First-ever fish species described by a Maldivian scientist

Though there are hundreds of species of fish found off the coast of the Maldives, a mesmerizing new addition is the first-ever to be formally described by a Maldivian researcher.

Named after the country’s national flower, the species is added to the tree of life as part of the California Academy of Sciences’ global Hope for Reefs initiative

Originally published by the California Academy of Sciences

Though there are hundreds of species of fish found off the coast of the Maldives, a mesmerizing new addition is the first-ever to be formally described—the scientific process an organism goes through to be recognized as a new species—by a Maldivian researcher.

The new-to-science Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa), described in the journal ZooKeys, is also one of the first species to have its name derived from the local Dhivehi language, ‘finifenmaa’ meaning ‘rose’, a nod to both its pink hues and the island nation’s national flower.

Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, the University of Sydney, the Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI), and the Field Museum collaborated on the discovery as part of the Academy’s Hope for Reefs initiative aimed at better understanding and protecting coral reefs around the world.

“It has always been foreign scientists who have described species found in the Maldives, even those that are endemic, without much involvement from local scientists. This time, it is different and getting to be part of something for the first time has been really exciting, especially having the opportunity to work alongside top ichthyologists on such an elegant and beautiful species,”

says study co-author and Maldives Marine Research Institute biologist Ahmed Najeeb.

First collected by researchers in the 1990s, C. finifenmaa was originally thought to be the adult version of a different species, Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis, which had been described based on a single juvenile specimen from the Chagos Archipelago, an island chain 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of the Maldives. 

In this new study, however, the researchers took a more detailed look at both adults and juveniles of the multicolored marvel, measuring and counting various features, such as the color of adult males, the height of each spine supporting the fin on the fish’s back and the number of scales found on various body regions. These data, along with genetic analyses, were then compared to the C. rubrisquamis specimen to confirm that C. finifenmaa is indeed a unique species. 

Importantly, this revelation greatly reduces the known range of each wrasse, a crucial consideration when setting conservation priorities.  

“What we previously thought was one widespread species of fish, is actually two different species, each with a potentially much more restricted distribution. This exemplifies why describing new species, and taxonomy in general, is important for conservation and biodiversity management,”

says lead author and University of Sydney doctoral student Yi-Kai Tea. 

Despite only just being described, the researchers say that the Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse is already being exploited through the aquarium hobbyist trade. 

“Though the species is quite abundant and therefore not currently at a high risk of overexploitation, it’s still unsettling when a fish is already being commercialized before it even has a scientific name. It speaks to how much biodiversity there is still left to be described from coral reef ecosystems,”

says senior author and Academy Curator of Ichthyology Luiz Rocha, PhD, who co-directs the Hope for Reefs initiative.

Last month, Hope for Reefs researchers continued their collaboration with the MMRI by conducting the first surveys of the Maldives’ ‘twilight zone’ reefs—the virtually unexplored coral ecosystems found between 50- to 150-meters (160- to 500-feet) beneath the ocean’s surface—where they found new records of C. finifenmaa along with at least eight potentially new-to-science species yet to be described. 

This new-to-science Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse (Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa) became the first Maldivian fish to ever be described by a local researcher.
Photo by Yi-Kai Tea.

For the researchers, this kind of international partnership is pivotal to best understand and ensure a regenerative future for the Maldives’ coral reefs. 

“Nobody knows these waters better than the Maldivian people. Our research is stronger when it’s done in collaboration with local researchers and divers. I’m excited to continue our relationship with MMRI and the Ministry of Fisheries to learn about and protect the island nation’s reefs together,”

says Rocha says

“Collaborating with organizations such as the Academy helps us build our local capacity to expand knowledge in this field. This is just the start and we are already working together on future projects. Our partnership will help us better understand the unexplored depths of our marine ecosystems and their inhabitants. The more we understand and the more compelling scientific evidence we can gather, the better we can protect them,”

adds Najeeb.

