Wednesday, January 17, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Nototriton costaricense • A New Moss Salamander, Genus Nototriton (Caudata: Plethodontidae), from the Cordillera de Talamanca, in the Costa Rica-Panama Border Region

Nototriton costaricense   Arias & Kubicki, 2018


A new salamander belonging to the genus Nototriton, subgenus Nototriton, is described from the Caribbean slopes of the southeastern Cordillera de Talamanca in Costa Rica, within Parque Internacional La Amistad, at an elevation ca. 1500 m a.s.l. This new taxon is distinguished from its congeners by its morphological characteristics and by its differentiation in DNA sequences of the 16S rRNA, cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI), and cytochrome b mitochondrial genes. This new species represents the southernmost extension known for the genus Nototriton.

Keywords: Amphibia, caudate, Central America, Nototriton picadoi species group, Talamanca

FIGURE 5. Views of the nostrils of Nototriton costaricense sp. nov.
Photograph taken by Brian Kubicki.

Nototriton costaricense sp. nov. 
Southern Moss Salamander


Etymology. The specific epithet refers to the Spanish word meaning Costa Rican, “costaricense”. The name represents the fact that the holotype and species was discovered in Costa Rica. Given the close proximity of the type locality to the Costa Rica-Panama border, we speculate that one day it may indeed be discovered within Panama as well.

 Erick Arias and Brian Kubicki. 2018. A New Moss Salamander, Genus Nototriton (Caudata: Plethodontidae), from the Cordillera de Talamanca, in the Costa Rica-Panama border region. Zootaxa. 4369(4); 487–500.  DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4369.4.2
A new species of Moss Salamander

[Botany • 2018] Begonia namkadingensis • A New Species (Begoniaceae) in Limestone Area [Flora of Nam Kading National Protected Area III]

Begonia namkadingensis C.-J. Yang, Souladeth & Tagane

in Yang, Tagane, Souladeth, Okabe, Hu & Yahara, 2018
ສົ້ມກົບນໍ້າກະດິງ ||  DOI:  10.11646/phytotaxa.334.2.8 


A new species of Begonia (Begoniaceae), Begonia namkadingensis, is described. This species was collected on moist mossy limestone rocks in the Nam Kading National Protected Area in central Laos during our field survey in 2017. The species resembles B. pteridiformis, which is endemic to Peninsular Thailand, but can be distinguished by its smaller habit, fewer and smaller leaves, less hairy stems and leaves, narrower inner dorsal tepal of pistillate flowers, fewer stamens, and smaller fruits.

Keywords: DNA barcoding, flora, Laos, new species, sect. Lauchea, sect. Parvibegonia, taxonomy, Eudicots

Chen-Jui Yang, Shuichiro Tagane, Phetlasy Souladeth, Norikazu Okabe, Jer-Ming Hu and Tetsukazu Yahara. 2018. Flora of Nam Kading National Protected Area III: Begonia namkadingensis (Begoniaceae), A New Species in Limestone Area. Phytotaxa.  334(2); 195-199. DOI:  10.11646/phytotaxa.334.2.8

ຕີພິມແລ້ວ, ພືດຊະນິດໃໝ່ຂອງໂລກ ຈາກປ່າສະຫງວນນໍ້າກະດິງ! 
ສົ້ມກົບນໍ້າກະດິງ (ຊື່ລາວ) ຫຼື Begonia namkadingensis C.-J. Yang, Souladeth & Tagane ຕະກຸນ Begoniaceae (2018) Phytotaxa 334(2)

[Ornithology • 2018] Structural Absorption by Barbule Microstructures of Super Black Bird of Paradise Feathers

Magnificent Riflebird Ptiloris magnificus during courtship display.

in  McCoy, Feo, Harvey & Prum, 2018.
photo: Tim Laman || DOI:  10.1038/s41467-017-02088-w 

Many studies have shown how pigments and internal nanostructures generate color in nature. External surface structures can also influence appearance, such as by causing multiple scattering of light (structural absorption) to produce a velvety, super black appearance. Here we show that feathers from five species of birds of paradise (Aves: Paradisaeidae) structurally absorb incident light to produce extremely low-reflectance, super black plumages. Directional reflectance of these feathers (0.05–0.31%) approaches that of man-made ultra-absorbent materials. SEM, nano-CT, and ray-tracing simulations show that super black feathers have titled arrays of highly modified barbules, which cause more multiple scattering, resulting in more structural absorption, than normal black feathers. Super black feathers have an extreme directional reflectance bias and appear darkest when viewed from the distal direction. We hypothesize that structurally absorbing, super black plumage evolved through sensory bias to enhance the perceived brilliance of adjacent color patches during courtship display.

