Living together in mud: New bivalve species dwelling on a sea cucumber discovered in Japan

Most bivalves live in sand or mud or attached to rock surface. However, a new bivalve species described from Japan lives on a sea cucumber.

Ryutaro Goto, postdoctoral fellow in Museum of Zoology and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, and Hiroshi Ishikawa, amateur malacologist in Japan, have their paper, describing the new species, published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The new species, named Borniopsis mortoni(Galeommatoidea), was discovered in mudflats at the mouth of the Souzu River, southwestern Shikoku Island, Japan.

This bivalve has tiny brownish shells (up to 4.1 mm in length). The species lives attached by both its foot and byssal threads to the body surface of the earthworm-like sea cucumberPatinapta ooplax (Synaptidae). Individuals of B. mortoni are often found on the same host, yet sometimes there could be more than 10 individuals existing side-by-side.image_3_hishikawa

The new species is dedicated to a famous British malacologist Brian Morton, emeritus professor of University of Hong Kong. He has described many interesting Pseudopythina species from mudflats in Hong Kong, now assigned to the genus Borniopsis.

Host sea cucumbers burrow in mudflats. Most likely, the B. mortoni bivalve uses the host burrows as shelter from predators.

The new species is one of the smallest species in this genus. With the burrow of the host sea cucumber being very narrow, the small body size of B. mortoni is probably a corresponding adaptation.

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Original source:

Goto R, Ishikawa H (2016) Borniopsis mortoni sp. n. (Heterodonta, Galeommatoidea, Galeommatidae sensu lato), a new bivalve commensal with a synaptid sea cucumber from Japan. ZooKeys 615: 33-45. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.615.8125

Bee populations expanded during global warming after the last Ice Age

The Australian small carpenter bee populations appear to have dramatically flourished in the period of global warming following the last Ice Age some 18,000 years ago.

The bee species is found in sub-tropical, coastal and desert areas from the north-east to the south of Australia. Researchers Rebecca Dew and Michael Schwarz from the Flinders University of South Australia teamed up with Sandra Rehan, the University of New Hampshire, USA, to model its past responses to climate change with the help of DNA sequences. Their findings are published in the open access Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

“You see a rapid increase in population size from about 18,000 years ago, just as the climate began warming up after the last Ice Age,” says lead author Rebecca Dew. “This matches the findings from two previous studies on bees from North America and Fiji.”

“It is really interesting that you see very similar patterns in bees around the world,” adds Rebecca. “Different climate, different environment, but the bees have responded in the same way at around the same time.”

In the face of future global warming these finding could be a good sign for some of our bees.

However, the news may not all be positive. There are other studies showing that some rare and ancient tropical bees require cool climate and, as a result, are already restricted to the highest mountain peaks of Fiji. For these species, climate warming could spell their eventual extinction.

“We now know that climate change impacts bees in major ways,” says Rebecca, “but the challenge will be to predict how those impacts play out. They are likely to be both positive and negative, and we need to know how this mix will unfold.”

Bees are major pollinators and are critical for many plants, ecosystems, and agricultural crops.Image2

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Original source:

Dew RM, Rehan SM, Schwarz MP (2016) Biogeography and demography of an Australian native bee Ceratina australensis (Hymenoptera, Apidae) since the last glacial maximum. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 49: 25-41. doi: 10.3897/JHR.49.8066

From a bulletin to a modern open access journal: Italian Botanist in Pensoft’s portfolio

Established in the distant 1888, the Italian Botanical Society has gone a long way towards publishing its achievements and research. Originated as a bulletin within an Italian journal, they have been growing ever since to now form a new international journal in its own right. Covering both Italian and international research in botany and mycology, the online open access journal Italian Botanist, published by Pensoft, is now officially launched via its first papers.

Although what was later to become Italian Botanist, published its first issue as an independent journal, called Informatore Botanico Italiano in 1969, the publications were still rather bulletin-style. It consisted of a mixture of administrative and scientific proceedings of the Society, the yearbook of the members, as well as scientific notes.

Nevertheless, such a major transition has been set to change everything fundamentally. Establishing its name, the journal started picking up, so that it was not long before the scientific contributions were prevailing. Impressively, for the Society’s centenary the journal published a celebratory 331-page contribution.

