridae) highlight Cryptic Diversity in the Western Ghats of India


Mercurana myristicapalustris Abraham, Pyron, Ansil, Zachariah & Zachariah 2013

Abstract
Amphibian diversity in the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot is extremely high, especially for such a geographically restricted area. Frogs in particular dominate these assemblages, and the family Rhacophoridae is chief among these, with hundreds of endemic species. These taxa continue to be described at a rapid pace, and several groups have recently been found to represent unique evolutionary clades at the genus level. Here, we report DNA sequences, larval and breeding data for two species of rhacophorid treefrog (Polypedates bijui and a new, hitherto undescribed species). Remarkably, they represent unique, independent clades which form successive sister groups to the Pseudophilautus (Sri Lanka) + Raorchestes (India, China & Indochina) clades. We place these species into two new genera (Beddomixalus gen. nov. and Mercurana gen. nov.). Both of these genera exhibit a distinct reproductive mode among Rhacophoridae of peninsular India and Sri Lanka, with explosive breeding and semiterrestrial, unprotected, non-pigmented eggs oviposited in seasonal swamp pools, which hatch into exotrophic, free-living aquatic tadpoles. Relationships and representation of reproductive modes in sister taxa within the larger clade into which these novel genera are placed, is also discussed. These results suggest that more undescribed taxa may remain to be discovered in South Asia, and the crucial importance of conserving remaining viable habitats.

Key words: Rhacophoridae, anuran reproductive modes, Western Ghats, India, Beddomixalus, Mercurana


 
Beddomixalus bijui & Mercurana myristicapalustris

Two new genera of tree frogs found in Western Ghats
The discovery once again proves that the Western Ghats is a treasure trove of many amphibians

Two new genera of frogs were discovered by a team of independent researchers, led by Anil Zachariah and Robin Kurian Abraham, during their recent exploration in the Western Ghats.

The discovery, published in the latest issue of International Taxonomic Journal Zootaxa, is a joint effort by the team which comprised B .R. Ansil; Arun Zachariah of the Wild Life Disease Research Lab in Wayanad; and Robert Alexander Pyron, Assistant professor, Department of Biological Sciences of the George Washington University, U.S.

Tadpole of Beddomixalus bijui
Photo: Anil Zachariah

Biodiversity Hotspot

The discovery once again proves that the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hot spot and UNESCO world Heritage site, is a treasure trove of many amphibians.

It was found that the newly found genera belonged to tree frog family ‘Rhacophoridae.’ The frogs were discovered in highly threatened fresh water swamp ecosystems, which are unique to the mountain range.

The frogs discovered are named after two remarkable personalities who had an association with this landscape. One genus is named Beddomixalus after colonel Richard Henry Beddome. He was a gifted polymath of the colonial era, who made extraordinary contributions to the understanding to the natural history of the sub-continent while serving as the Chief Conservator of Forests in the Madras Presidency. His works were the first detailed forays towards a systematic and through understanding of the amphibian diversity of the Western Ghats.

The other genus has been christened Mercurana to commemorate Freddie Mercury, late iconic lead singer of the British rock band Queen. Mercury (his pen name) was of Indian Parsi origin and had spent major part of his childhood in India in Panchagni, located in the northern part of the mountain range, where the frog now bearing his name has been discovered.

While the ‘Beddomixalus bijui’ was found in the swamp forests of the Anamalai and high ranges of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, ‘Mercurana myristicapalustris,’ is restricted to highly fragmented and threatened low land ‘Myristica’ swamp forests in the foothills of the Agastyamalai hills in Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts.

Beddomixalus bijui (Zachariah, Dinesh, Kunhikrishnan, Das, Raju, Radhakrishnan, Palot & Kalesh 2011)

This distinctive forest type is dominated by wild relatives of nutmeg that thrive in waterlogged soil, and hence the name ‘Myristica’ swamp. But much of these types of forests have been lost, having been converted to raise cash crops such as rubber and oil palms, Dr. Anil Zachariah says.

Moreover, episodes of erratic rainfall over recent years are likely to affect the breeding patterns of these frogs and detailed studies are needed to explore such impacts, Mr. Abraham says.

The researchers highlight that the swamp forest and their unique biota are to be preserved. They stressed that the finding of two novel genera after more than a century of herpetological exploration in the region take the total number of tree frog genera in the Western Ghats to seven.