Magnificent Riflebird Bird of Paradise Ptiloris magnificus male displaying to female.
 photo: Tim Laman

Fig. 1  Six species of birds of paradise and one close relative.
a, b Species with normal black plumage patches. cg Species with super black plumage patches.

a Paradise-crow Lycocorax pyrrhopterus. b Lesser Melampitta Melampitta lugubris, a Papuan corvoid closely related to birds of paradise.
c Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia Astrapia stephaniae. d Twelve-wired Birds-of-Paradise Seleucidis melanoleucus. e Paradise Riflebird Ptiloris paradiseus during courtship display. f Wahnes’ Parotia Parotia wahnesi. g Superb Bird-of-Paradise Lophorina superba during courtship display with female (brown plumage).

Photos: a @Hanom Bashari/Burung Indonesia; b Daniel López-Velasco; c Trans Niugini Tours; d–f Tim Laman; g Ed Scholes.  DOI:  10.1038/s41467-017-02088-w 

Fig. 3 Examples of normal and super black feather microstructure.
 a SEM micrograph of Lycocorax pyrrhopterus normal black feather with typical barbule morphology; scale bar, 200 µm. b SEM micrograph of Parotia wahnesi super black feather with modified barbule arrays; scale bar, 50 µm. c Gold sputter-coated normal black breast feather of Melampitta lugubris appears gold. d Gold sputter-coated super black breast feather of Ptiloris paradiseus retains a black appearance indicating structural absorption. SEM stubs are 12.8 mm in diameter.

A comparison of a normal feather, top left, and a feather from a paradise riflebird, top right.
The bottom panels are the feathers coated in gold. Notice how the riflebird’s still appears a deep black.
photos: Dakota McCoy 

Dakota E. McCoy, Teresa Feo, Todd Alan Harvey and Richard O. Prum. 2018. Structural Absorption by Barbule Microstructures of Super Black Bird of Paradise Feathers. Nature Communications. 9, Article number: 1. DOI:  10.1038/s41467-017-02088-w

Evolved illusion: Blackest black gives bird of paradise an edge

[Arachnida • 2018] A Review of the Madagascan Pelican Spiders of the Genera Eriauchenius O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1881 and Madagascarchaea gen. n. (Araneae, Archaeidae)

Eriauchenius workmani O. P.-Cambridge, 1881

 Photo: Nikolaj Scharff/Smithsonian Institution

Wood & Scharff. 2018.  

An endemic genus of Madagascan spiders (Araneae, Archaeidae, Eriauchenius) is revised. All 20 species of Eriauchenius are described and keyed, of which 14 are new speciesEriauchenius andriamanelo sp. n., Eriauchenius andrianampoinimerina sp. n., Eriauchenius goodmani sp. n., Eriauchenius harveyi sp. n., Eriauchenius lukemacaulayi sp. n., Eriauchenius milajaneae sp. n., Eriauchenius milloti sp. n., Eriauchenius rafohy sp. n., Eriauchenius ranavalona sp. n., Eriauchenius rangita sp. n., Eriauchenius rixi sp. n., Eriauchenius sama sp. n., Eriauchenius wunderlichi sp. n., Eriauchenius zirafy sp. n. Additionally, six species of the new genus Madagascarchaea gen. n. are described and keyed, of which four are new species: Madagascarchaea fohy sp. n., Madagascarchaea lotzi sp. n., Madagascarchaea moramora sp. n., Madagascarchaea rabesahala sp. n. Diagnostic characters for the Madagascan and African genera are described, and based on these characters and previous phylogenetic analyses the following species transfers are proposed: Eriauchenius cornutus (Lotz, 2003) to AfrarchaeaAfrarchaea fisheri (Lotz, 2003) and Afrarchaea mahariraensis (Lotz, 2003) to Eriauchenius. Finally, we propose that the distribution of Afrarchaea be restricted to South Africa. While several Madagascan specimens have previously been identified as Afrarchaea godfreyi (Hewitt, 1919), we argue that these are likely misidentifications that should instead be Eriauchenius.

