A new, beautifully colored lizard discovered in the Peruvian Andes

Named ‘mountain dweller’, it is the highest-altitude living member of its genus

Germán Chávez and Diego Vásquez from the Centro de Ornitología y Biodiversidad (CORBIDI) in Peru have discovered a new colorful lizard which they named Potamites montanicola, or "mountain dweller". The new species was found in Cordillera de Vilcabamba and Apurimac river valley, the Cusco Region of Peru at altitude ranging from 1,600 to 2,100 meters. Their study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

"The new discovery raises some questions", say the authors. This is the only member of the genus known to live at such altitude. It is yet unknown what biological mechanisms help the lizard to survive in this harsh environment, much colder than what it’s relatives in the genus prefer. Scientists also believe the lizard may be nocturnal, which raises the question of how it maintains its body temperature during night time. In some cases, individuals were observed swimming in streams, which is rather unusual behavior for the members this genus.

"Further studies are needed to reveal its biology, population structure and conservation status, and outline its overall distribution", Chávez concludes.

Original source:
Chávez G, Vásquez D (2012) A new species of Andean semiaquatic lizard of the genus Potamites (Sauria, Gymnophtalmidae) from southern Peru. ZooKeys 168: 31. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.168.2048

New miniature grasshopper-like insect is first member of its family from Belize

Scientists at the University of Illinois, USA have discovered a new species of tiny, grasshopper-like insect in the tropical rainforests of the Toledo District in southern Belize. Dr Sam Heads and Dr Steve Taylor co-authored a paper, published in the open access journal ZooKeys, documenting the discovery and naming the new species Ripipteryx mopana. The name commemorates the Mopan people – a Mayan group, native to the region.

"Belize is famous for its biodiversity, although very little is known about the insect fauna of the southern part of the country. This is particularly true of the Orthoptera – the grasshoppers, crickets and katydids" said entomologist and lead author on the paper, Dr Sam Heads. "The new insect is the first representative of it’s family ever to be found in Belize. Given the amount of high quality habitats in the region, it isn’t really surprising that new species still await discovery, especially in the less -explored areas" added Dr Heads.

Just less than 5 mm long, the insect is a tiny, black, white and orange coloured, grasshopper-like species that uses its large jumping hind legs to escape predators.

"Very little is known about the biology of this genus and its closest relatives" said Heads, who specializes in the study of orthopteran insects. "The group as a whole is rather poorly studied and even though we continue to document new species, we still have a long way to go".

Original source:
Heads SW, Taylor SJ (2012) A new species of Ripipteryx from Belize with a key to the species of the Scrofulosa Group (Orthoptera, Ripipterygidae). ZooKeys 169: 1-9. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.169.2531

Chromosome analyses of prickly pear cacti reveal southern glacial refugia

Analysis of chromosome number variation among species of a North American group of prickly pear cacti (nopales) showed that the most widespread species encountered are of hybrid origin. Those widespread species likely originated from hybridization among closely related parental species from western and southeastern North America. This study was published in the open access journal Comparative Cytogenetics.

The prickly pear cacti (of the genus Opuntia) are endemic to the Americas. The genus is well known for the taxonomic difficulties it poses, as a result of hybridization and morphological variation, as well as lack of intense study. Studies of chromosomal differences among species have been beneficial with regards to recognition and determination of hybrid origins of many taxa. Those studies of the differences in chromosome number have shown that a majority of species of the genus have undergone genome duplication (also known as polyploidy).

This study suggests that a group of well-known prickly pear species occurring primarily in the United States are mostly derived from hybridization and genome duplication, which occurred as a result of the genetic separation of closely related parent species through habitat fragmentation during different times of the Pleistocene. Those closely related species, which were restricted to the southern United States, after thousands of years of separation, came back in contact and formed the common hybrids in the group, which in turn became dominant and more successful in distribution over their progenitors. Their progenitors remained confined to the southern part of their distribution likely as a result of their non-adaptability to adverse environmental conditions, which hybrid taxa were more than able to cope with. This scenario results in the distribution pattern of species that we see today.

