Monthly Archives: September 2019

New Species: September 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.




Bolbitis lianhuachihensis is a new fern from Taiwan. Credits to Chao et al. (2019).*


Codonoboea norakhirrudiniana is a new flowering plant from Malaysia. Credits to Kiew and Lim (2019).*
Swertia hongquanii is a new flowering plant from China. Credits to Li et al. (2019).*



Clitopilus lampangensis is a new mushroom from Thailand. Credits to Kumla et al. (2019).*


Tsitsikamma michaeli is a new sponge from South Africa. Credits to Parker-Nance et al. (2019).*










Petrolisthes virgilius is a new crab from the Caribbean. Credits to Hiller and Werding (2019).*
Tanaella quintanai is a new tanaid crustacean from Colombia. Credits to Morales-Núñez and Ardila (2019).*


Acerentulus bulgaricus is a new proturan from Bulgaria. Credits to Shrubovych et al. (2019).*


Panorpa jinhuaensis is a new scorpionfly from China. Credits to Wang et al. (2019).*




Lycodon pictus is a new snake from Vietnam. Credits to Janssen et al. (2019).*


Crododylus halli is a new species of crocodile from New Guinea. Photo extracted from Murray et al. (2019).


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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: Blue Paddled Mosquito

by Piter Kehoma Boll

A common tropical disease in forested areas of South America and Africa is the yellow fever. Affecting most primate species, the yellow fever is usually transmitted by the famous mosquito Aedes aegypti, which also transmits the dengue and zika fevers, all caused by viruses of the genus Flavivirus.

But in forested areas of South and Central America, other mosquito species can also transmit the yellow fever to humans and monkeys. One of these species is Sabethes cyaneus, which I decided to call the blue paddled mosquito. This species occur from Mexico to Argentina and Brazil and, different from most mosquitos, is diurnal.

A female about to have a bloody lunch on a human in Mexico. Photo by Carlos Alvarez N.*

Even if you don’t find mosquitos nice creatures most of the time, you will have to admit that the blue paddled mosquito is a beautiful animal. The body of the adult is dark and has metallic blue shade on the dorsum and the legs, being slightly greener on the dorsum and slightly purpler on the legs. More than that, the second pair of legs have a large tuft of hair that makes it look like a pair of paddles.

But what is the function of those paddles? The first guess would be that they are sexually selected and are likely important during courtship behavior. But females also have paddles and, if they were the result of sexual selection caused by females on males, they would likely be much larger on males, which is not the case.

Another female feeding on a human, this time in Paraguay. Photo by Joaquin Movia.*

Males perform, indeed, a complex courtship ritual in front of the females using their paddled legs. When females are prepared to mate, they perch vertically on a branch and wait for males to come and dance before them. Most of the males are rejected by a female and, when she finally chooses a male, she will compulate only with him. Males, on the other hand, copulate with many females. This increases even more the idea that the paddles must have some importance on female choice.

Male (left) and female (right). Image extracted from South & Arnqvist (2008).

This is not what was found, though. When the paddles of a male are reduced in size or removed completely, he still has the same chances of getting a female than intact males. On the other hand, a female whose paddles were removed rarely attracts any male. She remains perched on her branch waiting and waiting and no male will come to dance for her. The interest that male blue paddled mosquitos have for paddles is so strong that they even approach other perched males with large paddles.

The reason why this species exhibits strong male preference and weak female preference is still a mystery but is a nice reminder that our ideas on sexual selection are not as well-established as we might think.

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Hancock RG, Foster WA, Lee WL (1990) Courtship behavior of the mosquito Sabethes cyaneus (Diptera: Culicidae). Journal of Insect Behavior 3(3): 401–416. doi: 10.1007/BF01052117

South SH, Arnqvist G (2008) Evidence of monandry in a mosquito (Sabethes cyaneus) with elaborate ornaments in both sexes. Journal of Insect Behavior 21: 451. doi: 10.1007/s10905-008-9137-0

South SH, Arnqvist G (2011) Male, but not female, preference for an ornament expressed in both sexes of the polygynous mosquito Sabethes cyaneus. Animal Behaviour 81(3): 645–651. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.12.014

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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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Going deep with your guts full of microbes: a lesson from Chinese fish

by Piter Kehoma Boll

All around the world, many animal species have adapted to live in cave environments, places that are naturally devoid of light, either partially or entirely, and are, therefore, nutrient-poor habitats. The lack of light makes it impossible for plants and other photosynthetic organisms to survive and, as a result, little food is available for non-photosynthetic creatures. They rely almost entirely on food that enters the cave from the surface by water or animals that move between the surface and the depths.

