A newly discovered miniature trap jaw ant from the evergreen tropical forests of Ecuador bears the curious Latin name Strumigenys ayersthey, among hundreds, which are also named in honour of people, but end with -ae (after females) and –i (after males). This makes the newly described ant perhaps the only species in the world to have a scientific name with the suffix –they, thus celebrating gender diversity.
The insect was first found by Philipp Hoenle of the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, during a cooperative investigation of the Reserva Río Canandé in 2018. The reserve belongs to the NGO Jocotoco, and preserves a small part of the highly threatened biodiversity hotspots called the Chocó.
Hoenle reached out to taxonomic expert Douglas Booher of Yale University. Soon, Booher responded with excitement that this species was unlike any other of the 850+ species belonging to its genus. As a result, the team described the previously unknown to science species and its remarkable trap-jaw morphology in a research paper, published in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal ZooKeys.
Curiously, it was no other but lead singer and lyricist of the American alternative rock band R.E.M. Michael Stipe that joined Booher in the writing of the etymology section for the research article. This is the part in the publication, where they honor their mutual friend, activist and artist Jeremy Ayers and explain the origin of the species name.
“In contrast to the traditional naming practices that identify individuals as one of two distinct genders, we have chosen a non-Latinized portmanteau honoring the artist Jeremy Ayers and representing people that do not identify with conventional binary gender assignments – Strumigenys ayersthey”. The ‘they’ recognizes non-binary gender identifiers in order to reflect recent evolution in English pronoun use – ‘they, them, their’ and address a more inclusive and expansive understanding of gender identification.”
Current nomenclature practice on how to name animal species after people only differentiates between male and female personal names, offering respectively the ending -ae for a woman or -i for a man.
The research team additionally propose that the -they suffix can be used for singular honorific names of non-binary identifiers.
When asked about the choice of a name for the ant, Booher said: “Such a beautiful and rare animal was just the species to celebrate both biological and human diversity. Small changes in language have had a large impact on culture. Language is dynamic and so should be the change in naming species – a basic language of science”.
With their choice, the team invites the scientific community to keep pace with the likes of Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary and HSBC Bank, who have also adapted their own institutional practices, language usage and recognition to represent gender diversity.
Strumigenys ayersthey can be distinguished by its predominantly smooth and shining cuticle surface and long trap-jaw mandibles, which make it unique among nearly a thousand species of its genus. The researchers haven’t been able to obtain more specimens of the species, which suggests that it’s rare.
Booher DB, Hoenle PO (2021) A new species group of Strumigenys (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) from Ecuador, with a description of its mandible morphology. ZooKeys 1036: 1–19. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1036.62034
New EC-funded project will identify trends in taxonomic expertise across Europe to identify gaps in expert knowledge
Insects are the largest taxonomic group in the animal kingdom. Three out of four described animal species belong to the class Insecta. They are widely distributed in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Indispensable to the ecosystem, insects drive key processes such as pollination, decomposition, soil formation and supply an essential part of the food webs.
Yet, insect populations have been catastrophically plummeting. For example, recent studies have shown a decrease of 75% of insect biomass in German Nature Reserves in less than 30 years, and the situation is probably no less dramatic anywhere in Europe. According to the European Red List of threatened species, one in ten bee species and a quarter of all grasshopper species are at risk of extinction. As it becomes clear how dependent on insects our ecosystems and our economy are, people gradually realise the dramatic consequences of insect decline.
One less known aspect of this global crisis is on the agenda today: the shrinking number of insect taxonomists, the scientists on whose highly specialised skills we depend to obtain knowledge on the diversity of organisms. Without taxonomists, no study of species or ecosystems would be possible, as we would not be able to recognise what biodiversity we are losing.
Here is why the European Commission has funded a new project to embark on the pioneer task to assess the status of taxonomic expertise on insects in Europe. A “Red List” of taxonomists will be compiled for the first time for any group of organisms. The effort is being undertaken by a diverse and interdisciplinary team of experts, including the organisation uniting the most important and largest European natural science collections (CETAF) and the world’s authority on assessing the risk of extinction of organisms: IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature).
As with typical European Red List (ERL) assessments, normally applied to species level, the project involves the collection and evaluation of the available information about the number, location, qualification and field of specialisation of insect taxonomists and the application of systematic criteria to assess the risk of their “extinction”. This concept has never been applied to scientists before, but by using the ERL analogy, the project aims to combine those groups of insects and those countries that bear the highest risk of losing the associated taxonomic expertise and potential gaps.
Bringing together individual scientists, research institutions and learned societies from across Europe, the project will compare the trends and pull up recommendations to overcoming the risks, preserving and further evolving the expert capacity of this scientific community. Unlike species extinctions, the loss of taxonomic knowledge is reversible, especially when the needs are clear and the necessary resources are invested in education, training, career development and recognition.