***

Research article:

Tea Y-K, Najeeb A, Rowlett J, Rocha LA (2022) Cirrhilabrus finifenmaa (Teleostei, Labridae), a new species of fairy wrasse from the Maldives, with comments on the taxonomic identity of C. rubrisquamis and C. wakanda. ZooKeys 1088: 65-80. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1088.78139

***

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New deadly snake from Asia named after character from Chinese myth ‘Legend of White Snake’

In 2001, the famous herpetologist Joseph B. Slowinski died from snakebite by an immature black-and-white banded krait, while leading an expedition team in northern Myanmar. The very krait that caused his death is now confirmed to belong to the same species identified as a new to science venomous snake, following an examination of samples collected between 2016 and 2019 from Yingjiang County, Yunnan Province, China.

The new krait species, found in Southwestern China and Northern Myanmar, is described by Dr Zening Chen of Guangxi Normal University, PhD candidate Shengchao Shi, Dr Li Ding from the Chengdu Institute of Biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dr Gernot Vogel of the Society for Southeast Asian Herpetology in Germany and Dr Jingsong Shi of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at Chinese Academy of Sciences. Their study is published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys.

The new krait species Bungarus suzhenae. Photo by Dr Li Ding

The researchers decided to name the new species Bungarus suzhenae – Suzhen’s krait, after the mythical figure of Bai Su Zhen (白素贞) – a powerful snake goddess from the traditional Chinese myth ‘Legend of White Snake (白蛇传)’.

The legend says that, after thousands of years of practicing magic power, the white snake Bai Su Zhen transformed herself into a young woman and fell in love with the human man Xu Xian. Together, they ran a hospital, saving lots of human lives with medicine and magic. However, this love between goddess and human was forbidden by the world of the gods and, eventually, Bai Su Zhen was imprisoned in a tower for eternity. Since then, the Chinese regard her as a symbol of true love and good-heartedness. 

Illustration of the Legend of the White Snake, by Xin Wang, Chongqing museum of natural history

“The black-and-white banded krait is one of the snakes most similar to the white snake in nature, so we decided to name it after Bai Su Zhen,” say the authors.

In fact, the discovery of Suzhen’s krait was inspired by another accident from 2015, when the Chinese herpetologist Mian Hou was bitten by a black-and-white banded krait in Yingjiang. “It hurt around the wound, and the skin around it turned dark,” said the unfortunate man, who luckily survived. 

The skull of Bungarus suzhenae (3d-reconstructed model, by Jingsong Shi)

The authors of the present study realized that the bite was different from those of the many-banded krait B. multicinctus, which go without clear symptoms or pain around the wound. This clue eventually led to the discovery of Suzhen’s krait.

Because kraits are highly lethal, understanding their species diversity and geographic distribution is vital for saving human lives. Thanks to adequate description and classification of deadly snakes, research on venom, antivenom development and proper snakebite treatment can advance more rapidly. 

Suzhen’s krait Bungarus suzhenae preying on Yunnan Caecilian Ichthyophis bannanicus. Credit: GTO

The new study makes it easier to distinguish between krait species from China and adjacent southeastern Asia. “Three species of the black-and-white banded kraits from China were previously put under the same name – many-banded krait, which would hinder appropriate medical treatment,” the authors point out. Additionally, they suggest that antivenom for the many-banded krait be reevaluated accordingly.

Celebrating Taxonomist Day with Elvis Worms and Sneaky Pipefish

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!

The Fabulous, Rowdy Elvis Worm   

The sparkliest entry in this year’s Top 10, and arguably the most glamorous deep-sea animal discovered in 2020, is undoubtedly a scale worm described in ZooKeys by scientists of the University of California San Diego, the French National Centre for Scientific Research and Sorbonne University.

Peinaleopolynoe orphanae

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 elvisi in 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

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.

Stigmatopora harastii

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!

Two species and a single name: ‘Double identity’ revealed in a venomous banana spider

Phoneutria boliviensis in the Peruvian Amazon
Photo by N. Hazzi

Spiders from the genus Phoneutria – also known as banana spiders – are considered aggressive and among the most venomous spiders in the world, with venom that has a neurotoxic action. These large nocturnal spiders usually inhabit environments disturbed by humans and are often found in banana plantations in the Neotropical region. 

