One species described multiple times: How taxonomists contribute to biodiversity discovery

While working on a rare little known group of Oriental wasps that most likely parasitise the eggs of grasshoppers, locusts or crickets, not only did a team of four entomologists discover four previously unknown species, but they also found that another four species within the same genus (Habroteleia) were in fact all one and the same – a fifth species discovered more than a century ago.

Their study, published in the open access journal Zookeys, comes as a fine example illustrating the important role played by taxonomists in puzzling out the Earth’s biodiversity.

The research was conducted by doctorate candidate Huayan Chen and Dr. Norman F. Johnson, both affiliated with The Ohio State University, USA, Dr. Elijah J. Talamas, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, USA, and Dr. Lubomír Masner, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Prior to their study, there were only nine species known in the genus that had been described over the last 113 years from India, Japan and the Philippines.

However, following careful analyses, most of those species turned out to be synonyms of another one discovered in distant 1905, H. flavipes. Because of this species having been described and named five times in total through the years, the richness of the genus has been greatly inflated.

In their turn, having identified four new species belonging to the same genus after studying additional material collected from Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and the Fijian archipelago, the scientists have maintained the species number in the group intact.

Additionally, the team provides a detailed illustrated identification key to all members of the genus in their paper. This list of characteristic features is set to prevent similar taxonomic confusion in the future.

In conclusion, Chen and colleagues have significantly advanced our understanding of the diversity and biogeography of the rare parasitoids, amongst which there might be some that will eventually prove to be helpful in pest management.

“Taxonomic revisions are essential for the fundamental understanding of biodiversity and its conservation. Taxonomists play a critical role in this process,” explains the lead author.

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Original source:

Chen H-y, Talamas EJ, Masner L, Johnson NF (2018) Revision of the world species of the genus Habroteleia Kieffer (Hymenoptera, Platygastridae, Scelioninae). ZooKeys 730: 87-122. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.730.21846

Two new species of stone centipedes found hiding in larch forests in China

Scientists described two species of previously unknown stone centipedes from China. Now housed at the Hengshui University, China, where all members of the team work, the studied specimens were all collected in the leaf litter or under rocks in larch forests.

Having conducted their research across China, researchers Dr Sujian Pei, Yanmin Lu, Haipeng Liu, Dr Xiaojie Hou and Dr Huiqin Ma announced the two new species – Lithobius (Ezembius) tetraspinus and Hessebius luculentus – in two articles published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Stone centipedes are the species which belong to the order Lithobiomorpha. These centipedes are anamorphic, meaning that they grow additional pair of legs as they moult and develop additional body segments. By the time they are fully grown, these count 15 in total. Unlike earlier predecessors, stone centipedes do not have the compound eyes we know from insects. Instead, stone centipedes see through simple eyes, sometimes a group of simple eyes, or, if living exclusively underground, they might have no eyes at all.19980 New centipede China L. tetraspinus

One of the newly discovered species, Lithobius (Ezembius) tetraspinus, is recorded from Hami City, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, northwestern China. The studied specimens were collected from moderately moist larch forest habitats at altitude of 950 to 1000. There, the small predominantly brown centipedes, measuring no more than about 13 mm in body length, were hiding under rodeside stones and leaf litter.

The second previously unknown centipede, Hessebius luculentus, discovered in Shandan County, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, is slightly larger – reaching up to 20 mm. Its colours are a mix of yellow and brown with the odd grey or red hue. While it has the same preference for relatively moist habitats, this species lives at greater altitude. It has been reported from forest floor at about 1400 m above sea level.

In both papers, the authors point out that while the myriapod fauna of China remains generally poorly known, even less attention has been given to the order of stone centipedes.

The research articles are included in the special issue “Proceedings of the 17th International Congress of Myriapodology, Krabi, Thailand”. The congress, organised by Prof. Somsak Panha, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, was held in July 2017.

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Original source:

Pei S, Lu Y, Liu H, Hou X, Ma H (2018) Lithobius (Ezembius) tetraspinus, a new species of centipede from northwest China (Lithobiomorpha, Lithobiidae). In: Stoev P, Edgecombe GD (Eds) Proceedings of the 17th International Congress of Myriapodology, Krabi, Thailand. ZooKeys 741: 203-217. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.741.19980

Ma H, Lu Y, Liu H, Hou X, Pei S (2018) Hessebius luculentus, a new species of the genus Hessebius Verhoeff, 1941 from China (Lithobiomorpha, Lithobiidae). In: Stoev P, Edgecombe GD (Eds) Proceedings of the 17th International Congress of Myriapodology, Krabi, Thailand. ZooKeys 741: 193-202. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.741.20061

Evolutionary Systematics joins Pensoft’s portfolio of open access scholarly journals

Evolutionary Systematics is the latest authoritative journal to join the lines of the open access titles published on the Pensoft-developed technologically advanced journal publishing platform ARPHA.

Launched in 1884 and 1912, respectively, University of Hamburg’s journal Mitteilungen aus dem Hamburgischen Zoologischen Museum und Institut and Entomologische Mitteilungen are now resurrected under the name of Evolutionary Systematics.

