Nine years ago, University of Wyoming entomologist Scott Shaw and colleague Eduardo Shimbori gained a moment of fame by naming several newly discovered South American insect species for celebrities — including a wasp for singer and musician Shakira (Aleiodes shakirae).
Today, the Shakira wasp is one of only 18 animal species featured in a museum exhibition in Denmark. “From Rock Fossils to Pop Insects” at the Naturama Museum in Svendborg, Denmark, highlights species named after famous rock musicians and pop stars, including an ancient mammal for Mick Jagger (Jaggermeryx) and a deep-sea crab named for Metallica (Macrostylis metallicola).
The exhibition was planned and created by Thomas Berg, a senior scientist and curator at the museum.
“Discover the fascinating old fossils, listen to the music and find out why scientists use rock music when naming fossils,” says a Naturama website promoting the exhibition, which is open to the public for viewing through November.
The Shakira wasp is a parasite of caterpillars, feeding and developing inside them — and causing them to bend and twist their abdomens in a distinctive way, which reminded Shaw and Shimbori of belly dancing, for which the Colombia-born singer also is famous. The Shakira wasp and other insect species were described in a 2014 volume of the international research journal ZooKeys, which is dedicated to advancing studies of the taxonomy, phylogeny, biogeography and evolution of animals.
“It’s gratifying to see our discovery included in this exhibition in such a creative and artistic way,” Shaw says. “I hope this public attention will help to draw new students to studies of tropical insects and the urgent field of tropical forest conservation.”
Berg says he chose the Shakira wasp for the exhibition because Shakira is a world-class singer and musician — and because of the researchers’ story behind the naming of the insect.
“Shaw and Shimbori’s personal story was captivating, with clear references to the parasitic wasp’s effect on its victim,” Berg says. “I’ll also admit that I’m a huge fan of Shakira, and it was such a gift to have the world’s best argument to include Aleiodes shakirae in the exhibition.”
National Science Foundation-funded fieldwork conducted in the cloud forests of eastern Ecuador by Shaw and colleagues led to the discovery of 24 new species of Aleiodes wasps that mummify caterpillars. Some of these were named for other celebrities, including Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Ellen DeGeneres. One of these, Aleiodes colberti — named after Colbert — was featured on the Jan. 22, 2022, segment of Colbert’s “Late Show” on CBS.
A UW faculty member since 1989, Shaw is the curator of UW’s Insect Museum in the College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources. He received that college’s Vanvig Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018. He has published more than 200 scientific publications about insects as well as a book, “Planet of the Bugs: Evolution and the Rise of Insects,” which tells of dominant insect species and how they shaped life on Earth.
News piece originally by the University of Wyoming. Republished with permission.
In the ever-evolving landscape of academic publishing, comprehensive and informative citation metrics can make all the difference. Pensoft, the scholarly publisher and technology provider, and the innovative scite.ai platform, have partnered to provide a novel service that is looking to change the way readers perceive and utilise citation data.
scite.ai has been making waves in the scholarly world with its pioneering approach to citation metrics. At the heart of their offering are two distinctive badges, elegantly displayed on the article’s page to let readers gain deeper insights into how a publication is cited by other indexed works.
Each citation is categorized as Supporting, Contrasting, or Mentioning, based on the context of surrounding sentences within the citing publication. This way, anyone can explore not just how many times a document has been cited but also why.
The feature is already accessible under the Metrics tab of any research paper published by a Pensoft journal. The first scite.ai badge displays the number of citations, breaking them down into Supporting, Contrasting, or Mentioning; the second one offers insights on the sections of an article where the citations were featured.
At Pensoft, we are confident that this new functionality enhances the discoverability and contextual richness of articles published in our journals. The integration also empowers Pensoft’s users to gain deeper insights into their research. Whether you’re a scientist seeking to validate your research or a reader in search of authoritative sources, this new feature promises to enrich your academic journey.
Stay up to date with the latest integrations and features available at journals published by Pensoft by following ARPHA Platform on Twitter and Linkedin.
The demand for rare raw materials, such as cobalt, is fuelling the exploration of the deep-sea floor for mining. Commercial deep-sea mining is currently prohibited in areas beyond national jurisdiction, but companies are permitted exploratory operations in certain areas to assess their mineral wealth and measure environmental baselines. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) is an area of the Pacific deep-sea floor spanning up to 6 million km2, found roughly between Hawaii and Mexico. Currently, it has 17 contracts for mineral exploration covering 1.2 million km2. However, despite relatively extensive mineral exploration beginning in the 1960’s, baseline biodiversity knowledge of the region is still severely lacking. Even the most basic scientific question: “What lives there?” has not been fully answered yet.