Gradually, its scope was expanded to cover several scientific fields. It hosted several themed columns, including cytotaxonomic contributions on the Italian flora, relevant new floristic records for Italy, conservational issues concerning the Italian flora and mycology.

However, the Directive Council of the Italian Botanical Society has not seemed to be ready to give up on their journal’s evolution. Last year, the botanists decided that they need to transform the journal to an an online, open access journal written in English and called Italian Botanist, in order to boost the scientific value and international visibility of Informatore Botanico Italiano.

italian botanist editorial PR

Under the name Italian Botanist, the journal has now joined Pensoft’s portfolio of peer-reviewed open access journals, all of which take advantage of the advanced technologies and innovations developed by the publisher.

The new journal’s scope ranges from molecular to ecosystem botany and mycology. The geographical coverage of Italian Botanist is specially focused on the Italian territory, but studies from other areas are also welcome.

Staying faithful to its spirit and philosophy, it keeps its column-format, with each issue to contain five columns, namely Chromosome numbers for the Italian flora, Global and Regional IUCN Red List Assessments, Notulae to the Italian flora of algae, briophytes, fungi and lichens, Notulae to the Italian native vascular flora and Notulae to the Italian alien vascular flora.

“Our hope is that this renewed version of the journal will serve the Italian – and foreign – botanical community more efficiently and provide readers worldwide with an easier access to knowledge concerning the Italian flora,” says Italian Botanist‘s Editor-in-Chief Lorenzo Peruzzi.

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Original source:

Peruzzi L, Siniscalco C (2016) From Bullettino della Società Botanica Italiana to Italian Botanist, passing through Informatore Botanico Italiano. A 128 years-long story. Italian Botanist 1: 1-4. doi: 10.3897/italianbotanist.1.8646

Two brand new dung beetle species from montane grazing sites and forests in Mexico

While carrying out a biodiversity study, a Mexican-Italian research team discovered three new dung beetle species in montane forests disturbed by livestock grazing. Mexico has been a mecca for naturalists, and its dung beetle species are among the best known in the world. This is why the discovery of new species there is noteworthy. The present study, published in the open-access journal ZooKeys, describes two of them and highlights the need to further explore the biodiversity of disturbed ecosystems.

Mexico is a country that holds a vast number of creatures and ecosystems. There is in fact a fascinating phenomenon: tropical forests that have close affinities with South America co-occurring with temperate and arid areas shared with North America. Thus, Mexico has been particularly attractive to explorers ever since the 19th century.

A group of animals that has woken up a special interest for studies in Mexico is the so-called ‘dung beetles’. As their name suggests, dung beetles are insects that feed mainly on mammal faeces.

For decades, an international research team, led by Dr Gonzalo Halffter, has studied dung beetles across the world, especially in Mexico. As a consequence, the Mexican species are some of the best-known. However, Dr Halffter and his team are not interested exclusively in dung beetles, but also in evolutive phenomena, the effects of land-use change, ecosystems modification by human activities, and conservation biology. Such concerns seem to be of particular importance now that the terrestrial ecosystems in Mexico have been severely destroyed and disturbed by people.

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Livestock is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide, which makes the present discovery particularly impressive. With at least 58% of the area of Mexico occupied with livestock farming, dung beetles are essential in cleaning up. While studying their diversity at conserved forests and cattle grazing sites across the mountains of Mexico, the researchers found some new species of dung beetles.

The first to discover these new dung beetles was Victor Moctezuma, a student of Dr Gonzalo’s at the Instituto de Ecología of Mexico.

“I was carrying out sampling for my Masters Degree studies, but I had no idea that new dung beetles could be found in a forest that is disturbed by human activities, such as livestock grazing and land-use change,” recalls Moctezuma. “So I was really surprised when I discovered three dung beetle species.” One of these species has already been published.

Apart from the two new dung beetles, formally called Onthophagus clavijeroi and Onthophagus martinpierai, the present paper also provides theories about the current distributions of these insects across the Mexican mountains and their putative evolutive relationships. As a whole, the study highlights the importance of disturbed forest for species discovery and conservation.

