Monthly Archives: November 2016

Friday Fellow: Persian Carpet Flatworm

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

A flatworm again, at last! Not a land planarian, but a flatworm nonetheless.

If there is a group of flatworms that may put land planarians in second plan regarding beauty, those are the polyclads. Living in the sea, especially in coral reefs, polyclads are colorful and curly and may be mistaken by sea slugs.

The species I’m introducing here today is Pseudobiceros bedfordi, commonly known as the Persian carpet flatworm or Bedford’s flatworm. It is about 8 cm long and lives in coral reefs along Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and adjacent areas. See how beautiful it is:

A flatworm (Pseudobiceros bedfordi). Raging Horn, Osprey Reef, Coral Sea

The Persian carpet flatworm with its beautiful colors. Photo by Richard Ling.*

The colorful pattern of this and many other polyclad species is likely a warning about their toxicity, although there are few studies regarding toxicity in these animals. Being active predators, polyclads may use their toxins as a way to subdue prey as well.

But the most interesting thing regarding the Persian carpet flatworm is its sexual behavior. As with most flatworms, they are hermaphrodites, so when two individuals meet and decide to have sex, they have to choose whether they want to play the male or the female role (or both). Unfortunately, most individuals prefer to be males, so those encounters usually end up in a violent fight in which both animals attack the partner with a double penis, a behavior known as penis fencing.

mating_pseudobiceros_bedfordi

Two Persian carpet flatworms about to engage in penis fencing. Photo from Whitfield (2004), courtesy of Nico Michiels.**

At the end, the winner spurts its sperm onto the partner and leaves. The horrible part is yet to come, though. The sperm appears to be able to burn like acid through the receiver’s skin tissue in order to reach the inner tissues and thus swim towards the eggs. In some extreme cases the sperm load may be high enough to tore the receiver into pieces! If that’s not a good definition of wild sex, I don’t know what is.

See also: Gender Conflict: Who’s the man in the relationship?

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References:

Whitfield, J. (2004). Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sexes PLoS Biology, 2 (6) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020183

Wikipedia. Pseudoceros bedfordi. Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudobiceros_bedfordi&gt;. Access on November 24, 2016.

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Filed under Behavior, Friday Fellow, worms

New Species: November 11 to 20

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described from November 11 to  November 20. It certainly does not include all described species. Most information comes from the journals Mycokeys, Phytokeys, Zookeys, Phytotaxa, Zootaxa, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, and Systematic and Applied Microbiology, as well as journals restricted to certain taxa.

liolaemus_leftrarui

Liolaemus leftrarui is a new lizard species described in the past 10 days.

Hacrobians

SARs

Plants

Excavates

Fungi

Cnidarians

Rotifers

Annelids

Arachnids

Crustaceans

Insects

Ray-finned fishes

Lissamphibians

Reptiles

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Filed under Systematics, taxonomy

Friday Fellow: Floating Crystalwort

by Piter Kehoma Boll

If you own an aquarium at home, you may already know this fellow, as it is very popular among aquarists. Its scientific name is Riccia fluitans, but it is colloquially known as floating crystalwort.

riccia_fluitans

Riccia fluitans growing on a wet terrestrial substrate. Photo by Christian Fischer.*

As its name suggest, the floating crystalwort is usually found floating on water, but it can also grow on a substrate in damp areas near water bodies or, more rarely, on underwater substrate.

The floating crystalwort is a liverwort, belonging to a group of simple and primitive plants with no specialized tissues, that usually grow as a flattened thallus. When floating, Riccia fluitans forms a green mesh that is used by juvenile fish as a shelter.

riccia_fluitans2

The floating crystalwort floating in an aquarium. Photo by Piotr Kuczynski.*

In research, the floating crystalwort is highly used to study bioaccumulation of elements and properties of the cell membrane, such as transmembrane transports.

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References:

Chojnacka, K. 2007. Biosorption and bioaccumulation of microelements by Riccia fluitans in single and multi-metal system. Bioresource Technology, 98(15): 2919-2925.