One of these spiders, P. boliviensis, is a medically important species widely distributed in Central and South America, whose behaviour, habitat, venom composition, toxicity and bites on humans have already been paid considerable attention in previous research work. Nevertheless, after examining a large pool of museum specimens, biologists from The George Washington University (N. Hazzi and G. Hormiga) began to wonder if samples named P. boliviensis were actually belonging to one and the same species. 

Everything started when N. Hazzi was examining specimens of banana spiders identified in the past by experts as P. boliviensis. The research team quickly realized that the morphological features currently used to identify this species were not sufficient. Then, they discovered two well-defined morphological groups of P. boliviensis that were separated by the Andean mountain range, a geographic barrier that separates many other species.

To prove that these two “forms” were different species, the authors conducted fieldwork in the Amazon, Andes, and Central America, collecting specimens of these venomous spiders to explore if the genomic signal also suggests two species. They discovered that genetic differences separating these two forms were similar compared to the genetic differences separating other recognized species of banana spiders. Using morphological, genomic and geographic distribution data, the authors concluded that P. boliviensis represents not a single species, but two different ones. They uncovered that the true P. boliviensis was only found in the Amazonian region, and the second species, P. depilata (an old name revalidated by the research team), was found in the Andes, Chocó and Caribbean regions. Their findings are published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal ZooKeys.

To obtain more distribution records for these species, the research team used the citizen science platform iNaturalist. Since the two species are among the few spiders that can be identified using only images, the platform turned out to be a very helpful tool. Data submitted by the iNaturalist community helped identify where the two species of Phoneutria are found. Curiously enough, for these two species, iNaturalist presented higher and more widely distributed records than the scientists’ own database. 

“To our knowledge, this is the first study that has used iNaturalist to gather occurrence records on venomous species to estimate distribution models,”

the researchers say.

This is how the two spiders can be distinguished using only photographs: P. boliviensis has two lateral white-yellow bands in the anterior area of the carapace, while P. depilata has four series of yellow dots in the ventral side of the abdomen. In addition, for P. depilata’s identification, information is needed on where the image was taken, because this is the only species of Phoneutria found in the Andes, Chocó, and Central America. However, the most reliable approach to identify these species requires examination under a stereomicroscope.  

Interestingly, P. depilata has been mislabeled as P. boliviensis throughout many studies, including works on venom composition and toxicity, ecology, geographic distribution, and human epidemiology of bites. There have been human bite records of this species reported in Costa Rica and in banana plantations in Colombia, most of them with mild to moderate envenomation symptoms. Except for brief anecdotal mentions by field explorers in the Amazon, little is known about P. depilata. 

Genetic evolutionary tree of the banana spiders genus Phoneutria
Photo by N.Hazzi

The study provides detailed diagnoses with images to distinguish both species and distribution maps. 

“This valuable information will help identify risk areas of accidental bites and assist health professionals in determining the identity of the species involved, especially for P. depilata. This is a significant discovery that will affect studies about toxicology, opening new opportunities to compare the venom composition and the effect of these two species,” the authors conclude.

Research article: 

Hazzi NA, Hormiga G (2021) Morphological and molecular evidence support the taxonomic separation of the medically important Neotropical spiders Phoneutria depilata (Strand, 1909) and P. boliviensis (F.O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1897) (Araneae, Ctenidae). ZooKeys 1022: 13-50. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1022.60571

🎉Celebration time: here’s to 1,000 issues of ZooKeys!

With the 1,000th ZooKeys issue now hot off the press, the time has come to celebrate the millennium of Pensoft’s very first scientific journal: ZooKeys!

With the 1,000th ZooKeys 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.

Articles published in ZooKeys since the journal’s launch in 2008 (data from 3/12/2020).

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:

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.

Author’s delight

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.