Keywords: Afrarchaea, Palpimanoidea, new species, taxonomy

Suspended upside-down from a strand of silk, the male of species Eriauchenius workmani (right) slowly approaches the female (left) to mate. As he approaches, he makes sounds by quickly vibrating his pedipalps (a small, modified pair of legs) to court the female. She answers back by vibrating her pedipalps.
(photo: Jeremy Miller) 


 Hannah M. Wood and Nikolaj Scharff. 2018. A Review of the Madagascan Pelican Spiders of the Genera Eriauchenius O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1881 and Madagascarchaea gen. n. (Araneae, Archaeidae). ZooKeys. 727: 1-96.  DOI:  10.3897/zookeys.727.20222

Madagascar's ancient 'pelican spiders' are as striking as they are strange @NMNH via @SmithsonianMag
18 New Terrifying Assassin Spider Species Look Like Pelicans
18 species of pelican spiders with salad-tong faces discovered

[Mammalogy • 2017] Cheirogaleus grovesi • A New Cheirogaleus (Cheirogaleidae: Cheirogaleus crossleyi Group) Species from Southeastern Madagascar

Cheirogaleus grovesi
McLain, Lei, Frasier, Taylor, Bailey, Robertson, Nash, Randriamanana, Mittermeier & Louis, 2017

 Primate Conservation. 31;

 A new species in the genus Cheirogaleus is described from Ranomafana and Andringitra national parks, Madagascar. Ranomafana National Park is a rainforest situated in a montane region, and Andringitra National Park is comprised of grassland, lowland and highland forests displaying great altitudinal variation. Both parks are known to harbor wide species diversity in flora and fauna. Genetic and morphometric analyses of the samples collected at these localities confirmed that this Cheirogaleus lineage represents a new species in the C. crossleyi group, and here we elevate it to species status as Cheirogaleus grovesi, for the British-Australian biological anthropologist, evolutionary biologist and taxonomist Colin Groves.

Key Words: Cheirogaleus, dwarf lemur, cryptic species, Madagascar

Figure 2. Illustration of Cheirogaleus sp. nov. 2 and closely related species (Fig. 8 in Lei et al. 2014), Illustrations by Stephen D. Nash (Conservation International).
   Top left panel represents a lateral view of Cheirogaleus sp nov. 2 = C. grovesi, top right panel includes all lineages in the Cheirogaleus crossleyi group. 

Bottom photographs are of the holotype of Cheirogaleus sp. nov. 2 (TRA8.81) at Andringitra National Park.
Photographs by Edward E. Louis, Jr. 

the holotype of Cheirogaleus grovesi sp. nov. (TRA8.81) at Andringitra National Park. 
Photographs by Edward E. Louis, Jr

 Cheirogaleus grovesi
 Formerly Cheirogaleus sp. nov. 2, also CCS3/Crossleyi D (Lei et al. 2014), 
also Cheirogaleus sp. Ranomafana Andrambovato (Thiele et al. 2013).

Description. The dorsum, limbs, and head are rufous-brown. The areas around the orbits are brownish-black, with a white patch proximal to the fleshy part of the nose in the inter-ocular space. The pelage on the ventral surface of the mandible is white, which continues onto the rufous-grey pelage of the ventrum.


Distribution. Cheirogaleus grovesi is known from the national parks of Ranomafana and Andringitra, as well as surrounding areas, and likely occupies a fragmented range between the two parks across the Haute Matsiatra region of Madagascar. Observed at 754–999 m above sea level (Fig. 3).