The southern Western Ghats, home to Beddomixalus and Mercurana.
Photo: Anil Zachariah

The lowland Myristica-swamp ecosystem, which remains water-logged for most of the year.
Photo: Robin Kurian Abraham


Robin Kurian Abraham, R. Alexander Pyron, Ansil B. R., Arun Zachariah & Anil Zachariah. 2013. Two novel genera and one new species of treefrog (Anura: Rhacophoridae) highlight cryptic diversity in the Western Ghats of India. Zootaxa. 3640 (2): 177–189.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

[Herpetology • 2013] Xenagama wilmsi • A New agamid Lizard (Agamidae) from the Horn of Africa, Somalia | An extraordinary tail - integrative review of the agamid genus Xenagama


Xenagama wilmsi Wagner, Mazuch & Bauer 2013


Abstract
Approximately 120 years after its description, this is the first thorough systematic review of the agamid genus Xenagama. Currently, the genus includes two extraordinary species, characterized by strongly discoidal tails. Both species are only known from a few localities in north-eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia and are represented by a small number of specimens in museum collections. Morphological and mitochondrial (16S) DNA sequence data revealed that Xenagama batillifera is a complex of two cryptic species and the reassignment of Acanthocercus zonurus to the genus Xenagama is supported by morphological analyses. Herein, we describe specimens previously recognized as a geographic variant of X. batillifera as a new species and compare it to other whorl-tailed lizards of the genera Xenagama and Acanthocercus from the Horn of Africa, underscoring the significance of this poorly known but important region for agamid evolution. Among other features, the new species is characterized by possessing heterogeneous body scalation, no nuchal crest and no tufts of elongated scales around the ear. Similar to Xenagama batillifera or Xenagama taylori, and distinct to other African agamid lizards, the tail is shorter than the body and head, but the tail base is less discoidal than in X. batillifera or especially X. taylori and gradually merges into the terminal filament. The discoidal part of the tail is arranged in whorls with one scale ring each, whereas the filament is not distinctly whorled.

Keywords: Agamidae; Xenagama ; Acanthocercus zonurus ; Ethiopia; Somalia


Figure 8. Phylogenetic tree of Xenagama species.

 Wagner P, Mazuch T, Bauer AM. 2013. An extraordinary tail - integrative review of the agamid genus Xenagama. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. DOI: 10.1111/jzs.12016

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

[Ichthyology • 2013] Magpie Fiddler Ray Trygonorrhina melaleuca Caught in Australian Waters – First Specimen Since 1954



A ray of light thrown on 60-year-old mystery


The unexpected capture of a rare ray found only in a small region off South Australia could help marine scientists validate the existence of the elusive Magpie fiddler ray (Trygonorrhina melaleuca).

The species is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  as Endangered, but until now its very existence has rested on a single specimen found nearly 60 years ago off Kangaroo Island. That specimen is stored at the South Australian Museum and was used to describe the magpie fiddler ray species in 1954.

“This ray, caught by fisher John Marsh from the Adelaide Game Fishing’ Club, is pretty much considered the ‘Holy Grail’ specimen,” says Paul Rogers, a researcher with SARDI Aquatic Sciences Threatened, Endangered and Protected Species program. “This is because the species has been described based on one specimen only and up until now, scientists have not been able to study another specimen of the magpie fiddler ray.”

“Photographs of what is likely to have been magpie fiddler rays have previously been taken. However, this live specimen will allow us to collect genetic samples, with analysis by collaborative organisations potentially validating the existence of the magpie fiddler ray. Alternatively it will provide evidence that the magpie fiddler ray may in fact be a colour variation of the more common southern fiddler ray.

Dr Charlie Huveneers, who is also a researcher with the SARDI TEPS program, says that the ray was caught by alert fishers in Port River on Saturday, April 6, who recognised the significance of the specimen.

“It was a very lucky coincidence that the fishers who caught the ray also have a good collaborative relationship with SARDI, sometimes helping researchers to catch and tag fish and sharks. They were aware that the SA Museum was keen to find such a specimen, and so were very careful capturing and landing the ray."

The healthy ray with its startling brown, black and white colouring is similar to the markings on a magpie, is thought to be of mature age, is around 1.10 metres in length, and may even be pregnant.


The suspected rare magpie fiddler ray was discovered by recreational fishers in the Port River.

“The SA Museum has been trying to collect samples from this species for many years and it’s considered to be a very valuable live specimen,” Dr Rogers said. “It could be carrying pups which would be also be highly valuable from a genetic and morphological perspective”

Dr Rogers and Dr Huveneers will send tissue samples from the ray to other research organisations, including the South Australian Museum and CSIRO, Hobart. Dr Gavin Naylor, a biologist at the College of Charleston in South Carolina is also very interested in sourcing samples of this rare live specimen for the global Elasmobranch tree of life project.

“We plan to keep the ray at SARDI for as long as it takes to glean as much information as we can before releasing it back into the wild,” he said. “We aim to help several genetic labs to collect vital information to unravel whether it is a mutant form of the southern fiddler ray (T. dumerilii) or a distinct species as was first thought when it was first discovered almost 60 years ago.”

The ray is believed to be endemic to the Gulf St Vincent and waters around Kangaroo Island. For now it is swimming happily around in a large tank at the SARDI Aquatic Sciences pool farm.





Magpie Fiddler Ray Caught in Australian Waters – First Specimen Since 1954 http://www.sci-news.com/biology/article01006.html

Friday, April 12, 2013

‘Bangalore’s Frogs at Risk!’



‘Bangalore’s Frogs at Risk!’ 



