An overlooked and rare new gall-inducing micromoth from Brazil

A new species and genus (Cecidonius pampeanus) of primitive monotrysian micromoth from the Brazilian Pampa biome has been recently discovered to induce scarcely noticeable galls under the swollen stems of the Uruguayan pepper tree.

Gall-inducing moths lay their eggs in the tree bark, where the larvae form the characteristic roundish swellings as they grow larger. In their turn, these galls attract various parasitoids and inquiline wasps – wasps that have lost the ability to form galls for their own eggs – and so they take advantage of the galls of other species, while under development. The inquilines modify the galls into larger ones which subsequently last longer and attract even more attention. As a result, even though abundant as young, the new moth’s larvae rarely survive and their density in the field later in life is low.

Moreiraetal_PressRelease_Image2While free-living gall moths are generally rare, the studied genus pupates on the ground, resulting in its being overlooked for over a century. Furthermore, the galls fall to the ground where the last instar larvae undergo a period of suspended development for months. They stay motionless within their gall until pupation and emerge as adults in the next growing season.

After all this time, this species has finally been recognised in the open access journal ZooKeys by an international research team, led by Dr. Gilson Moreira, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. In their paper, the scientists describe the gall, immature stages and adults of the moth. They also provide information on its natural history in conjunction with one of the associated parasitoid and inquiline wasps.

“It took several years to obtain a small number of C. pampeanus pupae and adults to use for the description,” say the authors.

“The existence of these galls has been known for more than a century. However, biologists believed they are induced by the inquiline wasps,” they explain. “Consequently, it turned out that the wasps do not induce galls, but rather modify them early in development into large and colourful, visually appealing galls.”

The study also provides strong evidence that the species is under threat of extinction and the scientists suggest that protective measures need to be taken to conserve it.

In fact, they found strikingly low levels of gene flow amongst populations of C. pampeanus. In their paper, the team also emphasises that, in case of extinction of the primary gall inducer, a whole insect community associated with their galls will follow. This could happen even before science becomes familiar with all of these species.

Open savannahs of southern Brazil, where populations of the new moth’s host plant (the Uruguayan pepper tree) are found, have been suffering from anthropic impact for decades, mostly caused by agriculture and cattle ranching.

Curiously, the present study is the first in Brazil to suggest that a micromoth and its associated fauna should be subjected to conservation measures.

Extant populations of the new species are distant and isolated from each other, being restricted to a small geographic area in the northeast Southern Brazilian “Campos” (= Pampean savannah), a neglected biome from a nature preservation perspective. Most of the moths have retreated to higher elevations, such as hilltops and hill slopes interspersed with small bushes, where they get shelter from the anthropic influence.

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Original source:

Moreira GRP, Eltz RP, Pase RB, Silva GT, Bordignon SAL, Mey W, Gonçalves GL (2017) Cecidonius pampeanus, gen. et sp. n.: an overlooked and rare, new gall-inducing micromoth associated with Schinus in southern Brazil (Lepidoptera, Cecidosidae). ZooKeys 695: 37-74. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.695.13320

Two new beetle genera and 4 new species from the Australopacific in a new monograph

An outstanding monograph of the Australopacific Region’s saprinine hister beetles supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Amid his ongoing revisionary work on a number of hister beetle genera, the Slovakian-born naturalised Dutch entomologist and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation researcher, Dr. Tomáš Lackner, Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, together with fellow entomologist Dr. Richard Leschen, Landcare Research, discovered two new genera and a total of four new species from the Australopacific Region. The newly described endemic insects are featured in an extensive monograph published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Hister beetles, also known as Clown beetles because of their flattened legs, represent a quite diverse family (Histeridae) of beetles living almost everywhere around the world. Amongst their characteristic traits are their shiny metallic wings. Most of these beetles are predaceous and feed on larvae of other insects, including some pests. Occasionally, some species filter-feed on dung. Curiously, the Clown beetles tend to play dead when threatened.

While the hister beetle subfamily Saprininae is common and diverse throughout the globe, with only 40 species in nine native and three introduced genera, they are poorly represented in the Australopacific Region. This is one of the reasons the present discoveries documenting the new diversity in the group are remarkable.