Rebranded and refreshed, the journal has acquired a long list of technological user-friendly innovations, while simultaneously keeping its well-known expertise and devotion to whole-organism biology and collection-related research.

Its first issue in collaboration with Pensoft comprises two editorials dedicated to the extensive tradition and the bright future of the journal along with seven articles are already live on the journal’s new website.

Right underneath the new sleek look and feel welcoming users from the journal’s homepage, there are a lot of high-tech perks 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.

Furthermore, all publications are available in three formats (PDF, XML, HTML), complete with a whole set of semantic enhancements, so that the articles are easy to find, accessed and harvested by both humans and machines.

“We are happy to have joined forces with Lyubomir Penev and his professional team at Pensoft Publishers, once again now after having already successfully established together Zoosystematics and Evolution as an international journal of the Berlin Natural History Museum,” say editors Prof. Dr. Matthias Glaubrecht, Prof. Dr. Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa and Dr. Martin Husemann.

“Certainly, I’m pleased to welcome Evolutionary Systematics to the family of Pensoft,” says the publisher’s founder and CEO Prof. Lyubomir Penev. “Combining our own solid experience in scholarly publishing with their amazing background, dating back to 19th century, will definitely benefit not only the two of us as collaborators, but all our present and future readers and users as well.”

Amongst the first papers, there is the description of the Bob Marley’s Intertidal Spider – a new arachnid species that emerged at low tide to the surprise of the research team of Drs. Barbara Baehr, Robert Raven and Danilo Harms. Once the scientists concluded it was a previously unknown species, they were quick to associate it with the reggae legend’s song “High Tide or Low Tide”.

The first issue also features the description of the Grey Wolf Spider – a common, yet enigmatic new species, which prompted the establishment of a new genus all to itself. The inaugural issue goes on to also announce as many as seven species of goblin spiders new to science . Their discovery results from a genus review involving a significant collection from the Otonga Nature Reserve, Ecuador.

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Additional information:

About Pensoft:

Pensoft is an independent academic publishing company, well-known worldwide for its innovations in the field of semantic publishing, as well as for its cutting-edge publishing tools and workflows. In 2013, Pensoft launched the first ever end to end XML-based authoring, reviewing and publishing workflow, as demonstrated by the Pensoft Writing Tool (PWT) and the Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ), now upgraded to the ARPHA Publishing Platform. Flagship titles include: Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO), One Ecosystem, ZooKeys, Biodiversity Data Journal, PhytoKeys, MycoKeys, and more.

Origins of an enigmatic genus of Asian butterflies carrying mythological names decoded

A group of rare Asian butterflies which have once inspired an association with Hindu mythological creatures have been quite a chaos for the experts. In fact, their systematics turned out so confusing that in order to decode their taxonomic placement, scientists had to dig up their roots some 43 million years back.

Now, having shed new light on their ancestors, a team of researchers from the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at University of Guelph, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and University of Vienna, published their findings in the open access journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.

CalinagaTogether, Drs. Valentina Todisco, Vazrick Nazari and Paul Hebert arrived at the conclusion that the enigmatic genus (Calinaga) originated in southeast Tibet in the Eocene as a result of the immense geological and environmental impact caused by the collision between the Indian and Asian subcontinents. However, the diversification within the lineage was far from over at that point. In the following epochs, the butterflies had to adapt to major changes when Indochina drifted away, leading to the isolation of numerous populations; and then again, when the Pleistocene climatic changes took their own toll.

To make their conclusions, the scientists studied 51 specimens collected from a wide range of localities spanning across India, South China, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand. For the first time for the genus, the authors conducted molecular data and combined it with an examination of both genitalia and wing patterns – distinct morphological characters in butterflies. While previous estimates had reported existence of anywhere between one and eleven species in the genus, the present study identified only four, while confirming how easy it is to mislabel samples based on earlier descriptions.

However, the researchers note that they have not sampled specimens from all species listed throughout the years under the name of the genus, so they need additional data to confirm the actual number of valid Calinaga species. The authors are to enrich this preliminary study in the near future, analysing both a larger dataset and type specimens in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of London that holds the largest Calinaga collection.

Despite being beautiful butterflies, the examined species belong to a genus whose name derives from the Hindu mythical reptilian creatures Nāga and a particular one of them – Kaliya, which is believed to live in Yamuna river, Uttar Pradesh, and is notorious for its poison. According to the Hindu myths, no sooner than Kaliya was confronted by the major deity Krishna, did it surrender.

“It seems that the modern taxonomy of Calinaga is in need of a Krishna to conquer these superfluous names and cleanse its taxonomy albeit after careful examination of the types and sequencing of additional material,” comment the authors.

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Original source:

Todisco V, Nazari V, Hebert PDN (2017) Preliminary molecular phylogeny and biogeography of the monobasic subfamily Calinaginae (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae). Zoosystematics and Evolution 93(2): 255-264. https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.93.10744

A hair’s breadth away: New tarantula species and genus honors Gabriel García Márquez

With its extraordinary defensive hairs, a Colombian tarantula proved itself as not only a new species, but also a new genus. It is hypothesised that the new spider is the first in its subfamily to use its stinging hairs in direct attack instead of ‘kicking’ them into the enemy.