Etymology. This species is named for the late British-Australian biological anthropologist, Professor Colin Groves (1942- 2017), in recognition of his more than forty years of work in the fields of primatology, evolutionary biology, morphological analysis, mammalian taxonomy and associated disciplines. Professor Groves embodied the true spirit of collaboration. His fastidious research on historical collections incorporated the work of those that preceded him, which he combined with the efforts of his contemporaries, creating compositions that span hundreds of years of scientific exploration. At the time of his passing, Professor Groves was widely regarded as the greatest living primate taxonomist.

Vernacular Names. Groves’, Andringitra, or Haute Matsiatra dwarf lemur.


 Adam T. McLain, Runhua Lei, Cynthia L. Frasier, Justin M. Taylor, Carolyn A. Bailey, Brittani A. D. Robertson, Stephen D. Nash, Jean Claude Randriamanana, Russell A. Mittermeier and Edward E. Louis Jr. 2017. A New Cheirogaleus (Cheirogaleidae: Cheirogaleus crossleyi Group) Species from Southeastern Madagascar. Primate Conservation. 31; 27-36.
New lemur species discovered by Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium scientists


Big-Eyed, Fluffy-Tailed Lemur Species Discovered via @NatGeo
There’s a new member of the lemur family via @Mongabay

[Herpetology • 2018] Hemidactylus vanam • A New Cryptic, Rupicolous Species of Hemidactylus Oken, 1817 (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from Meghamalai, Tamil Nadu, India

Hemidactylus vanam
Chaitanya,  Lajmi & Giri, 2018

Meghamalai Rock Gecko  ||  DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4374.1.3 

distinct new gecko of the genus Hemidactylus is described from the Meghamalai massif in Tamil Nadu, India. This large sized (average SVL 88.2±16.0 to at least 112.2 mm), cryptic, rock-dwelling species is superficially similar to its tuberculate South Asian congeners of comparable size, but can be distinguished from them in having 17–19 longitudinal rows of fairly regularly arranged, strongly keeled, striated tubercles with the two most medial parasagittal rows smaller, flatter, strongly keeled and rounded, increasing in size laterally and becoming strongly conical at the flanks; 8–10 and 10–12 sub-digital lamellae under the first and fourth digits respectively of both manus and pes; 17–22 femoral pores on each side separated medially by a diastema of 10–11 poreless scales; 11–15 supralabials and 9–14 infralabials. Molecular data supports the distinctiveness of this species and helps ascertain its phylogenetic position within the larger Indian Hemidactylus clade.

Keywords: Reptilia, Hemidactylus vanam sp. nov., H. prashadi group, cryptic species, Western Ghats, eastern escarpment

FIGURE 7. Photo in life of Hemidactylus vanam sp. nov. paratype (NCBS-AU159).

Etymology. The specific epithet is a noun in apposition honouring Vanam (pronounced vʌnʌm), a nongovernmental organization based in Theni District, Tamil Nadu, India, for carrying out exemplary conservation work in the region. Their unwavering support has been vitally important to our work in the Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary.

Suggested Common Name. Meghamalai Rock Gecko

R. Chaitanya, Aparna Lajmi and  Varad B. Giri. 2018. A New Cryptic, Rupicolous Species of Hemidactylus Oken, 1817 (Squamata: Gekkonidae) from Meghamalai, Tamil Nadu, India. Zootaxa. 4374(1);  49–70.  DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4374.1.3

[Mammalogy • 2018] Uncovering the Diversity of Dog-faced Bats from the Genus Cynomops (Chiroptera: Molossidae), with the Redescription of C. milleri and the Description of Two New Species; Cynomops freemani & C. tonkigui

Cynomops freemani 
Moras, Gregorin, Sattler & Tavares, 2018

Until recently the genus Cynomops (Chiroptera: Molossidae) comprised six species of fast flying, aerial insectivorous bats distributed throughout the Neotropics. However, our revisionary study have shown that the diversity of this taxon was underestimated as molecular and morphological data supported the recognition of C. milleri as a full species and revealed two previously unrecognized, small species of Cynomops. These newly recognized taxa are Cynomops freemani sp. nov. from the Canal Zone region, Panama, sister taxon to C. mexicanus, and Cynomops tonkigui sp. nov. from the eastern Andes of Ecuador and Colombia, sister taxon of C. milleri. We also describe the calls of Cynomops freemani sp. nov. that may be useful for the recognition of these species during field inventories based on ultrasonic recording techniques. We elevate the currently known diversity of Cynomops to eight species, as we also revalidate C. milleri providing an emended diagnosis and a redescription of this taxon.

