Monthly Archives: April 2019

New Species: April 2019

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described this month. It certainly does not include all described species. You can see the list of Journals used in the survey of new species here.

Bacteria

Archaeans

SARs

Plants

Nasa angeldiazioides is a new flowering plant from Peru. Credits to Henning et al. (2019).*

Excavates

Rossbeevera griseobrunnea is a new basidiomycete from China. Credits to Hosen et al. (2019).

Fungi

Dermea chinensis is a new ascomycete from China. Credits to Jiang & Tian (2019).*

Sponges

Cnidarians

Flatworms

Microstomum schultei is a new flatworm from Italy. Credits to Atherton & Jondelius (2019).*

Rotiferans

Aethozooides uraniae is a new bryozoan from the Mediterranean. Credits to Schwaha et al. (2019).*

Bryozoans

Annelids

Madrella amphora (a-d) and Janolus tricellarioides (e-h) are two new sea slugs from New Guinea and the Philippines, respectively. Credits to Pola et al. (2019).*

Mollusks

Kinorhynchs

Arpocelinus itecrii is a new nematode from Costa Rica. Credits to Peña-Santiago & Varela-Benavides (2019).

Nematodes

Tardigrades

Phintelloides brunne (A-D) and Phintelloides flavoviri (E,F) are new jumping spiders from South Asia. Credits to Kanesharatnam & Benjamin (2019).*

Chelicerates

Cryptocorypha enghoffi is a new millipede from Thailand. Credits to Likhitrakarn et al. (2019).

Myriapods

Vinaphilus unicus is a new centipede from Southeast Asia. Credits to Tran et al. (2019).

Crustaceans

The beetle genus Hexanchorus was increased in four species from Ecuador. Credits to Linský et al. (2019).*

Hexapods

Chondrichthyans

Prognathodes geminus is a new butterflyfish from Palau. Credits to Copus et al. (2019).*

Actinopterygians

Noblella thiuni is a new frog from Peru. Credits to Catenazzi & Ttito (2019).*

Amphibians

Reptiles

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One more species joins the Husband-Killers Club

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Leia em português

Sexual cannibalism is the act of eating a sexual partner right before, during or right after copulation. Despite being a considerably rare behavior, its occurrence is very popular among the general public.

When sexual cannibalism occurs, it usually consists of the female eating the male. Two popular cases are those of mantises and of spiders, especially the black widow. This phenomenon, at least among black widows, is much rarer than most people think.

Female mantis eating a yummy male. Photo by Oliver Koemmerling.*

Although sometimes sexual cannibalism occurs because one of the partners mistakes the other for food, in many species it is a evolutionary selected strategy that assures that the female will eat enough for the offspring to develop properly. It may look horrible from our human point of view, especially if we think from the perspective of the male, but we must remember that passing your genes to the next generation is the main purpose of most organisms and, if the male succeeded in fertilizing the female’s eggs, his life has served his purpose and he can die happily.

Sexual cannibalism is, of course, almost exclusively observed among predators, which is kind of obvious. And, as I said above, is commonly performed by the female. One group that is famous for its female-empowered species is the insect order Hymenoptera, which includes bees, ants, wasps, sawflies, among others. Since many hymenopterans have some degree of sociality, in which societies are composed almost exclusively of females, and males are generated only for the purpose of reproduction, it is curious that sexual cannibalism has never been recorded in this group… until now.

A recently published study examined the mating behavior of a small parasitoid wasp, Gonatopus chilensis. This species belongs to the family Dryinidae, of which all species lay their eggs on insects of the suborder Auchenorrhyncha, which includes cicadas, leaf hoppers, plant hoppers, among others. The larvae, after hatching from the egg, feed on the hosts. Adult females of dryinid wasps are also voracious predators and feed on the same species on which they fed as larvae.

Male of Gonatopus chilensis (left) inseminating a female (a), and female eating a male (b and c). Extracted from Virla & Espinosa (2019).*

After copulation, females of G. chilensis were often observed trying to capture the males in the same way they capture their prey. However, in only one occasion the female was successful in capturing the male and ate its gaster (the large round portion that forms most of the abdomen in wasps). Since only one instance of cannibalism was observed, it may be a rare phenomenon in this species, but since several attempts to capture the male were seen, it seems that eating the male is an interesting idea for the females.