‘Bangalore’s Frogs at Risk!’ 
poster by Seshadri K.S., Krishna M.B. and Sunil Kumar M., 2012 


[PaleoAnthropology • 2013] Mosaic Nature of Australopithecus sediba | New study reveals how human ancestor walked, chewed, and moved


Reconstruction of a ~2-million-year-old Australopithecus sediba skeleton (height: ~1.3 meters) based on fossils from the Malapa Hominin 1 (MH1), MH2, and MH4 specimens from Malapa, Gauteng, South Africa. Brown indicates discovered fossils. Au. Sediba exhibits a mosaic morphology distinct from that of other australopiths and early Homo.

Australopithecus sediba hominin
: New study reveals how human ancestor walked, chewed, and moved 


A team of scientists has pieced together how the hominid Australopithecus sediba (Au. sediba) walked, chewed, and moved nearly two million years ago. Their research, which appears in six papers in the latest issue of the journal Science, also shows that Au. sediba had a notable feature that differed from that of modern humans—a functionally longer and more flexible lower back. 

Together, the studies offer a comprehensive depiction of some of the most complete early human ancestral remains ever discovered. Since its discovery in August 2008, the site of Malapa—located about 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg—has yielded more than 220 bones of early hominins representing more than five individuals, including the remains of babies, juveniles, and adults. The evidence published in Science is based on two individuals from the site. The fossils from the site date to 1.977 to 1.98 million years in age.

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Australopithecus sediba hominin: New study reveals how human ancestor walked, chewed, and moved 

Composite reconstruction of Au. sediba based on recovered material from MH1, MH2, and MH4 and based on the research presented in the accompanying manuscripts. Because all individuals recovered to date are approximately the same size, size correction was not necessary. Femoral length was established by digitally measuring a complete femur of MH1 still encased in rock. For comparison, a small-bodied female modern H. sapiens is shown on the left and a male Pan troglodytes on the right.

The Mosaic Nature of Australopithecus sediba dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.340.6129.163
A Human Smile and Funny Walk for Australopithecus sediba : dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.340.6129.132

Thursday, April 11, 2013

[Crustacea • 2012] Four new species of splanchnotrophid copepods (Poecilostomatoida) parasitic on doridacean nudibranchs (Gastropoda, Opistobranchia) from Japan, with proposition of one new genus


Figure 1. Live coloration of the host nudibranchs and the splanchnotrophids.
A Hypselodoris festiva infected by an ovigerous specimenof Certosomicola japonica sp. n. B an egg sac of Ceratosomicola japonica sp. n. and the gill circle of Hypselodoris festiva with the mantle malformed into an elongate tube
C Thecacera pennigera infected by an ovigerous specimen of Splanchnotrophus helianthus sp. n. D Trapania pennigera with the mantle removed to show a female specimen of Splanchnotrophus helianthus on the visceral sac
E Trapania miltabrancha infected by an ovigerous specimen of Splanchnotrophus imagawai sp. n (photo by K. Imagawa) F gill circle of Trapania miltabrancha with egg sacs of Splanchnotrophus imagawai sp. n. (photo by K. Imagawa)
G Roboastra luteolineata infected by an ovigerous specimen of Majimun shirakawai gen. et sp. n. (photo by N. Shirakawa) H female Majimun shirakawai gen. et sp. n. with dwarf male attached to the posterior part of the body.
Scale bars = 5 mm in A; 1 mm in B, D, H.



Abstract

Four new species of splanchnotrophid copepods are described based on specimens collected from 5 species of doridacean nudibranchs from coastal waters of Japan. They belong to 3 genera, one of which, Majimun gen. n., is new. The parasites and their hosts are as follows: Ceratosomicola japonica sp. n. ex Hypselodoris festiva (A. Adams); Splanchnotrophus helianthus sp. n. ex Thecacera pennigera (Montagu); S. imagawai sp. n. ex Trapania miltabrancha Gosliner & Fahey; and Majimun shirakawai gen. et sp. n. ex Roboastra luteolineata (Baba) and R. gracilis (Bergh). Ceratosomicola japonica sp. n. is the fifth species of Ceratosomicola and is characterized by the shape and armature of the prosome in females. Both S. helianthus sp. n. and S. imagawai sp. n. are differentiated from 4 known congeners by the absence of posterolateral processes or lobes on the prosome in females, and the females of these 2 new species are separated from each other by the shape and armature of the genito-abdomen, the mandible, and the swimming legs. Majimun gen. n. is distinguished from other splanchnotrophid genera by the segmentation of the antennule as well as the combination of the following characters in females: 2 postgenital somites and the shape of the antenna, the mandible and the swimming legs.







Daisuke Uyeno, Kazuya Nagasawa. 2012. Four new species of splanchnotrophid copepods (Poecilostomatoida) parasitic on doridacean nudibranchs (Gastropoda, Opistobranchia) from Japan, with proposition of one new genus. ZooKeys. 247 : 1-29. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.247.3698