This study underscores that genome duplication has had an important effect on the evolution of prickly pear cacti and that understanding patterns in chromosome numbers can be used, in part, to infer the historical biogeography of certain plant groups.

Original Source:
Majure LC, Judd WS, Soltis PS, Soltis DE (2012) Cytogeography of the Humifusa clade of Opuntia s.s. Mill. 1754 (Cactaceae, Opuntioideae, Opuntieae): correlations with pleistocene refugia and morphological traits in a polyploid complex. Comparative Cytogenetics 6(1): 53-77. doi: 10.3897/CompCytogen.v6i1.2523

Additional Information:
This work was supported in part by funding from the USGS Biological Resources Discipline (#04HQAG0135) to Gary N. Ervin, a New England Botanical Club graduate research grant, the American Society of Plant Taxonomists Shirley and Alan Graham student research award, a Cactus and Succulent Society of America research grant, the Florida Plant Conservation Program, and NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant (DEB-1011270).

Encyclopedia of Life Announces Open Access Support Project with Pensoft Publishers

Collaboration will increase flow of new species descriptions from scientists in developing countries, promote open access publishing

Washington, D.C. – February 10, 2012 – The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) and Pensoft Publishers are pleased to announce a new collaboration that will increase the flow of new species descriptions from scientists in developing countries into the Encyclopedia of Life and promote the open access publishing model in taxonomy.

Many of Pensoft’s journals, including the International Journal of Myriapodology (centipedes and millipedes), MycoKeys (mycology), PhytoKeys (botany), and ZooKeys (zoology) will participate in the new EOL Open Access Support Project (EOASP).  The initiative will provide funding to support independent taxonomists and taxonomists living in developing countries to publish their results in Pensoft’s four quality journals with open access principles.

Any new species description published in one of the journals leads to the automatic creation of a new page in EOL. If a paper re-describes a poorly described species, that information will also appear on an EOL page.

During the manuscript submission process, the authors will have the opportunity to request financial support between 200 and 400 USD per paper, which covers the open access fee for 10 to 20 printed pages. The support for larger papers (e.g., monographs) will be limited to the same maximum of 400 USD; authors should meet the remaining costs themselves.

The EOASP initiative promotes the open access publishing model in taxonomy among researchers, students, citizen scientists, and general public and will support and educate the next generation of taxonomists in open science principles. EOASP also aims to motivate publishers to modernize their publishing models and workflows to fit the changing needs of scientists and researchers around the world.

Please visit Pensoft’s page to learn more about the eligibility criteria for manuscripts, authors and journals.

For more information about joining the EOASP initiative either as a funder or a publisher, please contact Cynthia Parr of Encyclopedia of Life, via secretariat [AT] eol.org

A new species of bamboo-feeding plant lice found in Costa Rica

Several periods of field work during 2008 have led to the discovery of a new species of bamboo-feeding plant lice in Costa Rica’s high-altitude region “Cerro de la Muerte”. The discovery was made thanks to molecular data analysis of mitochondrial DNA. The collected records have also increased the overall knowledge of plant lice (one of the most dangerous agricultural pests worldwide) from the region with more that 20%. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

It is a well established fact that the arthropod fauna, to which plant lice also belong, is abundantly present in the tropical regions. Not so with plant lice, which prefer the temperate climates of the Northern Hemisphere. This has been a bit of a paradox for scientists although it is also known that plant lice diversity increases in high altitude areas, such as mountains and high plateaus. Such is the sampling area visited in Costa Rica: “Cerro de la Muerte”, or The Mountain of the Dead, the highest point in the Costa Rican section of the Inter-American Highway.

Many plant lice species feed only on one type (or even species) of plant; the diet of the newly described plant lice species consists (based on current data), for example, solely of a type of bamboo (Chusquea tomentosa). A molecular analysis was used to determine to which taxonomic genus it belongs (Rhopalosiphum). Its description is based also on molecular information of fragments of the mitochondrial DNA (COI), and on nuclear gene coding, in addition to morphologic external characteristics.

Plant lice are recognized among the biggest insect pests on agriculture and gardening. From a zoological point of view though, they are very successful organisms, which although present mainly in temperate climates, have the potential to threaten even tropical regions, dedicated to plant cultivation.