This is the first known case of sexual cannibalism in hymenopterans and, therefore, an important record that increased the number of groups in which this behavior is known to occur.

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Reference:

Virla EG, Espinosa MS (2019) Observations on the mating behavior of a dryinid and first record of sexual cannibalism in the hymenoptera. Acta Ethologica. doi: 10.1007/s10211-019-00315-9

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Friday Fellow: Brandy Fungus

by Piter Kehoma Boll

If you live near or has ever visited a distillery, you may have noticed a black stain covering part of the outer walls. It may at first look like soot, but if you look close enough you will notice it is actually some sort of life form.

This phenomenon was first observed in 1872 in the city of Cognac, France and reported by Antonin Baudoin, the director of the French Distillers’ Association. During the following years the thing was identified as a fungus that is currently named Baudoinia compniacensis and commonly known as the whiskey fungus or the angels’ share fungus but I decided to call it the brandy fungus, and I’ll explain why later.

Baudoinia compniacensis growing on the walls near its type-locality in Cognac, France. Photo by Yann Gwilhoù.*

The reason for this fungus to grow around distilleries is because it is able to metabolize ethanol as a carbon source, i.e., as food, and thrives on the ethanol vapor released from such factories. It is, however, sensitive to high concentrations of this alcohol and thus rarely grows inside the buildings, preferring the outer surfaces and nearby structures, including tree branches.

Until now, the whiskey fungus was never found in natural habitats away from ethanol emissions generated by human activities. In the wild, it probably grows around natural ethanol emissions, such as rotting fruits, but as such emissions are much less concentrated than human-generated ones, it certainly cannot grow as much as near distilleries. We can say that this species became very successful after humans started to produce alcoholic beverages on a large scale.

For many years, all fungi growing around distilleries in the world were considered as belonging to the same species, Baudoinia compniacensis. However, a recent molecular study using populations from different parts of the world revealed that they belong to different species, and each species seems to be restricted to a certain geographic location. The species Baudoinia compniacensis was found only in France. Populations in Scotland form a separate species, Baudoinia caledoniensis, and the same applies to populations in the Americas (Baudoinia panamericana), the Caribbean (B. antilliensis) and the Far East (B. orientalis). Thus, the name Whiskey Fungus does not seem to be adequate and would better fit Baudoinia caledoniensis.

Images from cultures of different species of Baudoinia. Figure F shows the brandy fungus Baudoinia compniacensis under the microscope. Credits to Scott et al. (2016).**

Anyway, the next time you see a distillery covered by a black growth, remember that it is a species that flourished because of us and our love for alcohol.

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References:

Scott JA, Ewaze JO, Summerbell RC, Arocha-Rosete Y, Maharaj A, Guardiola Y, Saleh M, Wong B, Mogale M, O’Hara MJ, Untereiner WA (2016) Multilocus DNA sequencing of the whiskey fungus reveals a continental-scale speciation pattern. Persoonia 37: 13–20. doi: 10.3767/003158516X689576

Scott JA, Summerbell RC (2016) Biology of the Whiskey Fungus. In: Li D-W (Ed.) Biology of Microfungi, Springer, pp. 413–428. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-29137-6_16

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**Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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Whose Wednesday: Josef Müller

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Once more our featured scientist is in part related to my beloved land planarians, although his most important contributions occurred in the field of entomology.

Josef Müller, also known as Giuseppe Müller, was born on 4 April 1880 in Zadar, Croatia, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His regular school years included the study of classical languages and the scientific method, which made him acquire an interest for the natural world. Thus, in 1898, he moved to Graz, Austria, and studied natural history at the faculty of philosophy.

In 1900, still as a student, he published a study on the anatomy of the roots of exotic orchids and, due to this work, won the University of Graz’s Unger Prize. At this time he met many Austrian entomologists, including Ludwig Ganglbauer. He graduated in 1902 with a dissertation on the morphology of land planarians. At this time he was already interested in insects, especially beetles, and from there on focused his attention on this particular group.

Moving to Trieste, Italy, Müller started to teach natural history at the Trieste High School and joined the Società Adriaca de Scienze Naturali. He also founded an entomology club with other entomologists and, through the work program developed by the club, started to study the arthropod fauna found in caves around Trieste. He presented his results at the International Congress of Zoology in Graz, which made him become known in larger circles and start many scientific cooperations during the following years. One of the most remarkable works was a monography of blind ground beetles, published in 1913, for which he was awarded the Ganglbauer Prize.

