Swiss-born rebranded Alpine Entomology journal joins Pensoft’s open access portfolio

Formerly dedicated to all fields in entomology, the journal now focuses on insect research from mountainous regions from around the world

Launched about a century and a half ago, the Swiss Entomological Society‘s official journal Die Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gesellschaft (Journal of the Swiss Entomological Society) is the latest historical scientific journal to join the lines of Pensoft’s portfolio.

As a result of an unanimous vote at the Swiss Entomological Society’s general assembly in March, the journal is now rebranded as Alpine Entomology to reflect the shift in its scope and focus. Furthermore, the renowned journal is also changing its format, submission and review process, “in accordance with the standards of modern scientific publishing”, as explained in the inaugural Editorial.

The first articles of Alpine Entomology in partnership with Pensoft are already live on the journal’s new website.

“Focusing the scope will improve the quality of the journal and of the submitted papers and therefore increase the impact in the scientific community,” say Dr. Thibault Lachat, Bern University of Applied Sciences and Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, and Hannes Baur, Natural History Museum of Bern, and University of Bern.

Alpine Entomology now accommodates a long list of high-tech perks and brand new looks thanks to the innovative journal publishing platform ARPHA – the Pensoft-developed innovative journal publishing platform.

Nonetheless, the journal preserves its well-respected expertise and dedication to original research on the insect fauna. Occasionally, it will be also publishing studies on other arthropods from the Alpine region or other mountainous regions all over the world.

Apart from the all-new look and feel visible at first glance, there are many technologically-advanced innovations to benefit authors, readers, reviewers and editors alike.

Thanks to the fast-track and convenient publishing provided by ARPHA, each manuscript is carried through all stages from submission and reviewing to dissemination and archiving without ever leaving the platform’s singular collaboration-friendly online environment.

Once published, all articles in Alpine Entomology are to be available in three formats (PDF, XML, HTML), enriched with a whole set of semantic enhancements, so that the articles are easy to discover, access and harvest by both humans and machines.

Amongst the first papers, there are descriptions of several new mountainous species from around the world that have remained unknown to science until very recently. Two separate papers describe two new species of long-legged flies from Turkey and Croatia, respectively; while a third one reports a new ground beetle dwelling in Bhutan’s Thrumshingla National Park.

“I’m delighted to welcome this particular new member of the Pensoft’s and ARPHA’s family,” says the publisher’s founder and CEO Prof. Lyubomir Penev. “With our own solid experience in both scholarly publishing and entomological research, I’m certain that we’ll be able to provide the right venue for a fantastic title as Alpine Entomology.

“This year sees a lot of changes for the Swiss Entomological Society‘s signature journal, which I believe are all extremely positive,” says Alpine Entomology‘s Editor-in-Chief Dr. Thibault Lachat. “By making use of the modern, technologically advanced open access publishing provided by ARPHA and Pensoft, I’m convinced that our journal will increase its visibility and gain an international reputation in the entomological community.”

###

Follow Alpine Entomology on Twitter | Facebook.

The Radiohead ant: A new species of ‘silky’ ant grows fungus gardens for food

The ants of the genus Sericomyrmex – literally translated as ‘silky ants’ – belong to the fungus-farming ants, a group of ants that have figured out how to farm their own food. The silky ants are the less well-known relatives of the famous leaf-cutter ants – well-studied, photogenic model organisms that you simply cannot avoid if you take a trip to the Neotropics.

For their study, now published in ZooKeys, Ana Ješovnik and Ted R. Schultz from the Smithsonian Institution‘s Ant Lab in Washington, D.C., collected silky ants from across their entire range in Central and South America, and revised the genus based on DNA sequence data and morphology. In the end, they turned out to have discovered three new species.

One of those species, Sericomyrmex radioheadi, collected in the Venezuelan Amazon, was named after the famous British music band Radiohead.

Image3“We wanted to honor their music” one of the authors, Ana Ješovnik, says. “But more importantly, we wanted to acknowledge the conservation efforts of the band members, especially in raising climate-change awareness. ”

Using a scanning electron microscope, the authors found that the bodies of the ants are covered with a white, crystal-like layer. Curiously, this previously unknown layer is present in female ants (both workers and queens), but is entirely absent in males. Both the chemical composition and the function of this layer are unclear.

One possibility is that the layer is microbial in origin and that it has a role in protecting the ants and their gardens from parasites. This is interesting, because most of the fungus-farming ants cultivate antibiotic-producing bacteria on their bodies to protect their gardens from microbial weeds. In the meantime, in Sericomyrmex these bacteria are absent, yet their gardens are also parasite-free. Figuring out if this crystal-like layer has a role in protecting these ants’ fungus gardens might provide clues for managing diseases in human agriculture and medicine.

At only four million years, Sericomyrmex is an evolutionary youngster, the most recently evolved genus of fungus-farming ants, and an example of rapid radiation – comparable to other fast-evolving groups, such as the freshwater fishes in Africa, or the Hawaiian fruit flies.