  1. Supporting Red List threat assessments with GeoCAT: geospatial conservation assessment tool (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.150.2109)
  2. Family-group names in Coleoptera (Insecta) (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.88.807)
  3. 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)  
  4. 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
  5. Useful model organisms, indicators, or both? Ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) reflecting environmental conditions (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.100.1533

Reader’s delight

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.

  1. 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”.

  1. 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.

  1. Family-Group Names In Coleoptera (Insecta) (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.88.807)

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 Aphonopelma johnnycashi.  

Public’s delight

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).

Data source: Altmetric.

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.

  1. 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.

Credit: CNN (read the full news story here)
  1. Geology and paleontology of the Upper Cretaceous Kem Kem Group of eastern Morocco (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.928.47517)

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.

  1. 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.

Credit: Sky News (read the full news story here)
  1. 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.

  1. Mapping the expansion of coyotes (Canis latrans) across North and Central America (DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.759.15149)

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. Dr Li-Zhen Li, coleopterist at Shanghai Normal University (57 publications).
  4. Dr Reginald Webster, coleopterist at Natural Resources Canada and a reviewer at ZooKeys (57 publications).
  5. Dr Sergei Golovatch, myriapodologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and a reviewer and a subject editor at ZooKeys (53 publications).

As well as to our most active reviewers:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. Dr Ivan H. Tuf, ecologist at Palacký University (Czech Republic) and a subject editor at ZooKeys.
  4. Dr Viatcheslav Ivanenko, taxonomist at the Lomonosov Moscow State University.
  5. 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.

And ZooKeysmost active editors:

  1. Prof Pavel Stoev, taxonomist, ecologist, and director at the National Natural History Museum (Bulgaria), and managing editor at ZooKeys.
  2. Prof Lyubomir Penev, entomologist, ecologist at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and founder of ZooKeys.
  3. 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.
  4. Dr Nina Bogutskaya, hydrobiologist and ichthyologist at the Museum of Natural History Vienna, and also a reviewer at ZooKeys.
  5. 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 Darwin wasp from Mexico named in observance of the 2020 quarantine period

“We thought that it was a good idea to remember this extraordinary year through the name of one remarkable species of Darwin wasp found in seven Mexican States (including Tamaulipas, where the UAT campus is located) and also Guatemala,” comment the researchers who discovered the previously unknown species.

Scientists at the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas (UAT) in Mexico recently discovered five new species of parasitoid wasps in Mexico, but the name of one of them sounds a bit weird: covida. Why this name?

In fact, the reason is quite simple. The thing is that the team of Andrey Khalaim (also a researcher at the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg, Russia) and Enrique Ruíz Cancino discovered the new to science species during the 2020 global quarantine period, imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their findings are described in a newly published research article, in the peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal ZooKeys.

“We thought that it was a good idea to remember this extraordinary year through the name of one remarkable species of Darwin wasp found in seven Mexican States (including Tamaulipas, where the UAT campus is located) and also Guatemala,”

explain the scientists.

The new species, which goes by the official scientific name Stethantyx covida, belongs to the Darwin wasp family Ichneumonidae, one of the most species-rich insect families, which comprises more than 25,000 species worldwide. 

“Darwin wasps are abundant and well-known almost everywhere in the world because of their beauty, gracility, and because they are used in biological control of insect pests in orchards and forests. Many Darwin wasp species attack the larvae or pupae of butterflies and moths. Yet, some species are particularly interesting, as their larvae feed on spider eggs and others, even more bizarre, develop on living spiders!”

further explain the authors of the new study.

Stethantyx covida is a small wasp that measures merely 3.5 mm in length. It is predominantly dark in colour, whereas parts of its body and legs are yellow or brown. It is highly polished and shining, and the ovipositor of the female is very long and slender.Along with Stethantyx covida, the authors also described four other Mexican species of Darwin wasps from three different genera (Stethantyx, Meggoleus, Phradis), all belonging to the subfamily Tersilochinae. Some tersilochines are common on flowers in springtime. While the majority of them are parasitoids of larvae of various beetles, some Mexican species attack sawflies, inhabiting the forests.

