Saturday, May 23, 2015

[Ichthyology • 2015] Schistura sirindhornae • A New Species of Highland Loach (Ostariophysi: Nemacheilidae) from the upper Chao Phraya River basin, northern Thailand

Crown Scaly Stream Loach
Schistura sirindhornae Suvarnaraksha, 2015

Schistura sirindhornae, a new species of nemacheilid, is described from the Nan River basin in northern Thailand. It is distinguished from all other species of Schistura in having overlapping scales on the entire body similar to scales of balitorids, transparent scales on the belly and thorax, a lateral-line canal that is similar to that of most cyprinids and balitorids in being present across the entire lateral-line surface of the scale instead of being represented only by a pore. It also has a unique color pattern of irregular brown bars on the back and side of the faint yellow-orange body, a bright triangular orange mark on the occiput, an orange crown-shaped mark between the eyes, an uninterrupted black mark along the base of the dorsal fin, a crescent-shaped bar on the base of the caudal fin, and bright iridescent orange areas on the upper and lower extremities of the caudal-fin base. Schistura sirindhornae is known only from the upper Nan River drainage, Nan Province, Thailand.

Key words: Nan River basin, conservation, fish diversity, freshwater fish, stream ecology

FIGURE 8. A) Type locality of Schistura sirindhornae: Huay Nampan, upper Nan River basin, Ban Khun Koon, Moo 2, Tumbon Phuka, Pua District, Nan Province, B) deforested area with a maize plantation and dry stream bed adjacent to type locality .

Ecology, food and reproductive biology. Schistura sirindhornae lives in upland areas on the bottoms of cool, clear, flowing streams with pools and forest canopy. Schistura sirindhornae has been collected from 721-1,155 m above sea level in steep streams in Huay Nampan and tributaries of the Nan River basin. The Huay Nampan was about 2–4 m wide (Fig. 8A) and 0.2–0.5 m deep at the time of sampling (start of the hot-dry season); water volume might be much higher during the rainy season. This species was observed only in shaded areas and was absent from light-exposed open areas and lowlands. Substrate consisted mainly of stones, bedrock, and some sand and gravel in small pools. The upper stream bank was covered by large native trees with more than 90% canopy cover. At the time of sampling, the water was clear, and the temperature was 18.4°C (air temperature 22.5°C), conductivity 2.6 S · m−1, and pH 6.5. Other species of fishes collected with S. sirindhornae were Smenanensis (Nemacheilidae) and Oreoglanis suraswadii (Sisoridae). Gut dissections indicated that Ssirindhornae feeds mainly on aquatic insect larvae.

Distribution. Schistura sirindhornae is known only from the tributaries of the upper Nan River basin, in Pua and Borkluea districts, Nan Province, Thailand. The type locality is a small creek with a very steep slope, in Huay Nampan, Ban Khunkoon, Moo 2, Tumbon Phukha, Pua District, Nan Province (Figs. 8A and 9). Collection localities are in the upper-most tributaries near Xayaboury Province of the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao. 

Etymology. The species epithet honors Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for her 60th birthday anniversary, her biodiversity conservation projects including a Plant Genetic Conservation Project Under the Royal Initiation of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn (RSPG), several projects in education and protein source security for rural communities, and many projects located in Nan Province, the type locality of this species.

Apinun Suvarnaraksha. 2015. A New Species of Highland Loach, Schistura sirindhornae, from the upper Chao Phraya River basin, Thailand (Pisces: Ostariophysi: Nemacheilidae).
3962(1): 158–170. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3962.1.8

[PaleoBotany • 2015] Euanthus panii • A Perfect Flower from the Jurassic of China

Flower, enclosed ovule and tetrasporangiate anther are three major characters distinguishing angiosperms from other seed plants. Morphologically, typical flowers are characterised by an organisation with gynoecium and androecium surrounded by corolla and calyx. Theoretically, flowers are derived from their counterparts in ancient ancestral gymnosperms. However, as for when, how and from which groups, there is no consensus among botanists yet. Although angiosperm-like pollen and angiosperms have been claimed in the Triassic and Jurassic, typical flowers with the aforesaid three key characters are still missing in the pre-Cretaceous age, making many interpretations of flower evolution tentative. Thus searching for flower in the pre-Cretaceous has been a tantalising task for palaeobotanists for a long time. Here, we report a typical flower, Euanthus panii gen. et sp. nov., from the Middle –Late Jurassic of Liaoning, China. Euanthus has sepals, petals, androecium with tetrasporangiate dithecate anthers and gynoecium with enclosed ovules, organised just like in perfect flowers of extant angiosperms. The discovery of Euanthus implies that typical angiosperm flowers have already been in place in the Jurassic, and provides a new insight unavailable otherwise for the evolution of flowers. 

