A new species of rare pseudoscorpion named after the Slovak president

Olpium caputi, named after Zuzana Čaputová, was discovered on the island Tahiti in French Polynesia

There are about 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The most remote of them are in North and East Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands, and French Polynesia. Biologists have been attracted to these regions since the 18th century, but French Polynesia has received much less attention compared to the Hawaiian Islands.

A view of the area where Olpium caputi was found. Photo by Frédéric A. Jacq

Contributions to our knowledge of the pseudoscorpions of French Polynesia date from the 1930s and are associated with the Pacific Entomological Survey. Since then, the French Polynesian pseudoscorpion fauna has consisted of only four known species.

A female individual of Olpium caputi.

Thanks to international cooperation, a team of enthusiastic scientists has published the first discovery of a new species of pseudoscorpion from French Polynesia. Between 2017 and 2020, they studied French Polynesia’s fauna and environment for the French Polynesian Agricultural Service and as a part of a large-scale survey of arthropods. During their research work, they collected a few pseudoscorpion specimens on Huahine and Tahiti in the Society Islands.

Among them is a new species named Olpium caputi, collected by sieving moss at 1,450 m about sea level on the Mont Marau Summit, Tahiti, one of the Society Islands archipelago. Its scientific name honours Zuzana Čaputová, the President of Slovakia.

Zuzana Čaputová. Photo by Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

“As a female leader, she takes a strong stance and supports women and scientists. Even in the 21st century, women in science or top positions are rare. The rarity of the research in French Polynesia, the uniqueness of the discovery, and the fact that the new species is a female, led us to name it after this inspiring woman who can be a role model of courage and perseverance for many women,” says Jana Christophoryová, who led the study.

The paper is published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys.

The team:

Katarína Krajčovičová of Bratislavské regionálne ochranárske združenie – BROZ, Bratislava, and Jana Christophoryová of Comenius University, Bratislava, are both zoologists, who specialize in the taxonomy, distribution, and ecology of pseudoscorpions. Frédéric Jacq, botanist, and Thibault Ramage, entomologist, are independent naturalists who have been working on improving the faunistic and taxonomic knowledge of French Polynesia for over 15 years.

Research article:

Krajčovičová K, Ramage T, Jacq FA, Christophoryová J (2024) Pseudoscorpions (Arachnida, Pseudoscorpiones) from French Polynesia with first species records and description of new species. ZooKeys 1192: 29-43. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1192.111308

Five dazzling new species of eyelash vipers discovered in Colombia and Ecuador

The groundbreaking discovery was made official in a study published in the open-access journal Evolutionary Systematics.

A group of scientists led by researchers of Khamai Foundation discovered five dazzling new species of eyelash vipers in the jungles and cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador. This groundbreaking discovery was made official in a study published in the open-access journal Evolutionary Systematics.

Prior to this research, the captivating new vipers, now recognized as among the most alluring ever found, were mistakenly classified as part of a single, highly variable species spanning from Mexico to northwestern Peru. The decade-long study initiated with an unexpected incident wherein one of the authors was bitten by one of these previously undiscovered species.

 Distribution of the palm pitvipers of the Bothriechis schlegelii species complex, including the five new species described in Arteaga et al. 2014.

Eyelash vipers stand out due to a distinctive feature: a set of enlarged spine-like scales positioned atop their eyes. These “lashes” bestow upon the snakes a formidable and fierce appearance, yet the true purpose of this feature remains unknown. What is definite, however, is that certain populations exhibit longer, and more stylized eyelashes compared to others. The variations in the condition of the eyelashes led researchers to hypothesize the existence of undiscovered species.

The clue that led the researchers to suspect that there were new species of eyelash vipers was the fact that some populations in the cloud forests of Ecuador had almost no “lashes.” Photos by Lucas Bustamante and Jose Vieira.

Eyelash vipers are also famous for another feature: they are polychromatic. The same patch of rainforest may contain individuals of the turquoise morph, the moss morph, or the gold morph, all belonging to the same species despite having an entirely different attire. “No two individuals have the same coloration, even those belonging to the same litter (yes, they give birth to live young),” says Alejandro Arteaga, who led the study.