CETAF is the European organization of Natural History Museums, Botanic Gardens and Research Centers with their associated natural science collections comprising 71 of the largest taxonomic institutions from 22 European countries (18 EU, 1 EEA and 3 non-EU), gathering expertise of more than 5,000 researchers. Their collections contain a wide range of specimens including animals, plants, fungi and rocks, and genetic resources which are used for scientific research and exhibitions. CETAF aims to promote training, research collaborations and understanding in taxonomy and systematic biology as well as to facilitate access to our natural heritage by sharing the information derived from the collections.
IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organisations. It harnesses the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,400 Member organisations and the input of more than 17,000 experts. This diversity and vast expertise makes IUCN the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
Pensoft is an independent academic publishing company and technology provider, well known worldwide for its novel cutting-edge publishing tools, workflows and methods for text and data publishing of journals, books and conference materials. Through its Research and Technical Development department, the company is involved in various research and technology projects. Founded in 1992 “by scientists, for scientists” and initially focusing on book publishing, Pensoft is now a leading publisher of innovative open access journals in taxonomy and biodiversity science.
Happy Taxonomist Appreciation Day! On this day dedicated to the scientists who name, define and classify all living things, the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) also honors discoveries in marine biology by posting a “Top 10” of the marine species discovered throughout the year. The year 2020 saw fascinating discoveries in the world of sea life, and, once more, species first described in Pensoft‘s open-access journal ZooKeys made it to the Top 10!
Deep in the Pacific Ocean, researchers found not one, not two, but four species of iridescent scale worms. They have yet to figure out why these critters shimmer, but the Internet was already calling them ‘Elvis worms’ or ‘glitter worms’, because their scales evoked associations with Elvis’ shiny costumes. One species was even formally named Peinaleopolynoe elvisiin honor of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
It was however one of the other three species, Peinaleopolynoe orphanae, that made it to the Top 10 – because, in the words of the committee, it has “both the most stunning iridescence and the feistiest temperament!”
P.orphanae was first collected from a hydrothermal vent in the Gulf of California at a depth of 3700 m and named after geobiologist Victoria Orphan. The first part of its name, Peinaleopolynoe, comes from a Greek word for hungry, in reference to the attraction of these worms to food falls.
Surprisingly, Peinaleopolynoe orphanae engage in fights between each other before the eyes of the researchers! In what has never been seen in scale worms before, the scientists recorded a “face-off”, where two individuals kept attacking one another back and forth for several minutes.
The Red Pipefish, Master of Disguise
The Red Wide-Bodied Pipefish (Stigmatopora harastii) dwells in New South Wales, Australia, at 10-25 m depth, and is so good at camouflage that you might have a hard time spotting it even when you’re looking straight at it. It was first reported by underwater photographers in Jervis Bay in 2002, but was only described as a new species in 2020 by scientists from the Australian Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Burke Museum, and the University of British Columbia.
This curious new fish associates with red algae or finger sponges, which allows it to stay hidden in plain sight. It is colored bright red, but curiously that only helps it to go unnoticed. Oriented vertically or at an angle, it camouflages itself among the red algae. Virtually indistinguishable from its surroundings, it only occasionally darts out of its cozy cover to munch on small copepods and shrimp.
Stigmatopora harastii was named after David Harasti, one of the first people to recognize it as a new species and a pronounced fan of the Stigmatopora genus. According to the research paper, “David has stated he counts green pipefish to fall asleep.” We don’t know how he feels about red pipefish, but this one charms with both looks and skills, so we hope it becomes one of his favorites.
Researchers believe the red pipefish might have a wider distribution in New South Wales and possibly New Zealand – it can be very hard to detect because of its preferred depth range and its remarkable camouflaging ability.
The 10 remarkable new marine species from 2020 listed by WoRMS are a celebration of all wonderful and sometimes even quite weird creatures that dwell in the sea, and a reminder of how important it is to explore and protect marine life. Here’s to another year of fun little creatures and amazing scientific discoveries!
New dynamic article collection at Biodiversity Data Journal is already accumulating the project’s findings
About 1.4 million species of animals are currently known, but it is generally accepted that this figure grossly underestimates the actual number of species in existence, which likely ranges between five and thirty million species, or even 100 million.
Meanwhile, a far less well-known fact is that even in countries with a long history of taxonomic research, such as Germany, which is currently known to be inhabited by about 48,000 animal species, there are thousands of insect species still awaiting discovery. In particular, the orders Diptera (flies) and Hymenoptera (especially the parasitoid wasps) are insect groups suspected to contain a strikingly large number of undescribed species. With almost 10,000 known species each, these two insect orders account for approximately two-thirds of Germany’s insect fauna, underlining the importance of these insects in many ways.