Keywords: flower; angiosperm; Jurassic; China; Liaoning

Figure 8. Sketch, details of micropyle and reconstruction of Euanthus panii gen. et sp. nov.
(a) Sketch of the specimen shown in Figure 4(a). (b) Sketch of the micropyle, nucellus (N), and integument (blue) shown in Figure 7(j). (c) Reconstruction of Euanthus panii gen. et sp. nov.

Figure 4. Euanthus panii gen. et sp. nov. and its details. Stereomicroscopy.
 (a, b) The flower in two facing parts, with sepals (S) and petals (P) radiating from the receptacle. The black arrows mark the distal of the style, and the blue arrow in (b) marks the stamen shown in Figure 6 (d),(e),(h). Holotype: PB21685, PB21684. Bar ¼ 5 mm. (c) A sepal (S) is almost structureless between the two arrows, implying that it is attached to the receptacle (O) with its whole base. Enlarged from (a). Bar ¼ 1 mm. (d) Pentamerous receptacle with ovarian cavity (O) in its centre. Note the corners (arrows) of about 1108. Bar ¼ 0.5 mm. (e) Basal portion of the flower after degagement. Note spatial relationship among the ovary (O), style base, a possible filament stub (arrow), sepals (S) and petal (P). Refer to Figure 7(f). Bar ¼ 1 mm.

Type species: Euanthus panii gen. et sp. nov. 

Etymology: Euanthus, for real flower in Latin. 

Horizon: the Jiulongshan Formation. 
Locality: Sanjiaocheng Village, Huloudao City, Liaoning, China

Figure 8. Sketch, details of micropyle and reconstruction of Euanthus panii gen. et sp. nov. (a) Sketch of the specimen shown in Figure 4(a). (b) Sketch of the micropyle, nucellus (N), and integument (blue) shown in Figure 7(j). (c) Reconstruction of Euanthus panii gen. et sp. nov.

Euanthus from the Middle–Late Jurassic of Liaoning, China is a perfect flower typical of angiosperms, prompting a rethinking on the origin and history of flowers and angiosperms. If Euanthus were really related to eudicots, it would be intriguing to search for typical eudicot leaves in the Jurassic strata. The presence of a full-fledged flower such as Euanthus in the Jurassic is apparently out of the expectations of any currently accepted evolutionary theories, implying either that these theories are flawed, and/or the history of angiosperms is much longer than previously assumed.

 Zhong-Jian Liu and Xin Wang. 2015. A Perfect Flower from the Jurassic of China.
Historical Biology: An International Journal of Paleobiology.

DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2015.1020423

World's Earliest Flower may Date back 162 mln Years: Study

Friday, May 22, 2015

[Entomology • 2015] Deuteragenia ossarium | Bone-house Wasp • A Unique Nest-Protection Strategy in a New Species of Spider Wasp

Figure 2. Nest protection in Deuteragenia ossarium.
(A) Overview of a nest. Individual brood cells are separated by thin walls of soil material. (B) The nest is closed by a vestibular cell filled with dead ants. (C) Contents of a vestibular cell. Pachycondyla astuta was the ant species most commonly found, but other ant species, such as Polyrhachis illaudata Walker, 1859 (lowest ant specimen), occurred as well. (D) Freshly eclosed adult female of D. ossarium.
Scale bar: (A) 15 mm, (B) 5 mm, (C, D) 10 mm. Photographs: Merten Ehmig (A, B), Michael Staab (C, D).


Hymenoptera show a great variation in reproductive potential and nesting behavior, from thousands of eggs in sawflies to just a dozen in nest-provisioning wasps. Reduction in reproductive potential in evolutionary derived Hymenoptera is often facilitated by advanced behavioral mechanisms and nesting strategies. Here we describe a surprising nesting behavior that was previously unknown in the entire animal kingdom: the use of a vestibular cell filled with dead ants in a new spider wasp (Hymenoptera: Pompilidae) species collected with trap nests in South-East China. We scientifically describe the ‘Bone-house Wasp’ as Deuteragenia ossarium sp. nov., named after graveyard bone-houses or ossuaries. We show that D. ossarium nests are less vulnerable to natural enemies than nests of other sympatric trap-nesting wasps, suggesting an effective nest protection strategy, most likely by utilizing chemical cues emanating from the dead ants.