Keywords: Free-tailed bats, taxonomy, acoustic identification, Cynomops freemani sp. nov, Cynomops tonkigui sp. nov

Family Molossidae Gervais 1856
Genus Cynomops Thomas 1920

Cynomops milleri (Osgood, 1914)
Miller’s Dog-faced Bat

two Freeman’s Dog-Faced bats Cynomops freemani discovered in Gamboa, Panama.
Photo: Elias Bader

Cynomops freemani, new species 
Freeman’s Dog-faced Bat

ETYMOLOGY: The name “freemani” is in honor to Dr. Patricia W. Freeman in recognition of her influential contributions to the study of the morphology, systematics, and evolutionary relationships of molossid bats (e.g. Freeman, 1981).

DISTRIBUTION: Cynomops freemani is known from lowlands (23–53 m a.s.l.) of the Pacific coast of the Canal Zone region in Panama (Fig. 3).

Cynomops tonkigui, new species 
Waorani Dog-faced Bat

ETYMOLOGY: The name “tonkigui” is used as a noun in apposition, and means "bat" in the Waorani language. The name honors the Waorani people who inhabit the type locality (Tirira, 2012)

DISTRIBUTION: Cynomops tonkigui is known from the lowlands (195–529 m a.s.l.) of northeastern South America, and the eastern slopes of the Andes in Ecuador and Colombia (Fig. 3).

 Ligiane M. Moras, Renato Gregorin, Thomas Sattler and Valéria da C. Tavares. 2018. Uncovering the Diversity of Dog-faced Bats from the Genus Cynomops (Chiroptera: Molossidae), with the Redescription of C. milleri and the Description of Two New Species. Mammalian Biology. In Press. DOI: 10.1016/j.mambio.2017.12.005 


Two New Dog-Faced Bat Species Discovered in Panama and Ecuador

[Botany • 2017] Impatiens nilalohitae • A New Species (Balsaminaceae) from Northeastern India

Impatiens nilalohitae  Hareesh & M.Sabu

in Hareesh & Sabu. 2017.  

Impatiens nilalohitae is described from Arunachal Pradesh, Northeastern India. The new species shows similarities with I. adamowskiana and I. rugosipetala, but differs by having a 10–15-flowered inflorescence, dark purple flowers, and four lateral sepals, among other characters. A detailed description and colour photographs, as well as remarks on geographic distribution and ecology, are provided.

Keywords: Arunachal Pradesh, Balsaminaceae, Impatiens, new species, Monocots

Impatiens nilalohitae Hareesh & M.Sabu sp. nov.

Impatiens nilalohitae Hareesh & M.Sabu sp. nov. 

Impatiens nilalohitae is phenotypically similar to I. adamowskiana but differs by having a non-winged stem, setaceous stipular gland, 10– 15-flowered inflorescence, dark purple flower, four lateral sepals, and spur with a notched apex. It is also similar to I. rugosipetala but differs by having 10–15-flowered inflorescence, dark purple flower with non-rugose petals, four lateral sepals, lower sepal with an acute apex, and a spur with a notched apex.

Etymology—The specific epithet refers to the purple colour (nilalohita in Sanskrit) of the flower and the abaxial leaf blade surface.

Vadakkoot Sankaran Hareesh and Mamiyil Sabu. 2017. Impatiens nilalohitae (Balsaminaceae): A New Species from Northeastern India. Phytotaxa. 323(2); 189–193.  DOI:  10.11646/phytotaxa.323.2.7

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

[Paleontology • 2018] Phylogenetic Reassessment of Pisanosaurus mertii Casamiquela, 1967, A Basal Dinosauriform from the Late Triassic of Argentina

Pisanosaurus mertii Casamiquela, 1967
in Agnolín & Rozadilla. 2018. 