Johannes, E.; Felle, H. 1987. Implications for cytoplasmic pH, protonmotice force, and amino-acid transport across the plasmalemma of Riccia fluitansPlanta, 172(1): 53-59.

Wikipedia. Riccia fluitans. Available at: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riccia_fluitans >. Access on November 17, 2016.

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Friday Fellow: Wheel Necklace Diatom

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

Most of you likely know what diatoms are, microscopic algae with a silica shell that are very abundant in the world’s oceans and one of the main oxygen producers. You may have seen images like the one below, showing the diversty of diatoms, but can you name a single species?

diatoms

The beautiful, yet largely neglected by non-experts, diversity of diatoms. Photo by Wikimedia user Wipeter.*

Today I decided to bring you a diatom Friday Fellow and let me tell you: it was not at all easy to select a nice species with a considerable amount of available information and a good picture. But at the end the winner of the First Diatom Friday Fellow Award was…

Thalassiosira rotula!

thalassiosira_rotula

Three connected individuals of Thalassiosira rotula. Photo by micro*scope.**

As with most microorganisms, this species has no common name and, as it is a tradition here, I decided to make one up and chose wheel necklace diatom. Necklace diatom seems to be a good common name for species in the genus Thalassiosira, as they are formed by several individuals connected to each other in a pattern that resembles a necklace. I decided to call this particular species wheel necklace diatom because of its specific epithet, rotula, which means little wheel in Latin.

The wheel necklace diatom is a marine species found worldwide close to the coast. It is very abundant and the dominant species in some areas, so it is of great ecological importance. Small planctonic crustaceans, such as copepods, usually feed on the wheel necklace diatom and, as those crustaceans are used as food for much larger animals, the wheel necklace diatom is responsible for sustaining a whole food chain.

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References:

Ianora, A., Poulet, S., Miralto, A., & Grottoli, R. (1996). The diatom Thalassiosira rotula affects reproductive success in the copepod Acartia clausi Marine Biology, 125 (2), 279-286 DOI: 10.1007/BF00346308

Krawiec, R. (1982). Autecology and clonal variability of the marine centric diatom Thalassiosira rotula (Bacillariophyceae) in response to light, temperature and salinity Marine Biology, 69 (1), 79-89 DOI: 10.1007/BF00396964

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New Species: November 1 to 10

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described from November 1 to  November 10. It certainly does not include all described species. Most information comes from the journals Mycokeys, Phytokeys, Zookeys, Phytotaxa, Zootaxa, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, and Systematic and Applied Microbiology, as well as journals restricted to certain taxa.

dendronotus_robilliardi

The sea slug Dendronotus robilliardi is a new species described in the past 10 days.

Archaeans

Bacteria

SARs 

Plants

Fungi

Sponges

Cnidarians

Entoprocts

Mollusks

Annelids

Loriciferans

Mud Dragons

Nematodes

Arachnids

Crustaceans

Hexapods

Echinoderms

Cartilaginous fishes

Ray-finned fishes

Lissamphibians

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Filed under Systematics, taxonomy

Obama invades Europe: “Yes, we can!”

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

This information was known by me and some other people for quite a while, but only recently has caught attention of the general public. Obama is the newest threat in Europe.

No, I’m not talking about the president of the United States. I’m talking about a land flatworm whose name is  Obama nungara.

obama_marmorata_7

This is the magnificent Obama nungara. This specimen is from Brazil and looks particulary yellowish due to the strong light of the camera flash. Photo by Piter Kehoma Boll.*

It has been a while since a new invasive land flatworm started to appear in gardens of Europe, especially in Spain and France and eventually elsewhere, such as in the United Kingdom. It was quickly identified as being a Neotropical land planarian and posteriorly as belonging to the genus Obama, whose name has nothing to do with Barack Obama, but is rather a combination of the Tupi words oba (leaf) and ma (animal) as a reference to the worm’s shape.