For some of the species, there is a “Christmas” morph, a ghost morph, and even a purple morph, with the different varieties sometimes coexisting and breeding with one another. The reason behind these incredible color variations is still unknown, but probably enables the vipers to occupy a wide range of ambush perches, from mossy branches to bright yellow heliconias.

Where do these new snakes live?

Three of the five new species are endemic to the eastern Cordillera of Colombia, where they occupy cloud forests and coffee plantations. One, the Rahim’s Eyelash-Pitviper, stands out for occurring in the remote and pristine Chocó rainforest at the border between Colombia and Ecuador, an area considered “complex to visit” due to the presence of drug cartels. The Hussain’s Eyelash-Pitviper occurs in the forests of southwestern Ecuador and extreme northwestern Peru. The researchers outline the importance of conservation and research in the Andes mountain range and its valleys due to its biogeographic importance and undiscovered megadiversity.

The Chocó rainforest is home to four vipers of the Bothriechis schlegelii species complex, including two new species discovered by Arteaga et al. 2024. Photo by Lucas Bustamante

What’s with the venom?

“The venom of some (perhaps all?) of the new species of vipers is considerably less lethal and hemorrhagic than that of the typical Central American Eyelash-Viper,” says Lucas Bustamante, a co-author of the study. Lucas was bitten in the finger by the Rahim’s Eyelash-Pitviper while taking its pictures during a research expedition in 2013. “I experienced intermittent local pain, dizziness and swelling, but recovered shortly after receiving three doses of antivenom in less than two hours after the bite, with no scar left behind,” says Bustamante.

Researcher Alejandro Arteaga examines the fangs of Central American Eyelash-Pitviper (Bothriechis nigroadspersus) in the Darién jungle of Panamá.

How threatened are these new species?

One of the study’s key conclusions is that four of the species in the group are facing a high risk of extinction. They have an extremely limited geographic range and 50% to 80% of their habitat has already been destroyed. Therefore, a rapid-response action to save the remaining habitat is urgently needed.

Red-wine morph of the Central American Eyelash-Pitviper (Bothriechis nigroadspersus), photographed in the Caribbean Island Escudo de Veraguas, off the coast of Panamá. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga

Who is honored with this discovery?

Two of the new species of vipers, the Rahim’s Eyelash-Pitviper (Bothriechis rahimi) and the Hussain’s Eyelash-Pitviper (B. hussaini), are named in honor of Prince Hussain Aga Khan and Prince Rahim Aga Khan, respectively, in recognition of their support to protect endangered global biodiversity worldwide through Focused On Nature (FON) and the Aga Khan Development Network. The Shah’s Eyelash-Pitviper (B. rasikusumorum) honors the Shah family, whereas the Klebba’s Eyelash-Pitviper (B. klebbai) and the Khwarg’s Eyelash-Pitviper (B. khwargi) honor Casey Klebba and Dr. Juewon Khwarg, respectively, for supporting the discovery and conservation of new species.

Turquoise morph of the Ecuadorian Eyelash-Pitviper (Bothriechis nitidus). This species is endemic to the Chocó rainforest in west-central Ecuador. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga

What is next?

Khamai Foundation is setting up a reserve to protect a sixth new species that remained undescribed in the present study. “The need to protect eyelash vipers is critical, since unlike other snakes, they cannot survive without adequate canopy cover. Their beauty, though worthy of celebration, should also be protected and monitored carefully, as poachers are notorious for targeting charismatic arboreal vipers for the illegal pet trade of exotic wildlife,” warns Arteaga. Finally, he and his team encourage the support of research on the venom components of the new species of vipers. This will promote their conservation as well as help communities that regularly encounter eyelash pitvipers.

