Monday, March 19, 2018

[Crustacea • 2018] A New Yeti Crab Phylogeny: Vent Origins with Indications of Regional Extinction in the East Pacific

Map showing locations of kiwaids and the Cretaceous stem lineage fossil Pristinaspina gelasina in relation to land-masses and mid-ocean ridges.
in Roterman, Lee, Liu, et al., 2018.

The recent discovery of two new species of kiwaid squat lobsters on hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean and in the Pacific sector of the Southern Ocean has prompted a re-analysis of Kiwaid biogeographical history. Using a larger alignment with more fossil calibrated nodes than previously, we consider the precise relationship between Kiwaidae, Chirostylidae and Eumunididae within Chirostyloidea (Decapoda: Anomura) to be still unresolved at present. Additionally, the placement of both new species within a new “Bristly” clade along with the seep-associated Kiwa puravida is most parsimoniously interpreted as supporting a vent origin for the family, rather than a seep-to-vent progression. Fossil-calibrated divergence analysis indicates an origin for the clade around the Eocene-Oligocene boundary in the eastern Pacific ~33–38 Ma, coincident with a lowering of bottom temperatures and increased ventilation in the Pacific deep sea. Likewise, the mid-Miocene (~10–16 Ma) rapid radiation of the new Bristly clade also coincides with a similar cooling event in the tropical East Pacific. The distribution, diversity, tree topology and divergence timing of Kiwaidae in the East Pacific is most consistent with a pattern of extinctions, recolonisations and radiations along fast-spreading ridges in this region and may have been punctuated by large-scale fluctuations in deep-water ventilation and temperature during the Cenozoic; further affecting the viability of Kiwaidae populations along portions of mid-ocean ridge.

Fig 1. Photographs of known kiwaid squat lobsters (“yeti crabs”).
A) Kiwa puravida modified from Thurber et al. [2011]; B) Kiwa sp. Galapagos Microplate; C) Kiwa araonae [2016]; D) Kiwa hirsuta modified from Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) crustacean collection–credit Noémy Mollaret; E) Kiwa tyleri modified from Thatje et al. [2015]; (F) Kiwa sp. SWIR courtesy of David Shale. Scale bars are approximate and represent 10 mm. 

Fig 2. Map showing locations of kiwaids and the Cretaceous stem lineage fossil Pristinaspina gelasina in relation to land-masses and mid-ocean ridges.
 Kiwaid representations are: i) Kiwa puravida ii) Kiwa sp. GM, iii) Kiwa hirsuta, iv) Kiwa araonae v) Kiwa tyleri vi) Kiwa sp. SWIR. Land shapes and ridge positions are modified from the InterRidge Vents Database 2.1 static map ( Areas of mid-ocean ridge in light blue denote unexplored regions that may support Kiwaidae. Spreading ridge abbreviations are as follows: NEPR = Northern East Pacific Rise; SEPR = Southern East Pacific Rise; GR = Galapagos Rift; GM = Galapagos Microplate; PAR = Pacific-Antarctic Ridge; AAR = Australian-Antarctic Ridge; CR = Chile Rise; ESR = East Scotia Ridge; AmAR = American-Antarctic Ridge; SWIR = Southwest Indian Ridge; CIR = Central Indian Ridge; SEIR = Southeast Indian Ridge; MAR = Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Photograph of K. puravida modified from Thurber et al. [2011] and Kiwa hirsuta modified from Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) crustacean collection–credit Noémy Mollaret

This study is an augmentation of Roterman et al. [2013] through the addition of more kiwaids, longer alignments and more fossil calibrations. Tree topologies produced here modify some of the inferences of the previous study. The sister-phyly of Kiwaidae and Chirostylidae within Chirostyloidea is placed in doubt, as are the previous inferences of a seep-to-vent evolutionary progression and a Northern Hemisphere origin for Kiwaidae. Current analyses do support the earlier inference for an East Pacific origin, however, and divergence estimates are broadly similar to previous analyses. Age estimates for the MRCA of Kiwaidae indicate an origin long after the PETM, around the Eocene-Oligocene boundary at a time of deep-water cooling and increased ventilation in the Pacific. Likewise, the rapid radiation of a newly defined Bristly clade appears synchronous with another transition to cooler and more ventilated conditions in the East Pacific during the Middle Miocene. The distribution, diversity, tree topology and divergence timing of vent-associated Kiwaidae in the Pacific is consistent with a pattern of regional extinctions, recolonisations and radiations along fast-spreading ridges over the last 40 million years. This pattern may have been punctuated by large-scale fluctuations in deep-water ventilation and temperature during the Cenozoic; further affecting the viability of Kiwaidae populations along large areas of mid-ocean ridge. The exploration of new vent and seep systems in the Pacific and beyond will help to better resolve the biogeographic history of Kiwaidae and provide new insights into the long-term resilience of metapopulations inhabiting deep-sea chemosynthetic ecosystems.