Figure 1. Trap nests to collect solitary cavity-nesting Hymenoptera.
(A) Exposed trap nest in the Gutianshan National Nature Reserve, the type locality of Deuteragenia ossarium. (B) Occupied reed internodes containing nests are identifiable by the characteristic nest seal that, in most species, consists of soil material. (C) Opened nests reared in test tubes closed with cotton wool.
Photographs: Michael Staab. || doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101592.g001

Etymology: The new species is named after the Latin ‘ossarium’, which means bone-house or ossuary. An ‘ossarium’ is a covered site, where human remains are deposited. The species name is an allusion to the unusual nesting strategy of the new species, which closes the nest with a vestibular cell filled with dead ants. This reminds us of historical bone-houses in monasteries and graveyards, which over time were filled with piles of human bones. The new name is a noun in apposition.

Suggested common name: As a common name for D. ossarium we suggest in reference to its biology the use of ‘Bone-house Wasp’.

Distribution: Known only from South-East China.

Figure 2. Nest protection in Deuteragenia ossarium.
(A) Overview of a nest. Individual brood cells are separated by thin walls of soil material. (B) The nest is closed by a vestibular cell filled with dead ants. (C) Contents of a vestibular cell. Pachycondyla astuta was the ant species most commonly found, but other ant species, such as Polyrhachis illaudata Walker, 1859 (lowest ant specimen), occurred as well. (D) Freshly eclosed adult female of D. ossarium.
Scale bar: (A) 15 mm, (B) 5 mm, (C, D) 10 mm. Photographs: Merten Ehmig (A, B), Michael Staab (C, D).

Michael Staab, Michael Ohl, Chao-Dong Zhu and Alexandra-Maria Klein. 2014.
A Unique Nest-Protection Strategy in a New Species of Spider Wasp.
PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101592

[Herpetology • 2015] Turtles and Tortoises of the World during the Rise and Global Spread of Humanity: First Checklist and Review of Extinct Pleistocene and Holocene Chelonians

Figure 14. Two species of extinct giant tortoises, Cylindraspis vosmaeri (larger, saddlebacked) and C. peltastes (smaller, domed) in their native habitat on Rodrigues Island in the late 1600s when accounts indicate the herds of tortoises were so large and dense that it was possible to walk for long distances on their backs without touching the ground (Leguat 1707).
Painting by Julian Pender Hume (from Griffiths et al. 2013).


We provide a first checklist and review of all recognized taxa of the world’s extinct Pleistocene and Holocene (Quaternary) turtles and tortoises that existed during the early rise and global expansion of humanity, and most likely went extinct through a combination of earlier hominin (e.g., Homo erectus, H. neanderthalensis) and later human (H. sapiens) exploitation, as well as being affected by concurrent global or regional climatic and habitat changes. This checklist complements the broader listing of all modern and extant turtles and tortoises by the Turtle Taxonomy Working Group (2014). We provide a comprehensive listing of taxonomy, names, synonymies, and stratigraphic distribution of all chelonian taxa that have gone extinct from approximately the boundary between the Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene, ca. 2.6 million years ago, up through 1500 AD, at the beginning of modern times. We also provide details on modern turtle and tortoise taxa that have gone extinct since 1500 AD. This checklist currently includes 100 fossil turtle and tortoise taxa, including 84 named and apparently distinct species, and 16 additional taxa that appear to  represent additional valid species, but are only identified to genus or family. Modern extinct turtles and tortoises include 8 species, 3 subspecies, and 1 unnamed taxon, for 12 taxa. Of the extinct fossil taxa, terrestrial tortoises of the family Testudinidae (including many large-bodied island forms) are the most numerous, with 60 taxa. When the numbers for fossil tortoises are combined with the 61 modern (living and extinct) species of tortoises, of the 121 tortoise species that have existed at some point since the beginning of the Pleistocene, 69 (57.0%) have gone extinct. This likely reflects the high vulnerability of these large and slow terrestrial (often insular) species primarily to human exploitation. The other large-bodied terrestrial turtles, the giant horned turtles of the family Meiolaniidae, with 7 taxa (also often insular), all went extinct by the Late Holocene while also exploited by humans. The total global diversity of turtles and tortoises that has existed during the history of hominin utilization of chelonians, and that are currently recognized as distinct and included on our two checklists, consists of 336 modern species and 100 extinct Pleistocene and Holocene taxa, for a total of 436 chelonian species. Of these, 109 species (25.0%) and 112 total taxa are estimated to have gone extinct since the beginning of the Pleistocene. The chelonian diversity and its patterns of extinctions during the Quaternary inform our understanding of the impacts of the history of human exploitation of turtles and the effects of climate change, and their relevance to current and future patterns.