Original source:

Arteaga A, Pyron RA, Batista A, Vieira J, Meneses Pelayo E, Smith EN, Barrio Amorós CL, Koch C, Agne S, Valencia JH, Bustamante L, Harris KJ (2024) Systematic revision of the Eyelash Palm-Pitviper Bothriechis schlegelii (Serpentes, Viperidae), with the description of five new species and revalidation of three. Evolutionary Systematics 8(1): 15-64. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.8.114527

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New species of 65-million-year-old shark ‘accidentally’ discovered in Alabama

The shark lived shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs, and was discovered from a box of teeth collected over 100 years ago.

A new species of shark, which lived shortly after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, was discovered when palaeontologist Jun Ebersole came across a 100-year-old box of teeth at the Geological Survey in Alabama, USA.

“Having documented hundreds of fossil fish species over the last decade, I found it puzzling that these teeth were from a shark that I didn’t recognise,” says Ebersole, Director of Collections, McWane Science Center, Birmingham, AL, who quickly realised the teeth belong to a new species.

New shark species tooth.
Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi tooth. Credit: McWane Science Center.

The team, consisting of Ebersole, David Cicimurri, Curator of Natural History, South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, and T. Lynn Harrell Jr., Palaeontologist and Fossil Collections Curator at the Geological Survey of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, published their discovery in the open-access journal Fossil Record.

The shark is a new species of Palaeohypotodus (pronounced pale-ee-oh-hype-oh-toe-duss), which means “ancient small-eared tooth,” in reference to the small needle-like fangs present on the sides of the teeth. Scientists believe it may have looked like a modern sand tiger shark.

Moder sand tiger shark.
Modern sand tiger. Credit: Wikimedia commons.

Living approximately 65-million-years ago in the Paleocene era, Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi was likely a leading predator as the oceans recovered following the death of the dinosaurs, when more than 75% of life on Earth went extinct.

In Alabama, much of the southern half of the state was covered by a shallow tropical to sub-tropical ocean during the Paleocene.

New shark species teeth.
Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi teeth. Credit: Ebersole et al.

“This time period is understudied, which makes the discovery of this new shark species that much more significant,” Harrell says. “Shark discoveries like this one give us tremendous insights into how ocean life recovers after major extinction events and also allows us to potentially forecast how global events, like climate change, affect marine life today.”

As part of their study of this ancient fish, the team compared the fossil teeth to those of various living sharks, like Great Whites and Makos. According to Cicimurri, shark teeth differ in shape depending on where they are located in the mouth.

“By studying the jaws and teeth of living sharks, it allowed us to reconstruct the dentition of this ancient species and showed that it had a tooth arrangement that differed from any living shark,” Cicimurri says.

Dr. Bruce Bizzoco.
The late Dr. Bruce Bizzoco (1949-2022), for whom the new species is named.
Credit: McWane Science Center.

The new species has been named Palaeohypotodus bizzocoi for the late Dr. Bruce Bizzoco (1949-2022) of Birmingham, AL. Bizzoco served as a Dean at Shelton State Community College, archaeologist, and was a long-time volunteer at McWane Science Center.

This discovery is part of an ongoing project led by Ebersole and Cicimurri to document Alabama’s fossil fishes. Together, they have confirmed over 400 unique species of fossil sharks and bony fishes, which, according to Ebersole, makes Alabama one of the richest places in the world in terms of fossil fish diversity.

Research paper

Ebersole JA, Cicimurri DJ, Harrell Jr. TL (2024) A new species of Palaeohypotodus Glickman, 1964 (Chondrichthyes, Lamniformes) from the lower Paleocene (Danian) Porters Creek Formation, Wilcox County, Alabama, USA. Fossil Record 27(1): 111-134. https://doi.org/10.3897/fr.27.e112800

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Two new freshwater fungi species in China enhance biodiversity knowledge

The discoveries from the southwest of the country add to the impressive diversity of freshwater fungi in China.

Researchers have discovered two new freshwater hyphomycete (mould) species, Acrogenospora alangii and Conioscypha yunnanensis, in southwestern China. 

This discovery, detailed in a study published in MycoKeys, marks the addition of these species to the Acrogenospora and Conioscypha genera, further enriching the diversity of freshwater fungi known in the region.