Christopher Nicolai Roterman, Won-Kyung Lee, Xinming Liu, Rongcheng Lin, Xinzheng Li and Yong-Jin Won. 2018. A New Yeti Crab Phylogeny: Vent Origins with Indications of Regional Extinction in the East Pacific.  PLoS ONE. 13(3): e0194696.  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194696

[Botany • 2018] Begonia adamsensis • A New Species (sect. Baryandra, Begoniaceae) from Luzon Island, the Philippines

Begonia adamsensis 

in Magtoto, Rubite & Austria, 2018.
   DOI:  10.11646/phytotaxa.343.3.10  


Begonia adamsensis from the northern part of Luzon Island is described as a new species endemic to the Philippines. This is the latest addition to the Begonia sect. Baryandra, making the total of Philippine begonias in this section to 56 species. It resembles Begonia hernandioides because its leaves are peltate, with a broad base, acuminate tip, nearly entire margin, and a glabrous peduncle; however, it differs significantly from B. hernandioides because of its broadly ovate red stipule, pubescent petiole, elliptic peltate leaf, pubescent abaxial lamina, and 4 perianth segments in the carpellate flower. Only about 200 individuals were found in a 100-m area that is being developed as a tourist spot in the locality, hence Begonia adamsensis is hereby proposed as critically endangered.

Keywords: BegoniaBaryandra, Philippines, Eudicots

Liezel M. Magtoto, Rosario R. Rubite and Celia Austria. 2018. Begonia adamsensis (sect. Baryandra, Begoniaceae), A New Species from Luzon Island, the Philippines. Phytotaxa. 343(3);  289–292.   DOI:  10.11646/phytotaxa.343.3.10 

[Mammalogy • 2018] Systematics, Distribution and Ecological Analysis of Rodents in Jordan

Acomys russatus lewisi  Atallah, 1967

in Amr, Abu Baker, Qumsiyeh & Eid, 2018.


Distributional and ecological data were given to all rodents of Jordan. The rodent fauna of Jordan consists of 28 species with 20 genera in eight families (Cricetidae, Dipodidae, Gliridae, Hystricidae, Muridae, Myocastoridae, Sciuridae,and Spalacidae), including four introduced species.Keys for families and species were provided, along with diagnosis for each species and cranial illustrations for most species. Habitat preference and zoogeographic affinities of rodents in Jordan were analyzed, as well as their status and conservation.Threat categories and causes of threats on the rodents of Jordan were also analyzed.

        The distribution of rodents in Jordan represents a reflection of their global distribution ranges and habitat preferences. Species associated with the temperate forest of northern Jordan includes Sciurus anomalus and two wood mice, Apodemus mystacinus and A. flavicollis, while non-forested areas are represented by Nannospalax ehrenbergi and Microtus guentheri. Strict sand dwellers include Gerbillus cheesmani and G. gerbillus. Petrophiles associated with sandstone or black lava deserts are exemplified by Acomys russatus, A. r. lewsi, H. indica and S. calurus. Others including: Jaculus jaculus, G. nanus, G. henleyi, Meriones crassus, and M. libycus are all desert-adapted species with wider ranges of distribution where scarce vegetation, wadibeds, and marabs with clay, loess, or gravel surfaces provide foraging grounds and shelter. A single species, Gerbillus dasyurus, exhibits a wide range of distribution over diverse habitat types.

        The rodent fauna of Jordan consists of assemblages of different zoogeographical affinities. Nine, three, and seven were restricted or had most of its range within the Mediterranean, Irano-Turanian, and Saharo Arabian, respectively. Sciurus anomalus, Apodemus sp., Nannospalax ehrenbergi, and Microtus guentheri reached their most southern range of distribution in the Mediterranean regions of Jordan. The distribution of Gerbillus cheesmani extends from Asian deserts in India westwards into the Arabian Peninsula crossing Jordan as its most western range of distribution. Typical rodents of Saharo-Arabian affinities are represented by desert jerboas, gerbils, and jirds. North African species such as G. andersoni, G. gerbillus reached their most eastern distribution in southern Jordan. Both G. henleyi and G. nanus are widely-distributed species across North Africa reaching as far as India to the east, representing most northern outpost for these two species. Sekeetamys calurus is a nearly endemic to the Eastern Mediterranean region within southern Jordan and Sinai. Relicts are represented by Eliomys melanurus and Acomys russatus lewisi.