Key Words: Reptilia, Testudines, turtle, tortoise, chelonian, taxonomy, distribution, extinction, fossils, paleontology, archaeology, humanity, hominin, exploitation, chelonophagy, megafauna, island refugia, climate change, Pliocene, Pleistocene, Holocene, Anthropocene, Quaternary

Anders G.J. Rhodin, Scott Thomson, Georgios L. Georgalis, Hans-Volker Karl, Igor G. Danilov, Akio Takahashi, Marcelo S. de la Fuente, Jason R. Bourque, Massimo Delfino, Roger Bour, John B. Iverson, H. Bradley Shaffer and Peter Paul van Dijk. 2015. Turtles and Tortoises of the World during the Rise and Global Spread of Humanity: First Checklist and Review of Extinct Pleistocene and Holocene Chelonians. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist GroupChelonian Research Monographs. 5(8):1-66. DOI:

Griffiths, O., Andre, A., and Meunier, A. 2013. Tortoise Breeding and ‘Re-Wilding’ on Rodrigues Island. In: Castellano, C.M., Rhodin, A.G.J., Ogle, M., Mittermeier, R.A., Randriamahazo, H., Hudson, R., and Lewis, R.E. (Eds.). Turtles on the Brink in Madagascar: Proceedings of Two Workshops on the Status, Conservation, and Biology of Malagasy Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. Chelonian Research Monographs. 6:171–177.

[Mollusca • 2014] Additions to the Genus Phyllodesmium; Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum & P. undulatum, with A Phylogenetic Analysis and its implications to the Evolution of Symbiosis

Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum 


The facelinid genus Phyllodesmium (Ehrenberg, 1831) consists of approximately 24 described species that prey upon soft-bodied corals. At least five additional species have yet to be described, making it an interesting genus for testing phylogenetic hypotheses. The genus is extremely morphologically diverse, with many species adapting specifically to a specific host coral. One of the most interesting adaptations found in this genus is the widespread participation in a symbiotic relationship with photosynthetic dinoflagellates in the genus Symbiodinium. Two new species, Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum n. sp. and Phyllodesmium undulatum n. sp., from the Philippine Islands and Japan are described, and a morphological phylogeny is created to include the two new species, as well as three undescribed species. An examination of the Phyllodesmium phylogeny suggests that species with digestive gland branching and zooxanthellae are more derived. Confidence and robustness in this analysis are lacking, however, and further studies using molecular data could add confidence to this conclusion.

Figure 1. A, Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum n. sp., photo: Robert Bolland;
B, Phyllodesmium undulatum n. sp., photo: T. Gostmer.

Elizabeth Moore and Terrence M. Gosliner. 2014. Additions to the Genus Phyllodesmium, with A Phylogenetic Analysis and its implications to the Evolution of Symbiosis. The Veliger. 51(4):237-251.

[Botany • 2014] Tillandsia religiosa • A New Species (Bromeliaceae) from the state of Morelos, México

Tillandsia religiosa Hern.-Cárdenas, González-Rocha, Espejo, López-Ferr., Cerros & Ehlers

Tillandsia religiosa Hern.-Cárdenas, González-Rocha, Espejo, López-Ferr., Cerros & Ehlersa new species from Morelos, Mexico is described and illustrated. The new species is compared to taxa with similar characteristics, T. taxcoensis EhlersT. thyrsigera E. Morren ex Baker and T. superinsignis Matuda. Images and a distribution map of the new taxon are included. 

Keywords: Bromeliaceae

Tillandsia religiosa
Hern.-Cárdenas, González-Rocha, Espejo, López-Ferr., Cerros & Ehlers, sp. nov. Fig. 1 A–F.

Tillandsia religiosa is similar to T. taxcoensis Ehlers from which it differs by having oblong-elliptic vs. ovate leaf-sheaths, its shorter spike stipes, flowers 9–16 vs. 5–6 per spike, and its glabrous and pruinose vs. densely cinereous-lepidote flower bracts.

Type:— MEXICO, Morelos, municipio de Tlayacapan: 920 m al SW de San José de los Laureles (en línea recta), rumbo a la barranca Tepecapa, taludes en bosque tropical caducifolio y bosque de Quercus, 1800 m, 18°58’29’’ N, 99°00’25’’ W, 23 January 2011, A. Espejo, R. A. Hernández-Cárdenas, R. Cerros T., J. Espejo, A. Flores-Morales, L. J. Hernández Barón y J. Mora 7419 (holotype UAMIZ(x4)!, isotypes IEB(x3)!).

