Monthly Archives: October 2019

New Species: October 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

SARs

Ottelia fengshanensis is a new monocot from China. Credits to Li et al. (2019).*

Plants

Sedum ichangensis is a new succulent from China. Credits to Wang and Xiong (2019).*
Saxifraga damingshanensis is a new rockfoil from China. Credits to Zhao et al. (2019).*

Amoebozoans

Triblidium hubeiense, is a new sac fungus from China. Credits to Lv et al. (2019).*

Fungi

Phallus denigricans is a new stinkhorn from Brazil. Credits to Cabral et al. (2019).*

Poriferans

Cnidarians

Chrysogorgia ramificans is a new anthozoan of the western Pacific. Credits to Xu et al. (2019).*

Flatworms

Annelids

Placobdelloides sirikanchanae is a new leech found in turtles in southern Thailand. Credits to Trivalairat et al. (2019).*

Rotiferans

Mollusks

Nematodes

Tardigrades

Arachnids

Liphistius pinlaug is a new spider from Myanmar. Credits to Aung et al. (2019).*
Otilioleptes marcelae is a new cave harvestman from Argentina. Credits to Acosta (2019).*

Myriapods

Crustaceans

Vespamantoida wherleyi is a new mantis from the Amazon forest that mimics a wasp. Credits to Svenson and Rodrigues (2019).*

Hexapods

Xiphoscelis braunsi is a new beetle from South Africa. Credits to Perissinotto and Šípek (2019).*
Head of Zelia guimaraesi, a new fly from Brazil. Credits to Dios and Santis (2019).*
Schmistomitra joelmineti is a new moth from China. Credits to Huang et al. (2019).*

Chondrichthyans

Actinopterygians

Poeciliopsis jackschultzi is a new live-bearing fish from northern Mexico. Credits to Conway et al. (2019).*

Amphibians

Caecilia pulchraserrana is a new caecilian from Colombia. Credits to Acosta-Galvis et al. (2019).*
Leptodactylus apepyta is a new frog from the South American Gran Chaco. Credits to Schneider et al. (2019).*

Reptiles

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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: River Red Gum

by Piter Kehoma Boll

There’s little as typical of the Australian vegetation as an eucalyptus tree. About 3/4 of all Australian forests are eucalyptus forests, and there are many different species in this small continent, many of which have a very restricted distribution. One species, however, is naturally found across the whole continent: Eucalyptus camaldulensis, commonly known as the river red gum.

River red gums in Eltham, Victoria, Australia. Photo by Mary Boyd.*

Being the eucalyptus species with the widest distribution, the river red gum is found growing along watercourses of the continent. It has a typical eucalyptus look, with a smooth and white or cream-colored bark with some darker marks in yellow, pink and brown and dull green, lanceolate leaves. The tree reaches a height of about 20 meters, although some specimens be as tall as 45 meters. The flowers are white and open in summer, and the fruits are woody capsules as in most eucalyptus species.

Branches of the river red gum with leaves and flowers near Melbourne, Australia. Credits to flickr user Rexness.**

Due to its wide distribution and association with watercourses, the river red gum is a very important species in Australian ecosystems. In dryer areas of Australia, the trees growing close to the water are the only available habitat for many species. When the trees fall into the water, their trunks also provide essential habitats for many fishes. After reaching 120 years of age or more, the trunk starts to have hollows, creating even more habitat for other species, such as bats, birds and snakes.

Like many other eucalyptus species, the river red gum was introduced worldwide for timber production due to its rapid growth. Its wood as a bright red color, hence the common name, although the color can vary from light pink to almost black depending on age and weathering. Other uses include firewood, production of charcoal and as nectar source for bees during the flowering season. Being highly adaptable and able to reproduce quickly, it became an invasive species in many places in all continents.

The wood of the river red gum. Photo by Paul Venter.

The study of essential oils of the river red gum revealed several interesting applications. Some compunds have good antibacterial activities and can be used for the development of antiseptic or disinfectant agents. Other compounds proved to be excellent mosquito repellents.

A hero in the australian ecosystems, the river red gum was turned into a vilain everywhere else by our human need to take everything with us.

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References:

Butcher PA, McDonald MW, Bell JC (2009) Congruence between environmental parameters, morphology and genetic structure in Australia’s most widely distributed eucalypt, Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Tree Genetics & Genomes 5: 189–210. doi: 10.1007/s11295-008-0169-6

Ghalem BR, Mohamed B (2008) Antibacterial activity of leaf essential oils of Eucalyptus globulus and Eucalyptus camaldulensis. African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 2(10): 211–215.

