Smeagol found underground in Brazil: New eyeless and highly modified harvestman species

Called after Tolkien’s character from the “Lord of the Rings” series, a new eyeless harvestman species was found to crawl in a humid cave in southeastern Brazil. Never getting out of its subterranean home, the new daddy longlegs species is the most highly modified representative among its close relatives and only the second one with no eyes living in Brazil. Its introduction to science, made by the Brazilian research team of Dr. Ricardo Pinto-da-Rocha, Instituto de Biociências da Universidade de São Paulo together with Dr. Maria Elina Bichuette and MSc. Rafael Fonseca-ferreira from Universidade Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar), is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

While there are cave dwellers that can easily survive above the ground and even regularly go out in order to feed or mate, there are some, such as the new harvestman species, Iandumoema smeagol, that never leave their subterranean habitats. As an adaptation, the new harvestman species is eyeless and has a reduced amount of melanistic pigmentation, which shows through its pale yellowish colours.

The fourteen adult and juvenile individuals, observed by the researchers, were noticed to always stay close to the stream, most often preferring the wet cave walls. While the juveniles appeared quite active, the adults showed a more sedentary behaviour.

Typically for the harvestmen, the new species was found in a cave with organic matter deposits or spots. On one occasion the team observed one of the individuals in such litter, where it was scavenging carcasses of invertebrates.

In conclusion, the authors point out that additional studies on the population biology of the new species are urgent so that an adequate conservation strategy can be assumed. It is probable that its highly restricted distribution along with the deforestation taking place in the cave’s immediate surroundings call for the creation of protected areas.

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Original source:

Pinto-da-Rocha R, Fonseca-Ferreira R, Bichuette ME (2015) A new highly specialized cave harvestman from Brazil and the first blind species of the genus: Iandumoema smeagol sp. n. (Arachnida, Opiliones, Gonyleptidae). ZooKeys 537: 79-95. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.537.6073

Long-snouted Amazonian catfishes including three new species to form a new genus

Being close relatives within the same genus, eight catfishes showed enough external differences, such as characteristic elongated mouths, hinting to their separate origin. Following a thorough morphological as well as molecular analysis, a team of researchers suggested that five previously known species along with three new ones, which they have found during their survey, need a new genus to accommodate for their specificity. The study, conducted by a Brazilian research team from Universidade Estadual Paulista and led by Dr. Fabio F. Roxo, is available in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Among other physical peculiarities, the longer snout-like mouths of the herein discussed catfishes is a characteristic that sets them apart. This is also why the authors have chosen the name of Curculionichthys for the proposed genus, formed by the Latin word for “elongated snout” and the suffix “ichthys” meaning “fishes” in Greek.

Furthermore, one of the new species the researchers describe in the present paper surprises with its several dark-brown spots spread across its body. This colouration is unlike any other in its relatives that have various pigment patterns, yet never dark brown spots.

However, other overlapping morphological features as well as the closeness in the species’ researched habitats suggest they have a common ancestor, once lived in the Amazonian drainages.

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Original source:

Roxo FF, Silva GSC, Ochoa LA, Oliveira C (2015) Description of a new genus and three new species of Otothyrinae (Siluriformes, Loricariidae). ZooKeys 534: 103-134. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.534.6169

Sir Elton John is the inspiration behind the name of a new coral reef crustacean species

While exploring the remote coral reefs of Raja Ampat in Indonesia, Dr. James Thomas from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Florida, and his colleagues from Naturalis Natural History museum in the Netherlands, stumbled across a small but extraordinary crustacean living inside another reef invertebrate in a commensal association (without causing any harm, nor benefit to its host).

In his amazement to the amphipod’s unusual form, Dr. Thomas called it L. eltoni after musician and actor Sir Elton John. The research is available in the open access journal ZooKeys.

“I named the species in honour of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career,” the lead author explains. “So, when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind.”

Taxonomists, scientists who study and name new species, have the choice to pick names that are relevant to locations, features of the animal, or people the scientist admires.

In an interesting twist L. eltoni is now reported from Hawaiian waters as an invasive species. “Several years ago I was contacted by scientists from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu to help identify an unusual amphipod they had collected,” said Dr. Thomas. It proved to be the same species as the one from Indonesia. The most likely scenario for its introduction into Hawaiian waters was as a hitchhiker inside its host sponge or tunicate that was attached to a large floating drydock transported to Hawaii from Subic Bay, Philippines. Recent studies by Dr. Thomas in the Philippines during a California Academy of Science expedition in 2014 have shown this new species is also found there.

Marine animals can have unknown effects when transported to other ecosystems where they can compete with native species. In most cases these “invasions” go unnoticed. However, because scientists at the Bishop Museum had established a baseline of species over the years the presence of this invasive amphipod was quickly noted.

“Such studies show the importance of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments,” commented the scientist. He also pointed out that even though their tiny size, crustaceans such as L. eltoni provide crucial information about reef health.

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Original source

Thomas J. D. (2015) Leucothoe eltoni sp. n., a new species of commensal leucothoid amphipod from coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia (Crustacea, Amphipoda). ZooKeys 518: 51-66. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.518.9340