Rapid radiation is a process in which organisms diversify quickly into a multitude of forms, making these ants good candidates for studies into speciation and evolution. In the present article, the authors acknowledge that some of the species they describe might, in fact, be multiple species that look alike, but because the ants are in the early stages of speciation, this is hard to detect.

###

Original source:

Ješovnik A, Schultz TR (2017) Revision of the fungus-farming ant genus Sericomyrmex Mayr(Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmicinae). ZooKeys 670: 1-109. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.670.11839

Of Star Trek, Mark Twain and helmets: 15 new species of wasps with curious names

A total of fifteen new species of parasitic wasps have been described from across the Neotropical region. Apart from belonging to a peculiar group of wasps distinct with large and elongated bodies, the new insects also draw attention with the curious names they have been formally assigned with.

Among them, there are species named after characters from the television series Star Trek and Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, and five wasps bearing species names all translating to ‘helmet’. The study, conducted by graduate student Katherine C. Nesheim and Dr. Norman F. Johnson, both affiliated with the Ohio State University, USA, and Dr. Lubomír Masner, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, is published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The larvae of the studied wasps parasitise the eggs of lanternflies and planthoppers. These species inhabit exclusively the Neotropical region, with their range stretching from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the north to Misiones in southern Paraguay. Despite being quite abundant in the region, these insects have remained under-researched until recently.

One of the newly discovered wasp is named Phanuromyia odo, where the species name odo refers to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fictional character of the same name. In the popular sci-fi television series, Odo belongs to a species of shapeshifters called Changelings. The reason for the scientists to associate the parasitoid with the character is the spectacular variability observed within the insect species. In fact, it was this peculiarity that, at some point, led the entomologists believe they were dealing with two separate species.

P_pauper
Phanuromyia pauper

The authors do not make a clear statement that the new species P. pauper has a name inspired by the famous novel The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. Instead, they justify their choice with the fact that the species lacks a specific morphological feature – thus making it ‘poor’. On the other hand, the authors confirm that the new species called P. princeps is of ‘blue blood’ indeed, having its name derive from the other main character of the same book. Furthermore, both species are reported to look a lot like each other.

P_princeps
Phanuromyia princeps

Among the curious names in the list of new species, there are also five wasps whose scientific names all translate to ‘helmet’ in three different languages – Greek, Latin and Old Norse. The reason behind is that they have unusually large heads, which reminded the scientists of a “knight wearing a helmet”. Likewise, a related species received a name that in Latin means ‘wearing a hood’.

There is also a species, whose name means ‘having long hair’, and another called ‘constellation’ in Latin.

###

Original source:

Nesheim KC, Masner L, Johnson NF (2017) The Phanuromyia galeata species group (Hymenoptera, Platygastridae, Telenominae): shining a lantern into an unexplored corner of Neotropical diversity. ZooKeys 663: 71-105. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.663.11554

Mayflies of Turkey: Two new records for the country species and an annotated catalogue

Mayflies (the insect order Ephemeroptera) are a fascinating group, which represents the oldest winged insects, estimated to have been existing on the Earth since the lower Carboniferous, or, approximately for 350 million years. They are characterized by exclusively aquatic larvae, a unique fully winged subimaginal stage (the stage right before the young mayfly transforms into a sexually mature adult) and, typically, rather short life as an adult.

While identification has generally been considered difficult, and good research collections are to be found in relatively few specialised institutions, three biologists from Turkey and Austria have recently concluded a review of the Turkish mayfly fauna, in which they also add two species newly recorded from the country.

They also list 157 mayfly taxa representing 33 genera and 14 families, including 24 species considered endemic to Anatolia. With their annotated overview of the present state of knowledge concerning mayflies in Turkey, the authors aim to facilitate future research.

Synthesis of all previous records of mayflies from Turkey together with new records, a map of provinces and pertinent literature, are all included in the latest paper published by scientists Dr Ali Salur, Hitit University, Çorum, Turkey, Dr Mustafa Cemal Darilmaz, Aksaray University, Aksaray, Turkey, and Dr Ernst Bauernfeind, Natural History Museum Vienna, Austria, in the open access ZooKeys.

The data in the review are based on a detailed study of literature on Ephemeroptera in Turkey as well as on hitherto unpublished material housed in the Natural History Museum Vienna. Unpublished theses have not been considered. By 2015, there have been well over 70 scientific papers and books published on Ephemeroptera in Turkey from both Turkish and foreign researchers.image-2-collected-in-1863-rhithrogena-tibialis-syntype-male-imago-natural-history-museum-vienna

Distribution of species-group taxa in Turkey have been listed and referenced according to publication dates. National distribution records (without specific data at least on province level) have been listed under ‘Turkey’. Type locality of species were only provided if the taxon had originally been based on material from Turkey. Remarks on different taxonomic opinions and nomenclature have been added under ‘Comment’ whenever appropriate.

Websites http://www.faunaturkey.com and http://www.faunaturkey.org (launched in 2013) are meant to contribute more information on research about the fauna of Turkey. The data provided in the present study will also be added to the websites following publication.