Negahban M, Moharrampiour S (2007) Fumigant toxicity of Eucalyptus intertextaEucalyptus sargentii and Eucalyptus camaldulensis against stored‐product beetles. Journal of Applied Entomology 131(4): 256–261. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0418.2007.01152.x

Watanabe K, Shono Y, Kakimizu A, Okada A, Matsuo N, Satoh A, Nishimura H (1993) New mosquito repellent from Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 41: 11. doi: 10.1021/jf00035a065

Wikipedia. Eucalyptus camaldulensis. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucalyptus_camaldulensis >. Access on 20 October 2019.

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Daytrippers’ chips are killing species in protected areas

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Leia em português

There’s nothing as threatening to nature as humans, as we all know. A lot of species have become endangered and even extinct due to human influence all around the world. As an attempt to protect whatever is left, we have been creating protected areas where species should be able to live their lives without the dangers of humanity.

However, in order to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the biodiversity, most protected areas accept human visitors. Although it does have some effect to improve the visitors’ view about nature and its importance, there are a lot of undesired side effects. Humans walking through a forest cause noise that disturbs the local fauna and the soil compaction caused by walking can lead to changes in vegetation growth and soil drainage.

But another human behavior that appears to have serious consequences on biodiversity conservation is our tendency to carry food with us, such as snacks, and eat it anywhere. People visiting a protected area may eat something on the way through the woods or stop for a picnic. Many species love food remains left by humans and will thrive with them.

Two Steller’s jays in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo by iNaturalist user kgerner.*

One species that benefits from human food is the Steller’s jay, Cyanocitta stelleri, a corvid that is common across the the west coast of North America. As a result, this species is not at all threatened at the moment and it tends even to follow humans because of the easy access to food. In the wild, this species is a generalist omnivore, feeding on seeds, fruits, invertebrates, eggs and small vertebrates, such as rodents and bird nestlings.

Another bird that can be found in the same areas as the Steller’s jay is the marbled murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus, a small seabird. Different from most seabirds, the marbled murrelet does not nest in cliffs or burrows near the water but on branches of old-growth conifers. As a result, they may move up to 80 km inland to find a suitable place to nest. Different from the Steller’s jay, the marbled murrelet does not benefit from human snacks. On the contrary, they may be its ruin.

A young marbled murrelet found in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Photo by iNaturalist user basinbird.*

The marbled murrelet relies heavily on old forests to reproduce and the female lays only one egg per year, leading to a low reproductive rate. Due to the removal of old forests by humans, the marbled murrelet has lost a lot of its original habitat and is currently considered an endangered species.

One of the few remaining areas for this species to nest is located in the Big Basin Redwoods State Park in California. The park contains many options for camping, which means humans bringing food all the time. This attracts a lot of Steller’s jays, which feast on the crumbs and other remains, and reproduce explosively. When humans are not present, this increased population migrates toward new areas, sometimes following humans to the cities, or starts to feed on whatever is present in the park, and one of the most nutritious options are nestlings of the marbled murrelet.

With an already endagered population, the marbled murrelet is about to get extinct because our desire to walk through the woods is accidentally increasing the population of one of its main predators. Will we ever be able to have a good impact on this planet?

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Reference:

West EH, Brunk K, Peery MZ (2019) When protected areas produce source populations of overabundant species. Biological Conservation 238: 108220. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108220

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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: Rhinoceros Tick

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Parasites exist everywhere and, although most of us see them as hateful creatures, more than half of all known lifeforms live as a parasite at least in part of their life. And there are likely many more yet unknown parasites around there. Today I’m going to talk about one of them, which is found in large portions of Africa.

Its name is Dermacentor rhinocerinus, known as the rhinoceros tick. As its name suggests, it is a tick, therefore a parasitic mite, and its adult stage lives on the skin of the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) and the critically endangered black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis).

A male rhinoceros tick attached to the skin of a rhinoceros in South Africa. Credits to iNaturalist user bgwright.**

Male and female rhinoceros ticks are considerably different. In males, the body has a black background with many large orange spots. In females, on the other hand, the abdomen is mainly black with only two round orange spots and the plate on the thorax is orange with two small dark spots. Males and females mate on the surface of rhinoceroses. After mating, the female starts to increase in size while the eggs develop inside her and then drops to the ground, laying the eggs there.