Etymology:—Specific epithet refers to the religious-ornamental use of these plants by the people of the villages of the Sierra de Tepoztlán, like Tlayacapan, Tepoztlán and San José de los Laureles. The entire plants or the inflorescences are used in altar scenes (“nacimientos”) during Christmas celebrations (Figure 2B). 

FIGURE 2. Tillandsia religiosa
A. Habit (type collection). B. Plants used as ornaments in “nacimiento” at Tlayacapan. 

Comments:—Because of its saxicolous habit, rossette and inflorescence morphology, Tillandsia religiosa could be confused, particularly in herbarium material, with T. superinsignis Matuda (1973: 189), and with T. thyrsigera E Morren ex Baker (1889: 185). However, these two last species have violet corollas, while the new taxon has green petals. Tillandsia religiosa is also similar to T. taxcoensis Ehlers (1996: 26) (Figure 2C, D), as both species have similar type of inflorescences and green petals, but there are clear differences between the two taxa that are shown in table 1 and figure 2C, D.

Rodrigo Hernández-Cárdenas, Edith González-Rocha, Adolfo Espejo-Serna, Ana Rosa López-Ferrari, Rosa Cerros-Tlatilpa, and Renate Ehlers. 2014. Tillandsia religiosa, A New Species from the state of Morelos, México. Phytotaxa. 184(1): 053–057. 

Se describe e ilustra Tillandsia religiosa Hern.-Cárdenas, González-Rocha, Espejo, López-Ferr., Cerros & Ehlers con material procedente del estado de Morelos, México. La nueva especie se compara con T. taxconesis Ehlers, Tthyrsigera E. Morren ex Baker y T. superinsignis Matuda, las cuales presentan características similares. Se incluyen imágenes y un mapa de distribución del nuevo taxon propuesto.

[Invertebrate • 2014] Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara

Figure 1. Dendrogramma gen. nov.,
paratypes of 
D. enigmatica and (with *) D. discoides.

Figure 3. Dendrogramma enigmatica sp. nov., holotype.

A new genus, Dendrogramma, with two new species of multicellular, non-bilaterian, mesogleal animals with some bilateral aspects, D. enigmatica and D. discoides, are described from the south-east Australian bathyal (400 and 1000 metres depth). A new family, Dendrogrammatidae, is established for Dendrogramma. These mushroom-shaped organisms cannot be referred to either of the two phyla Ctenophora or Cnidaria at present, because they lack any specialised characters of these taxa. Resolving the phylogenetic position of Dendrogramma depends much on how the basal metazoan lineages (Ctenophora, Porifera, Placozoa, Cnidaria, and Bilateria) are related to each other, a question still under debate. At least Dendrogramma must have branched off before Bilateria and is possibly related to Ctenophora and/or Cnidaria. Dendrogramma, therefore, is referred to Metazoa incertae sedis. The specimens were fixed in neutral formaldehyde and stored in 80% ethanol and are not suitable for molecular analysis. We recommend, therefore, that attempts be made to secure new material for further study. Finally similarities between Dendrogramma and a group of Ediacaran (Vendian) medusoids are discussed.

Figure 8. Possible positions of Dendrogramma in a simplified phylogeny showing the deepest splits in the metazoan Tree of Life.
The position of Ctenophora is controversial so two possibilities have been shown with dashed lines, one as sister group to the remaining metazoans (the ‘Ctenophora-first’ hypothesis), and one as sister group to Cnidaria (Coelenterata hypothesis). We suggest that Dendrogramma most likely is related to Ctenophora and/Cnidaria (red arrows) due to general similarities in body organisation (see Discussion). However, depending on the position of Ctenophora and on whether certain aspects of Dendrogramma (e.g., mesoglea and gastrovascular system) are ancestral for Metazoa or modified, Dendrogramma can be positioned in a variety of ways below Bilateria (yellow oval).

Figure 1. Dendrogramma gen. nov., all 15 paratypes of D. enigmatica and (with *) D. discoides.
Photographs taken after shrinkage (see Material and Methods).

It has been suggested during review that Dendrogramma could represent a new non-bilaterian phylum. While we may agree, we refrain from erecting such a high-level taxon for the time being, because new material is needed to resolve many pertinent outstanding questions.