Due to the lack of light in caves, animals adapted to this environment are usually eyeless, because seeing is not possible anyway, and white, because there is no need for pigmentation on the skin to protect from radiation or to inform anything visually. On the other hand, chemical senses such as smell and taste are often very well developed.

All these limitations make cave environments relatively species-poor when compared to surface environments. Or at least that is what it looks like at first. There are, of course, much less macroscopic species, such as multicellular animals, but those animals are themselves an environment and they may harbor a vast and unknown diversity of microrganisms inside them.

As you may know, most, if not all, animals have mutualistic relationships with microorganisms, especially bacteria, living in their guts. Those microorganisms are essential for many digestive processes and many nutrients that animals get from their food can only be obtained with the aid of those microscopic friends. The types of microorganisms in an animal’s gut are directly related to the animal’s diet. For example, herbivores usually have a high diversity of microorganisms that are able to break down carbohydrates, especially complex ones such as cellulose.

A recent study, conducted in China with fishes of the genus Sinocyclocheilus, compared the gut microbial diversity of different species, including some that live on the surface and some that are adapted to caves. All species of Sinocyclocheilus seem to be primarily omnivores but different species may have preferences for a particular type of food, being more carnivorous or more herbivorous.

The study found that cave species of Sinocyclocheilus have a much higher microbial diversity than surface species. But how can this be possible if there is a limited number of resources available in caves compared to the surface? Well, that seems to be exactly the reason.

Sinocyclocheilus microphthalmus, one of the cave-dwelling species used in this study. Photo extracted from the Cool Goby Blog.

As I mentioned, species of Sinocyclocheilus are omnivores. On the surface, they have plenty of food available and can have the luxury of choosing a preferred food type. As a result, their gut microbiome is composed mainly by species that aid in the digestions of that specific type of food. In caves, on the other hand, food is so scarce that one cannot chose and must eat whatever is available. This includes feeding on small amounts of many different food types, including other animals that live in the cave and many different types of animal and plant debris that reach the cave through the water. Thus, a much more diverse community of gut microorganisms is necessary for digestion to be efficient.

Look how the number of different genera of bacteria is much larger in the cave group (right) than in two groups of surface species (left and center). Image extracted from Chen et al. (2019).

More than only an increased diversity by itself, the gut community of cave fish also showed a larger number of bacteria that are able to neutralize toxic compounds of several types. The reason for this is not clear yet but there are two possible explanations that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The first states that water in caves is renewed in a much lower rate than surface waters, which promotes the accumulation of all sort of substances, including metabolic residues of the cave species themselves that can be toxic. The second hypothesis is of greater concern and suggests that this increased number of bacteria that are able to degrade harmful substances is a recent phenomenon caused by an increase in water pollutants coming from human activities, which is promoting a selective pressure on cave organisms.

The diverse gut microbiome of cave fish is, therefore, a desperate but clever strategy to survive in such a harsh environment. Nature always finds a way.

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More on cave species:

Think of the worms, not only of the wales, or: how a planarian saved an ecosystem

Don’t let the web bugs bite

Friday Fellow: Hitler’s beetle

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Chen H, Li C, Liu T, Chen S, Xiao H (2019) A Metagenomic Study of Intestinal Microbial Diversity in Relation to Feeding Habits of Surface and Cave-Dwelling Sinocyclocheilus Species. Microbial Ecology. doi: 10.1007/s00248-019-01409-4

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Filed under Bacteria, Ecology, Evolution, Fish

Friday Fellow: California Beach Flea

by Piter Kehoma Boll

If you are walking along the beach in the west coast of the United States, especially at night, little creatures may hop around your feet. If you look closer, you will notice that they are small crustaceans popularly known as sand hoppers or beach fleas. They belong to the order Amphipoda and there is a good chance that the ones among which you are walking belong to the species Megalorchestia californiana, popularly known as the California beach flea or long-horned beach hopper.