In a new paper researchers report on the marine life of the CCZ, focusing on annelid worms. Annelids represent one of the largest group of macroinvertebrates living within the mud covering the sea floor of CCZ, both in terms of number of individuals and the number of species. Data from recent oceanographic cruises enabled researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and the Natural History Museum London to discover more than 300 species of annelids from around 5000 records. The annelid species, many considered to be new to science, were discovered through employment of traditional morphological approaches and modern molecular techniques. The current study focuses on 129 such species across 22 annelid families. Previously, the authors of this study formalized 18 new species, while altogether reporting on 60 CCZ species, including most recently 6 species in family Lumbrineridae. The lead author Helena Wiklund from University of Gothenburg comments: ‘Taxonomy is the most important knowledge gap we have when studying these unique habitats and the potential impact of mining operations. We need to know what lives there to inform the protection of these ecosystems.”
To further understand the CCZ, scientists sail the Pacific Ocean on research expeditions that employ sampling techniques ranging from the technical, like remote-controlled vehicles that traverse the ocean floor, to the simple, like a sturdy box corer collecting sediment at the bottom.
“Sadly, the soft-bodied annelids are often damaged during the collection and sediment sieving onboard” says annelid taxonomist Lenka Neal from the Natural History Museum London. As a result, the traditional morphological approach is often of limited use when working with the deep-sea specimens, with taxonomists increasingly employing DNA techniques as well.
Over the last decade, scientists have generated a large amount of annelid data. Such data are only of use when made available through publication to the wider scientific community and other stakeholders. “A priority is to make the data are FAIR, or Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable so it can be redeployed easily, if you’ll excuse the pun, for future analysis” says co-author Muriel Rabone. “The same applies to samples, where accessibility of the specimen vouchers and molecular samples allows for reproducibility and continuation of the work. This is one step of the process. And ultimately, having more robust knowledge can lead to more robust evidence-based environmental policy”.
“More often than not, ecological papers describing biodiversity do not include a list of all the species and specimens used to make the broader ecological inferences, and even more rarely make the specimens and all associated metadata available in a FAIR way. In this study, we have made a significant and time-consuming attempt to do this, in a region of the global oceans where critical policy decisions are being made that could impact the way humanity obtains its resources and manages its environment in a sustainable way,” the researchers write in their paper, which was published in the open-access Biodiversity Data Journal.
The team behind the research hope that this still partial checklist of CCZ annelids, many in too poor state of preservation to be immediately described, is a key step forward towards creating future field guides for the area’s wildlife. Given that mining operations in the area could be imminent with the International Seabed Authority considering applications this year, the use of biological data for environmental management has become more important than ever.
This research was supported by funding from UK Seabed Resources Ltd.
Wiklund H, Rabone M, Glover AG, Bribiesca-Contreras G, Drennan R, Stewart ECD, Boolukos CM, King LD, Sherlock E, Smith CR, Dahlgren TG, Neal L (2023) Checklist of newly-vouchered annelid taxa from the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, central Pacific Ocean, based on morphology and genetic delimitation. Biodiversity Data Journal 11: e86921. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.11.e86921
Guest blog post by John Midgley and Burgert Muller
Despite centuries of study, our knowledge of the natural world is still woefully inadequate. This is especially true for inaccessible regions, but these regions often hold interesting species of communities to study. The best studied country in the Afrotropics is South Africa, but nearby countries have received much less attention.
The Kingdom of Lesotho is nestled within the borders of South Africa and this landlocked country shares many ecological similarities with its neighbour. However, Lesotho has an average altitude that is 900 m higher, leading to differences in its fauna and flora, especially in its alpine areas, as these are much more extensive than in South Africa.
While the insects of South Africa are well studied, in particular the True flies (Diptera), Lesotho remains largely undersampled for flies, and that in combination with its unique habitat has created an opportunity to contribute to the country’s biodiversity knowledge.