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Original source:

Khalaim AI, Ruíz-Cancino E (2020) Contribution to the taxonomy of Mexican Tersilochinae (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae), with descriptions of five new species. ZooKeys 974: 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.974.54536

Special ZooKeys memorial volume open to submissions to commemorate our admirable founding Editor-in-Chief Terry Erwin

In recognition of the love and devotion that Terry expressed for the study of the World’s biodiversity, ZooKeys invites contributions to this memorial issue, covering all subjects falling within the area of systematic zoology. Titled “Systematic Zoology and Biodiversity Science: A tribute to Terry Erwin (1940-2020)”.

In tribute to our beloved friend and founding Editor-in-Chief, Dr Terry Erwin, who passed away on 11th May 2020, we are planning a special memorial volume to be published on 11 May 2021, the date Terry left us. Terry will be remembered by all who knew him for his radiant spirit, charming enthusiasm for carabid beetles and never-ceasing exploration of the world of biodiversity! 

In recognition of the love and devotion that Terry expressed for study of the World’s biodiversity, ZooKeys invites contributions to this memorial issue, titled “Systematic Zoology and Biodiversity Science: A tribute to Terry Erwin (1940-2020)”, to all subjects falling within the area of systematic zoology. Of special interest are papers recognising Terry’s dedication to collection based research, massive biodiversity  surveys and origin of biodiversity hot spot areas. The Special will be edited by John Spence, Achille Casale, Thorsten Assmann, James Liebherr and Lyubomir Penev.

Article processing charges (APCs) will be waived for: (1) Contributions to systematic biology and diversity of carabid beetles, (2) Contributions from Terry’s students and (3) Contributions from his colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution. The APC for articles which do not fall in the above categories will be discounted at 30%.

The submission deadline is 31st December 2020.

Contributors are also invited to send memories and photos which shall be published in a special addendum to the volume.

The memorial volume will also include a joint project of Plazi, Pensoft and the Biodiversity Literature Repository aimed at extracting of taxonomic data from Terry Erwin’s publications and making it easily accessible to the scientific community.

Research on bats and pangolins – potential vectors of zoonotic pandemics like COVID-19 – invited to a free-to-publish special issue in ZooKeys

Captively bred pangolins. 
Photo by Hua L. et al., taken from their study on the current status, problems and future prospects of captive breeding of pangolins, openly accessible in ZooKeys at: https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.507.6970

Accepted papers will be published free of charge in recognition of the emergency of the current global situation

Was it the horseshoe bat or could it rather be one of the most traded mammal in the world: the pangolin, at the root of the current devastating pandemic that followed the transmission of the zoonotic SARS-CoV-2 virus to a human host, arguably after infected animal products reached poorly regulated wet markets in Wuhan, China, last year? 

To make matters worse, the current situation is no precedent. Looking at the not so distant past, we notice that humanity has been repeatedly falling victim to viral deadly outbreaks, including Zika, Ebola, the Swine flu, the Spanish flu and the Plague, where all are linked to an animal host that at one point, under specific circumstances transferred the virus to people. 

Either way, here’s a lesson humanity gets to learn once again: getting too close to wildlife is capable of opening the gates to global disasters with horrific and irreversible damage on human lives, economics and ecosystems. What is left for us to understand is how exactly these transmission pathways look like and what are the factors making certain organisms like the bat and the pangolin particularly efficient vectors of diseases such as COVID-19 (Coronavirus). This crucial knowledge could’ve been easier for us to grasp had we only obtained the needed details about those species on time.

Aligning with the efforts of the biodiversity community, such as the recently announced DiSSCo and CETAF COVID-19 Task Force, who intend to create an efficient network of taxonomists, collection curators and other experts from around the globe and equip them with the tools and large datasets needed to combat the unceasing pandemic, the open-access peer-reviewed scholarly journal ZooKeys invites researchers from across the globe to submit their work on the biology of bats and pangolins to a free-to-publish special issue. 

The effort will be coordinated with the literature digitisation provider Plazi, who will extract and liberate data on potential hosts from various journals and publishers. In this way, these otherwise hardly accessible data will be re-used to support researchers in generation of new hypotheses and knowledge on this urgent topic.