        Several threats affecting the rodent biodiversity in Jordan were identified including habitat loss and degradation, human disturbance and related activity, legislative and public awareness. The global conservation status of the rodents of Jordan according to the IUCN Red List include 22 species as least concern, one as near threatened (Allactaga euphratica), and one as data deficient (Nannospalax ehrenbergi). According to the regional assessment, one species is critically endangered, three species are considered endangered, one vulnerable.

Keywords: Mammalia, biodiversity, habitat preference, Jordan, rodents, zoogeography

Acomys russatus lewisi Atallah, 1967 

Zuhair S. Amr, Mohammad A. Abu Baker, Mazin Qumsiyeh and  Ehab Eid. 2018.  Systematics, Distribution and Ecological Analysis of Rodents in Jordan. Zootaxa. 4397(1);  1-94.   DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4397.1.1

[Mammalogy • 2017] Rediscovery of the Hispid Hare (Caprolagus hispidus) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal After Three Decades

Caprolagus hispidus (Pearson, 1839)

in Khadka, Yadav, Aryal & Aryal, 2017. 

The critical endangered hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) was first recorded as present in Chitwan, Bardiya and Shuklaphanta National Parks of Nepal in 1984. Since then, the species was recorded only in Bardiya and Suklaphanta National Parks. For more than three decades, it had not been observed in Chitwan National Park (CNP), where it was consequently considered extinct. In January 2016, a new recording for the hispid hare took place in CNP, placing that rare mammal again within CNP mammal assemblages. We reported the first photographic confirmation of the presence (30 Jan 2016) of the species in the CNP after 1984. The presence of hispid hare is confined to isolate patched of grassland of the national park. The population of the hispid hare is rapidly declining due to anthropogenic pressure and grassland fire from its distributed range (only found in Nepal, India, and Bhutan). Therefore, further study about their presence-absence, population status need to do throughout the grassland of the low land of Nepal including the newly rediscovering park.

Keywords: Hipsid hare, Chitwan National Park, new records, small mammals 

Hispid hare individual which was recorded in Chitwan National Park in 2016, as captured by camera-traps. The present recording is the 2nd observation of the species in the region since 1984.
photo: Bed Khadka

Bed Bahadur Khadka, Bhupendra Prasad Yadav, Nurendra Aryal and Achyut Aryal. 2017. Rediscovery of the Hispid Hare (Caprolagus hispidus) in Chitwan National Park, Nepal After Three Decades.   Conservation Science. 5(1); 10-12. DOI:  10.3126/cs.v5i1.18560

Small mammal thought to be extinct rediscovered in Nepal's national park via @physorg_com

Sunday, March 18, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Insular Diversification and Mountain Uplift were Complementary Drivers of Diversification in A Diverse Melanesian Lizard Radiation (Gekkonidae: Cyrtodactylus)

in Tallowin, Tamar, Meiri, et al., 2018.
  DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2018.03.020

• Australo-Papuan Cyrtodactylus geckos initially colonized and diversified within proto-Papuan islands in the early to mid-Miocene.
• Diversification was predominantly localized within distinct geological regions.
• Montane uplift played a critical role in the diversification of the regions Cyrtodactylus.

Regions with complex geological histories present a major challenge for scientists studying the processes that have shaped their biotas. The history of the vast and biologically rich tropical island of New Guinea is particularly complex and poorly resolved. Competing geological models propose New Guinea emerged as a substantial landmass either during the Mid-Miocene or as recently as the Pliocene. Likewise, the estimated timing for the uplift of the high Central Cordillera, spanning the length of the island, differs across models. Here we investigate how early islands and mountain uplift have shaped the diversification and biogeography of Cyrtodactylus geckos. Our data strongly support initial colonisation and divergence within proto-Papuan islands in the Early- to Mid-Miocene, with divergent lineages and endemic diversity concentrated on oceanic island arcs in northern New Guinea and the formerly isolated East-Papuan Composite Terrane. At least four lineages are inferred to have independently colonised hill- and lower-montane forests, indicating that mountain uplift has also played a critical role in accumulating diversity, even in this predominantly lowland lineage. Our findings suggest that substantial land in northern New Guinea and lower-montane habitats date back well into the Miocene and that insular diversification and mountain colonisation have synergistically generated diversity in the geologically complex Papuan region.

