Monthly Archives: June 2019

New Species: June 2019

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described this month. It certainly does not include all described species. Most information comes from the journals Mycokeys, Phytokeys, Zookeys, Phytotaxa, Zootaxa, Mycological Progress, Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, Systematic and Applied Microbiology, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, PeerJ, Journal of Natural History and PLoS One, as well as several journals restricted to certain taxa.

Bacteria

Dysosmobacter welbionis is a new bacterium isolated from human feces. Credits to Le Roy et al. (2019).*

Archaeans

SARs

Solanum plastisexum is a new bush tomato from Australia. Credits to McDonnell et al. (2019).*
Impatiens jenjittikuliae is a new flowering plant from Thailand. Credits to Ruchisansakun & Suksathan (2019).*

Plants

Oreocharis odontopetala is a new flowering plant from China. Credits to Fu e al. (2019).*
Dysosma villosa is another new flowering plant from China. Credits to Wang et al. (2019).*

Fungi

Octospora conidophora is a new ascomycete from South Africa. Credits to Sochorová et al. (2019).*
Amanita bweyeyensis is a new mushroom from Africa. Credits to Fraiture et al. (2019).*
Cacaoporus tenebrosus is a new mushroom from Thailand. Credits to Vadthanarat et al. (2019).*
Erythrophylloporus paucicarpus is another new mushroom from Thailand. Credits to Vadthanarat et al. (2019).*

Poriferans

Cnidarians

Flatworms

Acanthobothrium vidali is a new tapeworm found in the intestine of the giant electric ray in Mexico. Credits to Zaragoza-Tapia et al. (2019). *

Rotiferans

Bryozoans

Brachiopods

Mollusks

Annelids

Kinorhynchs

Nematodes

Arachnids

Female (left) and male (right) of Platythomisus xiandao, a new spider from China. Credits to Lin et al. (2019).

Myriapods

Cristimenes brucei is a new shrimp from Korea. Credits to Park et al. (2019).*

Crustaceans

Rhabdoblatta ecarinata is a new cockroach from China. Credits to Yang et al. (2019).*

Hexapods

Lochmaea tsoui is a new beetle from Taiwan. Credits to Lee (2019).*
Hyphantrophaga calixtomoragai is a new fly from Costa Rica. Credits to Fleming et al. (2019).*

Chondrichthyans

Actinopterygians

Gracixalus yunnanensis is a new frog from China. Credits to Yu et al. (2019).*

Amphibians

Megophrys nankunensis (male on the left, female on the right) is another new frog from China. Credits to Wang et al. (2019).
Female (left) and male (right) of Pristimantis andinogigas, a new frog from Ecuador. Credits to Yánez-Muñoz et al. (2019).*
Micryletta aishani is a new frog from India. Credits to Das et al. (2019).*

Reptiles

Mammals

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

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Friday Fellow: Cuban-Laurel-Thrips Mite

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Last week I introduced the Cuban Laurel Thrips, which feeds on several fig trees, such as the Chinese Banyan and the Cuban Laurel. Today, we will continue up the food chain and talk about a mite that is a parasite of the cuban laurel thrips. Named Adactylidium gynaikothripsi, I decided to give it the common name “Cuban-Laurel-Thrips Mite”.

The Cuban-laurel-thrips mite was described only in 2011 from Cuban laurel thrips populations in Greece. This is the fourth mite of the genus Adactylidium known to parasitize the Cuban laurel thrips, the other four being Adactylidium ficorum (“fig-thrips mite”), A. brasiliensis (“Brazilian thrips mite”) and A. fletchmani (“Fletchman’s thrips mite”). As you can imagine, in order to parasitize an insect as small as the Cuban laurel thrips, these mites are even smaller, measuring about 0.1 mm in length.

An adult female of the Cuban-laurel-thrips mite. Extracted from Antonatos et al. (2011).

The life cycle of the Cuban-laurel-thrips mite, which is basically the same for all species of Adactylidium, is very bizarre. Adult females feed on the eggs of the Cuban Laurel Thrips. They start their adult life wandering over fig leaves looking for a suitable thrips egg to attack. Once finding one, they pierce the egg’s shell with their chelicerae and attach to it like ticks and start to eat. They feed on a single egg across their entire life. If they are unable to find an egg, they may also attach to an adult thrips as a last resource, or else they die of starvation in a few hours.