By providing further knowledge on these sources and vectors of zoonotic diseases, this collection of publications could contribute with priceless insights to make the world better prepared for epidemics like the Coronavirus and even prevent such from happening in the future. 

Furthermore, by means of its technologically advanced infrastructure and services, including expedite peer review and publication processes, in addition to a long list of indexers and databases where publications are registered, ZooKeys will ensure the rapid publication of those crucial findings, and will also take care that once they get online, they will immediately become easy to discover, cite and built on by any researcher, anywhere in the world. 

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The upcoming “Biology of bats and pangolins” special issue is to add up to some excellent examples of previous research on the systematics, biology and distribution of pangolins and bats published in ZooKeys

In their review paper from 2015, Chinese scientists looked into the issues and prospects around captive breeding of pangolins. A year later, their colleagues at South China Normal University provided further insights into captive breeding, in addition to new data on the reproductive parameters of Chinese pangolins.

Back in 2013, a Micronesian-US research studied the taxonomy, distribution and natural history of flying fox bats inhabiting the Caroline Islands (Micronesia). A 2018 joint study on bat diversity in Sri Lanka focused on chiropteran conservation and management; while a more recent article on the cryptic diversity and range extension of the big-eyed bats in the genus Chiroderma

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For more information, visit ZooKeys website

Follow ZooKeys on Twitter and Facebook.

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References:

Buden D, Helgen K, Wiles G (2013) Taxonomy, distribution, and natural history of flying foxes (Chiroptera, Pteropodidae) in the Mortlock Islands and Chuuk State, Caroline Islands. ZooKeys 345: 97-135. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.345.5840

Edirisinghe G, Surasinghe T, Gabadage D, Botejue M, Perera K, Madawala M, Weerakoon D, Karunarathna S (2018) Chiropteran diversity in the peripheral areas of the Maduru-Oya National Park in Sri Lanka: insights for conservation and management. ZooKeys 784: 139-162. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.784.25562

Hua L, Gong S, Wang F, Li W, Ge Y, Li X, Hou F (2015) Captive breeding of pangolins: current status, problems and future prospects. ZooKeys 507: 99-114. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.507.6970

Lim BK, Loureiro LO, Garbino GST (2020) Cryptic diversity and range extension in the big-eyed bat genus Chiroderma (Chiroptera, Phyllostomidae). ZooKeys 918: 41-63. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.918.48786

Zhang F, Wu S, Zou C, Wang Q, Li S, Sun R (2016) A note on captive breeding and reproductive parameters of the Chinese pangolin, Manis pentadactyla Linnaeus, 1758. ZooKeys 618: 129-144. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.618.8886

UCF student names a new frog species after her professor


The newly described species Pristimantis quintanai.
Photo by UCF, Veronica Urgiles.

The team described two new species from the Ecuadorian Andes

University of Central Florida student Veronica Urgiles has helped describe two new frog species discovered in Ecuador, and she named one of them after one of her professors.

Urgiles and an international team of researchers published their findings in the journal ZooKeys.

UCF student Veronica Urgiles named one of the new frog species in honor of Biology Professor Pedro Quintana-Ascencio for his years of dedication to conservation efforts in Ecuador.
Photo by UCF, Karen Norum.

She explains:

“Frogs are by far my favorite. So, getting to describe and name two of them is terrific. I have been looking at these frogs for years now, so going over the whole process of observing them in their habitats and then analyzing them and comparing them under the microscope, to finally naming them is a long, but very satisfying journey.”

Urgiles, a 2017 Fulbright scholar and the lead author, said she chose to attend UCF for its integration of genetics and genomics in biodiversity research and the emphasis on real-world application. She works with Assistant Professor Anna Savage who specializes in species diversity based on molecular analyses.

“One of the things that I found most interesting about these guys is that they don’t have metamorphosis like a regular frog, but instead they develop entirely inside eggs that adult females deposit in the ground,” Urgiles said. “They really don’t need water bodies for their development. Both of the new frog species inhabit high elevation ecosystems in the mountain range over 8,000 feet, so even though we are right there in the equator, it’s very cold and windy most of the year.”