Dendrogrammatidae, new family
Diagnosis: Multicellular, mesogleal, apparently diploblastic animal. Body divided into cylindrical stalk and broad, flat disc (Figs 2A, B, 3, 4, 5A, 7). Simple round mouth opening situated in slightly depressed lobed field on rounded apex of stalk. With gastrovascular system comprising a simple tube centrally in stalk (pharynx) running from mouth to base of disc, then branching dichotomously, including first branching node (Fig. 6B), in disc at right angles to stalk. Epidermis composed of single layer of low, uniform cells; gastrodermis composed of single layer of elongate, vacuolated cells tapering towards narrow gastrovascular canal (pharynx) (Fig. 2C); epidermis of mouth-field lobes with thickened, elongate, apparently vacuolated/glandular cells (Fig. 2D). Dense mesoglea milky translucent when formalin fixed except for refractive sheath of spongiose mesoglea surrounding gastrodermis of gastrovascular canal in stalk (pharynx) (Figs 2C, 5C). Mesoglea criss-crossed by fibrils including cylindrical sheet under epidermis (Fig. 2C, D).

Dendrogramma, new genus
Diagnosis: With the characters of the family.

Etymology: The name of the genus alludes to the branching pattern of the gastrovascular system of the disc.

Type-species: Dendrogramma enigmatica new species.
Etymology: This species has been and still is a great enigma.

Additional species: Dendrogramma discoides new species.
Etymology: This species is named for the shape of the disc.

Figure 3. Dendrogramma enigmatica sp. nov., holotype.
A, B, lateral views; C, aboral view, D, adoral view. Photographs taken after shrinkage.

Jean Just, Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen and Jørgen Olesen. 2014. Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara.
PLoS ONE 9 (9): e102976. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102976

Skinner, Nicole. 2014. Sea creatures add branch to tree of life. Nature. doi: 10.1038/nature.2014.15833.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

[Paleontology • 2015] The Origin of Snakes: revealing the Ecology, Behavior, and Evolutionary History of Early Snakes using Genomics, Phenomics, and the Fossil Record

Reconstruction of the ancestral crown-group snake, based on the new study.
Artwork by Julius Csotonyi.

The highly derived morphology and astounding diversity of snakes has long inspired debate regarding the ecological and evolutionary origin of both the snake total-group (Pan-Serpentes) and crown snakes (Serpentes). Although speculation abounds on the ecology, behavior, and provenance of the earliest snakes, a rigorous, clade-wide analysis of snake origins has yet to be attempted, in part due to a dearth of adequate paleontological data on early stem snakes. Here, we present the first comprehensive analytical reconstruction of the ancestor of crown snakes and the ancestor of the snake total-group, as inferred using multiple methods of ancestral state reconstruction. We use a combined-data approach that includes new information from the fossil record on extinct crown snakes, new data on the anatomy of the stem snakes Najash rionegrina, Dinilysia patagonica, and Coniophis precedens, and a deeper understanding of the distribution of phenotypic apomorphies among the major clades of fossil and Recent snakes. Additionally, we infer time-calibrated phylogenies using both new ‘tip-dating’ and traditional node-based approaches, providing new insights on temporal patterns in the early evolutionary history of snakes.

Comprehensive ancestral state reconstructions reveal that both the ancestor of crown snakes and the ancestor of total-group snakes were nocturnal, widely foraging, non-constricting stealth hunters. They likely consumed soft-bodied vertebrate and invertebrate prey that was subequal to head size, and occupied terrestrial settings in warm, well-watered, and well-vegetated environments. The snake total-group – approximated by the Coniophis node – is inferred to have originated on land during the middle Early Cretaceous (~128.5 Ma), with the crown-group following about 20 million years later, during the Albian stage. Our inferred divergence dates provide strong evidence for a major radiation of henophidian snake diversity in the wake of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, clarifying the pattern and timing of the extant snake radiation. Although the snake crown-group most likely arose on the supercontinent of Gondwana, our results suggest the possibility that the snake total-group originated on Laurasia.

Our study provides new insights into when, where, and how snakes originated, and presents the most complete picture of the early evolution of snakes to date. More broadly, we demonstrate the striking influence of including fossils and phenotypic data in combined analyses aimed at both phylogenetic topology inference and ancestral state reconstruction.

Keywords: Serpentes, Phylogeny, Ancestral state reconstruction, Divergence time estimation, Combined analysis, Fossil tip-dating

Allison Y Hsiang, Daniel J Field, Timothy H Webster, Adam DB Behlke, Matthew B Davis, Rachel A Racicot and Jacques A Gauthier. 2015. The Origin of Snakes: revealing the Ecology, Behavior, and Evolutionary History of Early Snakes using Genomics, Phenomics, and the Fossil Record. BMC Evolutionary Biology. DOI: 10.1186/s12862-015-0358-5.