In its previous phases, GBOL aimed to identify all German species reliably, quickly and inexpensively using DNA barcodes. Since the first project was launched twelve years ago, more than 25,000 German animal species have been barcoded. Among them, the comparatively well-known groups, such as butterflies, moths, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, bees and wasps, showed an almost complete coverage of the species inventory.
As part of the initiative, the project partners are invited to submit their results and outcomes in the dedicated GBOL III: Dark Taxa article collection in the peer-reviewed, open-access Biodiversity Data Journal. There, the contributions will be published dynamically, as soon as approved and ready for publication. The articles will include taxonomic revisions, checklists, data papers, contributions to methods and protocols, employed in DNA barcoding studies with a focus on the target taxa of the project.
“The collection of articles published in the Biodiversity Data Journal is an excellent approach to achieving the consortium’s goals and project partners are encouraged to take advantage of the journal’s streamlined publication workflows to publish and disseminate data and results that were generated during the project,”
says the collection’s editor Dr Stefan Schmidt of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology.
Find and follow the dynamic article collection GBOL III: Dark Taxa in Biodiversity Data Journal.
A new species of endemic, troglobiont centipede was discovered by an international team of scientists in the Romanian cave Movile: a unique underground ecosystem, isolated several millions years ago during the Neogene, whose animal life only exists because of the chemosynthetic bacteria. As the largest Movile’s inhabitant, the new species can easily be crowned as the ‘king’ of this ‘hellish’ ecosystem. Aptly named Cryptops speleorex, the cave-dweller is described in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys.
Deemed to never see the light of the day, a new species of endemic, troglobiont centipede was discovered by an international team of scientists in the Romanian cave Movile: a unique underground ecosystem, where the oxygen in the air might be half of the amount of what we’re used to, yet the sulphurous abounds; and where the animal life only exists because of chemosynthetic bacteria feeding on carbon dioxide and methane.
This hellish ecosystem–where breathing alone could be lethal for most of us–seems to have finally crowned its king. At a size of between 46 and 52 mm in length, the centipede Cryptops speleorex is the largest of the cave’s inhabitants known to date. The new species is described in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys.
Already isolated from the outside world several millions years ago during the Neogene, the Movile cave has been drawing the attention of scientists ever since its unexpected discovery in 1986 by Romanian workers, searching for locations suitable for building a power plant in the southeastern parts of the country.
Surprisingly enough, despite its harsh living conditions, the Movile ecosystem was soon found to harbor a diverse and unique fauna, characterised by exceptional species endemism and specific trophic links. So far, the cave has been known to give home to the troglobiont water scorpion, liocranid and nesticid spiders, cave leeches and certainly many more yet to be discovered.
In fact, it was long thought that this unique underground ecosystem was also inhabited by surface-dwelling species widespread in Europe. Convinced that this scenario is highly unlikely, scientists Dr Varpu Vahtera (University of Turku, Finland), Prof Pavel Stoev (National Museum of Natural History, Bulgaria) and Dr Nesrine Akkari (Museum of Natural History Vienna, Austria) decided to examine a curious centipede, collected by speleologists Serban Sarbu and Alexandra Maria Hillebrand, during their recent expedition to Movile.
“Our results confirmed our doubts and revealed that the Movile centipede is morphologically and genetically different, suggesting that it has been evolving from its closest surface-dwelling relative over the course of millions of years into an entirely new taxon that is better adapted to life in the never-ending darkness,” explain the researchers.
“The centipede we described is a venomous predator, by far the largest of the previously described animals from this cave. Thinking of its top rank in this subterranean system, we decided to name the species Cryptops speleorex, which can be translated to the “King of the cave”, they add.
Vahtera V, Stoev P, Akkari N (2020) Five million years in the darkness: A new troglomorphic species of Cryptops Leach, 1814 (Chilopoda, Scolopendromorpha) from Movile Cave, Romania. ZooKeys 1004: 1-26. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1004.58537
With the 1,000thZooKeys issue now hot off the press, the time has come to celebrate the millennium of Pensoft’s very first scientific journal: ZooKeys!
In fact, the cause for celebration is two-fold: this year, it’s also the 10th anniversary of ZooKeys’ very special 50th issue, which marked a new era for biodiversity data publishing by introducing several innovative workflows and tools. This is when ZooKeys became an example to follow globally: a title the journal still takes pride to be holding to this day.
Today, we shall reminisce about everything along the way: from that sunny Californian morning at the Entomological Society of America meeting in 2007, where the idea about a new-age taxonomic journal in zoology sprang up in a breakfast chat between renowned entomologists and future founders of ZooKeys: Prof Lyubomir Penev and Dr Terry Erwin, to this very moment, where we’re counting over 5,500 published articles, authored by more than 8,000 researchers from 144 countries and comprising ~150,000 pages. Thus, we saw the description of one supertribe, seven tribes, five subtribes, 27 families, over 800 genera and more than 12,000 species previously unknown to science. In this journey, ZooKeys climbed up the ladder of academic rigour and trustability to become today’s most prolific open-access journal of zoology.