Keywords: biogeography; geology; Papuan region; time calibration

Oliver J.S. Tallowin, Karin Tamar, Shai Meiri, Allen Allison, Fred Kraus, Stephen J. Richards and Paul M. Oliver. 2018.  Insular Diversification and Mountain Uplift were Complementary Drivers of Diversification in A Diverse Melanesian Lizard Radiation (Gekkonidae: Cyrtodactylus).  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2018.03.020

[Arachnida • 2018] Repeated Diversification of Ecomorphs in Hawaiian Stick Spiders, Ariamnes spp.

Gillespie, Benjamin, Brewer, et al., 2018.

• Hawaiian stick spiders show adaptive radiation with repeated evolution of ecomorphs
• This phenomenon is found in only a few adaptive radiations of island insectivores
• Camouflage against a finite set of predators and wandering habit play key roles
• Limited pathways for the development of color contribute to deterministic evolution

Insular adaptive radiations in which repeated bouts of diversification lead to phenotypically similar sets of taxa serve to highlight predictability in the evolutionary process. However, examples of such replicated events are rare. Cross-clade comparisons of adaptive radiations are much needed to determine whether similar ecological opportunities can lead to the same outcomes. Here, we report a heretofore uncovered adaptive radiation of Hawaiian stick spiders (Theridiidae, Ariamnes) in which different species exhibit a set of discrete ecomorphs associated with different microhabitats. The three primary ecomorphs (gold, dark, and matte white) generally co-occur in native forest habitats. Phylogenetic reconstruction mapped onto the well-known chronosequence of the Hawaiian Islands shows both that this lineage colonized the islands only once and relatively recently (2–3 mya, when Kauai and Oahu were the only high islands in the archipelago) and that the distinct ecomorphs evolved independently multiple times following colonization of new islands. This parallel evolution of ecomorphs matches that of “spiny-leg” long-jawed spiders (Tetragnathidae, Tetragnatha), also in Hawaii. Both lineages are free living, and both have related lineages in the Hawaiian Islands that show quite different patterns of diversification with no evidence of deterministic evolution. We argue that repeated evolution of ecomorphs results from a rugged adaptive landscape, with the few peaks associated with camouflage for these free-living taxa against the markedly low diversity of predators on isolated islands. These features, coupled with a limited genetic toolbox and reduced dispersal between islands, appear to be common to situations of repeated evolution of ecomorphs.

Figure 2. Ecological Forms of the Hawaiian Ariamnes Colored boxes around images show the different ecomorphs: matte white, dark, and gold.
 (A) Ariamnes huinakolu; Kauai, Makalehas; July 2008. (B) A. sp.; Kauai, Pihea; November 2016. (C) A. kahili; Kauai, Wailua River; November 2016. (D) A. sp.; Oahu, Pahole; August 2008. (E) A. makue; Oahu, Kaala; November 2016. (F) A. uwepa; Oahu, Poamoho; November 2016. (G) A. corniger; East Maui; November 2016. (H) A. laau; East Maui; July 2013. (I) A. sp.; Molokai; November 2016. (J) A. waikula on web of Orsonwelles; Hawaii; July 2013. (K) A. hiwa; Hawaii; July 2014. (L) A. waikula; Hawaii, Saddle Road; July 2013.

Note that all of the gold forms—(C), (F), (I), and (L)—can exhibit color polymorphism, with red superimposed on the gold, as shown in (I). Photo credits: G. Roderick, (A–J), A. Rominger, (K), D. Cotoras, (L). Insets (B1, F1, and G1) show details of the guanine structure of the respective forms.

Ariamnes corniger, a stick spider from East Maui, Hawaiian Archipelago. This white matte ecomorph is cryptic against lichen.
 photo: George Roderick

Gold Molokai spider.
photo: George Roderick

An undescribed species of Ariamnes from Kauai, Hawaiian Archipelago. It is an example of the dark ecomorph.
photo: George Roderick 

Rosemary G. Gillespie, Suresh P. Benjamin, Michael S. Brewer, Malia Ana J. Rivera and George K. Roderick. 2018.  Repeated Diversification of Ecomorphs in Hawaiian Stick Spiders. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.083

How brightly colored spiders evolved on Hawaii again and again... and again   @physorg_com

[Herpetology • 2018] Rediscovery and a Redescription of the Crooked-Acklins Boa, Chilabothrus schwartzi (Buden, 1975)