A research team consisting of Lu Li, Hong-Zhi Du and Ratchadawan Cheewangkoon from Chiang Mai University, Thailand, as well as Vinodhini Thiyagaraja and Rungtiwa Phookamsak from Kunming Institute of Botany, China, and Darbhe Jayarama Bhat from King Saud University, Saudi Arabia, employed comprehensive morphological analysis and multi-gene phylogenetic assessments in their study. 

Notably, Acrogenospora alangii was identified on submerged branches of the medicinal plant Alangium chinense, highlighting a unique ecological association.

Hostplant of Acrogenospora alangii growing near water body.

Freshwater fungi are highly diverse in China and frequently reported from submerged wood, freshwater insects, herbaceous substrates, sediments, leaves, foams, and living plants.

Most species are well-known as saprobes (organisms that live on decaying organisms) and they play an important role in ecological functioning as decomposers, but also can be pathogens as well as symbionts on humans and plants.

This research underscores the ecological and taxonomic richness of freshwater fungi in China, a country already recognised for its diverse fungal habitats. The findings contribute valuable insights into the roles these organisms play in freshwater ecosystems and emphasise the importance of ongoing biodiversity studies in these environments.

Research article

Li L, Du H-Z, Thiyagaraja V, Bhat DJ, Phookamsak R, Cheewangkoon R (2024) Two novel freshwater hyphomycetes, in Acrogenospora (Minutisphaerales, Dothideomycetes) and Conioscypha (Conioscyphales, Sordariomycetes) from Southwestern China. MycoKeys 101: 249-273. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.101.115209

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Spiders, snakes and pseudoscorpions: new species published in Pensoft journal

Twelve fascinating newly discovered species were published in Pensoft’s journal Zoosystematics and Evolution in January 2024.

Zoosystematics and Evolution kicked off the year with research papers introducing 12 exciting new species from around the world. The journal, published by Pensoft on behalf of Museum für Naturkunde, is known for being at the forefront of animal research and, in particular, for sharing exciting new discoveries like those below.

Four jumping spiders from India

Four new species of Phintella were discovered in India. Generally striking in appearance, the genus now has 18 recognised species in India – second only to China.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113049

An ethereal sea slug from British waters

Pleurobranchaea britannica, a newly discovered sea slug, is the first of its genus found in British waters. The unusual translucent creature also represents the second valid Pleurobranchaea species from European seas.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113707

A beautiful venomous snake from Thailand

In the Tenasserim Mountain Range of western Thailand, researchers discovered Bungarus sagittatus, a new species of venomous elapid snake. The name sagittatus is derived from sagittata meaning arrow, referencing the dark triangular shape on its subcaudal scales which resembles a barbed arrow.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.116601

Two eels from India

Researchers described two new species, Ariosoma gracile and Ariosoma kannani, from Indian waters, based on the materials collected from the Kochi coast, Gulf of Mannar and the West Bengal coast, along the Bay of Bengal.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.116611

An island-dwelling land snail from Australia

Xanthomelon amurndamilumila

Xanthomelon amurndamilumila was discovered on the North East Isles, offshore from Groote Eylandt, Australia. Its conservation status is of concern on North East Island because of habitat degradation caused by feral deer.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113243

New fish from Türkiye

A new Eurasian minnow, Phoxinus radeki, was discovered in the Ergene River (Aegean Sea Basin). Salmo brunoi, a new species of trout, was discovered in the Nilüfer River, a tributary of the Susurluk River.

Research papers: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.113467 (Phoxinus radeki),
https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.112557 (Salmo brunoi)

An Indian pseudoscorpion

Ditha shivanparaensis

Ditha shivanparaensis may look like a scorpion, but looks can be deceiving. Rather, it is an arachnid, newly discovered from the tropical montane cloud forests or ‘sholas’ of the Western Ghats of India.

Research paper: https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.100.110020

With all these discoveries published in January, we anticipate many more exciting new species to come from Zoosystematics and Evolution in 2024!

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New coffee snake species discovered in Ecuador’s cloud forests

Found by biologist Alejandro Arteaga, this species lives in coffee plantations and is endemic to northwestern Ecuador

Researchers of Khamai Foundation and Liberty University have discovered a new species of coffee snake endemic to the cloud forests of northwestern Ecuador.