Limbless triumph: The origin and diversification of snakes -
What did the first snakes look like? via @physorg_com
Data Suggests Legs and Toes in Ancestor of Living Snakes

[Fungi • 2015] Auricularia thailandica • A widely distributed Species (Auriculariaceae, Auriculariales) from Southeastern Asia

เห็ดหูหนู  Auricularia thailandica Bandara & K.D. Hyde
Figure 2. Auricularia thailandica (MFLU 130410, holotype).
a. Basidiocarps. b. Cross-section of the fruitbody. c. Abhymenial hairs. d. Close-up of hymenial layer. e–k. Basidiospores. l. Clamp-connection of a hypha.
Scale bars: b=500 μm, c=50 μm, d=25 μm, e–l =5 μm. (Photos by Asanka R. Bandara).
DOI: 10.11646/phytotaxa.208.2.3


Auricularia is an important genus among the jelly fungi due to its popular consumption and medicinal properties. A new species of Auricularia, A. thailandica is described from fresh collections made from the Philippines, Thailand and Southern China based on morphological and molecular characters. Auricularia thailandica differs from other species by having short and loosely arranged abhymenial hairs on the basidiomata and in the different size of the zones in a cross section of the basidiomata. The species is found to be widely distributed in Southeastern Asia. Phylogenetic relationships were inferred based on the nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region. The new species is introduced with full description and illustrations.

Keywords: Jelly fungi, morphology, phylogeny, taxonomy, Thailand, Fungi


Auricularia thailandica Bandara & K.D. Hyde, sp. nov. (Fig. 2) 
Index Fungorum Number: IF550992, Facesoffungi number: FoF 00467.
Type:— THAILAND. Chiang Mai: Bahn Pa Dheng, Mushroom Research Center, dead wood, 14 August 2013, S.C. Karunarathne K2013117 (MFLU 130410, holotype).

Etymology:— The species epithet “thailandica” refers to the country from where the holotype was collected.

Basidiome:— 2–5 cm diam., short stalks, orbicular to cupulate to auriculiform, semi-transparent, brownish orange, 5C5, ridges and veins seen on abhymenial surface, individual hairs clearly distinguishable, hairs not dense, margins darker brown, 6E8.

Note:— A. thailandica can be distinguished from other species of Auricularia that have short and loosely arranged abhymenial hairs of the basidiomata. Among the species which have a medulla, the size of the zona pilosa of A. thailandica is similar to A. fibrillifera, A. fuscosuccinea, A. minor, A. scissa and A. subglabra (Table 2). The abhymenial hairs of A. fuscosuccinea and A. scissa are gregarious and tufted (Looney et al., 2013). Although A. minor is characterized by short abhymenial hairs the basidiomata are smaller (less than 2 cm) (Malysheva & Bulakh, 2014) than A. thailandica. A. fibrillifera is distinct from A. thailandica in having thick-walled, acute, free or partly fasciculate hairs and thinner zones (Kobayashi, 1981). A. subglabra has solitary, infrequent hairs (Looney et al., 2013). A. subglabra is distinguished from A. thailandica by the lack of abhymenial hairs, with only a few short hairs present at irregular intervals throughout the zona pilosa.

Asanka R. Bandara, Jie Chen, Samantha Karunarathna, Kevin D. Hyde and Pattana Kakumya. 2015. Auricularia thailandica sp. nov. (Auriculariaceae, Auriculariales) A widely distributed Species from Southeastern Asia. Phytotaxa. 208(2): 147–156. DOI: 10.11646/phytotaxa.208.2.3

[Herpetology • 2015] Chalarodon steinkampi • A likely microendemic New Species of Terrestrial Iguana, genus Chalarodon, from Madagascar

Chalarodon steinkampi
Miralles, Glaw, Ratsoavina & Vences, 2015


A new species of the hitherto monotypic genus Chalarodon is described from southern Madagascar and a lectotype (ZMB 4360) is designated for C. madagascariensis Peters, 1854. The new species of terrestrial iguana, Chalarodon steinkampi sp. nov., is defined by several morphological characters and by concordant differentiation in mitochondrial and nuclear DNA with >5% uncorrected pairwise genetic distance in the 16S rRNA gene. It can be most clearly recognized by the presence of smooth (vs. keeled) gular and ventral scales, a spotted pattern extending from flanks onto belly, and an unpigmented throat. The new species is known from only a small area between the villages of Amboasary Sud and Esomony, located west of the Andohahela Massif, while C. madagascariensis appears to be widespread over much of southern and western Madagascar. We highlight the need for further exploration of this unprotected region which might host several other microendemic species.