Chilabothrus schwartzi  (Buden, 1975)

in Reynolds, Puente-Rolón, Burgess & Baker, 2018. 
DOI:  10.3099/MCZ46.1 

The Crooked-Acklins Bank, a component of the southern Bahamas Archipelago, supports a terrestrial herpetofauna largely in common with other islands in the region, including a boid snake. This boa, Chilabothrus chrysogaster schwartzi (Buden, 1975), was considered a subspecies of the Southern Bahamas Boa complex (Chilabothrus chrysogaster), although the original description was based on limited specimen material. As the author of the original description used recently deceased specimens collected by locals, no description of living animals exists. Since its description in 1975 and the associated collection of four type specimens, no additional boas from Crooked-Acklins have been reported in the literature. In addition, to the best of our knowledge, no photographs of live specimens have been published, and no juveniles have been described. For these reasons, it has been suggested that the subspecies is either extremely rare or possibly extirpated from the bank. Here we report the first four living boas from the Crooked-Acklins Bank, including both juveniles and an adult. We present the first photographs of and morphological data from live wild specimens, including habitat descriptions and natural history observations. We conducted a phylogenetic analysis of these boas using maximum-likelihood and Bayesian approaches, as well as divergence time analyses, finding that the Crooked-Acklins Boa is a distinct species sister to the recently described Silver Boa (C. argentum), and is not closely related to C. chrysogaster populations. The distinctness of this taxon is also supported by known morphological and meristic characters. We describe the species as the Crooked-Acklins Boa, elevating the epithet C. schwartzi (Buden, 1975) comb. nov. to refer to boas of this genus from the Crooked and Acklins banks, Bahamas—the 13th species of Chilabothrus. We further assess the systematics of the Southern Bahamas Boa (C. chrysogaster) and the central Bahamas boas (C. strigilatus, C. argentum, and C. schwartzi) with novel sequence data for these lineages.

Keywords: Boidae, Caribbean, Chilabothrus, mtDNA, phylogenetics, systematics

Chilabothrus schwartzi (Buden, 1975) comb. nov. 
Crooked-Acklins Boa

Figure 6. A, close-up view of the head of a juvenile Chilabothrus schwartzi. Photo by Joseph P. Burgess.
Bin-situ photo of a juvenile Cschwartzi as discovered. Photo by Alberto R. Puente-Rolón.

R. Graham Reynolds, Alberto R. Puente-Rolón, Joseph P. Burgess and Brian O. Baker. 2018. Rediscovery and a Redescription of the Crooked-Acklins Boa, Chilabothrus schwartzi (Buden, 1975), Comb. Nov. Breviora. 558; 1-16.  DOI:  10.3099/MCZ46.1


[Botany • 2018] Hedychium putaoense • A New Species (Zingiberaceae) from Putao, Kachin State, Northern Myanmar

Hedychium putaoense  Y.H. Tan & H.B. Ding

in Ding, Bin, Zhou, et al., 2018.

Hedychium putaoense Y.H. Tan & H.B. Ding, a new species of Zingiberaceae from Putao, Kachin state, Northern Myanmar, is described and illustrated. It is similar to H. densiflorum Wall. and H. longipedunculatum A.R.K. Sastry & D.M. Verma, but differs by its very small bract (4–6 × 2.5–3 mm vs. 18–19 × 5–5.5 mm and ca. 11 × 7 mm, respectively), semicircle and dark red bracteole, orange flower and broadly falcate to lanceolate lateral staminodes.

Keywords: Hedychium, Myanmar, Taxonomy, Morphology, Zingiberaceae



Figure 1. Hedychium putaoense Y.H. Tan & H.B. Ding. 
a–b Habit c–d Inflorescence e–f Front and lateral view of flower g Bract h Bracteole i Calyx j–k Corolla lobe l–m Lateral staminodes n Labellum o Corolla tube with anther and calyx p Ovary with pistil and glands.

Photographed by Y.H. Tan & H.B. Ding.

Hedychium putaoense Y.H.Tan & H.B.Ding, sp. nov.

Diagnosis: Hedychium putaoense Y.H. Tan & H.B. Ding is morphologically similar to H. densiflorum Wall. and H. longipedunculatum A.R.K. Sastry & D.M. Verma, but it can be easily distinguished by its very small bract (4–6 × 2.5–3 mm vs. 18–19 × 5–5.5 mm and ca. 11 × 7 mm, respectively) and bracteole (2–2.5 × 3–3.5 mm vs. ca. 9 × 2 mm and ca. 6 × 4 mm, respectively), orange flower and broadly falcate to lanceolate lateral staminodes.

Distribution and habitat: This new species is known to grow at the top of the mountain from Masabu village to Namti village, Putao District, Kachin State, where it grows epiphytically on the trees of tropical montane forests at an elevation of ca. 1400–1800 m.