Once a female starts to eat, a small group of eggs, usually between 5 to 10, begins to develop inside her. The eggs grow during the first 48 hours after the female attached to the egg, making her double in size and becoming something like a spherical egg sac. The eggs hatch around this time and the mite larvae remain inside their mother. These larvae lack mouth parts, so it is believed that they absorb nutrients from her mother directly through the body surface. About 24 hours later, the larvae turn into nymphs, which remain inactive inside the shed skin of the larva. They also lack any mouth parts.

Female Cuban-laurel-thrips mites attached to eggs of the Cuban laurel thrips. Extracted from Antonatos et al. (2011).

Another 24 hours pass and the nymphs turn into adult mites. They are still inside their mother when this happens. The adults consist always of a single male and several females. This male then starts to copulate with his own sisters, still inside their mother’s abdomen, and, when copulation is finished, they start to tear their mother’s body apart to get free, killing her in the process. Once outside the body, the male dies in a few minutes, never eating anything other than his own mother. The females, on the other hand, start to look for thrips eggs on which to feed, only to be killed by her own children less than 4 days laters.

This entire life cycle may look very insane from our human perspective, but nature was never interested in following our moral rules.

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References:

Antonatos SA, Kapaxidi EV, Papadoulis, GT (2011) Adactylidium gynaikothripsi n. sp. (Acari: Acarophenacidae) associated with Gynaikothrips ficorum (Marshal) (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae) from Greece. International Journal of Acarology, 37(sup1), 18–26. doi: 10.1080/01647954.2010.531763

Elbadry, EA, Tawfik, MSF (1966) Life Cycle of the Mite Adactylidium sp. (Acarina: Pyemotidae), a Predator of Thrips Eggs in the United Arab Republic. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 59(3), 458–461. doi: 10.1093/aesa/59.3.458

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A chameleonic tree frog

by Piter Kehoma Boll

When we think of animals changing colors to adapt to the background, we readily think of chameleons, or maybe of some extremely rapid color switchers such as cephalopods like octopuses and cuttlefish. However, many other animals have this ability too.

One example are tree frogs of the family Rhacophoridae, especially of the genus Rhacophorus.

Recently, the phenomenon was recorded for the first time for the species Rhacophorus smaragdinus in northeastern India. The animal was of a vivid green color when found but, as soon as the researchers handled it, it turned into a dull brown color in a matter of seconds, only to slowly go back to green after left alone.

A disturbed female of Rhacophorus smaragdinus made itself brown and started to get green again after left undisturbed for some minutes. Credits to CK et al. (2019).*

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Reference:

CK D, Payra A, Tripathy B, Chandra K (2019) Observation on rapid physiological color change in Giant tree frog Rhacophorus smaragdinus (Blyth, 1852) from Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Herpetozoa 32: 95–99. doi: 10.3897/herpetozoa.32.e36023

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

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Friday Fellow: Cuban Laurel Thrips

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Last week I presented the magnificent Chinese banyan Ficus microcarpa. Today I’m bringing a little insect that loves it but is not loved in return, the Cuban laurel thrips, Gynaikothrips ficorum.

As its name suggests, the Cuban laurel thrips is a thrips, i.e., an insect of the order Thysanoptera. Adults of this species measure about 3 mm in length and have a black and elongate body and two pairs of thin wings that fold over the dorsum when at rest. Its mouth parts, as typical of thrips, are asymmetrical, with a reduced right mandible and a developed left mandible that it uses to cut the surface of plants in order to suck its juices. It is, therefore, a plant pest.

Adult Cuban laurel thrips in Hong Kong. Photo by iNaturalist user wklegend.*

The Cuban laurel thrips prefers to feed on juices of fig trees, such as the Chinese banyan from last week. It’s common name, though, is a reference to another fig species, Ficus retusa, commonly known as the Cuban laurel. Both fig trees, as well as the thrips itself, are native from Southeast Asia. Other, less common host plants include Citrus trees and orchids. They prefer to feed on young, tender leaves, and cause dark, usually purplish red dots, on the leaf’s surface. It is common for the leaf to curl and become hard, eventually dying prematurely. Although most infestations do not cause serious damage to the plant’s development, the curling of the leaves can reduce a plant’s ornamental value.