Illustration: Gabriel Lio  ||  DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1352623
Pisanosaurus mertii was originally described on the basis of an incomplete skeleton from the early Late Triassic (Carnian) of northern Argentina. It is consistently regarded by most authors as a very basal ornithischian, the sister group of remaining members of the clade. The referral to Ornithischia is based mainly on tooth-bearing bones and tooth morphology. On the other hand, the postcranium is recognized as strikingly plesiomorphic for ornithischians, and even for dinosaurs. The recent description of non-dinosaurian dinosauriforms of the clade Silesauridae having ornithischian-like dentition invites a review of the phylogenetic affinities of Pisanosaurus. In this regard, an overview of the holotype specimen allows a reanalysis of previous anatomical interpretations of this taxon. The phylogenetic analysis presented here suggests that Pisanosaurus may be better interpreted as a member of the non-dinosaurian Silesauridae. It shares with silesaurids reduced denticles on the teeth, teeth fused to maxilla and dentary bone, sacral ribs shared between two sacral vertebrae, lateral side of proximal tibia with a fibular flange, and dorsoventrally flattened pedal ungual phalanges. The present analysis indicates that Pisanosaurus should be removed from the base of the Ornithischia and should no longer be considered the oldest representative of this dinosaurian clade.

Keywords: Pisanosaurus mertii, Ornithischia, Silesauridae, Late Triassic, Argentina

 Comparative silhouette of Pisanosaurus mertii based on available material.
A, modified from Bonaparte (1976); B, present study.
Not to scale. Bones in grey indicate non-preserved elements. 

Federico L. Agnolín and Sebastián Rozadilla. 2018. Phylogenetic Reassessment of Pisanosaurus mertii Casamiquela, 1967, A Basal Dinosauriform from the Late Triassic of Argentina.  Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.  DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1352623

[Herpetology • 2018] Systematics and Phylogeography of the Widely Distributed African Skink Trachylepis varia Species Complex: Trachylepis varia, T. damarana & T. laevigata

 Weinell & Bauer, 2018.

• A molecular systematic study was conducted for the wide-ranging Trachylepis varia complex.
• Phylogenetic analyses support the existence of at least eight species within the Trachylepis varia complex.
• The Southern African members of the Trachylepis varia complex are phenotypically distinct.
• We update the taxonomy for the southern Africa members of the Trachylepis varia complex.
• Diversification within the Trachylepis varia complex began during the mid to late Miocene or early Pliocene.

A systematic study of the Trachylepis varia complex was conducted using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA markers for individuals sampled across the species range. The taxonomic history of T. varia has been complicated and its broad geographic distribution and considerable phenotypic variation has made taxonomic revision difficult, leading earlier taxonomists to suggest that T. varia is a species complex. We used maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference to estimate gene trees and a multilocus time-tree, respectively, and we used these trees to identify the major clades (putative species) within T. varia. Additionally, we used morphological and color pattern data to distinguish and revise the taxonomy of the southern African clades. The major clades recovered in the multilocus time-tree were recovered in each of gene trees, although the relationships among these major clades differed across gene trees. Genetic data support the existence of at least eight species within the T. varia complex, each of which originated during the mid to late Miocene or early Pliocene. We focus our systematic discussion on the southern African members of the T. varia complex, revive Trachylepis damarana (Peters, 1870) and T. laevigata (Peters, 1869), and designate lectotypes for T. damarana and T. varia.