Keywords: Taxonomy, Chalarodon steinkampi sp. nov., Iguanidae, Oplurinae

Miralles, Aurélien, Frank Glaw, Fanomezana M. Ratsoavina & Miguel Vences. 2015. A likely microendemic New Species of Terrestrial Iguana, genus Chalarodon, from Madagascar. Zootaxa.  3946(2): 201–220. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.3946.2.3

Monday, May 18, 2015

[Herpetology • 2015] The Gerrhonotine genus Coloptychon (Sauria: Anguidae)

An adult male Isthmian Alligator Lizard, Coloptychon rhombifer, from Cerro San Juan de Rincón, Cantón de Osa, Provincia de Puntarenas, Costa Rica, elev. 500 m. For a century, this enigmatic anguid lizard was known from only three specimens. Although more individuals have been found, the lizard is largely a mystery. Its habits in the wild, diet, reproductive behavior, and osteology remain unknown. When approached closely, Coloptychon is prone to bite defensively.
photo: César L. Barrio-Amorós


We discuss the provenance, history, and literature pertaining to the poorly known lizard Coloptychon rhombifer (Anguidae: Gerrhonotinae). We include English translations of both the original description of this species by Peters (1876) and the first extensive re-description by Bocourt (1878) from the German and French, respectively. We report on six recently discovered individuals, increasing the total number known to 13. We also discuss habitat and distribution, ontogenetic variation in color and pattern, and provide pertinent observations of captive behavior.

Key Words: Coloptychon rhombifer, Chiriquí, Costa Rica, Gerrhonotinae, Gerrhonotus, Panama

William W. Lamar, César L. Barrio-Amorós, Quetzal Dwyer, Juan G. Abarca and Roel De Plecker. 2015. The Gerrhonotine genus Coloptychon (Sauria: Anguidae). Mesoamerican Herpetology. 2(1); 88-104.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

[PaleoIchthyology • 2015] A Specimen of Paralycoptera Chang & Chou 1977 (Teleostei: Osteoglossoidei) from Hong Kong (China) with a potential Late Jurassic age that extends the Temporal and Geographical Range of the Genus

Paralycoptera sp. || Hong Kong’s first dinosaur-era fish - a specimen of the Chinese osteoglossoid osteoglossomorph fish 


We describe a Mesozoic fish Paralycoptera sp. (Teleostei: Osteoglossoidei), on the basis of a postcranial skeleton collected from the volcaniclastic mudstones of the Lai Chi Chong Formation of Hong Kong, China. The new finding—representing the city’s first Mesozoic fish—extends the geographical distribution of Paralycoptera from eastern mainland China into Hong Kong, demonstrating a wider distribution than previously appreciated for this genus. A radiometric age for the Lai Chi Chong Formation of 146.6 ± 0.2 Ma implies a temporal range expansion for Paralycoptera of approximately 40 million years back from the Early Cretaceous (∼110 Ma). However, spores found in the Formation suggest an Early Cretaceous age that is consistent with the existing age assignment to Paralycoptera. We argue that the proposed temporal range extension is genuine because it is based on recent high precision radiometric age data, but given the discrepancies with the biostratigraphic ages further investigation is needed to confirm this. This study provides an important step towards revealing Hong Kong’s Mesozoic vertebrate fauna and understanding its relationship to well-studied mainland Chinese ones.

Figure 1: Hong Kong’s first dinosaur-era fish - a specimen of the Chinese osteoglossoid osteoglossomorph fish Paralycoptera sp. 
Image: IVPP

Figure 7: Skeletal reconstruction of Paralycoptera. Reconstructed skeleton of Paralycoptera
(Xu & Chang, 2009; used with the permission of the authors). 

Figure 4: Life reconstruction of Paralycoptera
Illustration: Wu Feixiang, IVPP

Systematic Palaeontology





Lai Chi Chong’s rock strata
 photograph: Tse Tze-kei

Tze-Kei Tse, Michael Pittman​ and Mee-mann Chang. 2015. A Specimen of Paralycoptera Chang & Chou 1977 (Teleostei: Osteoglossoidei) from Hong Kong (China) with a potential Late Jurassic age that extends the Temporal and Geographical Range of the Genus. PeerJ. 3:e865. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.865

Hong Kong’s first identified dinosaur-era vertebrate 
HKU’s Department of Earth Sciences: the fish Paralycoptera lived in Lai Chi Chong more than 140 million years ago