Zorro, the new Latin American fish species, takes off the mask to show its true identity

Unidentified since its discovery in 2007, a large fish species from Amazonia has failed to give out enough information about itself, leaving only insufficient hints about its genus. Nevertheless, three scientists have now recovered the missing pieces to puzzle out its mysterious identity. In their study, published in the open-access journal ZooKeys, they describe the fish as a new species and name it after the fictional secretive Latin American character Zorro.

The new fish, called Myloplus zorroi, is commonly known among the Brazilians as ‘pacu’ and is a relative to the piranha. The research team, led by Marcelo C. Andrade, Universidade Federal do Para, Brazil, recognised in a fish, collected by sport fishermen from Rio Madeira basin, Brazil, a previously found, yet undescribed species. Following their analysis, it turned out that its discoverers had assumed an incorrect genus for it.

Among the distinctive features of the new fish, which helped its rightful placement, are its characteristic teeth, specialised to crush seeds.

The new pacu species is quite large, growing up to 47,5 cm. It dwells in moderately to rapidly flowing clear rivers, running over rocky or sandy bottoms, and ranging from about 2 to 8 metres in depth. Its basis colour is reddish silver with darker markings running along the upper side of the body. The head is dark and the belly – pale yellow.

Curiously enough, although the name of the new fish is chosen as a tribute to Mauricio Camargo-Zorro, a researcher at the Instituto Federal de Educacao, Ciencia e Tecnologia, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the fish fauna inventory from the Marmelos Conservation Area, zorroi is also a playful reference to the Latin American fictional character Don Diego de la Vega and his secret identity hidden behind the nickname of Zorro.


Original source:

Andrade MC, Jegu M, Giarrizzo T (2016) A new large species of Myloplus (Characiformes, Serrasalmidae) from the Rio Madeira basin, Brazil. ZooKeys 571: 153-167. doi: http://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.571.5983.

Moth genitalia is the key to snout grass borers from the Western Hemisphere

Two scientists have produced an illustrated key to define the subtle differences between the 41 species of snout moth grass borers that currently dwell in the Western Hemisphere. The researchers conclude that the adults moths are too tough to tell apart by external characters, and therefore, the only way to identify the species is by dissecting and comparing genitalia. The study is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

This identification key is compiled by Dr. M. Alma Solis and Dr. Mark Metz. Both scientists are Research Entomologists at the Agriculture Research Service’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory, USDA. Dr. Solis is Curator of the U.S. National Pyraloidea Collection located at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Washington, D.C.

The caterpillars of this group of snout moth grass borers feed on crops such as sugarcane, corn, rice, sorghum, and on native grasses throughout the Western Hemisphere, which makes many of the species quite harmful pests.

“The caterpillars of snout moth borers are economically important worldwide as pests of planted crops used for food or biofuel, so their identity is important for their control,” says Dr. Solis. “A key with images provides a simple way to identify adult moths, especially those that cannot be distinguished easily. A key to their identification is one of the most important results of taxonomic research.”

This research required locating ‘type specimens’ or original individuals that were used to describe the species in museums, borrowing them and preparing them for studies while avoiding inflicting any damage, so that they can be used by future researchers. These special specimens are the “standard bearer” for the scientific name and solidify the morphological as well as the molecular identity of a species.

Furthermore, Dr. Solis explained that it is not only important to be able to recognize if a species is new to science, as she and her colleagues recently discovered with a species feeding on Eastern gamagrass in the United States. It is also crucial for tying a species’ scientific name to its biology or genetic composition.

The biology of many moth species is still a mystery, but a recent study, where Dr. Solis participated, identified and studied the biology of some of the species. It showed that there may have been two introductions of the sugarcane borer moth species to southeastern United States and it is likely that there is a species which is currently ‘hidden’ under the same name. She concluded that there is still much left to discover about these moth species from the Western Hemisphere.


Original source:

Solis, M. A. & M. Metz. 2015. An illustrated guide to the identification of the known species of Diatraea Guilding (Lepidoptera: Crambidae: Crambinae) based on genitalia. Zookeys. 565:73-121. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.565.6797.

Undergraduate student takes to Twitter to expose illegal release of alien fish in Japan

Posing a significant threat to the native biodiversity in Japan, specifically that of threatened aquatic insects, some alien fishes, such as the bluegill, have become the reason for strict prohibitions. All activities potentially capable of introducing the species into the wild are currently punishable by either a fine of up to 3 million yen for a person (100 million yen for corporations), or a prison sentence of up to 3 years.

Recently, ten years after the law has been adopted, illegal release of bluegill fish has been reported for the first time with the help of a post on Twitter from Akinori Teramura, undergraduate student at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and second author of the present study. The case is reported and discussed by him and two scientists, affiliated with Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History, Japan, in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

In June 2015, Akinori Teramura tweeted two photographs of the invasive bluegill fish, both adults and juveniles, along with two young goldfish, which do not belong to the local fauna, either. In his post he identified the species and shared his surprise at the irresponsibility of the people who had released the fish. When lead author Dr Yusuke Miyazaki saw the tweet, he signalled his colleagues with the idea to publish the information as a scientific report.

The student found them in an outdoor public pool in Yokohama city, Japan, while it was being cleaned before being opened ahead of the summer. Usually, these facilities are closed to the public during the colder seasons and it is then when native aquatic insect species, such as dragonflies and diving beetles, find spawning and nursery habitats in them. Curiously enough, though, the pool had been isolated from natural waters since its construction.