With discovery on their minds, Dipterists from four institutions (KwaZulu-Natal Museum, National Museum, Albany Museum and Royal Museum for Central Africa) planned to undertake several fieldtrips to Lesotho. The aim was not to just increase the holdings of the institutions, as this would be short-sighted. Instead, the goal was to promote conservation and to improve on the current knowledge on the Diptera of Lesotho. The rest is natural history, and the special collection on the Diptera of Lesotho in African Invertebrateswas born.
Even areas that have received little attention are not complete blank slates, and a handful of expeditions to Lesotho were undertaken in the mid-20th Century, most notably by the Lund Zoological Institute, The KwaZulu-Natal Museum, The Durban Natural Science Museum and the Albany Museum, but large targeted and purposeful collections are not common. The specimens from these expeditions are housed at various international and local South African institutions, which do have some limited collections of Lesotho material.
We added three further expeditions to this, in December 2021, November 2022 and January 2023, adding over 7000 specimens to the National Museum, Bloemfontein and KwaZulu-Natal Museum collections. The details of these specimens can be found in our recently published introduction to the Special Collection along with photographs of the collection sites from our expeditions.
Today, 16 September 2023, we are celebrating our tenth anniversary: an important milestone that has prompted us to reflect on the incredible journey thatBiodiversity Data Journal (BDJ) has been through.
From the very beginning, our mission was clear: to revolutionise the way biodiversity data is shared, accessed, and harnessed. This journey has been one of innovation, collaboration, and a relentless commitment to making biodiversity data FAIR – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.
Over the past 10 years, BDJ, under the auspices of our esteemed publisher Pensoft, has emerged as a trailblazing force in biodiversity science. Our open-access platform has empowered researchers from around the world to publish comprehensive papers that seamlessly blend text with morphological descriptions, occurrences, data tables, and more. This holistic approach has enriched the depth of research articles and contributed to the creation of an interconnected web of biodiversity information.
In addition, by utilising ARPHA Writing Tool and ARPHA Platform as our entirely online manuscript authoring and submission interface, we have simplified the integration of structured data and narrative, reinforcing our commitment to simplifying the research process.
One of our most significant achievements is democratising access to biodiversity data. By dismantling access barriers, we have catalysed the emergence of novel research directions, equipping scientists with the tools to combat critical global challenges such as biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and climate fluctuations.
We firmly believe that data should be openly accessible to all, fostering collaboration and accelerating scientific discovery. By upholding the FAIR principles, we ensure that the datasets accompanying our articles are not only discoverable and accessible, but also easy to integrate and reusable across diverse fields.
As we reflect on the past decade, we are invigorated by the boundless prospects on the horizon. We will continue working on to steer the global research community towards a future where biodiversity data is open, accessible, and harnessed to tackle global challenges.
Ten years of biodiversity research
To celebrate our anniversary, we have curated some of our most interesting and memorable BDJ studies from the past decade.
Recently, news outlets were quick to cover a new species of ‘snug’ published in our journal.
This Golden Retriever trained to monitor hermit beetle larvae proved once again the incredible capabilities of our canine friends.
Who could forget this tiny fly named after the former Governor of California?
Or this snail named after climate activist Greta Thunberg?
New discoveries are always exciting, but some of our favourite research focuses on formerly lost species, back where they belong.
Like the griffon vulture, successfully reintroduced to Bulgaria after fifty years.
Citizen science has shown time and time again that it holds an important position in biodiversity research.
This group, for example, who found a beetle the size of a pinhead in Borneo.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our authors, reviewers, readers, and the entire biodiversity science community for being integral parts of this transformative journey. Together, we have redefined scientific communication, and we will continue to push the boundaries of knowledge.
Armored catfish (Pterygoplicthys spp.) and microplastics, as invasive species and emerging contaminants, respectively, represent two socio-environmental problems in the globalized world, since both have negative effects on faunistic communities and freshwater habitats, as well as on rural community fisheries and public health.
Non-native invasive species of armored catfish have become numerically dominant in some ecosystems, with efforts to eradicate them a seemingly endless task. Due to this, a possible scenario of biological homogenization in Mesoamerica can be expected, mainly given by the wide dispersion of the Pterygoplichthys species, added to the introduction of other non-native catfish species.
The omnipresence of plastics in terrestrial and aquatic environments is caused by their excessive use and inadequate management of waste. The discarded plastics are fragmented, degraded, and dissolved by solar radiation, wind, and water, among other agents, to be incorporated into the food web in aquatic environments.