The new species is named Ninia guytudori, in honor of naturalist Guy Tudor, in recognition of the impact he has had on the conservation of South America’s birds through his artistry. Photo by Alejandro Arteaga.

Biologist Alejandro Arteaga first found the snake in Ecuador’s Pichincha province, while looking for animals to include in a book on the Reptiles of Ecuador.

“This is species number 30 that I have discovered, out of a target of 100,” he says.

Ninia guytudori from Santa Lucía Cloud Forest Reserve, Pichincha province. Photo by Jose Vieira

Like other coffee snakes, Tudors’s Coffee-Snake often inhabits coffee plantations, especially in areas where its cloud forest habitat has been destroyed. It is endemic to the Pacific slopes of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador, where it lives at elevations of between 1,000 and 1,500 m above sea level.

While it faces no major immediate extinction threats, some of its populations are likely to be declining due to deforestation by logging and large-scale mining.

Photo by Jose Vieira

The researchers hope that its discovery will highlight the importance of preserving the cloud forest ecosystem, and focus research attention on human-modified habitats that surround it such as coffee plantations and pastures.

Photographs of some specimens of Ninia guytudori: top, from Santa Lucía Cloud Forest Reserve, Pichincha province. Bottom, from Río Manduriacu Reserve, Imbabura province. Photos by Jose Vieira

The name of the new snake species honors Guy Tudor, “an all-around naturalist and scientific illustrator with a deep fondness for birds and all animals, in recognition of the impact he has had on the conservation of South America’s birds through his artistry,” the researchers write in their paper, which was recently published in Evolutionary Systematics.

“We are trying to raise funds for conservation through the naming of new species. This one helped us protect Buenaventura Reserve.

Research article:

Arteaga A, Harris KJ (2023) A new species of Ninia (Serpentes, Colubridae) from western Ecuador and revalidation of N. schmidti. Evolutionary Systematics 7(2): 317-334. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.7.112476

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Hidden biodiversity underfoot: DNA barcoding of Taiwanese forest beetles

The intricate world beneath our feet holds secrets that are only now being unveiled, as researchers embark on a groundbreaking project to explore the hidden diversity of forest leaf litter beetles in Taiwan.

Guest blog post by the research team led by Martin Fikácek and Fang-Shuo Hu, based on their paper published in Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift.

Forest leaf litter, often likened to terrestrial coral reefs, supports an astonishing variety of life. Among the myriad arthropods dwelling in this ecosystem, beetles emerge as the most common and speciose group. Despite their abundance, our understanding of leaf litter beetles remains limited due to the challenges posed by their sheer numbers, small sizes, and high local endemism.

Unlocking the Mystery with DNA Barcoding

To overcome these challenges, a team of researchers has initiated the Taiwanese Leaf Litter Beetles Barcoding project. Leveraging DNA barcoding, the project aims to create a comprehensive reference library for these elusive beetles. DNA barcoding, a technique using short mitochondrial fragments, accelerates the analysis of entire faunas and aids in the identification of species. The goal is to provide a valuable resource for researchers, ecologists, conservation biologists, and the public.

DNA voucher collection. Hu et al.

A Collaborative Journey with Taxonomists

The success of the Taiwanese Leaf Litter Beetles Barcoding project hinges on the invaluable contribution of taxonomists, who play a pivotal role in this groundbreaking research. Recognizing the specialized knowledge required for precise genus and species identifications, the researchers diligently consulted with specialists for each family represented in the extensive dataset.

In cases where these taxonomic experts provided crucial assistance, they were not merely acknowledged but offered co-authorship, acknowledging the significant commitment and expertise they bring to the project. Many taxonomists devote their entire lives to the meticulous study of specific beetle groups, and this collaboration underscores the importance of their dedication. The researchers emphasize the fairness of extending co-authorship to these taxonomic experts, acknowledging their indispensable role in advancing our understanding of Taiwan’s leaf litter beetle fauna.

Larva of Oodes (Lachnocrepisjaponicus. Hu et al.