Etymology: The species is named after the type locality, Putao county, in Kachin State, Myanmar.

 Hong-Bo Ding, Yang Bin, Shi-Shun Zhou, Ren Li, Mya Bhone Maw, Win Maung Kyaw and Yun-Hong Tan. 2018. Hedychium putaoense (Zingiberaceae), A New Species from Putao, Kachin State, Northern Myanmar. In: Jin X-H, Shui Y-M, Tan Y-H, Kang M (Eds) Plant Diversity in Southeast Asia. PhytoKeys. 94: 51-57.  DOI: 10.3897/phytokeys.94.22065

Friday, March 16, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Gephyromantis lomorina • A Distinctive New Frog Species (Anura, Mantellidae) supports the Biogeographic Linkage of Two Montane Rainforest Massifs in northern Madagascar

Gephyromantis (Vatomantis) lomorina 
Scherz, Hawlitschek, Razafindraibe, Megson, Ratsoavina, Rakotoarison, Bletz, Glaw & Vences, 2018

We describe a new species of the genus Gephyromantis, subgenus Gephyromantis Vatomantis (Mantellidae, Mantellinae), from moderately high elevation (1164–1394 m a.s.l.) on the Marojejy, Sorata, and Andravory Massifs in northern Madagascar. The new species, Gephyromantis (Vatomantis) lomorina sp. n. is highly distinct from all other species, and was immediately recognisable as an undescribed taxon upon its discovery. It is characterised by a granular, mottled black and green skin, reddish eyes, paired subgular vocal sacs of partly white colour, bulbous femoral glands present only in males and consisting of three large granules, white ventral spotting, and a unique, amplitude-modulated advertisement call consisting of a series of 24–29 rapid, quiet notes at a dominant frequency of 5124–5512 Hz. Genetically the species is also strongly distinct from its congeners, with uncorrected pairwise distances ≥10 % in a fragment of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene to all other nominal Gephyromantis species. A molecular phylogeny based on 16S sequences places it in a clade with species of the subgenera Laurentomantis and Vatomantis, and we assign it to the latter subgenus based on its morphological resemblance to members of Vatomantis. We discuss the biogeography of reptiles and amphibians across the massifs of northern Madagascar, the evidence for a strong link between Marojejy and Sorata, and the role of elevation in determining community sharing across this landscape.

Key Words: Bioacoustics, Biogeography, Marojejy, Montane Endemism, Sorata, Taxonomy

Figure 2. The holotype of Gephyromantis lomorina sp. n., ZSM 419/2016 (ZCMV 15221) in life.
(a) Dorsal; (b) ventral; and (c) dorsolateral view. Scale bars indicate 5 mm. 

Gephyromantis (Vatomantis) lomorina sp. n. 

Diagnosis: A species assigned to the genus Gephyromantis on the basis of its granular skin, moderately enlarged finger tips, small femoral glands consisting of a small number of large granules and present in males only (thus of type 2 as defined by Glaw et al. 2000), and bifid tongue. Within the genus Gephyromantis, assigned to the subgenus Vatomantis on the basis of its small size, connected lateral metatarsalia, absence of an outer metatarsal tubercle, paired subgular vocal sacs of partly whitish colour, greenish skin colouration, and riparian ecology. Gephyromantis lomorina sp. n. is characterized by the possession of the following suite of morphological characters: (1) granular skin, (2) reddish eyes, (3) mottled green and black skin, (4) males with paired subgular vocal sacs of partly white colour, (5) males with bulbous type 2 femoral glands consisting of a small number (2–3) of large granules, (6) white spots on the venter, (7) SVL 20.2–25.5 mm, and (8) fourth finger much longer than second. Furthermore, the species is characterised by distinctive, 1681–1827 ms advertisement calls of relatively low intensity, consisting of 24–30 individual pulsed notes, with 2–4 pulses per note, an inter-note interval of 41–75 ms, and a dominant frequency of 5124–5555 Hz. DNA sequence data from the 16S gene fragment supports the high divergence of this taxon to all other Gephyromantis, and is in agreement with its subgeneric assignment, albeit without statistical support (Fig. 1).

Etymology: The specific epithet is the Malagasy word lomorina, meaning ‘covered in moss’, in reference to the green, mossy appearance of the species in life. It is used as an invariable noun in apposition to the genus name.

Available names: There are no other, earlier names currently available (e.g., junior synonyms) that are assignable to the subgenera Vatomantis or Laurentomantis and that could apply to the new species.