Both persist in the aquatic environment, microplastics forming the disproportionate amount of plastic garbage, and catfish thanks to their tolerance to pollution and anoxic environments, and their ability to survive for several hours breeding atmospheric oxygen. What is the relationship between the two? Microplastics, depending on their origin and composition, are sedimented in the wetlands, where they can be ingested by detritus feeders, such as armored catfish, mainly in areas where there is runoff or discharge of liquid waste.
In this context, we ask ourselves, can armored catfish be used as biomonitors of microplastics deposited in wetlands? Taking the above into consideration, the doctoral student Gabriela Angulo-Olmos under the guidance of the researchers Nicolás Álvarez-Pliego, Alberto J. Sánchez, Rosa Florido, Miguel Ángel Salcedo, Allan K. Cruz-Ramírez and Arturo Garrido Mora from the Laboratorio de Humedales, from the División Académica de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Juárez Autónoma de Tabasco, decided to answer the aforementioned question based on the numerical dominance of armored catfish recorded in the aquatic ecosystems of the Metropolitan Area of Villahermosa (MAV) in the coastal plain of the Gulf of Mexico.
The stomach contents of the specimens from a lake located in the MAV were reviewed and the results showed that all the specimens had consumed microfibers. This result corroborated that these organisms can ingest sedimented microplastics due to their benthophagous habits.
The use of armored catfish as a resource in the food industry has had positive results, but is still insufficient. Therefore, we propose that another option to control their populations is to subtract and use this organism to verify which are the most frequent and abundant emerging contaminants deposited in the bottoms of urban wetlands.
Angulo-Olmos G, Alvarez-Pliego N, Sánchez AJ, Florido R, Salcedo MÁ, Garrido-Mora A, Cruz-Rámirez AK (2023) Microfibers in the gut of invasive armored catfish (Pterygoplichthys spp.) (Actinopterygii: Siluriformes: Loricariidae) in an urban lake in the floodplain of the Grijalva River basin, Mexico. Acta Ichthyologica et Piscatoria 53: 81–88. https://doi.org/10.3897/aiep.53.102643
Guest blog post by Cássio Cardoso Pereira, Daniel Negreiros, and Geraldo Wilson Fernandes
A recently published study by Pereira et al. in the prestigious journal Nature Conservation says that the solution for climate warming and environmental crises is not solely about curbing temperature by planting trees or even by changing our energy matrix. It is about changing our perspective on ourselves and the way we do things. There is a long list of things we have to do if we want to be successful. One important thing is changing policy actions.
This is a reflection of increased public attention to climate change at the expense of other biodiversity issues and may have contributed to a much higher number of UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COPs) linked to climate change (27 COPs) compared to those about biodiversity (15 COPs) to this date. Governments should not solely focus on curbing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. This asymmetry between environmental agendas can harm not only biodiversity, but also climate change, as environmental issues are inexorably interconnected.
In a society with broad and deep environmental problems, government, private sector and non-governmental efforts should include other dimensions of nature in their agenda. Biodiversity, the unique variety of life on our planet, underpins our cultural, economic, and social well-being. The destruction of ecosystems undermines nature’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and protect us against extreme weather, thus accelerating climate change and increasing our vulnerability to it. Therefore, it is puzzling that policy-makers are still over-focused on the climate component.
We argue here that the climate change issue is important and urgent. However, this problem cannot be solved without considering the picture as a whole. In this way, changes in land use must be integrated into climate models so that we can achieve a more detailed representation that increases our ability to predict how local impacts of change in land use will affect the future of biodiversity at a global level.
We emphasise that this path is necessary, but it is still winding. There is much to pass on to society in terms of ecological awareness. The spotlight is on climate change, at least in part, because everyone already knows how to get involved in climate action in an accessible way. However, the degradation of biodiversity can be difficult to notice, especially for someone who does not get out and experience nature regularly. Therefore, a big question is how much we still have to learn about the various ecosystems across the planet, their delicate balance and interaction with their wider environment, and indeed the climate.
Pereira CC, Negreiros D, Barbosa M, Goulart FF, Dias RL, Melillo MC, Camarota F, Pimenta MA, Cruz M, Fernandes GW (2023) Has climate change hijacked the environmental agenda? Nature Conservation 53: 157-164. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.53.110961
A new species of spiny mouse has been discovered in Ecuador, making it the 14th of its genus to be identified in the past five years. Neacomys marci, which was previously confused with another species, is around the length of a tennis ball, with a long tail, pale suede belly fur and a white throat.