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Original source:

Moctezuma V, Rossini M, Zunino M, Halffter G (2016) A contribution to the knowledge of the mountain entomofauna of Mexico with a description of two new species of Onthophagus latreille, 1802 (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Scarabaeinae). ZooKeys 572: 23-50. doi:10.3897/zookeys.572.6763

Global Plant Conservation’s Phase 1: The world checklist of hornworts and liverworts

Although it was Charles Darwin himself who more than a century ago voiced his intention to support a complete catalogue of all known plant species, such is yet to be realised. In the present paper, however, an international research team present the first ever worldwide checklist of hornworts and liverworts, covering 7485 species from across 396 genera and representing 92 families from the two phyla.

“This group of generally small-sized plants are an important component of the vegetation in many regions of the world, constituting a major part of the biodiversity in moist forest, wetland, mountain and tundra ecosystems,” says Prof. Lars Soderstrom, the lead investigator from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The initiative is a part of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation aiming to list the whole known plant kingdom by 2020. Their work is published in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

Assembling a working digital list of all known plant species is a staple within the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, a framework whose ultimate goal is to halt the loss of plant diversity, which, unfortunately, is already a widely recognised fact. Without such a list, few other targets from the strategy would be met, since there would be a lack of baseline information. There would not be accessible and accurate botanical name information to utilise in researches, conservation and sustainability projects. Eventually, it would be impossible for taxonomists to stand their ground in the atmosphere of real-world politics.

“The present checklist is a result of a lengthy endeavour, started in 2008 at an international meeting hosted by The Field Museum, Chicago, and has blossomed to include over 40 authors and numerous individuals worldwide as well as several funding agencies allowing for a joint community effort to bring this to fruition,” says Dr. von Konrat. Working towards a consensus, together they managed to utilise the existing dataset and centralise nomenclature, taxonomy and geography on a global scale – something that had long been deterring such projects.

Liverworts and hornworts are of critical biological and ecological value, and an important component of the vegetation in many regions of the world. Liverworts, for example, are so widespread that can be found all the way from coastal Antarctica to the tundra of the Northern hemisphere and from the quite dry areas of Australia to the rainforest of Amazonia. Growing almost everywhere, they have turned into a microhabitat for a myriad of organisms such as single-celled eukaryotes, protozoa, and a wide range of invertebrates.

Moreover, both liverworts and hornworts play a vital role in the global carbon budget and carbon dioxide exchange. In the past they have even been used as climate change indicators and could be used as such to track potential signs of global warming in future.

In conclusion, the authors remind that their completion of the world checklist of hornwort and liverwort species is only the first phase towards the ultimate goal – a worldwide list of accepted plant names. Now, that there is a “virtual instrument with a linked environment both internally (e.g., within an article) and externally (GBIF, IPNI, Tropicos, Wikispecies, etc.) that will undoubtedly help accelerate taxonomic research,” the scientific world can set its sights on the next step – creating an easily accessible and generally recognised online platform for the supplementary information. It includes over 25,000 publications, almost 39,000 published names, and the over 700,000 geographical observations and the researchers believe that it will draw the attention and help of ecologists, conservationists, scientists from other disciplines and general interest groups.

“The broader accessibility to the wealth of auxiliary data will help augment monographic and revisionary work for many taxonomic groups, aid in identifying the need for increased floristic and survey work in many regions throughout the world, and have broad implications and applications beyond taxonomic research such as conservation science,” the scientists summarise. “However, such an effort can only be successful if it comes with sustained funding and infrastructure rather than depending on an ad hoc commitment by a few individuals, however dedicated”.

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Original source:

Soderstrom L, Hagborg A, von Konrat M, Bartholomew-Began S, Bell D, Briscoe L, Brown E, Cargill DC, Costa DP, Crandall-Stotler BJ, Cooper ED, Dauphin G, Engel JJ, Feldberg K, Glenny D, Gradstein SR, He X, Heinrichs J, Hentschel J, Ilkiu-Borges AL, Katagiri T, Konstantinova NA, Larraín J, Long DG, Nebel M, Pocs T, Felisa Puche F, Reiner-Drehwald E, Renner MAM, Sass-Gyarmati A, Schafer-Verwimp A, Moragues JGS, Stotler RE, Sukkharak P, Thiers BM, Uribe J, Vana J, Villarreal JC, Wigginton M, Zhang L, Zhu R-L (2016) World checklist of hornworts and liverworts. PhytoKeys 59: 1-821.doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.59.6261