Rich Beetle Diversity in Taiwan

Taiwan, nestled in the western Pacific, boasts a rich biodiversity resulting from its location at the crossroads of the Oriental and Palearctic biogeographical regions. Beetles, with over 7,700 recorded species belonging to 119 families, stand out as a particularly diverse insect order on the island. Despite this wealth of species, taxonomic research on beetles in Taiwan has been fragmented, and the study of leaf litter beetles has relied heavily on collections from past decades.

Larvae of Lagria scutellaris (OTU174) associated with adults by DNA. Hu et al.

The current dataset, based on specimens collected in the Huisun Recreation Forest Area in 2019–2021, comprises 4,629 beetles representing 334 species candidates from 36 families. The DNA barcoding approach has not only allowed for efficient species identification but has also provided a glimpse into the intricate world of beetle larvae, enhancing our understanding of their biology and ecological roles. This comprehensive dataset marks a significant step forward in unraveling the mysteries of Taiwan’s diverse beetle fauna.

Project Goals, Progress, and Future Outlook

The Taiwanese Leaf Litter Beetles Barcoding project is dedicated to a three-fold mission: conducting an extensive study of leaf litter beetles, documenting their diversity in Taiwan, and providing a reliable tool for quick identification. The researchers have published the first set of DNA barcodes, unveiling taxonomic insights such as the description of a new species and several newly recorded taxa.

Map of the samples collected in 2019–2023. Hu et al.

While the dataset is geographically limited to a single forest reserve in central Taiwan, it efficiently demonstrates the challenges of studying subtropical and tropical leaf litter beetle faunas. The integration of DNA barcoding and morphology proves instrumental in unraveling the mysteries of this species-diverse ecosystem. Looking ahead, the team plans to expand their sampling across Taiwan, covering diverse regions, altitudinal zones, and forest types.

Continuous updates to the DNA barcode dataset will serve as a valuable resource for future studies, maintaining a balanced approach that recognizes DNA barcoding as an efficient complement to traditional taxonomic methods.

Research article:

Hu F-S, Arriaga-Varela E, Biffi G, Bocák L, Bulirsch P, Damaška AF, Frisch J, Hájek J, Hlaváč P, Ho B-H, Ho Y-H, Hsiao Y, Jelínek J, Klimaszewski J, Kundrata R, Löbl I, Makranczy G, Matsumoto K, Phang G-J, Ruzzier E, Schülke M, Švec Z, Telnov D, Tseng W-Z, Yeh L-W, Le M-H, Fikáček M (2024) Forest leaf litter beetles of Taiwan: first DNA barcodes and first insight into the fauna. Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 71(1): 17-47. https://doi.org/10.3897/dez.71.112278

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New reptile on the block: A new agamid lizard species discovered in China

Measuring less than 9 cm with an orange tongue, it inhabits subtropical and tropical forests, thriving in various landscapes including urban areas.

A new agamid joins Asia’s rich reptile fauna, officially described as new to science in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Calotes wangi.

“From 2009 to 2022, we conducted a series of field surveys in South China and collected a number of specimens of the Calotes versicolor species complex, and found that the population of what we thought was Calotes versicolor in South China and Northern Vietnam was a new undescribed species and two subspecies,” says Yong Huang, whose team described the new species.

Calotes wangi hainanensis, a newly discovered subspecies of Calotes wangi.

Wang’s garden lizard (Calotes wangi) is less than 9 cm long, and one of its distinguishing features is its orange tongue.

Calotes wangi is found in subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forests and tropical monsoon forests in southern China and northern Vietnam, mostly in mountainous areas, hills and plains on forest edges, arable land, shrub lands, and even urban green belts. It is active at the edge of the forest, and when it is in danger, it rushes into bushes or climbs tree trunks to hide. Investigations found that the lizards lie on sloping shrub branches at night, sleeping close to the branches,” says Yong Huang.

Calotes wangi.

It is active from April to October every year, while in the tropics it is active from March to November or even longer, and eats a variety of insects, spiders, and other arthropods.