Discovered in the Chocó biogeographic region in northwestern Ecuador, it is the 24th formally recognised species in its genus, which has seen significant upheaval in recent years.
Neacomys is a widely distributed genus of small spiny or bristly rodents that occupy habitats in eastern Panama and the northern half of South America. Since 2017, studies of the genus have been remarkably dynamic, resulting in the description of several new species.
However, as there are still many unexplored areas in South America and adjacent Central America (Panama), some of the currently recognised species have not been studied thoroughly, and the true diversity of the genus may be underestimated.
The Chocó biogeographic region is considered one of the most diverse biodiversity hotspots in South America, but one of the least studied despite its great size (along the Pacific coasts of Panama, Colombia and Ecuador). The rainforests of northwestern Ecuador have high biodiversity and endemism due to the influence of the Chocó and the Andes Mountains.
Major reviews of museum collections and increased field collection efforts have helped scientists understand Neacomys marci and other species. Molecular analysis is also being used to assist with more accurate animal group identification.
The new species was named after Marc Hoogeslag of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, who was co-founder and leader of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Netherlands Land Acquisition Fund, which helps local groups around the world establish new ecological reserves and conserve endangered species. The EcoMinga Foundation‘s Manduriacu Reserve, home to this new species, is one of many reserves that have benefited from Hoogeslag’s program.
Tinoco N, Koch C, Colmenares-Pinzón JE, Castellanos FX, Brito J (2023) New species of the Spiny Mouse genus Neacomys (Cricetidae, Sigmodontinae) from northwestern Ecuador. ZooKeys 1175: 187-221. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1175.106113
Nanopublications complement human-created narratives of scientific knowledge with elementary, machine-actionable, simple and straightforward scientific statements that prompt sharing, finding, accessibility, citability and interoperability.
By making it easier to trace individual findings back to their origin and/or follow-up updates, nanopublications also help to better understand the provenance of scientific data.
With the nanopublication format and workflow, authors make sure that key scientific statements – the ones underpinning their research work – are efficiently communicated in both human-readable and machine-actionable mannerin line with FAIR principles. Thus, their contributions to science are better prepared for a reality driven by AI technology.
The machine-actionability of nanopublications is a standard due to each assertion comprising a subject, an object and a predicate (type of relation between the subject and the object), complemented by provenance, authorship and publication information. A unique feature here is that each of the elements is linked to an online resource, such as a controlled vocabulary, ontology or standards.
Nanopublications associated with a manuscript submitted to BDJ. This workflow lets authors add a Nanopublications section within their manuscript while preparing their submission in the ARPHA Writing Tool (AWT). Basically, authors ‘highlight’ and ‘export’ key points from their papers as nanopublications to further ensure the FAIRness of the most important findings from their publications.
Standalone nanopublication related to any scientific publication, regardless of its author or source. This can be done via the Nanopublications page accessible from the BDJ website. The main advantage of standalone nanopublication is that straightforward scientific statements become available and FAIR early on, and remain ready to be added to a future scholarly paper.
Nanopublications as annotations to existing scientific publications. This feature is available from several journals published on the ARPHA Platform, including BDJ. By attaching an annotation to the entire paper (via the Nanopublication tab) or a text selection (by first adding an inline comment, then exporting it as a nanopublication), a reader can evaluate and record an opinion about any article using a simple template based on the Citation Typing Ontology (CiTO).
Nanopublications for biodiversity data?
At Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ), authors can now incorporate nanopublications within their manuscripts to future-proofthe most important assertions on biological taxa and organisms or statements about associations of taxa or organisms and their environments.
On top of being shared and archived by means of a traditional research publication in an open-access peer-reviewed journal, scientific statements using the nanopublication format will also remain ‘at the fingertips’ of automated tools that may be the next to come looking for this information, while mining the Web.
Using the nanopublication workflows and templates available at BDJ, biodiversity researchers can share assertions, such as:
So far, the available biodiversity nanopublication templates cover a range of associations, including those between taxa and individual organisms, as well as between those and their environments and nucleotide sequences.
As a result, those easy-to-digest ‘pixels of knowledge’ can capture and disseminate information about single observations, as well as higher taxonomic ranks.