When World War I started, Müller was forced to abandon his work and joined the military service. His entomological knowledge soon proved to be valuable in the control of diseases transmitted by insects. He spent one year at an anti-malaria station in Albania and later moved to the bacteriological laboratory in Vienna. There, he studied the body louse Pediculus humanus humanus and proved that it was the responsible for transmitting the bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii, known to cause epidemic typhus. The results of this study were published after the war ended, in 1919.

Back to Trieste, Müller became the conservator of the city’s natural history museum, the Civico Museo di Storia Naturale di Trieste. In 1928, he was promoted to director of the museum and of the botanical gardens.
In 1932, he planned the construction of an aquarium of marine lifeforms in Trieste. The aquarium was opened in 1933 and included many coral fish from the Red Sea.

From 1934 to 1935, he was in charge of organizing an expedition to Eritrea for the capture of venomous snakes. He used this opportunity to collect beetles in this country and, during the following years, traveled several times to North Africa to collect more specimens, especially of the family Histeridae.

In 1946, at the age of 66, Müller left the museum due to his age. He was able to continue his studies because he was appointed director of the Centro Sperimentale Agrario e Forestale di Trieste. He died in 1964 in Trieste, aged 84.

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References:

Civico Museo di Storia Naturale. La Storia. Available at <
http://www.museostorianaturaletrieste.it/la-storia/ >. Access on 23 April, 2019.

Wikipedia. Josef Müller. Available at <
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_M%C3%BCller_(entomologist) >. Access on 23 April 2019.

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Friday Fellow: Peacock Mantis Shrimp

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Invertebrates are much less likely to become popular creatures than vertebrates, but every now and then there is an exception, and one of them is certainly Odontodactylus scyllarus, the peacock mantis shrimp.

Peacock Mantis Shrimp at Guinjata Bay, Mozambique. Photo by Peter Southwood.*

Found in the Indo-Pacific region, from the east coast of Africa to Guam, the peacock mantis shrimp is a large and colorful species of the crustacean order Stomatopoda, popularly known as mantis shrimps. Measuring up to 18 cm in length, their body is mainly green with some large black spots with a white contour one the cephalothorax. The legs are reddish orange and the region around the eyes has a light blue shade. Due to this beautiful appearance, the peacock mantis shrimp has become a popular animal to be raised in aquariums.

Frontal view of a peaock mantis shrimp in the Andaman Sea, Thailand. You can see the club-like appendages used to break the shell of prey. Photo by Silke Baron.**

Mantis shrimps are predators and the peacok mantis shrimp is not an exception. It feeds mainly on shelled mollusks, such as gastropods and bivalves, and crustaceans. To break the strong carapace of its prey, it smashes them with a powerful strike using its club-like second pair of thoracic appendages. This strong attack, caused by a complex mechanism in the appendage, is so strong that it easily breaks the shell of the prey. In aquariums, this can be problematic, as they sometimes break the aquarium’s wall. More than only striking the prey with incredible force, the attack of the mantis shrimp generates a sudden region of low pressure between the shell and the appendage when the appendage is quickly retracted. This phenomenon, called cavitation, generates a bubble of gas that quickly collapses and generates large amounts of energy in the form of heat, light and sound and creates a second impact on the prey.

Female peacock mantis shrimp carrying eggs in Indonesia. You can also see the eyes with two hemispheres separates by a band of larger ommatidia arranged in 6 lines. Photo by Terence Zahner.***

The peacock mantis shrimp has also a magnificent vision system. Its compound eyes are divided into an upper and a lower hemisphere which are separated by a band of six lines of enlarged ommatidia (the small eyes that form the compound eye). This three regions of the eye are used to detect different wavelengths, including UV light, and even include special cells that convert unpolarized light into polarized light or filter circular polarized light, allowing the mantis shrimp to detect light in different ways from different parts of the eye. This complex system is being studied for the development of optical devices to store and read information.