The authors note that their scarcity in the area might be as a result of the long-standing isolation of the Australian continent in combination with the originally densely forested large islands like New Zealand and New Guinea.

However, “the Australopacific Region harbors several species with very interesting morphologies and ecologies,” point out the scientists.

Image 2 The new species Saprinus rarusAmongst the most impressive newly described saprinines, there is the first truly myrmecophilous species and genus (Iridoprinus myrmecophilus) known from the region, which is likely to be dependent on its co-habitation with ants. The beetle is only known from Australia where it has been collected from the nests of another species, endemic to the country – the Meat anSimilarly, the new histerid species Saprinus rarus is the first known termitophilous saprinine from the Australopacific Region and only the third in the subfamily as a whole. Found in the nest of the arboreal Tree termite, the species had been previously collected, but it has been so rare that it has not been determined as a new to science species until now. Hence, it earned the scientific name rarus as in ‘rare’.

In conclusion, the team noted the next challenge about the Australopacific saprinines – the genus Saprinodes which is not only restricted to Australia, but also has a life history shrouded in mystery. So far, it has only been collected from pitfalls and flight intercept traps.

For lead author Dr. Tomáš Lackner, this is the tenth in a line of studies focused on the world’s remarkable histerids published in ZooKeys.

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Original source:Image 3 Sarandibrinus araceliae

Lackner T, Leschen RAB (2017) A monograph of the Australopacific Saprininae (Coleoptera, Histeridae). ZooKeys 689: 1-263. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.689.12021

About Alexander von Humboldt Foundation:

The Alexander von Humboldt foundation is an intermediary organisation for German foreign cultural and educational policy promoting international cultural dialogue and academic exchange. It offers flexible sponsorship programmes for researchers at all stages of their careers to enable outstanding scientists and scholars from abroad to complete long-term research stays in Germany.

Crab from the Chinese pet market turns out to be a new species of a new genus

Shimmering carapaces and rattling claws make colourful freshwater crabs attractive to pet keepers. To answer the demand, fishermen are busy collecting and trading with the crustaceans, often not knowing what exactly they have handed over to their client.

oo_102037Luckily for science and nature alike, however, such ‘stock’ sometimes ends up in the hands of scientists, who recognise their peculiarities and readily dig into them to make the next amazing discovery. Such is the case of three researchers from University of New South Wales, Australia, The Australian Museum, Sun Yat-sen University, China, and National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan, who have found a new species and even a new genus of freshwater crab, and now have it published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Knowing about the growing demand for eye-catching freshwater crabs from southern China, the authors took a look at the ornamental fish market to eventually identify an individual with unusually structured male gonopod, which in crustaceans is a swimming appendage modified to serve as a reproductive organ. Having their interest drawn by the peculiar crab, lead author Chao Huang managed to persuade the fish dealer to let them survey the collection site located in northern Guangdong, southern China.

Despite superficial resemblance to an already existing freshwater crab genus, at second glance, the crab turned out to be quite distinct thanks to a unique set of features including the carapace, the gonopod and the relatively long and slender legs. Once the molecular analyses’ results were also in, the authors had enough evidence to assign the freshwater crab as a species and even a genus new to science.

oo_102036Being a primarily aquatic species, the new crab prefers the pools of limestone hillstreams, therefore its name Yuebeipotamon calciatile, where calciatile means ‘living on limestone’. To adapt to the habitat, the species seems to have developed its characteristic slender legs, which make it easier for the crab to climb and move around whenever the short-lived limestone hillstreams make it search for a new home.

The carapace of the new crab is usually coloured in maroon to dark brown, while the claws and legs are reddish to purplish. Interestingly, the adults are much more vivid compared to the juveniles.

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Original source:

Citation: Huang C, Shih H-T, Mao SY (2016) Yuebeipotamon calciatile, a new genus and new species of freshwater crab from southern China (Crustacea, Decapoda, Brachyura, Potamidae). ZooKeys 615: 61-72. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.615.9964