Ugly curled leaves caused by the thrips’ infestation in New Zealand. Photo by Stephen Thorpe.*

The reproduction of the Cuban laurel thrips is basically constant, so that several generations occur across one year. The adults take advantage of the curled leaves produced by their feeding behavior and use them as a protection to put their eggs. The immature stages, after hatching, remain inside the shelter provided by the curled leaf. They are transparent in the first two instars and then become light yellow. Only the last, adult stage, is black.

When you open the leaf, you can find a whole family. Here you can see the eggs (small white grains) and several immature specimens in different stages. Photo by James Bailey.*

Since the Cuban laurel thrips makes ornamental plants ugly, humans are always trying to find ways to kill them, especially by using pesticides or, sometimes, natural predators of the thrips. But the little insect can also fight back. When the thrips accidentally fall on people’s bodies, they tend to bite, most likely by accident, but this can end up causing a serious and annoying itch. That’s the price for messing with them.

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References:

Denmark HA, Fasulo TR, Funderburk JE (2005) Cuban laurel thrips, Gynaikothrips ficorum (Marchal) (Insecta: Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae). DPI Entomology Circular 59

Paine TD (1992) Cuban Laurel Thrips (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae) Biology in Southern California: Seasonal Abundance, Temperature Dependent Development, Leaf Suitability, and Predation. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 85(2): 164–172. doi: 10.1093/aesa/85.2.164

Piu G, Ceccio S, Garau MG, Melis S, Palomba A, Pautasso M, Pittau F, Ballero M (1992) Itchy dermatitis from Gynaikothrips ficorum March in a family group. Allergy 47(4): 441–442. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.1992.tb02087.x

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

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Friday Fellow: Chinese Banyan

by Piter Kehoma Boll

With today’s post, I intend to start a series of three Friday Fellows that are connected. After all, that’s what life is, right? Organisms interacting.

So to start, let’s talk about a magnificent tree today, the fig tree Ficus microcarpa, commonly known as Chinese banyan, Malayan banyan, Indian laurel, curtain fig, gajumaru and many other names. Its native range goes from China to Australia, including all the southeastern Asia and several Pacific islands in the way. However, it can be found in many other countries today as it has become a somewhat popular ornamental plant.

A Chinese banyan at the Maui Nui Botanical Garden, Hawaii. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr.*

In its natural tropical habitat, the Chinese banyan reach a height of 30 meter or more, with a crown spreading across more than 70 meters and a trunk more than 8 m in thickness. Most trees are smaller, though, and they never reach such an astonishing size in temperate climates. Its bark has a light gray color and its leaves are smooth, entire, oblanceolate, and about 5 to 6 cm long. Its figs are considerably small, hence the name microcarpa (small-fruited). It is common for large specimens to produce aerial roots, which grow from the branches and touch the soil, forming an intricate and beautiful system.

A specimen with many aerial roots. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr.*

As typical among fig trees, the Chinese banyan is pollinated by a fig wasp, in this case the species Eupristina verticillata. Outside of its native range, the tree can only produce viable seeds in the presence of the wasp, so the insect must be introduced along with it. Its fruits are very attractive to birds, who spread its seeds in their feces. After passing through a bird’s gut and reaching the outer environment again, the seeds attract ants, which spread them even further. Being quite versatile regarding the substrate to germinate, the Chinese banyan can grow on a lot of surfaces, often sprouting through crevices on walls and sidewalks and breaking them as it grows.

Leaves and fruit. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr.*

The Chinese banyan is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of conditions, including pain, fever, flu, malaria, bronchitis and rheumatism. Laboratory studies have isolated anti-cancer, antioxidant and antibacterial compounds from the bark, leaves, aerial roots and fruits, as well as anti-fungal compounds from its latex. The tree has, therefore, the potential to be used for the development of many medicines.