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References:

Jen Y-J, Lakhtakia A, Yu C-W, Lin C-F, Lin M-J, Wang S-H, Lai JR (2011) Biologically inspired achromatic waveplates for visible light. Nature Communications 2: 363. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1358

Kleinlogel S, Marshall NJ (2009) Ultraviolet polarisation sensitivity in the stomatopod crustacean Odontodactylus scyllarus. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 195(12): 1153–1162. doi: 10.1007/s00359-009-0491-y

Land MF, Marshall JN, Brownless D, Cronin TW (1990) The eye-movements of the mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus (Crustacea: Stompatopoda). Journal of Comparative Physiology A 167(2): 155–166. doi: 10.1007/BF00188107

Marshall J, Cronin TW, Shashar N, Land M (1999) Behavioural evidence for polarisation vision in stomatopods reveals a potential channel for communication. Current Biology 9(14): 755–758. doi: 10.1016/S0960-9822(99)80336-4

Patek SN, Caldwell RL (2005) Extreme impact and cavitation forces of a biological hammer: strike forces of the peacock mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus. The Journal of Experimental Biology 208: 3655–3664. doi: 10.1242/jeb.01831

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Whose Wednesday: Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius

by Piter Kehoma Boll

It is time to celebrate the birthday of a famous botanist and explorer that was very important in the study of the Brazilian flora.

Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius was born on 17 April 1794 in Erlangen, Germany, at that time part of the Kingdom of Prussia. His father, Ernst Wilhelm Martius, was an apothecary and the first lecturer in Pharmacy in the University of Erlangen.

Portrait of a young Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius.

Von Martius started to study medicine at the University of Erlangen in 1810. During this time, he met the naturalists Franz von Paula Schrank and Johann Baptist von Spix, who inspired him to dedicate himself to botany, which was already his hobby. To pursue this field, he applied in 1813 for the admission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences’ Eleven Institute and, after passing the examination, was admitted to the institute in 1814. He was placed as an assistant of Franz von Paula Schrank at the newly founded Botanical Garden. That same year he concluded his thesis on a critical catalog of the plants in the University’s botanical garden. In 1817, aged 23, he published his work Flora Cryptogamica Erlangensis, dealing with the cryptogams found in his hometown.

Still in 1817, von Martius was sent to Brazil along with Johann Baptist von Spix by Maximillian I Joseph, the king of Bavaria. This opportunity appeared after Maria Leopoldine of Austria married the crown prince of Brazil (and later Emperor) Dom Pedro I. The group, which included von Spix’s wife and the painter Thomas Ender, left from Trieste on 10 April 1817. After the wedding of the royal couple on 13 May, the group started their collections in several areas of the city of Rio de Janeiro and nearby regions. Later they travelled by horse through the state of São Paulo until reaching the city of São Paulo on 31 December 1817.

Leaving São Paulo on 9 January 1818, they traveled during the following months through the states of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Bahia, arriving at Salvador on 10 November 1818. They left Salvador on 18 February 1819 and continued to move north through the Brazilian caatinga and arrived at São Gonçalo do Amarante, in the state of Ceará, on 15 May. Both Martius and Spix were seriously ill during most of their voyage through this part of Brazil, contracting several tropical diseases and almost dying on several occasions.

After continuing their journey, Martius and Spix reached the state of Maranhão on 3 June and sailed down the Itapicuru River to the city of São Luís and, on 20 July, they left for Belém, arriving on 25 July. From there, they continued westward inside the Amazonian Forest, reaching the city of Santarém on 19 September, leaving on 30 September and reaching Tefé, deep inside the forest, on 26 November. There, Martius and Spix split up. Martius continued westward ascending the Japurá River until reaching Colombia. They reunited on 11 March 1820 in Manaus and arrived back at Belém in 16 April, returning to Europe on 13 June.

Route followed by Martius and Spix in Brazil from 1817 to 1820.

Martius brought with him to Europe two indigenous children that he bought in Brazil as slaves, one from the Juri people and other from the Miranha (Bora) people. Both children were unable to communicate with each other because they were from different ethnic groups and, despite receiving good medical care, died soon after reaching Europe. Martius later recognized that enslaving the kids was a serious mistake.

Back to Europe, Martius was appointed as the keeper of the botanical garden in Munich and, in 1826, as professor of botany at the University of Munich, holding both offices until 1864. He devoted most of his life to the study of the Brazilian flora. One of his most famous works is the Historia naturalis palmarum, published in three large volumes between 1823 and 1850, which describes and illustrates all known genera of the palm family known at the time. In 1840, he began the Flora Brasiliensis, which counted with the help of many distinguished botanists, and continued to be published after his death until 1884.