Original Source:
Pérez Hidalgo N, Martínez-Torres D, Collantes-Alegre JM, Villalobos Muller W, Nieto Nafría JM (2012) A new species of Rhopalosiphum (Hemiptera, Aphididae) on Chusquea tomentosa (Poaceae, Bambusoideae) from Costa Rica. ZooKeys 166: 59-73. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.166.2387

Nicolás Pérez Hidalgo. University of Leon
(+34) 676145552


A checklist of 4,100 vascular plants converted into Darwin Core Archive format

A conventionally written (MS Word) Checklist of vascular plants of the Departmentof Ñeembucú, Paraguay (De Egea et al. 2012), consisting of more than 4,100 taxon names,  was converted from text into Darwin Core Archive format and published simultaneously in both human-readable, traditional  publication and structured, machine-readable data. The process is described in an associated forum paper (Remsen et al. 2012).

The process was performed from the final revised version, after peer-review and editorial acceptance. The data were published and indexed through the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Integrated Publishing Toolkit (IPT) and significant portions of the text of the paper were used to describe the metadata on IPT. After publication, the data will become available through the GBIF infrastructure and can be re-used on their own or collated with other data.

The two papers were published in issue 9 of PhytoKeys. The study was supported in part by the ViBRANT project.

Taxonomic keys from ZooKeys, PhytoKeys and MycoKeys now indexed in KeyCentral

All identification keys, published in ZooKeys (since issue 50), PhytoKeys, and MycoKeys are now automatically indexed in KeyCentral, a platform of IdentifyLife – a collaborative partnership of the Atlas of Living Austlalia, Encyclopedia of Life and Moore Foundation.

KeyCentral collects information on various kinds of keys and allows users to search through taxa, regions, keywords, etc. Each key description links back to the original source, regardless whether it is an online key or a journal article.

The technology used by Pensoft’s journals, based on TaxPub, allows several keys published in the same article to be indexed as separate entities, increasing the probability for discovery, visibility and citation for the authors.

New EOL Species Collections by Pensoft

Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) and our journals have launched a Fabulous New Species collections on EOL. Please see the following blog post on the EOL News webpage, or read the text below:

As a next step in its fruitful collaboration with EOL, Pensoft has created two species collections on EOL – Fabulous ZooKeys New Species and Fabulous PhytoKeys New Species. The main aim of this initiative is to bring together and promulgate the scientifically notable new taxa described every year in Pensoft’s journals and simultaneously registered in EOL.

A short annotation written in a popular language explains why the new species is interesting and draws the attention of the general public and the world mass media. Starting with only a dozen taxon profiles, both collections are expected to grow fast considering that currently ZooKeys ranks second in the top 10 journals publishing new taxa, and is responsible for approximately 2.5% of all new taxa in the world described in the last three years.

Currently the collections comprise a nice selection of extraordinary newly described animal and plant species, such as:

The world’s smallest tetrapod, the New Guinea frog Paedophryne depot;

The Morafka’s desert tortoise Gopherus morafkai, whose discovery based on DNA evidence has conservation implications;

The tiny Brazilian plant Spigelia genuflexa found to be reproducing by geocarpy;

The New Zealand liverwort species Frullania knightbridgei, one of the first species described under the revolutionary new rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature that allows new species to be published only in a digital form;

One of the smallest cave-dwelling ground beetles and living fossil, Paralovrcia beroni.

We kindly invite the EOL users to join the communities around these collections and to become part of Pensoft’s large family.

Please visit the Pensoft Publishers Community on EOL to share your comments and questions, or leave them here on the EOL Blog.

A new wild ginger discovered from the evergreen forest of Western Ghats of South India

Intensive botanical explorations for taxonomic studies on the members of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) in India by V.P. Thomas and M. Sabu of the University of Calicut, have resulted in the discovery of an interesting species of Amomum (Cardamom) from Silent Valley National Park on the Western Ghats of Kerala. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

The ginger family consists of 53 genera and over 1,200 species, many of which are widely used as spices, for medical purposes, or simply for decoration. Amomum Roxb. is the second largest genus within the Zingiberaceae, comprising about 150-180 species, including several types of cardamom. Widely distributed in Southeast Asia, the genus is represented by 23 species in India, mostly restricted to North-East India, South India and the Andaman-Nicobar Islands.