obama_nungara

When you find Obama nungara in your garden, it will look much darker, like this one found in the UK. Photo by buglife.org.uk

At first it was thought that the planarian belonged to the species Obama marmorata, a species that is native from southern Brazil, but molecular and morphological analyses revealed it to be a new species. Actually, much of what was called Obama marmorata in Brazil was this new species. Thus, it was named nungara, which means “similar” in Tupi, due to its similarity with Obama marmorata.

obama_marmorata

This is Obama marmorata, the species that O. nungara was originally mistaken for. Photo by Fernando Carbayo.**

Measuring about 5 cm in length, sometimes a little more or a little less, O. nungara is currently known to feed on earthworms, snails, slugs and even other land planarians. Its impact on the European fauna is, however, still unknown, but the British charitable organization Buglife decided to spread an alert and many news websites seem to have loved the flatworm’s name and suddenly a flatworm is becoming famous.

Who said flatworms cannot be under the spotlight? Yes, they can!

See also: The Ladislau’s flatworm, a cousin of Obama nungara.

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References:

Álvarez-Presas, M., Mateos, E., Tudó, À., Jones, H., & Riutort, M. (2014). Diversity of introduced terrestrial flatworms in the Iberian Peninsula: a cautionary tale PeerJ, 2 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.430

Boll, P., & Leal-Zanchet, A. (2016). Preference for different prey allows the coexistence of several land planarians in areas of the Atlantic Forest Zoology, 119 (3), 162-168 DOI: 10.1016/j.zool.2016.04.002

Carbayo, F., Álvarez-Presas, M., Jones, H., & Riutort, M. (2016). The true identity of Obama (Platyhelminthes: Geoplanidae) flatworm spreading across Europe Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 177 (1), 5-28 DOI: 10.1111/zoj.12358

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Friday Fellow: Silvergreen Moss

ResearchBlogging.orgby Piter Kehoma Boll

Found throughout most of the world, you probably have encountered this fellow many times in your life, but did not pay any attention. After all, it is just a moss!

Scientifically known as Bryum argenteum and popularly named silvergreen moss, this tiny little fellow lives on cracks of stones, walls and sidewalks, thus it is also known as sidewalk moss. It usually forms small lumps composed by many plants growing tightly together. The small leaves of each plant are also tightly packed together, giving it the appearance of a small piece of wool thread. The tip of the plant usually have a silver tinge that may be more or less intense, hence the name silvergreen moss.

bryum_argenteum

This is the general appearance of the silvergreen moss. Lumpy and soft. Photo by flickr user harum.koh*

As with all mosses, the green tapestry that forms the main part of the silvergreen moss are gametophytes, haploid organisms that are either male or female. The males produce a male gamete that swims towards a female plant and fertilizes its gamete. As a result, a new sexless plant grows on the top of the female, the so-called sporophyte. You can see the sporophytes as small stalks with a bag on the end.

bryum_argenteum2

A bunch of sporophytes growing on top of the gametophytes. Photo by Paul van de Velde.*

Extracts of the silvergreen moss has shown antimicrobial activity, being effective against several species of bacteria and fungi, making it a promising candidate for the development of new medicines.

Living from the poles to the equator, the silvergreen moss has a huge ability to adapt to extremes of temperature, humidity and altitude. It also shows a considerably high tolerance to heavy metals, and that is most likely the reason why it is so common along roads.

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References:

EOL – Encyclopedia of Life. Bryum argenteum. Available at < http://eol.org/pages/864280/overview >. Access on September 29, 2016.

Sabovljevic, A., Sokovic, M., Sabovljevic, M., & Grubisic, D. (2006). Antimicrobial activity of Bryum argenteum Fitoterapia, 77 (2), 144-145 DOI: 10.1016/j.fitote.2005.11.002

Shaw, A., & Albright, D. (1990). Potential for the Evolution of Heavy Metal Tolerance in Bryum argenteum, a Moss. II. Generalized Tolerances among Diverse Populations The Bryologist, 93 (2) DOI: 10.2307/3243622

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