A seedling growing on a wall. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr.*

Due to its impressive size and the intricate labyrinth formed by its network of aerial roots, the Chinese banyan tree has an important role to many religious groups in its native range, being often considered the house of spirits, either good or bad ones and its presence usually marks places of worship. Regardless of these beliefs, though, this magnificent tree deserves the admiration that it gets.

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References:

Ao C, Li A, Elzaawely AA, Xuan TD, Tawata S (2008) Evaluation of antioxidant and antibacterial activities of Ficus microcarpa L. fil. extract. Food Control 19(10): 940–948. doi: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2007.09.007

Chiang YM, Chang JY, Kuo CC, Chang CY, Kuo YH (2005) Cytotoxic triterpenes from the aerial roots of Ficus microcarpa. Phytochemistry 66(4): 495–501. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2004.12.026

Kaufmann S, McKey DB, Hossaert-McKey M, Horvitz CC (1991) Adaptations for a two-phase seed dispersal system involving vertebrates and ants in a hemiepiphytic fig (Ficus microcarpa: Moraceae). American Journal of Botany 78(7): 971–977. doi: 10.1002/j.1537-2197.1991.tb14501.

Taira T, Ohdomari A, Nakama N, Shimoji M, Ishihara M (2005) Characterization and Antifungal Activity of Gazyumaru (Ficus microcarpa) Latex Chitinases: Both the Chitin-Binding and the Antifungal Activities of Class I Chitinase Are Reinforced with Increasing Ionic Strength. Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry 69(4): 811–819. doi: 10.1271/bbb.69.811

Wikipedia. Ficus microcarpa. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus_microcarpa >. Access on June 8, 2019.

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*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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Whose Wednesday: Harry Johnston

by Piter Kehoma Boll

More a politician than a naturalist, today we remember a British explorer that was central in the mess that Europe turned Africa into, but also a important in recording Africa’s culture and biodiversity.

Henry Hamilton Johnston, more commonly known as Harry Johnston, was born on 12 June 1858 in London, the son of John Brookes Johnstone and Esther Laetitia Hamilton. He studied at Stockwell grammar school and later at the King’s College London, after which he studied painting at the Royal Academy for four years. During his studies, he traveled through Europe and visited the interior of Tunisia.

In 1882, aged 24, he traveled to southern Angola with the Earl of Mayo (which I guess was Dermot Bourke at that time). Traveling north from there, he met the Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley in the Congo River the following year. There, he became one of the first Europeans to see the Congo River above the Stanley Pool (currently known as Pool Malebo), a widening of the river near the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville. He published a book in 1884 called “The River Congo: From its Mouth to Bolobo” and, in that same year, was appointed leader of a scientific expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro, in current Tanzania. In this expedition, he managed to conclude treaties with local chiefs. The reports of this expedition were published in his 1886’s book “The Kilema-Njaro Expedition”.

Harry Johnston, probably during the 1880s.

In 1886, the British government appointed Johnston the vice-consul in Cameroon and the Niger River delta area. The British had claimed the area but the local leader, Jaja of Opobo, refused to give up the territory. Invited by Johnston to negotiate, Jaja was arrested and deported to London. During the following years, Johnston took part in several expeditions and diplomatic missions that helped the British Empire to dominate more and more of Africa’s territory.

In 1896, Johnston married Winifred Mary Irby, daughter of the fifth Baron Boston. That same year, afflicted by tropical fevers, he was transferred to Tunis as consul-general in order to recover. In 1899, he was sent to Uganda as special commisioner to end an ongoing war. There, he found out that a showman was abducting Pygmy inhabitants of the Congo for exhibition. Johnston helped to rescue them and the pygmies mentioned to him a creature, some sort of “unicorn donkey” previously referred to by Stanley. There were some reports about explorers seeing an animal with a zebra-like pattern moving through the bushes and the expectation was that it was some sort of forest-dwelling horse. The pygmies showed tracks of the creature to Johnston and he was surprised to find out that it was actually a cloven-hoofed beast and not a single-hoofed animal as a horse. Johnston never saw the animal, but managed to obtain pieces of the striped skin and a skull, which led the creature to be classified as Equus johnstoni in 1901. The inclusion in the genus Equus was mostly motivated by the pygmies referring to the creature as a kind of horse. Analyses of its skull, however, soon concluded that it was a relative of the giraffe. This animal is currently know as the okapi, or Okapia johnstoni.