Portrait of Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius in 1850 by E. Porrens.

Martius died on 13 December 1868 in Munich, aged 74.

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References:

Wikipedia. Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius. Available at <
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Friedrich_Philipp_von_Martius >. Access on 16 April 2019.

Wikipedia (in German). Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius. Available at <
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Friedrich_Philipp_von_Martius >. Access on 16 April 2019.

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Friday Fellow: Tender Nori

by Piter Kehoma Boll

If you like Japanese food, you have eaten sushi for sure, and thus have ingested the famous alga from Japanese cuisine known as nori that is used to wrap the rice, right? Well, it does not necessarily mean that you have eaten the species I am introducing today and you soon will know why.

Dried nori sheets as used in Japanese cuisine. Photo by Yuichi Kosio.*

During most of the Japan history, the main nori species used as a food was the tender nori, which is scientifically known as Pyropia tenera (formerly known as Porphyra tenera) and known in Japan as 浅草海苔 (asakusa nori). This species is a red alga and is closely related to other edible species used in other parts of the world.

Cultivated tender nori. Extracted from http://godairikibune.blog83.fc2.com/blog-category-7.html

The life cycle of the tender nori includes two different generations as seen in all plants. One generation, the gametophyte, is composed by haploid cells, i.e., with only one copy of each chromosome. This gametophyte stage is the largest and the one commonly used as food. It produces both female and male gametes and uses the water current to guide the male gametes, which are unable to swim, to the female gametes. For a long time, this was the only life stage known for the nori. The gametophytes were harvested in the wild, where they grow on the available substrate, especially wood. Only during the 20th century it became clear that the sporophyte, the other life stage, is smaller and needs the shell of mollusks as a substrate to grow. In fact, the sporophyte was already known, but was mistaken for a different organism classified in a genus named Conchocelis. Thus, the sporophyte is still commonly known as tie Conchocelis stage.

After the complete life-cycle of these algae was known, it did not take too long for people to develop cultivation methods that greatly increased the production of nori. Two nori strains soon became the main cultivars in Japan from around the beginning of the 1960s: Pyropia tenera var. tamatsuensis and Pyropia yezoensis f. narawaensis. The latter, as you can see, belongs to a different species of nori, the Ezo nori, known in Japan as 荒び海苔 (susabi nori).

Although the tender nori was considered of better quality and better taste, it was not as tolerant to the strong waves and winds as the Ezo nori. As a result, the Ezo nori became the favorite cultivar and spread quickly, so that this is the main species used nowadays in the Japanese cuisine. This increased cultivation of the Ezo nori displaced the original tender nori to the point that the tender nori is currently a very rare species, so rare that it is considered an endangered species by the Japanese government since 1997.

The distinction between species of Pyropia in wild populations is usually difficult because there is little morphological variation between them. Recent molecular studies from nori growing across Japan showed that the tender nori is not as rare as previously thought, although it does not makes it imune to extinction. Since the tender nori is considered softer and more tasty than the Ezo nori, there have been some attempts to increase the commercial interest on it, which could prevent it from becoming extinct in the near future.

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References:

Hwang MS, Kim S-O, Ha D-S, Lee JU, Lee S-R (2013) Complete sequence and genetic features of the mitochondrial genome of Pyropia tenera (Rhodophyta). Plant Biotechnology Reports 7(4): 435–443. doi: 10.1007/s11816-013-0281-4

Iwasaki H (1961) The life-cycle of Porphyra tenera in Vitro. Biological Bulletin 121(1): 173–187. doi: 10.2307/1539469

Niwa K, Iida S, Kato A, Kawai H, Kikuchi N, Kobiyama A, Aruga Y (2009) Genetic diversity and ingrogression in two cultivated species (Porphyra yezoensis and Porphyra tenera) and closely related wild species of Porphyra (Bangiales, Rhodophyta). Journal of Phycology 45(2): 493–502. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2009.00661.x

Niwa K, Kikuchi N, Aruga Y (2005) Morphological and molecular analysis of the endangered species Porphyra tenera (Bangiales, Rhodophyta). Journal of Phycology 41(2): 294–304. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2005.04039.x

ウィキペディア (Wikipedia in Japanese)。アサクサオリ。Available at <
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%82%A2%E3%82%B5%E3%82%AF%E3%82%B5%E3%83%8E%E3%83%AA >. Access on 25 March 2019.