Even though today is the time to feel exalted and look back on our achievements and conquered milestones with ear-to-ear smiles, it is with heavy hearts that we’ll be raising our glasses tonight, as we won’t be joined by our beloved friend and founding Editor-in-Chief, Dr Terry Erwin, whom we lost on 11th May 2020. While his place in our hearts and ZooKeys’ Editorial board will never be filled, we accept our duty to help for his legacy to persist for the future generations of scientists by taking a vow to never lower our standards or cease to improve our services and care for our readers, authors, reviewers and editors alike.
In honour of Terry, who will be remembered for his splendid personality and zealous enthusiasm for carabid beetles and the world’s immense biodiversity, we’ve opened up a special memorial volume to be published on 11th May 2021.
In fact, we have thousands of people to thank for the place ZooKeys is at right now: these are our authors, who have trusted us with their research work time and time again; our reviewers and editors, who have taken their invaluable time to promptly process submitted manuscripts; and, of course, our readers, who are using ZooKeys content to expand the world’s knowledge, either by learning and building on the findings in their own research, or by spreading the knowledge to those who will.
With a thought for our authors & readers
We’ve been striving to implement the latest and most convenient scholarly publishing technologies and innovations, and also develop some of our own to make sure that ZooKeys users enjoy their experience with our flagship journal.
In hindsight, ZooKeys was the first journal to pioneer a lot of scholarly publishing technologies, which back in the time were quite revolutionary. Notable examples from 2008-2016 include:
Yet, this was only the beginning. Fast forward to December 2020, we’re working even harder to build up on our achievements and evolve, so that we stay on top of our game and the scholarly publishing scene. Here are the key innovations we recently implemented in ZooKeys:
Routine data auditing for each submitted data paper, in order to ensure that datasets described in ZooKeys are using data that are FAIR: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable;
The Pensoft Annotator, which matches free text to ontological terms for the use of biodiversity research.
With a thought for our editors
Besides revolutionising research publishing, at Pensoft, we’re also deeply devoted to facilitating our editors in their day-to-day editorial work, as well as their long-term engagement with the journal and its progress.
Recently, we expanded journal performance reporting services, in order to keep our editors on track with the most recent trends in their journal’s performance. Meanwhile, we’ve also taken care after the continuous improvement in those stats by implementing several features meant to facilitate and expedite the handling of manuscripts.
Follow ARPHA’s blog to keep up with the new features available to users of Pensoft’s journals and all journals hosted on ARPHA Platform.
With a thought for the community
Naturally, research outputs are only as valuable to publish as they are valuable to the community: within and beyond academia. Ultimately, their merit is best measured by citations and readership. This is why, we shall now have a look back at the most impactful papers published in ZooKeys to date.
Thanks to the indexation of ZooKeys in the research citation database of Dimensions, following the collaboration between ARPHA and Digital Science, which started in 2018, we’re now able to explore the all-time most cited publications in our flagship journal. Detailed information and links to the papers where each of those studies has been cited is available on the webpage of the article.
Supporting Red List threat assessments with GeoCAT: geospatial conservation assessment tool (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.150.2109)
Amendment of Articles 8, 9, 10, 21 and 78 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to expand and refine methods of publication (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.219.3944)
Forty years of carabid beetle research in Europe – from taxonomy, biology, ecology and population studies to bioindication, habitat assessment and conservation (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.100.1523)
Useful model organisms, indicators, or both? Ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) reflecting environmental conditions (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.100.1533)
Thanks to ARPHA Platform’s all-roundedness and transparency, we get to explore the most read papers ever published in ZooKeys straight from the Articles section on the journal’s website.
Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.324.5827)
In 2013, ZooKeys had the honour to announce the first carnivore found in the Western Hemisphere in over three decades. Further, that wasn’t ANY carnivore, but the olinguito, which National Geographic rightfully called a “fuzzy fog-dweller with a face like a teddy bear”.
An extraordinary new family of spiders from caves in the Pacific Northwest (Araneae, Trogloraptoridae) (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.215.3547)
A year prior to the description of the olinguito, a brand new family of “cave robbing” spiders emerged from the pages of ZooKeys, after US scientists found a previously unknown to science spider with “unique, toothed claws at the end of each leg” in Oregon.
A huge, first-of-its-kind catalogue containing data on all family-group names for all known extant and fossil beetles (order Coleoptera) was published in ZooKeys in an exemplary research collaboration, spanning three continents in 2011.
Review of Neopalpa Povolný, 1998 with description of a new species from California and Baja California, Mexico (Lepidoptera, Gelechiidae) (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.646.11411)
In a truly world-wide sensation, a new species of tiny moth inhabiting a narrow stretch of extremely fragile habitat running between the USA and Mexico, was named after then President-elect Donald Trump in a desperate call to protect this and other similarly vulnerable ecosystems in North America. The species currently goes by the name Neopalpa donaldtrumpi.