A female in California, USA. Photo by iNaturalist user lbyrley.*

The California beach flea occurs from the southernmost coast of Canada, around Vancouver Island, to the southern coast of the United States, around Laguna Beach. They are very large for an amphipod, reaching more than 2 cm in length, and have a typical “crustacean” color, varying from light brown to grayish. Males are slightly larger than females and have enlarged second antennae with a characteristic red coloration.

A male in California showing the enlarged red antennae and the enlarged boxing-glove-like gnathopods. Photo by Kim Cabrera.*

During the day, the California beach flea remains inside small burrows that it digs in the sand or hides under pieces of seaweed washed ashore. Females can share the same shelter but males cannot stand each other. At dusk, they move out of their shelters by the thousands and move over the sand looking for decaying organic matter on which they feed.

Several females trying to share the same shelter in Oregon, USA. Photo by Ken Chamberlain.*

The sexual dimorphism seen in this species reveals a complex sexual behavior. The enlarged antennae of the males seem to be a visual cue to other males to signal their strength. Additional to those enlarged antennae, the males also have an enlarged second pair of gnathopods or maxillipeds (legs right behind the mouth) that look like boxing gloves. Using the gnathopods, males fight each other for the possession of burrows containing many females. The male that wins the fight becomes the owner of that harem.

A male in Washington trying to invade the burrow of another male (whose antennae are visible). Photo by iNaturalist user pushtheriver.

Since both females and males leave their burrows every night to feed, harems can also be temporary. Although a male can conquer a burrow full of females, those will only return to that same place if they consider that the male is good enough to be the father of their children. This is so because females only reproduce once in their life, so it is crucial to let the best male fertilize her. More than that, females can only release their eggs soon after molting because the hardened exoskeleton prevents it during the rest of her life.

It’s not easy to be a sand hopper living on the beach in California.

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Beermann J, Dick TA, Thiel M (2015) Social Recognition in Amphipods: An Overview. In: Aquiloni L, Tricarico E (Eds.) Social Recognition in Invertebrates: 85–100.

Iyengar VK, Starks BD (2008) Sexual selection in harems: male competition plays a larger role than female choice in an amphipod. Behavioral Ecology 19(3): 642–649. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arn009

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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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Filed under crustaceans, Friday Fellow, Zoology

Friday Fellow: Leopard Moth

by Piter Kehoma Boll

I grew up in a house with a large backyard full of trees and other plants next to several small forest patches. As a result, moth were always very common visitors at night, especially during the warmer months. One that always called my attention was a moth with a beautiful pattern in its wings.

This is the beautiful moth that called my attention as a child. This specimen was photographed in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, near where I grew up. Photo by Jhonatan Santos.*

Only recently I found out that its name is Pantherodes pardalaria, properly called the leopard moth. Its wings have a yellow background marked with several metallic gray spots with a black outline and a black center. Truly beautiful! A very similar pattern is found in all species of the genus Pantherodes, being the most clear characteristic that defines it.

Leopard moth in Bolivia. Photo by iNaturalist user shirdipam.*

The leopard moth occurs from Mexico to Argentina and is very common in southern Brazil. It belongs to one of the most diverse families of moth, Geometridae, characterized by their caterpilar, called inch worm, that walks as if it were measuring the ground, hence the name Geometridae (from the type genus Geometra, “earth measurer”).

Leopard moth in Southern Mexico. Photo by Roberto Pacheco García.*

I wasn’t able to find much information on the leopard moth, though. Its caterpilars seem to feed on nettles (family Urticaceae). In Mexico, the caterpilars were historically eaten as food by the Aztecs and considered a food of high value, and the practice may still occur today among some humans groups.

And that’s all I got. Despite being beautiful and easily noticed, the leopard moth is one more poorly known species.

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More butterflies and moths:

Friday Fellow: Cramer’s Eighty Eight (on 07 September 2012)

Friday Fellow: Gulf Fritillary (on 15 April 2016)

Friday Fellow: Six-Spot Burnet (on 26 August 2016)

Friday Fellow: Luna Moth (on 12 July 2019)

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Biezanko CM, Ruffinelli A, Link D (1974) Plantas y otras sustancias alimenticias de las orugas de los lepidopteros uruguayos. Revista do Centro de Ciências Rurais 4(2): 107–148.