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Whose Wednesday: Otto Steinböck

by Piter Kehoma Boll

The scientist whose birthday we celebrate today has a special place in my life because he is somewhat connected to the research group with which I develop my research.

Otto Steinböck was born on 10 April 1893 in Graz, Austria, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He had 10 siblings, eight older ones and two younger ones. He finished basic school in 1911 and graduated with distinction. At his father’s request, he started to study law, even though his passion was zoology.

He passed the first state exam in 1913 and moved to Nevensinje, Herzegovina, where he served as a one-year volunteer in the Austria-Hungary’s mountain artillery. This was probably the result of his passion for mountain climbing. He was there when World War I started in 28 July 1914 and came to the Serbian front to fight. In the same year, he was wounded in battle and later became a war prisoner in Italy, being released in 1919 after the war ended.

Back home, he finished his law studies and then began to study natural history in 1920 with emphasis in biology. He earned his doctorate in 1923 with a thesis entitled “Monographie der Prorhynchidae (Turbellaria Alloeocoela)”. After finishing his doctorate, he remained unemployed for four years, until 1927. During this time, he remained occupied with scientific works at the Zoological Institute in Graz, focusing on turbellarians.

In 1925, Steinböck married Gisela von Chiapo, a language teacher and great-niece of the Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch. She was responsible for sustaining the couple during the following years.

Otto Steinböck in Greenland in 1926. Extracted from Janetschek (1970).

In 1926, Steinböck went to Greenland with the zoologist Erich Reisinger and studied the turbellarian fauna of the island. In July 1927, he was qualified for zoology because of his works and in October, finally, he got a job as an assistant of the biologist Adolf Steuer at the Zoological Institute of the University of Innsbruck. He was promoted to associate professor on 1 January 1930 and, in 1931, after Steuer left the institute, Steinböck became professor of zoology and the institute’s director.

A lot of Steinböck’s work was conducted in the Alps and he expanded his field of study to include not only turbellarians but the mountain ecosystems as a whole, especially mountain freshwater environments.

Otto Steinböck later in life.

When World War II began, Steinböck was forced to join the army again and became the head of a mountain artillery battery on the western front. He returned to the institute in 1940 after receiving two awards. From 1941 to the end of the war in 1945, he was associated to the Faculty of Natural Sciences, but ended up dismissed for political reasons. Two years later, in 1947, his dismissal was converted into retirement and his life as a scientist seemed to have ended forever. Nevertheless, the faculty insisted on his reinstatement and he was rehabilitated in November 1950 and was again a professor in February 1951. At this time, he became advisor of Josef Hauser, who would later move to Brazil and found the Institute of Planarian Research, in Unisinos, where I conducted my Master’s and PhD research.

Steinböck retired in 1963 and died on 6 October 1969 in Innsbruck, aged 76.

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References:

Janetschek H (1970) Otto Steinböck † (1893-1969). Berichte des naturwissenschaftlich-medizinischen Vereins in Innsbruck 58: 511–515.

Pechlaner R (1971) Otto Steinböck. 10. April 1893–6. Oktober 1969. Internationale Revue der gesamten Hydrobiologie und Hydrographie 56(4): 667–668.

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Friday Fellow: Bathroom Moth Midge

by Piter Kehoma Boll

No matter where you live, you probably have seen, at least once in your life, these little insects that love bathroom walls. They belong to the species Clogmia albipunctata, popularly known as bathroom moth midge, drain fly and other names.

A bathroom moth midge in Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Evandro Maia.*

The bathroom moth midge and is found all around the world, being more common in tropical areas, but is also found frequently in temperate zones. They are often associated with humans and are found in bathrooms and, to a less extent, in kitchens. In warmer areas, they may also be seen in the wild, especially near small water ponds with plenty of organic matter, such as water stored in holes of dead trees.

Bathroom moth midge in Matara, Sri Lanka. Photo by iNaturalist user rvp.*

It is very easy to recognize the bathroom moth midge. They are gray and small, with a length of about 5 mm, and have two relatively large wings that make them look like an inverted heart shape. The body and the wings are covered with a thick grayish hair, which makes them look like moths. They are, however, part of the order Diptera and thus closely related to mosquitos and flies. With a close inspection, it is possible to notice some very small white spots on the wings. The antennae are long and each segment has a separate whorl of hair.