The novel domain-specific publication format was launched as part of thecollaboration betweenKnowledge Pixels – an innovative startup tech company aiming to revolutionise scientific publishing and knowledge sharing and the open-access scholarly publisherPensoft.
Basically, a nanopublication – unlike a research article – is a tiny snippet of a precise and structured scientific finding (e.g. medication X treats disease Y), which exists as a reusable and cite-able pieces of a growing knowledge graph stored on a decentralised server network in a format that it is readable for humans, but also “understandable” and actionable for computers and their algorithms.
These semantic statements expressed in community-agreed terms, openly available through links to controlled vocabularies, ontologies and standards, are not only freely accessible to everyone in both human-readable and machine-actionable formats, but also easy-to-digest for computer algorithms and AI-powered assistants.
In short, nanopublications allow us to browse and aggregate such findings as part of a complex scientific knowledge graph. Therefore, nanopublications bring us one step closer to the next revolution in scientific publishing, which started with the emergence and increasing adoption of knowledge graphs.
“As pioneers in the semantic open access scientific publishing field for over a decade now, we at Pensoft are deeply engaged with making research work actually available at anyone’s fingertips. What once started as breaking down paywalls to research articles and adding the right hyperlinks in the right places, is time to be built upon,”
By letting computer algorithms access published research findings in a structured format, nanopublications allow for the knowledge snippets that they are intended to communicate to be fully understandable and actionable. With nanopublications, each of those fragmentsof scientific information is interconnected and traceable back to its author(s) and scientific evidence.
By building on shared knowledge representation models, these data become Interoperable (as in the Iin FAIR), so that they can be delivered to the right user, at the right time, in the right place , ready to be reused (as per the R in FAIR) in new contexts.
Another issue nanopublications are designed to address is research scrutiny. Today, scientific publications are produced at an unprecedented rate that is unlikely to cease in the years to come, as scholarship embraces the dissemination of early research outputs, including preprints, accepted manuscripts and non-conventional papers.
A network of interlinked nanopublications could also provide a valuable forum for scientists to test, compare, complement and build on each other’s results and approaches to a common scientific problem, while retaining the record of their cooperation each step along the way.
We encourage you to try the nanopublications workflow yourself when submitting your next biodiversity paper to Biodiversity Data Journal.
Community feedback on this pilot project and suggestions for additional biodiversity-related nanopublication templates are very welcome!
On the journal website: https://bdj.pensoft.net/, you can find more about the unique features and workflows provided by the Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ), including innovative research paper formats (e.g. Data Paper, OMICS Data Paper, Software Description, R Package, Species Conservation Profiles, Alien Species Profile), expert-provided data audit for each data paper submission, automated data export and more.
Don’t forget to also sign up for the BDJ newsletter via the Email alert form on the journal’s homepage and follow it on Twitter and Facebook.
Earlier this year, Knowledge Pixels and Pensoft presented several routes for readers and researchers to contribute to research outputs – either produced by themselves or by others – through nanopublications generated through and visualised in Pensoft’s cross-disciplinary Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) journal, which uses the same nanopublication workflows.
Tom Hardy and his Marvel character Venom have given their names to a newly discovered Australian spider. The genus Venomius and its only current species Venomius tomhardyi were described following an expedition to Tasmania.
Tom Hardy portrays Eddie Brock and his alter-ego Venom, an antihero closely associated with Spider-Man, across two Marvel films and gives his name to the sole species of the new genus. The distinctive black spots on the arachnid’s abdomen reminded the scientists of Venom’s head, inspiring them to select the unusual name.
The genus belongs to the Araneidae family of spiders, or Araneae, that build upright circular webs to capture prey. Despite resembling the related genus Phonognatha as both do not have tubercles on the abdomen, the newly described spiders are distinct in their behaviour of creating silk-lined holes in the branches of trees for shelter, as well as their different genitalia.
The holotype of the new species was discovered and subsequently preserved at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery following an expedition to Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Researchers also sourced supplementary specimens from scientific arachnology collections, with researchers examining approximately 12,000 records in Australian and overseas institutions.
“It is really important to keep describing new spiders to assess the total biodiversity of these predators in Australia,” added the study’s first author MSc Giullia Rossi.
Rossi GF, Castanheira PS, Baptista RLC, Framenau VW (2023) Venomius, a new monotypic genus of Australian orb-weaving spiders (Araneae, Araneidae). Evolutionary Systematics 7(2): 285-292. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.7.110022