For now, the researchers estimate that the new species is not threatened, but they do note that in some areas its habitat is fragmented.

Images of Calotes wangi’s habitat.

“In addition, their bodies are used medicinally and the lizards are also eaten,” they write in their research paper.

This is why they suggest that the local government strengthen the protection of their ecological environment and pay close attention to the population dynamics.

Research article:

Huang Y, Li H, Wang Y, Li M, Hou M, Cai B (2023) Taxonomic review of the Calotes versicolor complex (Agamidae, Sauria, Squamata) in China, with description of a new species and subspecies. ZooKeys 1187: 63-89. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1187.110704

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Smithsonian’s Dr Torsten Dikow appointed Editor-in-Chief of ZooKeys

Dikow, an esteemed entomologist specialising in Diptera and cybertaxonomy, is the new Editor-in-Chief of the leading scholarly journal in systematic zoology and biodiversity

Esteemed entomologist specialising in true flies (order Diptera) and cybertaxonomy, Dr Torsten Dikow was appointed as the new Editor-in-Chief of the leading open-access peer-reviewed journal in systematic zoology and biodiversity ZooKeys.

Dikow is to step into the shoes of globally celebrated fellow entomologist and colleague at the Smithsonian and founding Editor-in-Chief of ZooKeys Dr Terry Erwin, who sadly passed away in May, 2020, leaving behind hefty scientific legacy and immeasurable admiration and fond memories

Today, Dikow is a Research Entomologist and Curator of Diptera and Aquatic Insects at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC, USA), where his research interests encompass the diversity and evolutionary history of the superfamily Asiloidea – or asiloid flies – comprising curious insect groups, such as the assassin flies / robber flies and the mydas flies. Amongst an extensive list of research publications, Dikow’s studies on the diversity, biology, distribution and systematics of asiloid flies include the description of 60 species of assassin flies alone, and the redescription of even more through comprehensive taxonomic revisions.

Dikow obtained his M.S. in Zoology from the Universität Rostock (Germany) and Ph.D. in Entomology from Cornell University (New York, USA) with three years of dissertation research conducted at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). 

During his years as a postdoc at the Field Museum (Illinois, USA), Dikow was earnestly involved in the broader activities of the Encyclopedia of Life through its Biodiversity Synthesis Center (BioSynC) and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). There, he would personally establish contacts with smaller natural history museums and scientific societies, and encourage them to grant digitisation permissions to the BHL for in-copyright scientific publications. Dikow is a champion of cybertaxonomic tools and making biodiversity data accessible from both natural history collections and publications. He has been named a Biodiversity Open Data Ambassador by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).

Dikow is no stranger to ZooKeys and other journals published by the open-access scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft. For the past 10 years, he has been amongst the most active editors and a regular author and reviewer at ZooKeysBiodiversity Data Journal and African Invertebrates.

“Publishing taxonomic revisions and species descriptions in an open-access, innovative journal to make data digitally accessible is one way we taxonomists can and need to add to the biodiversity knowledge base. ZooKeys has been a journal in support of this goal since day one. I am excited to lend my expertise and enthusiasm to further this goal and continue the development to publish foundational biodiversity research, species discoveries, and much more in the zoological field,”

said Dikow.

Dikow took on his new role at ZooKeys at a time when the journal had just turned 15 years on the scholarly publishing scene. In late 2020, the scientific outlet also marked the publication of its 1000th journal volume.

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Visit the journal’s website and follow ZooKeys on X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook. You can also follow Torsten Dikow on X.

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About ZooKeys:

ZooKeys is a peer-reviewed, open-access, rapidly disseminated journal launched to accelerate research and free information exchange in taxonomy, phylogeny, biogeography and evolution of animals. ZooKeys aims to apply the latest trends and methodologies in publishing and preservation of digital materials to meet the highest possible standards of the cybertaxonomy era.

ZooKeys publishes papers in systematic zoology containing taxonomic/faunistic data on any taxon of any geological age from any part of the world with no limit to manuscript size. To respond to the current trends in linking biodiversity information and synthesising the knowledge through technology advancements, ZooKeys also publishes papers across other taxon-based disciplines, such as ecology, molecular biology, genomics, evolutionary biology, palaeontology, behavioural science, bioinformatics, etc. 