The larvae of the bathroom moth midge are aquatic and feed on organic decaying matter. They find the ideal habitat in the drains of bathrooms, in which there is enough organic matter and humidity and a good protection against predators, as well as a good stability in temperature. The larva passes through four instars during a period of about 18 days and then changes into the pupa, which takes about 5 days to turn into an adult. The adults do not eat and their main function is reproduction. The complete life cycle takes about a month.

Life cycle of the bathroom moth midge. Credits to Jiménez-Guri et al. (2014).**

The bathroom moth midge is mostly harmless and can even be useful by reducing the accumulation of organic matter that could clog drainage systems. There are a few reports of urinary myiasis, i.e., parasitism by fly larvae in the urinary tract, caused by this species, but they are associated with environments with poor sanitary conditions and very poor personal hygiene. The main concern with this species occurs in hospitals, as its presence in hospital bathrooms makes it a possible vector of pathogenic bacteria carried from the drainage system to the patients.

During the past years, the bathroom moth midge has been studied as a model for embryonic development and gene expression, especially for comparative studies with the well-known fruit fly model, Drosophila melanogaster.

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References:

El-Dib NA, Wahab WMAE, Hamdy DA, Ali MI (2017) Case Report of Human Urinary Myiasis Caused by Clogmia albipunctata (Diptera: Psychodidae) with Morphological Description of Larva and Pupa. Journal of Arthropod-Borne Diseases 11(4): 533–538.

Faulde M, Spiesberger M (2012) Hospital infestations by the moth fly, Clogmia albipunctata (Diptera: Psychodinae), in Germany. Journal of Hospital Infection 81(2): 134–136. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2012.04.006

Faulde M, Spiesberger M (2013) Role of the moth fly Clogmia albipunctata (Diptera: Psychodinae) as a mechanical vector of bacterial pathogens in German hospitals. Journal of Hospital Infection 83(1): 51–60. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2012.09.019

Jiménez-Guri E, Wolton KR, Gavilán B, Jaeger J (2014) A staging schefor the development of the moth midge Clogmia albipunctata. PLoS One 9(1): e84422. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084422

Oboňa J, Ježek J (2012) Range expansion of the invasive moth midge Clogmia albipunctata (Williston, 1893) in Slovakia (Diptera: Psychodidae). Folia faunistica Slovaca 17(4): 387–391.

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*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

**Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Caught in the act: Insect sex preserved in amber

by Piter Kehoma Boll

A recently published paper describes a new species of insect of the order Zoraptera from two specimens found in mid-cretaceous amber from northern Myanmar.

The preserved couple. They did not leave descendants but were eternized in science. Credits to Chen & Su (2019).*

But the most impressive thing about this new pre-historic species, named Zorotypus pusillus, is the fact that the fossil contains a male and a female that apparently died while they were mating. This is concluded because the two individuals are very close to each other and the male has an elongate structure coming out of his abdomen, which is probably the aedeagus or intromittent organ, a penis-like organ found in most zorapterans and used to deliver sperm into the female.

A detail of the posterior end of the male showing the aedeagus or intromittent organ. An anatomical reconstruction is shown to the right. Credits to Chen & Su (2019).*

The order Zoraptera contains a very small number of species, currently 44 extant ones and 14 fossils. They are very small, live in groups and look like tiny termites, although they are not closely related to them. Most extant species mate with the male introducing its aedeagus into the female to deliver sperm, but at least one species, Zorotypus impolitus, does not copulate. In this species, the male deposits microscopic spermatophores on the abdomen of the female.

The discovery of the preserved mating behavior in this species from the cretaceous period indicates that the mating behavior seen in most extant species was already used by species living 99 million years ago. The origin of zorapterans is not well known yet, but this and other fossil species indicate that they exist at least since the beginning of the cretaceous.

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Reference:

Chen X, Su G (2019) A new species of Zorotypus (Insecta, Zoraptera, Zorotypidae) and the earliest known suspicious mating behavior of Zorapterans from the mid-cretaceous amber of northern Myanmar. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. doi: 10.1111/jzs.12283

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*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Filed under Behavior, Entomology, Evolution, Paleontology