A female rhinoceros tick patiently waiting for a rhinoceros to come close. Photo by Martin Weigand.**

The larvae, as soon as they hatch, start to look for another host, usually a small mammal such as rodents and elephant shrews. They feed on this smaller host until they reach the adult stage, when they drop to the ground and climb on the surrounding vegetation, waiting for a rhinoceros to pass by and then attaching to them.

Conservation efforts to preserve biodiversity are mainly focused on vertebrates, especially mammals and birds. Rhinoceroses, which are an essential host for the rhinoceros tick to survive, are often part of conservation programs and, in order to increase their reproductive success, the practice of removing parasites from their skin is common. This is, however, bad for the rhinoceros ticks. If their host is endangered, they are certainly endangered too, and removing them worsens their condition. Are parasites less important for the planet? Don’t they deserve to live just as any other lifeform? We cannot forget that nature needs more than only what we consider cute.

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More mites and ticks:

Friday Fellow: Giant Red Velvet Mite (on 22 June 2016)

Friday Fellow: Cuban-Laurel-Thrips Mite (on 28 June 2019)

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References:

Horak IG, Fourie LJ, Braack LEO (2005) Small mammals as hosts of immature ixodid ticks. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 72:255–261.

Horak IG, Cohen M (2001) Hosts of the immature stages of the rhinoceros tick, Dermacentor rhinocerinus (Acari, Ixodidae). Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 68:75–77.

Keirans JE (1993) Dermacentor rhinocerinus (Denny 1843) (Acari: Ixodida: Ixodidae): redescription of the male, female and nymph and first description of the larva. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 60:59–68.

Mihalca AD, Gherman CM, Cozma V (2011) Coendangered hard ticks: threatened or threatening? Parasites & Vectors 4:71. doi: 10.1186/1756-3305-4-71

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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 Arachnids, Conservation, Friday Fellow, Parasites, Zoology

Alien invasions: the resistance lies in streams

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Human activities have been introducing, either deliberately or accidentally, several species in areas outside of their native range. Many os these species, when they reach a new ecosystem, can have devastating effects on the local communities.

One common practice is the introduction of exotic fish for food production or recreation. Although the impact of exotic fish species can be severe, there are several factors that modulate this severity. However, one situation in which it can have catastrophic outcomes is when fish are introduced in water bodies that were originally fishless.

Mountain streams and lakes are usually fishless because of physical barriers, especially waterfalls, as they prevent fish from moving upstream. But fish have been introduced in many mountain lakes to provide a local food stock or for sport fishing.

One place that was plagued this way is the Gran Paradiso National Park in the Western Italian Alps. During the 1960s, the brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis, a fish that is native from North America, was introduced in several of the park’s high-altitude lake. Later, when the area became proteced, fishing was prohibited.

Salvelinus fontinalis, the brook trout. Photo by Alex Wild.

From 2013 to 2017, a fish erradication program was conducted in four lakes of the park, namely Djouan, Dres, Leynir and Nero. Fish were captured using gillnetting and electrofishing. Since the trouts had colonized the streams that are connected to the lakes, they had to be removed from there as well.

The communities of organisms living in the lakes and streams were monitored to assess their recovery after the fish removal. The lakes showed a remarkable resilience, reaching a community structure similar to that of lakes where fish were never introduced. The streams, on the other hand, did not show a great difference before and after fish removal. The reason, however, was not that streams have low resilience. On the contrary, streams showed a great resistance to fish invasion. Trouts did not seem to have affected the macroinvertebrate communities of streams that much. But why is it so?

Dres lake in the Gran Paradiso National Park. Image extracted from the park’s website (http://www.pngp.it).

One hypothesis was that macroinvertebrates constantly colonize the streams by passive dispersion, coming from upstream waters. However, this is not applicable to streams that drain the lakes, as lake and stream communities are very different. Lower predation by trouts is not an option either, because it was shown that stream trouts actually eat more than lake trouts. Maybe stream invertebrates reproduce more quickly than lake ones? No! Studies have shown than this is similar in both environments.

The reason why stream invertebrates are less affected by the introduction of fish is still a mystery. One possible explanation is that streams present more microhabitats that are not explored by the trouts, providing refuges for the invertebrates. We need more studies to understand what is going on.