In the new species, the authors show some similarities with A. masticatorium, although the two are clearly distinct. The new plant’s name refers to its locality, i.e. Nilgiri hills, a part of Western Ghats and one of the hotspots of the Indian subcontinent. The most notable feature of the plant is the presence of long ligules that reach up to 9 cm long and small flowers with a long corolla tube. Almost all parts of the plant are hairy.

It is a high altitude species (found above 1,200 m), and attempts to conserve it outside its natural locality were unsuccessful. The conservation status evaluation revealed that it falls under the critically endangered category of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2001. Conservation measures are to be carried out very urgently to recover the plant from extinction.

Original source:
Thomas VP, Sabu M, Prabhu Kumar KM (2012) Amomum nilgiricum (Zingiberaceae), a new species from Western Ghats, India. PhytoKeys 8: 99-104. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.8.2152

Additional information:
From the 1st of January 2012, PhytoKeys is publishing each paper separately, on the day it is approved by the editors. The article by Prof Sabu is the closing one for the 8th issue of the journal, making it complete.

Related press releases on EurekAlert:

Brave new world: Pioneering electronic publication of new plant species

Jeanne Baret, botanist and first female circumnavigator, finally commemorated in name of new species

Early land plants: Early adopters – The first electronically described liverwort species comes from New Zealand

Jeanne Baret, botanist and first female circumnavigator, finally commemorated in name of new species

In 1766, Frenchwoman Jeanne Baret disguised herself as a man to work as assistant to renowned botanist Philibert Commerson on the first French circumnavigation of the globe. The expedition consisted of two ships under the command of Louis Antoine de Bougainville and was expected to take three years. A royal ordinance forbade women from being on French naval vessels; prejudice and custom prevented their participation in science. Nevertheless, Baret maintained her disguise all the time she was on board ship, and collected plants with Commerson in locations including Rio de Janeiro, the Strait of Magellan, Tahiti, Mauritius, and Madagascar. Baret was Commerson’s lover, but also an accomplished botanist in her own right. When Commerson’s ill health prevented him from fieldwork, Baret was responsible for all collections, including the most famous botanical specimen from the expedition: the vine that would be named in honor of its commander, Bougainvillea Comm. ex Juss.

The couple collected over six thousand specimens, now incorporated into the French National Herbarium at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. In the course of the expedition and the years after its successful completion, over seventy species would be named in honor of Commerson using the specific epithet commersonii. But Commerson died before he could publish many designations proposed in his notes, which reveal his intention to name the Malagasy genus Baretia. The species concerned are now placed in the genus Turraea of the family Meliaceae. Baret has therefore been left without anything in the natural world to commemorate her name. That is now to change as University of Utah and University of Cincinnati biologist Eric Tepe has named a new species in honor of Baret: Solanum baretiae.

Tepe learned of Baret when he heard an NPR interview with Baret’s biographer, Glynis Ridley, author of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret (Crown, 2010).

S. baretiae is a vine endemic to the Amotape-Huancabamba zone of southern Ecuador and northern Peru and grows in the understory of montane forests and disturbed roadside and pasture vegetation. Its flower petals have been seen in shades of violet, yellow, or white. The leaves of S. baretiae are highly variable in shape, as are the leaves of the species that Commerson originally intended to name after Baret. Then, as now, this seems a fitting tribute to a botanist uniting seemingly contradictory qualities: a woman dressed as a man, a female botanist in a male-dominated field, and a working class woman who travelled farther than most aristocrats of her time.

Original source:
Tepe EJ, Ridley G,Bohs L (2012) A new species of Solanum named for Jeanne Baret, an overlooked contributor to the history of botany. PhytoKeys 8: 37-47. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.8.2101

Links (audio): http://www.npr.org/2010/12/26/132265308/a-female-explorer-discovered-on-the-high-seas