7577_ZK_Data-mining and Twitter img3

Therefore, the researchers conclude that the alien fishes have most likely been released from an aquarium from a local shop or an aquarist who no longer wanted them. However, the authors note that according to the law, keeping bluegill fish in a home aquarium is illegal as well.

“Our report demonstrates an example of web data mining in the discipline of Citizen Science,” say the authors. “Web data mining has been rapidly developing over recent years, and its potential continues to expand.”

“Community awareness of this issue needs to be improved, and widespread reporting of cases such as this one will help,” they conclude.


Original source:


Miyazaki Y, Teramura A, Senou H (2016) Biodiversity data mining from Argus-eyed citizens: the first illegal introduction record of Lepomis macrochirus macrochirus Rafinesque, 1819 in Japan based on Twitter information. ZooKeys 569: 123-133. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.569.7577

Hard soft coral: New genus and species of ‘living fossil’ octocoral related to blue coral

Research conducted in Okinawa, Japan, by graduate student Yu Miyazaki and associate professor James Davis Reimer from the University of the Ryukyus has found a very unusual new species of octocoral from a shallow coral reef in Okinawa, Japan. The new species can be considered a “living fossil”, and is related in many ways to the unusual blue coral. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Unlike scleractinians, most octocorals lack a hard skeleton, and therefore many have the common name “soft coral”. One exception is the endangered genus Heliopora, known as blue coral, which is found in tropical locations in the Pacific Ocean.

Blue coral forms a massive skeleton of aragonite calcium-carbonate. Due to this unique feature, blue corals have long been placed within their own special order inside the octocorals.

This new species, named Nanipora kamurai, also has an aragonite calcium-carbonate skeleton, and molecular analyses show the two groups are most closely related to each other among all octocorals. As fossils show that blue coral and their relatives were globally distributed during the Cretaceous period, Heliopora and this new species can be considered “living fossils”.

In the past, another octocoral species with an aragonite skeleton, Epiphaxum, was discovered in 1977. Since 1977, several recent and fossil Epiphaxum specimens from the deep sea have been recorded. Although this new species seems to be morphologically close to Epiphaxum, it is classified in a separate genus inside the same family (Lithotelestidae) due to many structural differences.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Nanipora kamurai was found from a very shallow coral reef of <1 m depth.

“Most living fossils from the ocean seem to come from deeper, more stable environments” stated Miyazaki, “suggesting that there are important discoveries on coral reefs even in shallow areas still awaiting us.”

“The diverse and pristine reefs of Zamami Island, which was recently included in a new national park, need to be investigated even more”, he added.

The discovery of this species undoubtedly will give new insight on octocoral taxonomy.


Original source:

Miyazaki Y, Reimer JD (2015) A new genus and species of octocoral with aragonite calcium-carbonate skeleton (Octocorallia, Helioporacea) from Okinawa, Japan. ZooKeys 511: 1-23. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.511.9432

500 issues of ZooKeys: Non-stop innovations in service to the taxonomic community

Today, on the 27th of April 2015 ZooKeys published its jubilee 500th issue. Launched to accelerate the research and free information exchange in all disciplines of the zoological science, the open access journal ZooKeys had stuck to its mission with altogether 2436 articles and 65942 pages published since its start in July 2008.

Over the last two years, ZooKeys continued to increase its role in taxonomy sustained by implementing new publication models and technologies. In a race with the rapid destruction of ecosystems on the planet, the journal is seen as the best venue for describing the world’s biodiversity at a fast pace.


ZooKeys made its way to the top 10 journals publishing the greatest number of new taxa in Zoology reaching currently a second place in Thomson Reuters’ Index of Organism names right after Zootaxa. Our publications account for 5.55% of all newly described animal taxa from 2010 downwards.


But with ZooKeys it is not only about quantity. From its inception of 2008 ZooKeys has aimed to be a pioneer of innovation. It was the first journal ever to:


  • Implement semantic tagging and enhancements of taxonomic articles (since ZooKeys 50, 2010);

  • Gather real time information about any taxon name  from the Web at the click of a button via the Pensoft Taxon Profile (PTP);

  • Automate export of species descriptions and other taxon treatments to data aggregators (EOL, Plazi, Species ID) on the day of publication;

  • Simultaneously map published occurrence records by selection of all or some taxon treatments;

  • Convert taxon treatments into Wiki versions on Species-ID;

  • Introduce data publishing in taxonomy and elaborate the data paper concept and workflow together with GBIF;

  • Develop a concept of publishing of online identification keys and biodiversity software descriptions;

  • Implement the TaxPub schema (developed by Plazi) and archive all taxonomic content in PubMedCentral;

  • Mandatory register all new taxa in ZooBank and automate the whole registration process via software tool since 2013 (together with ZooBank);

  • Put special effort in PR and promotion for taxonomy and biodiversity informatics.


500 issues onwards ZooKeys is determined to continue the provision of a high-quality innovative publishing solutions!

Original Source:

Erwin T, Stoev P, Georgiev T, Penev L (2015) ZooKeys 500: traditions and innovations hand-in-hand servicing our taxonomic community! ZooKeys 500: 1–8. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.500.9844