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Exotic species: are they always a trouble?

The New Guinea Flatworm visits France – a menace

Obama invades Europe: “Yes, we can!”

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

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References:

Tiberti R, Bogliani G, Brighenti S, Iacobuzio R, Liautaud K, Rolla M, Hardenberg A, Bassano B. (2019) Recovery of high mountain Alpine lakes after the eradication of introduced brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis using non-chemical methods. Biological Invasions 21: 875–894. doi: 10.1007/s10530-018-1867-0

Tiberti R, Brighenti S (2019) Do alpine macroinvertebrates recover differently in lakes and rivers after alien fish eradication? Knowledge & Management of Aquatic Ecosystems 420: 37. doi: 10.1051/kmae/2019029

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Filed under Conservation, Ecology, Fish

Friday Fellow: Eastern Eyed Click Beetle

by Piter Kehoma Boll

During the warmer nights of the year, in the eastern half of the United States, you may end up finding a nice-looking beetle that clicks when disturbed. Its name is Alaus oculatus, also known as the eastern eyed click beetle.

Eastern eyed click beetle in South Carolina, USA. Photo by Phillip Harpootlian.**

This species belongs to the family Elateridae or click beetles. All species in this family have an interesting mechanism on their thorax that allows them to jump in the air with a click, hence the name click beetle. This is used to avoid predators and also to help the beetle to right itself when it falls on its back.

Watch it click!

The eastern eyed click beetle measures about 2.5 to 4.5 cm in length and has a dark-gray to black color with many small white spots. The pronotum, the dorsal part of the anteriormost segment of the thorax, has two large black spots with a white outline that look like two eyes. These spots are actually more than black, they are superblack, meaning that they have a structure that makes them absorb more than 96% of all light in all angles.

A specimen in Philadelphia, USA. Photo by Eduardo Duenas.**

As an adult,this species is mainly nocturnal, as most click beetles, and feeds on nectar and other plant juices. They may be found inside houses, being atracted by the light of the lamps at night.

The voracious larva or wireworm of the eastern eyed click beetle. Photo by M. J. Raupp.

Different from the vegetarian habits of the adults, the larvae of the eastern eyed click beetle are voracious predators. They live in decaying wood and feed on the larvae of other beetles, especially of the family Cerambycidae, the longhorn beetles. The larvae of all click beetles have a flattened body with well marked segments and are known as wireworms. In the eastern eyed click beetle, the abdominal segments of the larva are yellow, except for the last one, which has a orange to brown tinge. The three thoracic segments have the same color, the anterior one being the widest and darkest. The head as a dark brown to black color. The pupae, on the other hand, have that miserable appearance of most insect pupae, being whitish and looking like an incomplete adult trapped in wax.

Despite being considerably popular, the eastern eyed click beetle is not a very well known species. There is a lot about its ecology that needs to be investigated.

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References:

Casari SA (2002) Larvae of Alaus myops, A. oculatus, Chalcolepidius porcatus, Hemirhipus apicalis and generic larval characterization (Elateridae, Agrypninae, Hemirhipini). Iheringia, Série Zoologia 92(2): 93–110.

Wikipedia. Alaus oculatus. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaus_oculatus >. Access on October 4, 2019.

Wong VL, Marek PE (2019) Super black eyespots of the eyed elater. PeerJ Preprints 7:e27746v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.27746v1

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Friday Fellow: Turkish Spoonwing

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Continuing the tradition that I applied on the days of the 50th and 100th Friday Fellow, today we will have two again, so that you don’t have to wait one week for the 201st.

So let’s move from the sea in northwestern Europe to the land in southeastern Europe, more precisely the Mediterranean region around the Balkans and Turkey. During May and June, you can find this species flying in meadows and fields looking for yellow flowers. Its name is Nemoptera sinuata, one of the species of the genus Nemoptera known as spoonwings or thread-winged antlions. To distinguish it from other species, I decided to call it the Turkish spoonwing.

A Turkish spoonwing visiting the yellow flowers of Achillea coarctata in Bulgaria. Photo by Paul Cools.**

Like all antlions, the Turkish spoonwing is an insect of the order Neuroptera. The adults have a pair of large oval-shaped forewings and a pair of long and thin hindwings, both of which have a pattern of black and white marks that makes it difficult to locate them against the background. They are exclusively diurnal and fly very slowly using only the forewings. When they find their favorite flowers, they feed on their pollen and nothing else, having their mouthparts adapted for this diet.