Distribution: The new species is known from three localities in northeastern Madagascar: (1) Marojejy National Park (type locality), (2) Sorata massif, and (3) Andravory massif (Fig. 6). All specimens were collected between 1164 and 1394 m a.s.l.
Natural history: Specimens were collected near mountain streams in pristine montane riparian rainforest (Fig. 4g). In Marojejy National Park they were encountered during and after light rain, sitting in inconspicuous locations, especially on the fronds of tree ferns, but also on other low vegetation, between a few centimetres and up to 2 m above the ground. Specimens in Sorata were found in similar positions during dry weather, in the days just before the beginning of the rainy season. Males called irregularly and softly (see the call description above). Population density in Marojejy was remarkably high, with around three or four individuals being found along a 10 m stretch of stream. The observed density in Sorata was lower, possibly due to the absence of rain during the observation period. The species occurred in close sympatry with a number of other mantellids, but only few of these (especially Mantidactylus aff. femoralis) were found in the same microhabitat. Several specimens from Marojejy had pinkish mites (probably of the genus Endotrombicula; see Wohltmann et al. 2007) embedded within translucent whitish pustules on the skin of their fingers, toes, and bodies. Nothing is known about the reproduction of this species, but the calling sites suggest an association with lotic water.

Figure 3. Morphological and chromatic variation among paratypes of Gephyromantis (Vatomantis) lomorina sp. n. from Marojejy in life.
 (a–b) ZSM 420/2016; (c–d) UADBA 60296; (e–f) UADBA 60295; and (g–h) ZSM 418/2016. Scale bars indicate 2 mm. 

Figure 4. Photographs of Gephyromantis (Vatomantis) lomorina sp. n. and its habitat in Sorata.
 (a,d) ZSM 1545/2012; (b,e) ZSM 1547/2012; and (c,f) ZSM 1549/2012, not to scale;
 (g) habitat where several specimens were found in Sorata, showing (h,i) the appearance of the species in situ whilst calling at night.

 Mark D. Scherz, Oliver Hawlitschek, Jary H. Razafindraibe, Steven Megson, Fanomezana Mihaja Ratsoavina, Andolalao Rakotoarison, Molly C. Bletz, Frank Glaw and Miguel Vences. 2018. A Distinctive New Frog Species (Anura, Mantellidae) supports the Biogeographic Linkage of Two Montane Rainforest Massifs in northern Madagascar. Zoosystematics and Evolution. 94(2); 247-261. DOI:  10.3897/zse.94.21037

[Paleontology • 2018] Ascendonanus nestleri • First Arboreal 'Pelycosaurs' (Synapsida: Varanopidae) from the early Permian Chemnitz Fossil Lagerstätte, SE Germany, with A Review of Varanopid Phylogeny

 Ascendonanus nestleri 
Spindler, Werneburg, Schneider, Luthardt, Annacker & Rößler, 2018

   DOI: 10.1007/s12542-018-0405-9 
  Artwork by F. Spindler

A new fossil amniote from the Fossil Forest of Chemnitz (Sakmarian-Artinskian transition, Germany) is described as Ascendonanus nestleri gen. et sp. nov., based on five articulated skeletons with integumentary preservation. The slender animals exhibit a generalistic, lizard-like morphology. However, their synapsid temporal fenestration, ventrally ridged centra and enlarged iliac blades indicate a pelycosaur-grade affiliation. Using a renewed data set for certain early amniotes with a similar typology found Ascendonanus to be a basal varanopid synapsid. This is the first evidence of a varanopid from Saxony and the third from Central Europe, as well as the smallest varanopid at all. Its greatly elongated trunk, enlarged autopodia and strongly curved unguals, along with taphonomical observations, imply an arboreal lifestyle in a dense forest habitat until the whole ecosystem was buried under volcanic deposits. Ascendonanus greatly increases the knowledge on rare basal varanopids; it also reveals a so far unexpected ecotype of early synapsids. Its integumentary structures present the first detailed and soft tissue skin preservation of any Paleozoic synapsid. Further systematic results suggest a varanodontine position for Mycterosaurus, the monophyly of South African varanopids including Anningia and the distinction of a skeletal aggregation previously assigned to Heleosaurus, now renamed as Microvaranops parentis gen. et sp. nov.