Described in the open access journal ZooKeys by an international research team, led by Carlos Perafán, University of the Republic, Uruguay, the name of the new spider genus honours an indigenous people from the Caribbean coast region, whose language and culture are, unfortunately, at serious risk of extinction. Meanwhile, its species’ name pays tribute to renowned Colombian author and Nobel laureate for his novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Gabriel García Márquez.male kankuamo

The new tarantula, formally called Kankuamo marquezi, was discovered in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. When examined, the arachnid showed something extraordinary about its defensive hairs and its genitalia. The hairs were noted to form a small oval patch of lance-shaped barbs, hypothesised by the scientists to have evolved to defend their owners by direct contact.

On the other hand, when defending against their aggressors, the rest of the tarantulas in this subfamily need to first face the offender and then vigorously rub their hind legs against their stomachs. Aimed and shot at the enemy, a ball of stinging hairs can cause fatal injuries to small mammals when landed into their mucous membrane (the layer that covers the cavities and shrouds the internal organs in the body). Once thrown, the hairs leave a bald spot on the tarantula’s belly.

“This new finding is a great contribution to the knowledge of the arachnids in Colombia and a sign of how much remains to be discovered,” point out he authors.

Figure 8“The morphological characteristics present on Kankuamo marquezi open the discussion about the phylogenetics relationship between subfamilies of Theraphosidae tarantulas and the evolutionary pressures that gave rise to the urticating hairs.”

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Original source:

Perafán C, Galvis W, Gutiérrez M, Pérez-Miles F (2016) Kankuamo, a new theraphosid genus from Colombia (Araneae, Mygalomorphae), with a new type of urticating setae and divergent male genitalia. ZooKeys 601: 89-109. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.601.7704

Celebration time: ZooKeys releases its 600th issue


zookeys 600 coverWith what already sounds like an annual tradition at this time of the year, we are delighted to announce yet another milestone that
ZooKeys just reached. Our 600th issue is now out and we are just as proud with it as we were exactly five years and a month ago, when we printed out our first three-digit issue number on a ZooKeys cover.

However, we feel nowhere near getting tired of counting pages, covers and issues, nor do we believe this will ever going to happen. Quite the contrary, every year we take more and more pleasure in adding new achievements next to the name of ZooKeys and Pensoft.   

Last year was no exception. During the past 13 months, we published a total of 673 articles, including research findings spectacular enough to reach out to not only the zoological fellowship, but to the wide audience from around the world. While our Impact Factor keeps on increasing, according to the figures Thomson Reuters released last week, we are gratified to observe our progressively growing impact on both the scholarly and the popular-science front.

Thanks to the discoveries, which found a suiting publication partner in ZooKeys, our authors and us made a lot of big headlines in outlets such as National Geographic, Science, CNN, BBC, Sky News, New York Times, Deutsche Welle, Der Standard, DR, Washington Post, Fox News, Huffington Post, The Guardian, NBC News, and a lot more. We had a bit of everything: record-breakers, species given mystic or splashy names and others bearing nerdy ones. Together, we also gave public voice to serious conservation issues, calling for immediate action.

Last June, we introduced you to the Hades centipede, known to be the world’s deepest-dwelling species of its kind. Who knew that the entrance to the Underworld is located in a Croatian cave?

Later on, in November, published with us snail species Acmella nana broke the World record for the tiniest land snail. Moreover, this happened only about a month after we published the previous ‘prizewinner’ Angustopila dominikae, and that one was already tiny enough to fit 10 of its shells within the eye of a needle at the very same time!  

Our pages, which have been and always will be openly available to read for anyone who is online, were also the first to let you know about the existence of the Johnny Cash tarantula, the (Edward) Snowden crayfish, the two daddy longlegs: Smeagol and the ‘Master-of-the-crypt’ Behemoth, the Chewbacca beetle and the Brad Pitt wasp, among many others.

About two months ago, graduate student Madhu Chetri spotted the ancient Himalayan woolly wolf in Nepal. The new knowledge about the beautiful and, sadly, Critically Endangered carnivore, which he acquired, will hopefully help in preventing its otherwise imminent extinction.

In the meantime, Deutsche Welle (DW) featured our Zorro fish along with the eight-legged Johnny Cash’s namesake in their rank list of the 7 “newcomer” species of the year.

While being in the spotlight is definitely a gratifying feeling, we also indulge in our successes achieved far from the eyes of the public, although we are certain that our authors will be just as excited to hear about. Such an accomplishment is our recently sealed partnership with open digital repository Zenodo, who are helping us, along with the rest of the journals, published by Pensoft, to keep our research findings safe and easily accessible by archiving all our articles in both PDF and XML format on the date of publication.

However, let’s not forget that nothing of all the above would be what it is without our authors, editors and reviewers, who have always done their best to keep ZooKeys at the World’s top open access academic journals. We’d especially like to thank our Most active authors, editors and reviewers for being substantial part of ZooKeys.