Keywords: Africa, Lygosominae, Phylogenetics, Phylogeography, Trachylepis damarana, Trachylepis laevigata

Trachylepis varia (Peters, 1867)
Euprepes varius Peters, 1867

Trachylepis laevigata (Peters, 1869)
Euprepes laevigatus Peters, 1869

Trachylepis damarana (Peters, 1870)
Euprepes damaranus Peters, 1870

  Trachylepis damarana from Haenertsberg, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

We find strong evidence that Trachylepis varia, T. damarana, and T. laevigata are distinct species that occur in southern Africa and that five additional, species-level clades occur north of the Zambezi and Kunene rivers, although future studies are needed to determine whether Trachylepis nyikae and Trachylepis isellii should also be recognized. The allopatric distribution and morphological distinctiveness of T. isellii (Largen and Spawls, 2010) suggests that this species is probably valid and the presence of multiple endemic species on the Nyika Plateau (Poynton, 1997; Burrows and Willis, 2005) suggests that T. nyikae may also be a valid species. Additionally, little is known about the distribution or natural history of the undescribed species sampled in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Tanzania. Lastly, next generation DNA sequencing may be useful in resolving deeper phylogenetic relationships within the T. varia complex and for distinguishing historical gene flow from incomplete lineage sorting. This study is the first to use genetic data to address species diversity, phylogenetic history, and taxonomic issues for the T. varia complex and is an example of how both genetic and phenotypic data can be used to resolve taxonomic problems and to estimate species ranges.

 Jeffrey L. Weinell and Aaron M. Bauer. 2018. Systematics and Phylogeography of the Widely Distributed African Skink Trachylepis varia Species Complex. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.  120; 103-117. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.11.014

[Entomology • 2018] Nymphister kronaueri • An Army Ant-associated Beetle Species (Coleoptera: Histeridae: Haeteriinae) with An Exceptional Mechanism of Phoresy

Nymphister kronaueri 
von Beeren & Tishechkin, 2017 

For more than a century we have known that a high diversity of arthropod species lives in close relationship with army ant colonies. For instance, several hundred guest species have been described to be associated with the Neotropical army ant Eciton burchellii Westwood, 1842. Despite ongoing efforts to survey army ant guest diversity, it is evident that many more species await scientific discovery.

We conducted a large-scale community survey of Eciton-associated symbionts, combined with extensive DNA barcoding, which led to the discovery of numerous new species, among them a highly specialized histerid beetle, which is formally described here. Analyses of genitalic morphology with support of molecular characters revealed that the new species is a member of the genus Nymphister. We provide a literature review of host records and host-following mechanisms of Eciton-associated Haeteriinae demonstrating that the new species uses an unusual way of phoretic transport to track the nomadic habit of host ants. Using its long mandibles as gripping pliers, the beetle attaches between the ants’ petiole and postpetiole. The beetles specifically attach to medium-sized ant workers, thus participating as hitchhikers in the regular colony emigrations of the single host species Eciton mexicanum Roger, 1863.

By providing tools for reliable species identification via morphology and DNA barcodes for hitherto unknown army ant guest species, we set the baseline for studies targeting the ecological and evolutionary dynamics in these species-rich host-symbiont communities.

Keywords: Phoresy, Social parasitism, Myrmecophile, Eciton, Host specificity, Nymphister, Army ants, Specialization, Symbiosis

Nymphister kronaueri 

Etymology. We dedicate this species to Daniel Kronauer, an avid field biologist and long-time army ant researcher, who discovered the species during an Eciton mexicanum s. str. colony emigration.

Distribution. Known only from the type locality, i.e. La Selva Biological Station, a lowland Atlantic rainforest in Costa Rica.


Despite the enduring efforts to explore the microcosm of army ant-associated arthropods, a large proportion of unknown biodiversity still exists today. Myrmecophile communities of army ant species other than E. burchellii and E. hamatum have not been intensively studied, and thus it can be expected that many more species with fascinating adaptations still await scientific discovery. The present study is an example demonstrating the benefits of a combined approach, using morphology and DNA barcodes, to discover and describe new species in ant-myrmecophile communities.

Christoph von Beeren and Alexey K. Tishechkin. 2017. Nymphister kronaueri von Beeren & Tishechkin sp. nov., An Army Ant-associated Beetle Species (Coleoptera: Histeridae: Haeteriinae) with An Exceptional Mechanism of Phoresy. BMC Zoology. 2:3.   DOI: 10.1186/s40850-016-0010-x

Newly discovered beetle catches a ride on the backs of army ants to get around via @Mongabay
Newly discovered beetle species catches a ride on the back of army ants via @physorg_com