Keywords: Arboreality, Synapsid phylogeny, Adaptation, Cisuralian, Soft tissue preservation, Volcanic taphonomy

Fig. 14 Counterslabs of MNC-TA1045 of Ascendonanus nestleri gen. et sp. nov.
Scale bar measures 2 cm


Systematic Paleontology
(unranked) Synapsida Osborn, 1903

Family Varanopidae Romer and Price, 1940

Remarks. Spelling after Reisz and Dilkes 2003, 
replacing ‘Varanopsidae’ (Romer and Price 1940) and 
‘Varanopseidae’ (Langston and Reisz 1981).

Ascendonanus nestleri gen. et sp. nov.

Fig. 34: Life reconstruction of a new varanopid synapsid, Ascendonanus nestleri, from the Permian petrified forest of Chemnitz, Germany. Body proportions, integument and arboreality were concluded from five specimens.  
Artwork by F. Spindler 

Etymology. Latin for 'climbing dwarf,' with epithet honoring Mr. Knut Nestler, citizen scientist from Chemnitz, who passed away in 2016 after decades of friendship and deeply appreciated cooperation with the Chemnitz Museum.

Frederik Spindler, Ralf Werneburg, Joerg W. Schneider, Ludwig Luthardt, Volker Annacker and Ronny Rößler. 2018. First Arboreal 'Pelycosaurs' (Synapsida: Varanopidae) from the early Permian Chemnitz Fossil Lagerstätte, SE Germany, with A Review of Varanopid Phylogeny. PalZ.  DOI: 10.1007/s12542-018-0405-9

Vortrag: Saurier unter Chemnitz – neue Erkenntnisse aus dem Versteinerten Wald


Abstract: The palaeontological collection of Chemnitz has been a constantly growing, developing and limitless source of knowledge on the relation of earth’s history and the development of life on earth, for over three centuries. Initially founded by science interested citizens on a voluntary basis, only with the premise to enable public access to collections and scientific information, it has developed and has been structuralized based on professional geoscientific considerations. Today, the collection is preserved, added to through selected purchases, diversely used and it serves as a foundation for globally linked up scientific research, as well as for interdisciplinary exhibitions and diverse educational programs and activities. The essence of the collection documents the evolution and preservation of terrestrial ecosystems with a special emphasis on volcanic environments and petrified wood.

Ronny Rößler and Thorid Zierold. 2017. Die paläontologische Sammlung des Museums für Naturkunde Chemnitz – eine Zeitreise zu den Wurzeln der Paläobotanik. Veröff. Museum für Naturkunde Chemnitz. 40; 5-30.

[Herpetology • 2018] Reproductive Biology and Maternal Care of Neonates in southern African Python (Python natalensis)

 Neonate southern African pythons (Python natalensis) basking at the entrance to the nest chamber.

in  Alexander. 2018.  DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12554

Reproductive strategies such as parental care have been pivotal in evolutionary innovations such as endothermy in birds and mammals. The diversity of reproductive biology across the squamates provides a unique opportunity for elucidating the selective forces responsible for the evolution of various reproductive strategies. Here, I report on the reproductive biology of the southern African python (Python natalensis), based on a 7-year study of free-ranging pythons, revealing a behavioural complexity not usually expected for snakes. Mating occurred in the austral winter, with individual males following females for more than 2 months. As is typical for pythons, females brooded eggs by coiling around the clutch. Females are capital breeders; they lost ~40% body mass during a breeding event and did not breed in consecutive years. There was no evidence of the facultative thermogenesis that has been reported in congeners, suggesting that facultative thermogenesis has arisen independently more than once in Python. Reproductive females thermoregulated more carefully than non-reproductives, maintaining higher, more stable Tbs at all stages of reproduction, especially while brooding. This was achieved by a stereotypic basking regime facilitated by ‘facultative melanism’, with females darkening significantly for the entire breeding event. Mothers remained with neonates at the nest site for approximately 2 weeks after hatching. During this time, mothers alternated between brief bouts of basking on the surface and coiling around the hatched eggs, on which the neonates rested. Neonates formed an aggregation near the burrow entrance to bask during the day, individually returning to the nest intermittently throughout the day. During the night, neonates remained within the mother's coils on the hatched eggs. This study highlights the diversity of reproductive biology within Python and cautions against generalization in this regard. This is the first unambiguous report of maternal care of neonates in an oviparous snake.

Figure 4.  Neonate southern African pythons (Python natalensis) basking at the entrance to the nest chamber.
 Some of the neonates have already undergone their first shed.

G. J. Alexander. 2018. Reproductive Biology and Maternal Care of Neonates in southern African Python (Python natalensis).  Journal of Zoology.  DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12554

New insights into how southern African pythons look after their babies
'Cold-blooded' pythons make for caring moms via @physorg_com