###

Original source:

Salur A, Darilmaz MC, Bauernfeind E (2016) An annotated catalogue of the mayfly fauna of Turkey (Insecta, Ephemeroptera). ZooKeys 620: 67-118. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.620.9405

Flying jewels spell death for tarantulas: Study of a North American spider fly genus

Spider flies are usually a rarely encountered group of insects, except in Western North America, where the North American jewelled spider flies (the Eulonchus genus) can be locally abundant in mountainous areas such as the Sierra Nevada of California. The brilliantly coloured adults (also known as ‘sapphires’ and ’emeralds’) are important pollinators of flowers.

The North American jewelled spider flies typically have large rounded bodies covered with dense hairs and metallic green to blue or even purple colouration, giving them a jewel-like appearance. Together, the elongated mouthparts, the metallic coloration and the eyes, covered with soft hairs, immediately set these flies apart from any other group of tarantula fly. The mouthparts are greatly elongated to help them feed on nectar from the flowers of more than 25 different plant families and 80 species.

However, their larvae are more insidious, seeking out and inserting themselves into tarantula hosts and slowly eating away their insides until they mature and burst out of the abdomen, killing the spider, and leaving behind only the skin. Once they have emerged from the host, they pupate to develop into adults.

image-1In the present study, published in the open access journal ZooKeys, six species of the genus are recognized in North America, including one from the Smokey Mountains, and five from the West, ranging from Mexico to Canada. Drs Christopher J. Borkent and Shaun L. Winterton, and PhD student Jessica P. Gillung, all affiliated with the California State Collection of Arthropods, USA, have redescribed all of them using cybertaxonomic methods of natural language description. A phylogenetic tree of the relationships among the species is also presented.

The examined individuals include many from the collection amassed by the late Dr. Evert Schlinger (1928-2014) over the span of more than 60 years. Today, the collection resides at the California Academy of Sciences (CAS). “Dr. Evert I. Sclinger was a world renowned expert on spider fly taxonomy and biology,” write the authors in the paper, which they dedicate to the scientist and his legacy.

All of the studied flies are relatively widely distributed, and locally abundant, except for a single species (E. marialiciae), which is known from only a few specimens, collected within a small contiguous area in the Great Smoky Mountains. However, the scientists suggest that future studies are needed to explore whether this is actually their full range.

###

Original source:

Borkent CJ, Gillung JP, Winterton SL (2016) Jewelled spider flies of North America: a revision and phylogeny of Eulonchus Gerstaecker (Diptera, Acroceridae). ZooKeys 619: 103-146. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.619.8249

The city of angels and flies: 12 unknown scuttle fly species have been flying around L.A.

Although the second-largest and rather concrete metropolis in the United States might not be anywhere near one’s immediate association for a biodiversity hotspot, the fly fauna of Los Angeles is quite impressive. As part of BioSCAN, a project devoted to exploring the insect diversity in and around the city, a team of three entomologists report on their latest discovery – twelve new scuttle fly species. Their study is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

Launched in 2013, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County‘s project BioSCAN seems to never cease to amaze with large numbers of newly discovered species. The first phase of the study finished with 30 species of flies new to science from sites in 27 backyards, 1 community garden, the Los Angeles Ecovillage, and the Nature Gardens at the Museum. In recognition to the residents, who had literally let the scientists in their homes, each of those flies was named after the relevant site’s host.

When they decided to revisit the specimens they had collected during the first year of the project as well as older museum collections, the authors of the present paper were in fact quite certain they were about to find a new batch of unknown flies.

Img2 M. stoakesi

Having already described so many new scuttle fly species, the latest twelve had initially gone undercover, all being rare and often represented by only one specimen among the total of 43,651 collected individuals.

“The remarkable diversity of biologies of these flies makes them a varied and essential group to document in any ecosystem,” the entomologists explain.

The extensive BioSCAN project is still ongoing thanks to its passionate staff, international collaborators and advisors, as well as the large number of students and volunteers. Being especially grateful for their help, the scientists have named one of the fly species M. studentorum and another one – M. voluntariorum. The project is currently in its second phase of collecting.

“These volunteers are critical to our operation, and have contributed to everything from public outreach in the NHM Nature Lab to specialized work on phorid flies,” point out the authors.

In the end, the researchers hope that they will get their message across to other taxonomists, funding agencies, institutions and the public alike. Urban environments with their fast-changing conditions and biodiversity profile, need constant attention and scientific curiosity.

“There is an enormous taxonomic deficiency, including, or, perhaps, especially, in rapidly changing urban environments,” they say. “Taxonomists and their funding agencies must give time, attention and money to the environments surrounding their towns and cities.”Img3 M. wongae

“Baseline collections of urban fauna must be established in the present if there is hope for understanding the introductions and extinctions that will occur in the future,” they stress.

###

Original source:

Hartop E, Brown B, Disney R (2016) Flies from L.A., The Sequel: A further twelve new species ofMegaselia (Diptera: Phoridae) from the BioSCAN Project in Los Angeles (California, USA).Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e7756. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e7756