Taxonomic revision of the tarantula genus Aphonopelma Pocock, 1901 (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Theraphosidae) within the United States (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.560.6264)
In 2016, US scientists described a total of 14 new to science tarantula species from what many would think to be one the best-researched countries: the United States of America. Curiously enough, one of those tarantula species, found in California near Folsom Prison – a place best known from Cash’s song “Folsom Prison Blues”, was aptly named Aphonopelmajohnnycashi.
As visionaries, we’ve long realised that scientific impact goes beyond citations and journal subscribers. Communicating science to the community beyond academia is, in fact, one of the strongest components in research dissemination, as it lets the laypeople make sense of the wider world and where exactly they stand in the bigger picture. This is why we’ve been putting that special extra effort to promote research published in our journals–including ZooKeys–using press releases, blog posts and social media content (follow ZooKeys on Twitter and Facebook).
Thanks to our partnership with Altmetric, we’re able to identify the top five most popular papers from ZooKeys for all times. These are the ones that have sparkled the most online discussions via social media, big news headlines, blog posts, Wikipedia and more.
Review of Neopalpa Povolný, 1998 with description of a new species from California and Baja California, Mexico (Lepidoptera, Gelechiidae) (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.646.11411)
Not only was the previously undescribed species of moth subject to a serious threat of extinction, having been exclusively known from a fragmented area along the Mexico–United States border, but the insect’s “hairstyle” was pointed out to bear a striking resemblance to the golden locks of the 45th U.S. President Donald Trump.
Published in ZooKeys earlier this year, this extensive geology and paleontology monograph presents an unprecedented in its volume and scientific value account of a large portion of the most important prehistoric vertebrate fossils ever unearthed from the famous Kem Kem beds in Morocco. “A monograph larger than Paralititan,” as a Reddit user justly pointed out.
Taxonomic revision of the tarantula genus Aphonopelma Pocock, 1901 (Araneae, Mygalomorphae, Theraphosidae) within the United States (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.560.6264)
On top of taking pride in becoming the discoverer of as many as 14 tarantula species living “right under our noses” in the US, Dr Chris Hamilton enjoyed the spotlight of Live television in his appearance on Sky News. So did a lucky specimen of the newly described species: Aphonopelma johnnycashi! Suffice it to say, the tarantula was named after the legendary American singer-songwriter for all the right reasons.
Colobopsis explodens sp. n., model species for studies on “exploding ants” (Hymenoptera, Formicidae), with biological notes and first illustrations of males of the Colobopsis cylindrica group (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.751.22661)
Apparently, ants that rip their bodies apart in a self-sacrificial attempt to save their colonies from enemies, weren’t something new by the time PhD student Alice Laciny and her team described the new to science species Colobopsis explodens from Brunei. However, the study published in ZooKeys in 2018 was the first to conduct and film experiments on the peculiar exploding behaviour. Although not the very first for science, C. explodens was the first “T-ant-T” species to be described since 1935.
Today, coyotes live all around North America: from Alaska to Panama, California to Maine. Once upon a time, or rather, between the Holocene and the early 1900s, their range used to be restricted to the arid west of North America. So, how did the coyotes turn up at the doorstep of South America? North Carolina scientists reached to natural history collections to map the historic colonisation of the coyotes all the way to our days.
In our final remarks on this special occasion, it’s the time to say a special Thank you! to our most prolific authors:
Dr Shuqiang Li, expert on spider taxonomy and systematics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who’s also a reviewer and a subject editor at ZooKeys (64 publications).
Dr Michael S. Engel, paleontologist and entomologist at the University of Kansas and the American Museum of Natural History, who is also amongst the top five most active reviewers and the three most active subject editors in ZooKeys (59 publications).
Dr Li-Zhen Li, coleopterist at Shanghai Normal University (57 publications).
Dr Reginald Webster, coleopterist at Natural Resources Canada and a reviewer at ZooKeys (57 publications).
Dr Sergei Golovatch, myriapodologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and a reviewer and a subject editor at ZooKeys (53 publications).
Dr Yuri Marusik, arachnologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences and the University of Free State, Magadan, South Africa. He is also a subject editor at ZooKeys.
Dr Donald Lafontaine, entomologist at the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids, and Nematodes and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He is also a subject editor at ZooKeys.
Dr Ivan H. Tuf, ecologist at Palacký University (Czech Republic) and a subject editor at ZooKeys.
Dr Viatcheslav Ivanenko, taxonomist at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.
Dr Michael S. Engel, paleontologist and entomologist at the University of Kansas and the American Museum of Natural History, and also one of the most productive authors and most active subject editors at ZooKeys.