Pitkin LM (2002) Neotropical ennomine moths: a review of the genera (Lepidoptera: Geometridae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 135(2–3): 121–401. doi: 10.1046/j.1096-3642.2002.00012.x

Ramos-Elorduy J, Moreno JMP, Vázquez AI, Landero I, Oliva-Rivera H, Camacho VHM (2011) Edible Lepidoptera in Mexico: Geographic distribution, ethnicity, economic and nutritional importance for rural people. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 7: 2. doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-7-2

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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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Filed under Entomology, Friday Fellow, Zoology

Friday Fellow: Spotted Tortoise Beetle

by Piter Kehoma Boll

It’s finally time to introduce another beetle, and I decided to go on with a member of the family Chrysomelidae, one of the most diverse and important in the world. The chosen species, Aspidimorpha miliaris, is commonly known as the spotted tortoise beetle.

A spotted tortoise beetle in Taiwan. Photo by 羅忠良.*

Native from the Indomalayan region, the spotted tortoise beetle occurs from western India to Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia. It measures 1.5 cm in length and, as usual among tortoise beetles, the elytra (hardened forewings) and the pronotum (the foremost dorsal plate of the thorax) are widened and cover the whole body. These structures are transparent and the elytra also have many black spots. The body seen below this transparent armor varies from white to yellow and orange.

An orange specimen in Nepal. Photo by Sebastian Doak.*

The spotted tortoise beetle calls attention not only because of its beautiful color but also because its larvae feed voraciously on plants of the genus Ipomoea and related genera, which include, among others, the sweet potato. Due to its habitat being near the equator, the spotted tortoise beetle is able to reproduce during the whole year, although its peak in abundance seems to be around June.

A group of larvae eating a leaf of Ipomoea in Taiwan. Photo by 利承拔.*

The eggs hatch about 10 days after being laid by the female and the larvae pass through five instars during a period of 18 to 22 days, after which they molt into a pupa that, about a week later, turns into the adult. The larvae live in groups and have a pale body marked with four black spots on the dorsal side of most segments. There are also some spiny projections running along the margins of the body.

Spotted Tortoise Beetle in Singapore. Photo by Soh Kam Yung.*

Due to the spotted tortoise beetle’s status as a pest in sweet potato plantations, biological forms to control it have been studied and include the use of leaf extracts as pesticides, as well as parasitoid wasps as predators of eggs. On the other hand, the beetle itself could be used as an efficient agent to control the spread of some invasive species of Ipomoea.

This is how nature acts. Your enemy on one side can be your friend on the other.

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More Beetles:

Friday Fellow: Violaceous Long-horned Beetle (on 22 February 2013)

Friday Fellow: Red Flour Beetle (on 06 February 2015)

Friday Fellow: Giraffe Weevil (on 20 May 2016)

Friday Fellow: Hitler’s Beetle (on 17 June 2016)

Friday Fellow: Green Tiger Beetle (on 08 July 2016)

Friday Fellow: Gold-and-Brown Rove Beetle (on 02 September 2016)

Friday Fellow: Sun Beetle (on 28 October 2016)

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Bhuiya BA, Miah MI, Ferdous E (2000) Biology of Cassidocida aspidomorphae Crawford (Hymenoptera: Tetracampidae), an egg parasitoid of tortoise beetles. Bangladesh Journal of Entomology 10(1/2): 23–30.

Bhuyan M, Mahanta JJ, Bhattacharyya PR (2008) Biocontrol potential of tortoise beetle (Aspidomorpha miliaris) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) on Ipomoea carnea in Assam, India. Biocontrol Science and Technology 18(9): 941–947. doi: 10.1080/09583150802353705

Nakamura K, Abbas I (1987) Preliminary life table of the spotted tortoise beetle Aspidomorpha miliaris (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in Sumatra. Researches on Population Ecology 29: 229–236.

Oudhia P (2000) Toxic effects of Parthenium leaf extracts on Aspidomorpha miliaris F. and Zonabris pustulata Thunb. Insect Environment 5(4): 168.

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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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Filed under Entomology, Friday Fellow, Zoology