After being inseminated by a male, the female starts to lay her eggs. She perches on a flower or raceme and lays one egg every two minutes, laying up to 14 in one day and up to 70 during her 20 days of life as an adult. The eggs, which are white and spherical, fall directly to the ground.

An adult specimen in Greece. Photo by Kostas Zontanos.**

The larvae leave the eggs after about 19 days and is grey with black spots on the segments of the thorax and the abdomen. They have large jaws and bury in the soil at a depth of about 1 cm. Like other antlions, they feed on small arthropods that they capture by surprise jumping out of the soil, although the exact species eaten by them remain largely unknown. The larvae probably pupate during winter and turn into adults around May of the next year, filling the meadows again to look for yellow flowers in the sun.

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References:

Krenn HW, Gereben-Krenn BA, Steinwender BM, Popov A (2008) Flower visiting Neuroptera: mouthparts and feeding behavior of Nemoptera sinuata (Nemopteridae). European Journal of Entomology 105: 267–277.

Popov A (2002) Autoecology and biology of Nemoptera sinuata Olivier (Neuroptera: Nemopteridae). Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 48(Suppl. 2): 293–299.

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Filed under Entomology, Friday Fellow, Zoology

Friday Fellow: Gracile Sea Spider

by Piter Kehoma Boll

We reached the 200th Friday Fellow! And to finish another group of hundred species, I will present once more a group that never appeared here, the so-called sea spiders!

The species I chose is Nymphon gracile, commonly known as the gracile sea spider. It occurs in the nothern Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Europe, especially between France and Scandinavia.

A gracile sea spider in Norway. Photo by Asbjørn Hansen.*

Like most sea spiders, the gracile sea spider has a very thin body to which four very long legs are attached. Well, long here is a relative measurement because the whole creature fits on the tip of your finger. In the anterior region, there is the head which includes the proboscis, used to ingest food, a pair of chelifores, analogous to the chelicerae of aracnids, a pair of palps and a pair of ovigers, long and thin appendages used to carry the eggs and the young. The head has four small eyes located very close to each other on a spot at the middle of the dorsum right in front of the first pair of legs and above the ovigers. The fourth pair of legs appears at the very end of the body. The abdomen is only vestigial.

Look how tiny it is. Photo by iNaturalist user gogol.**

The gracile sea spider lives in shallow waters and is often found on the shore if you pay enough attention. It feeds mainly on hydroids, i.e., small sessile cnidarians of the class Hydrozoa, and bryozoans, that it captures using its proboscis and surrounding appendices. To distribute nutrients through the body, the gracile sea spider, like other sea spiders, has a highly branched intestine, which includes branches entering the legs, probably an adaptation to the lack of a functional abdomen.

During winter, the gracile sea spider moves away from the shore and mates in deeper waters. Both males and females have their gonads inside the first segments of the legs. Thus, when the eggs start to develop in the female’s ovaries, her legs become much thicker than those of the males. When mating occurs, the male crawls under the female and captures, with his ovigers, the eggs that she releases through a single pore on the base of each leg. The male then fertilizes the eggs by releasing sperm from the pores at the base of his legs and carry them with him until early spring, when he moves back to the shore and release the juveniles on colonies of hydroids and bryozoans.

A male carrying a mass of eggs with his ovigers. The dark lines seen inside the legs and chelifores are the branches of the intestine. Photo by Julien Renoult.**

The mitochondrial genome of the gracile sea spider was the first to be sequenced for the pycnogonids. It shows a series of gene relocations compared to other arthropods, which may explain, at least partially, why this group is so unusual. We could say that the gracile sea spider, and sea spiders in general, evolved to become only legs. They are basically a bodiless group of legs!

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References:

Isaac MJ, Jarvis HJ (1973) Endogenous tidal rhythicity in the littoral pycnogonid Nymphon gracile (Leach). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 13(1): 83–90. doi: 10.1016/0022-0981(73)90049-X

King PE, Jarvis JH (1970) Egg development in a littoral pycnogonid Nymphon gracile. Marine Biology 7: 294–304. doi: 10.1007/BF00750822

Podsialowski L, Braband A (2006) The complete mitochondrial genome of the sea spider Nymphon gracile (Arthropoda: Pycnogonida). BMC Genomics 7: 284. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-7-284

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