Prof Pavel Stoev, taxonomist, ecologist, and director at the National Natural History Museum (Bulgaria), and managing editor at ZooKeys.
Prof Lyubomir Penev, entomologist, ecologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and founder of ZooKeys.
Dr Michael S. Engel, paleontologist and entomologist at the University of Kansas and the American Museum of Natural History, and also one of the most productive authors and most active reviewers at ZooKeys.
Dr Nina Bogutskaya, hydrobiologist and ichthyologist at the Museum of Natural History Vienna, and also a reviewer at ZooKeys.
Dr Jeremy Miller, taxonomist and arachnologist at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Netherlands), and also a reviewer at ZooKeys.
Looking forward to sharing with you our next milestones and celebrations!
Meanwhile, make sure to follow ZooKeys on Twitter and Facebook to stay in touch!
A new species of tiny cave snail that glistens in the light and has a muffin-top-like bulge, was discovered by Marina Ferrand of the French Club Etude et Exploration des Gouffres et Carrières (EEGC), during the Phouhin Namno caving expedition in Tham Houey Yè cave in Laos in March 2019. The new species, named Laoennea renouardi was described in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Subterranean Biology.
A new species of tiny cave snail that glistens in the light and has a muffin-top-like bulge, was discovered by Marina Ferrand of the French Club Etude et Exploration des Gouffres et Carrières (EEGC), during the Phouhin Namno caving expedition in Tham Houey Yè cave in Laos in March 2019. The new species, Laoennea renouardi, is 1.80 mm tall and is named after the French caver,Louis Renouard, who explored and mapped the only two caves in Laos known to harbor this group of tiny snails. Only two species of Laoennea snail are known so far, L. carychioides and now, L. renouardi.
“The discovery and description of biodiversity before it disappears is a major priority for biologists worldwide. The caves in Laos are still largely underexplored and the snails known from them remain few in number,”
points out Dr. Jochum.
The fact that two species of tiny cave snails of the same group were found in two caves located in two independent karstic networks 3.4 km apart, caused the authors to question evolutionary processes in these underground hotspots of biodiversity. The authors hypothesise that the two caves might have been connected during the Quaternary, around 100–200 thousand years ago. In time, the river Yè might have formed a barrier, thus disconnecting the cave systems and separating the populations. As a result, the snails evolved into two different species.
A new species of tiny cave snail that glistens in the light and has a muffin-top-like bulge, was discovered by Marina Ferrand of the French Club Etude et Exploration des Gouffres et Carrie?res (EEGC), during the Phouhin Namno caving expedition in Tham Houey Yè cave in Laos in March 2019. The new species, Laoennea renouardi, is 1.80 mm tall and is named after the French caver, Louis Renouard, who explored and mapped the only two caves in Laos known to harbor this group of tiny snails. Only two species of Laoennea snail are known so far, L. carychioides and now, L. renouardi.
The fact that two species of tiny cave snails of the same group were found in two caves located in two independent karstic networks 3.4 km apart, caused the authors to question evolutionary processes in these underground hotspots of biodiversity. The authors hypothesise that the two caves might have been connected during the Quaternary, around 100-200 thousand years ago. In time, the river Yè might have formed a barrier, thus disconnecting the cave systems and separating the populations. As a result, the snails evolved into two different species.
Jochum A, Bochud E, Favre A, Ferrand M, Wackenheim Q (2020) A new species of Laoennea microsnail (Stylommatophora, Diapheridae) from a cave in Laos. Subterranean Biology 36: 1-9. https://doi.org/10.3897/subtbiol.36.58977
Named after fictional monster Godzilla, a parasitic wasp becomes the first observed and filmed to dive underwater for several seconds, in order to attack and pull out caterpillar hosts, so that it can lay its eggs inside them before releasing them back in the water.
A very few species of parasitoid wasps can be considered aquatic. Less than 0.1% of the species we know today have been found to enter the water, while searching for potential hosts or living as endoparasitoids inside of aquatic hosts during their larval stage.
Within the subfamily Microgastrinae (family Braconidae), only two species have previously been recorded to be aquatic, based on their parasitism of aquatic caterpillars of moths. However, none has been known to actually dive in the water.
Recently, during their research work in Japan, Dr. Jose Fernandez-Triana of the Canadian National Collection of Insects and his team found and recorded on camera the first microgastrine parasitoid wasp that dives underwater for several seconds, in order to attack and pull out caterpillar hosts, so that it can lay its eggs inside them before releasing them back in the water.
Interestingly, the wasp, which was described as a new to science species in the open-access, peer-reviewed scientific Journal of Hymenoptera Research, was given the awe-striking name Microgaster godzilla, because its emergence out of the water reminded the scientists of the Japanese iconic fictional monster Godzilla.