Mysterious new moth species discovered in Europe

The moth, named Mirlatia arcuata, by a research team from Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom, is one of the most remarkable discoveries in Lepidoptera of recent decades.

European Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), with a currently known inventory of approximately 11, 000 species, are generally considered well-researched. However, a new genus and species from the Geometrid moth family described in the scientific journal ZooKeys tell a different story. The moth, named Mirlatia arcuata by a research team from Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom, is one of the most remarkable discoveries in Lepidoptera of recent decades.

Decades-old UFO

In the early 1980s, Austrian amateur entomologist Robert Hentscholek collected three specimens of a moth species in southern Dalmatia, Croatia, which were integrated into his collection or given to colleagues without being identified. Decades later, the collection was sold to Toni Mayr, another hobbyist researcher from Austria, who immediately noticed the unusual insect that stood out from all known European species and couldn’t even be assigned to a known genus.

An adult female of Mirlatia arcuata.

The collector was contacted to provide more information, and it turned out that a male and a female specimen of the same species had been given to another collector who had since passed away. The female specimen was rediscovered in 2015 in the collection of the Natural History Museum in Vienna, while the whereabouts of the other specimen remained unknown. The unique male was finally presented to the Tyrolean Federal State Museums by Toni Mayr.

Light traps are set in Podgora, Croatia, in 2022. Photo by Stanislav Gomboc

In 2022, a research team was formed to identify this enigmatic moth, and it was finally described as a new genus and species in early November 2023. It was given the name Mirlatia arcuata, where Mirlatia is an aggregate of the stems of two Latin words that translate loosely as “bringing a surprise,” a reference to the surprising discovery of this curious new moth.

Cold-adapted or introduced?

Wing venation of a male Mirlatia arcuata.

The discovery of such a large and distinctive moth species in a well-explored region like southern Croatia might seem unlikely. However, according to researcher Peter Huemer of the Tyrolean State Museums (Ferdinandeum), who took part in the study, there was surprisingly little research conducted in that area during the moth’s flight season in March. “It’s possible that Mirlatia arcuata is a cold-adapted, winter-active species that would need to be sought in the middle of winter,” he says.

The hypothesis of introduction from other continents was discarded by the study authors for several reasons. Axel Hausmann from the Zoological State Collection in Munich examined all known moths from cold regions in the northern and southern hemisphere and could not identify a similar species from these regions. Furthermore, the collecting location in Podgora is not in close proximity to a port, and during the Yugoslavian era, the traffic in Dalmatian ports was rather limited. Also, Split and other Croatian ports were rarely visited by ships from other continents during the communist period. Additionally, Robert Hentscholek had never collected in the tropics, ruling out the possibility of a labeling error.

Many questions, few answers

Despite all efforts, the relationships of the new genus and species have not been definitively clarified. Even the assignment to the subfamily Larentiinae is not entirely secure and is based on a few features like wing venation. Initial genetic data from the mitochondrial COI barcode, as well as characteristics of the tympanal organ (auditory organ), point to a largely independent systematic position of the species. Further investigations of the entire genome could provide more clarity.

Habitat of Mirlatia arcuata in Podgora, Croatia. Photo by Stanislav Gomboc

Even less is known about the biology of the new species, apart from the fact that its known habitat consists of coastal rock biotopes with Mediterranean vegetation. In March 2022, Slovenian lepidopterologist Stane Gomboc initiated a comprehensive search, but it turned out to be unsuccessful. It’s possible that the moth’s flight season has already ended due to climate warming.

The study authors hope they will soon rediscover Mirlatia arcuata and know more about its habitat requirements and biology.

Research Article:

Hausmann A, László GM, Mayr T, Huemer P (2023) Surprising discovery of an enigmatic geometrid in Croatia: Mirlatia arcuata, gen. nov., sp. nov. (Lepidoptera, Geometridae). ZooKeys 1183: 99-110. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1183.110163

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