The two pieces of okapi skin sent to England by Johnston and the first concrete evidence of the animal’s existence.

In 1902, when Johnston was back to London, his wife gave birth to twin sons, but both died few hours later. They did not have any other children. That same year Johnston was appointed member of the Zoological Society of London. In the following years, he spent most of his time at home writing novels and accounts of his voyages through Africa. In 1925, he had two strokes that partially paralyzed him. He died two years later, on 31 July 1917, aged 69.

Johnston, as all imperialists of his time, believed that Europeans, and British especially, had superiority over Africans. Nevertheless, he was against using violence against the subjugated peoples and had a more paternalistic view. Although such views are seen as horrible today (or at least they should to any reasonable human being), he was considered some sort of radical for his time, as others had a much worse vision of the African cultures.

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References:

Wikipedia. Harry Johnston. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Johnston >. Access on 11 June 2019.

Wikipedia. Okapi. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okapi >. Access on 11 June 2019.

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Friday Fellow: Common Grainlouse

by Piter Kehoma Boll

No matter where you live in the world, if you had flour or grains stored for too long, you may have found some sort of insect that appeared in this food, feeding on it. There are many insect species that exist as kitchen pests, including moths, beetles and also our fellow for today, the common grainlouse Liposcelis bostrychophila.

The common grainlouse, also known as the house psocid, is a member of the insect order Psocoptera, which include most species known as lice, such as booklice, barklice and common parasitic lice of mammals and birds. It is a very small insect, measuring only about 1 mm in length as an adult, and is wingless. Probably of tropical origin, it was first identified from specimens collected under tree bark in Mozambique but, during the 20th century, it started to spread quickly around the world.

Common grainlice on old whole wheat flour. Photo by iNaturalist user sea-kangaroo.*

In its natural habitat, which are likely tropical forests, the common grainlouse is not very common. However, once he ended up inside human residences, he found the perfect spot to thrive. Stored food, especially grains, are like a food paradise for them. With food being transported from one country to another, the common grainlouse conquered the whole planet in a few decades. And they are not only associated with stored food, but with almost any sort of plant matter, including straw used in mattresses and sometimes in partition walls. Despite feeding on these materials, the common grainlouse usually does not cause serious damage to them and the main problem is that its population tends to grow enormously, making it become kind of a nuisance by being there.

The reproduction of the common grainlouse occurs almost exclusively through parthenogenesis, in which females are able to generate offspring from unfertilized eggs. Males are very rare and have only been recorded recently for the first time. This is likely one of the reasons why this species is so successful invading new environments, since a single female is able to originate an entire population. There are reported cases of houses so heavily infected that the walls were completely covered by grainlice.

Several methods have been tried to contain the advance of this little creature, but most are unsuccessful. They appear to be quite resistant to chemical pesticides and even entomopathogenic fungi, i.e., fungi that infect insects. Their cuticle has a peculiar chemical composition, different from that found in other insects, that prevent fungal spores to germinate.

We can conclude that the common grainlouse is a species that is here to stay, no matter what we try to do to get rid of them.

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References:

Lord JC, Howard RW (2004) A Proposed Role for the Cuticular Fatty Amides of Liposcelis bostrychophila (Psocoptera: Liposcelidae) in Preventing Adhesion of Entomopathogenic Fungi with Dry-conidia. Mycopathologia 158(2): 211–2117. doi: 10.1023/B:MYCO.0000041837.29478.78

Turner BD (1994) Liposcelis bostrychophila (Psocoptera: Liposcelididae), a stored food pest in the UK. International Journal of Pest Management, 40(2), 179–190. doi: 10.1080/0967087940937187

Yang Q, Kučerová Z, Perlman SJ, Opit GP, Mockford EL, Behar A, Robinson WE, Steijskal V, Li Z, Shao R (2015) Morphological and molecular characterization of a sexually reproducing colony of the booklouse Liposcelis bostrychophila (Psocodea: Liposcelididae) found in Arizona. Scientific Reports 5: 110429. doi: 10.1038/srep10429

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

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