In the video, the female wasp can be seen walking over floating plants as it searches for hosts, specifically larvae of the moth species Elophila turbata, which constructs a portable case from fragments of aquatic plants and lives inside it near the water surface. Once the wasp finds one of those cases, it first probes it repeatedly with its antennae, while moving around. Eventually, it forces the larvae to come out of the case and parasitizes it by quickly inserting its ovipositor. In some cases, the wasp has to submerge completely underwater for several seconds, in order to find and pull the caterpillar out of its case. To do this, the species has evolved enlarged and strongly curved tarsal claws, which are thought to be used to grip the substrate as it enters the water and looks for hosts.
As for the curious choice of name for the new species, Dr. Jose Fernandez-Triana explains:
“The reasons why we decided to use the name of Godzilla for the wasp species are interesting. First, being a Japanese species, it respectfully honours Godzilla (Japanese: ゴジラ, Hepburn: Gōjira), a fictional monster (kaiju) that became an icon after the 1954 Japanese film of the same name and many remakes afterwards. It has become one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide. Second, the wasp’s parasitization behaviour bears some loose resemblance to the kaiju character, in the sense that the wasp suddenly emerges from the water to parasitize the host, similar to how Godzilla suddenly emerges from the water in the movies. Third, Godzilla has sometimes been associated, albeit in different ways, with Mothra (Japanese: モスラ, Hepburn: Mosura), another kaiju that is typically portrayed as a larva (caterpillar) or an adult moth. As you can see, we had biological, behavioural and cultural reasons to justify our choice of a name. Of course, that and having a bit of fun, because that is also an important part of life and science!”
Beyond unusual behaviours and funny names, Dr. Fernandez-Triana wants to emphasize the importance of multidisciplinary work and collaboration. The team that published this paper got to know each other at an international meeting devoted to biological control (The 5th International Entomophagous Insects Conference in Kyoto, Japan, 2017).
“I was very impressed by several presentations by Japanese grad students, which included video recordings of parasitoid wasp biology. As a taxonomist, I am always impressed with the quality of research done by colleagues in other fields. In this case, we saw an opportunity to combine our efforts to study the wasp in detail and, when we found that it was a new species, we described it together, including adding the filmed behaviour to the original description. Usually, taxonomic descriptions of parasitoid wasps are based on dead specimens, with very few details–often none–on its biology. Thanks to my biocontrol colleagues, we could add more information to what is known about the new species being described. Hopefully we can continue this collaboration and combined approach for future studies”.
Fernandez-Triana J, Kamino T, Maeto K, Yoshiyasu Y, Hirai N (2020) Microgaster godzilla (Hymenoptera, Braconidae, Microgastrinae), an unusual new species from Japan which dives underwater to parasitize its caterpillar host (Lepidoptera, Crambidae, Acentropinae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 79: 15-26. https://doi.org/10.3897/jhr.79.56162
An over a century-long mystery has been surrounding the Taiwanese butterfly fauna ever since the “father of zoogeography” Alfred Russel Wallace described a new species of butterfly: Lycaena nisa, whose identity was only re-examined in a recent project looking into the butterflies of Taiwan. Based on the original specimens, in addition to newly collected ones, Dr Yu-Feng Hsu of the National Taiwan Normal University resurrected the species name and added two new synonyms to it.
Described by the “father of zoogeography” and co-author of the theories of evolution and natural selection, the species hasn’t been reexamined since 1866
An over a century-long mystery has been surrounding the Taiwanese butterfly fauna ever since the “father of zoogeography” Alfred Russel Wallace, in collaboration with Frederic Moore, authored a landmark paper in 1866: the first to study the lepidopterans of the island.
Back then, in their study, Moore dealt with the moths portion and Wallace investigated the butterflies. Together, they reported 139 species, comprising 93 nocturnal 46 diurnal species, respectively. Of the latter, five species were described as new to science. Even though the correct placements of four out of those five butterflies in question have been verified a number of times since 1886, one of those butterflies: Lycaena nisa, would never be re-examined until very recently.
In a modern-day research project on Taiwanese butterflies, scientists retrieved the original type specimen from the Wallace collection at The History Museum of London, UK. Having also examined historical specimens housed at the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, in addition to newly collected butterflies from Australia and Hong Kong, Dr Yu-Feng Hsu of the National Taiwan Normal University finally resolved the identity of the mysterious Alfred Wallace’s butterfly: it is now going by the name Famegana nisa (comb. nov.), while two other species names (Lycaena alsulus and Zizeeria alsulus eggletoni) were proven to have been coined for the same butterfly after the original description by Wallace. Thereby, the latter two are both synonymised with Famegana nisa.
Despite having made entomologists scratch their heads for over a century, in the wild, the Wallace’s butterfly is good at standing out. As long as one knows what else lives in the open grassy habitats around, of course. Commonly known as ‘Grass Blue’, ‘Small Grass Blue’ or ‘Black-spotted Grass Blue’, the butterfly can be easily distinguished amongst the other local species by its uniformly grayish white undersides of the wings, combined with obscure submarginal bands and a single prominent black spot on the hindwing.
However, the species demonstrates high seasonal variability, meaning that individuals reared in the dry season have a reduced black spot, darker ground colour on wing undersides and more distinct submarginal bands in comparison to specimens from the wet season. This is why Dr Yu-Feng Hsu notes that it’s perhaps unnecessary to split the species into subspecies even though there have been up to four already recognised.
Alfred Russel Wallace, a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, biologist and illustrator, was a contemporary of Charles Darwin, and also worked on the debates within evolutionary theory, including natural selection. He also authored the famed book Darwinism in 1889, which explained and defended natural selection.
While Darwin and Wallace did exchange ideas, often challenging each other’s conclusions, they worked out the idea of natural selection each on their own. In his part, Wallace insisted that there was indeed a strong reason why a certain species would evolve. Unlike Darwin, Wallace argued that rather than a random natural process, evolution was occurring to maintain a species’ fitness to the specificity of its environment. Wallace was also one of the first prominent scientists to voice concerns about the environmental impact of human activity.
Hsu Y-F (2020) The identity of Alfred Wallace’s mysterious butterfly taxon Lycaena nisa solved: Famegana nisa comb. nov., a senior synonym of F. alsulus (Lepidoptera, Lycaenidae, Polyommatinae). ZooKeys 966: 153-162. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.966.51921
The birdcatcher trees – genus Pisonia – are infamous for trapping birds with their super-sticky seed pods that would frequently entangle the body of the ‘victim’. Left flightless, the poor feathered creatures eventually die either from starvation or fatigue, or predators. Similarly notorious are the birdcatcher trees for botanists, who have been baffled by their complicated classification for the last three centuries.
Here’s why myself and graduate student Elson Felipe Rossetto of the Universidade Estadual de Londrina (Brazil) decided to take up the untangling of this issue with our recent taxonomic studies. You can find our research paper published in the open-access scholarly journal PhytoKeys.
We reestablished two genera: Ceodes and Rockia, where both had been previously merged under the name of Pisonia. Now, as a result, there are three distinct lineages of birdcatcher trees from the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans: Ceodes, Pisonia, and Rockia.
“Previous molecular studies on Pisonia species from around the world showed that species were clustered into three major groups, and here we assign names for each of them. With this new classification, a large number of the species known as Pisonia will be henceforth named Ceodes. This includes the Parapara (Ceodes brunoniana) and the Birdlime (Ceodes umbellifera) trees, both native to many islands, including Hawaii and New Zealand. They are commonly planted in gardens for their lush and sometimes variegated foliage, as well as their fragrant white flowers. However, the Cabbage tree (Pisonia grandis) will still be technically known as Pisonia.”
adds the study’s lead author Felipe Rossetto.
Birdcatcher trees have generated much controversy in the popular media because of their seed pods (technically called “anthocarps”) secreting a sticky substance that glues them to the feathers of seabirds or other animals for dispersal. Sometimes, though, too many seed pods can harm or kill birds, especially small ones, by weighing them down and rendering them flightless. This macabre practice has led to many controversies and local campaigns aiming to remove the trees, even illegally.
In spite of their forbidding reputation, however, we would like to stress that birdcatcher trees have positive effects on ecosystems and are important components of vegetation, especially for small islands. Sadly, there are many endemic and already endangered species of birdcatcher trees that only exist on a few small islands, where they are effectively placed at the mercy of local people.
Many species of birdcatcher trees are large and, thereby, tolerate harsh environments like seafronts and rocky cliffs, making them prime nesting spots for seabirds. Birdcatcher trees are also ecologically curious and could be regarded as keystone species in small islands, because their soft branches can sustain many types of invertebrates; their flowers are an important food source for bees and ants; their dense leaf litter nourishes the soil; and their roots have intimate interaction with native underground fungi (mycorrhiza).
All in all, clarifying the taxonomy of the birdcatcher trees is the first step to understanding how many species exist and how they relate to each other.
Although most people relate birdcatcher trees with beaches and coastal habitats, there are species that are only found in mountains or rainforests. For example, the species now allocated to the genus Rockia is endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago. These are small trees able to grow in dry to mesic mountain forests. Using our new classification, future studies can explore in detail the hidden diversity of these enigmatic plants, and find out how trees with high dispersal capabilities evolve into species endemic to small island ecosystems.
About the author:
Marcos A. Caraballo-Ortiz is a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C., United States). His research interests include plant systematics and ecology, with a focus on flora of the Caribbean Islands. Dr. Caraballo-Ortiz has experience studying the taxonomy of several groups of tropical plants, with a particular interest in neotropical Mistletoes (Loranthaceae, Santalaceae, Viscaceae) and the Four O’Clock family (Nyctaginaceae).