The team of researchers has been studying frogs in Ecuador the past few years. In 2017, Urgiles found the first new species and named it Pristimantis quintanai, after one of her biology professors — Pedro Quintana-Ascencio. She and Savage found the second species — Pristimantis cajanuma — in 2018. Both were found in the Paramo and montane forest of the southern Ecuadorean Andes.

The newly described species Pristimantis cajanuma.
Photo by UCF, Veronica Urgiles.

The frogs are tiny, measuring 0.8 inch. Pristimantis quintanai females are brown and black and Pristimantis cajanuma are green and black, both easily blending into the foliage. They have a distinct call that is sharp and continuous, sounding like tik-tik-tik-tik.

Urgiles examined DNA samples collected by the international team back in Savage’s lab at UCF, generated genetic sequences, and constructed the phylogenetic analysis. Other team members also worked the morphological diagnosis and comparisons with other frogs and an acoustic analysis of the frogs’ calls.

Anna Savage, whose expertise includes describing species diversity based on molecular analyses, says:

“In these analyses, we use all of the genetic similarities and differences we find to build phylogenetic trees, and when we find that a ‘branch’ on the ‘tree’ has strong support and contains all of the individuals that share the same morphological characteristics, then we have good evidence to describe it as a new species. We used this method, along with vocalization and location data, to conclude that the two species we describe are distinct from any other species that have ever been characterized.”

The work is critical because of the vast diversity that has yet to be discovered in the tropical Andes of South America, Urgiles adds. In 2018, 13 new species of frogs were documented in the tropical Andes of Ecuador and so far in 2019 five new frogs have been documented.

There are potentially thousands of new plants and animals in the area that may hold the key to other discoveries. It’s important to know what is there, to better understand the threats to habitat loss and disease so conservation methods can be established to protect the resources.

Veronica Urgiles, a UCF student pursuing a master’s in biology. She named one of the two frog species that she and her team discovered after one of her professors.
Photo by UCF, Karen Norum.

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Text originally by UCF.

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Original source:

Urgiles VL, Székely P, Székely D, Christodoulides N, Sanchez-Nivicela JC, Savage AE (2019) Genetic delimitation of Pristimantis orestes (Lynch 1979) and P. saturninoi Brito et al., 2017 and the description of two new terrestrial frogs from the Pristimantis orestes species group (Anura, Strabomantidae). ZooKeys 864: 111-146. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.864.35102

New species of flying squirrel from Southwest China added to the rarest and ‘most wanted’

The newly described flying squirrel species (Biswamoyopterus gaoligongensis).
Photo by Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden.

Described in 1981, the genus Biswamoyopterus is regarded as the most mysterious and rarest amongst all flying squirrels. It comprises two large (1.4-1.8 kg) species endemic to southern Asia: the Namdapha flying squirrel (India) and the Laotian giant flying squirrel (Lao PDR). Each is only known from a single specimen discovered in 1981 and 2013, respectively.

Recently, in 2018, a specimen identifiable as Biswamoyopterus was unexpectedly found in the collections of the Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ), Chinese Academy of Sciences by in-house expert Quan Li. It had been collected from Mount Gaoligong in Yunnan Province, Southwest China.

The habitat of the newly described flying squirrel.
Photo by Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden.

Initially, the individual was considered to belong to the “missing” Namdapha flying squirrel: a species considered as critically endangered due to hunting and habitat loss. The latter had not ever been recorded since its original description in 1981 and was already listed as one of the top 25 “most wanted” species in the world by the Global Wildlife Conservation.

However, a closer look at the specimen from KIZ made it clear that the squirrel exhibited a colouration, as well as skull and teeth anatomy, distinct from any of the previously known species in the genus.

Close-up shot of the newly described flying squirrel species.
Photo by Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden.

Subsequently, joined by his colleagues from China (Xuelong JiangXueyou LiFei Li, Ming Jiang, Wei Zhao and Wenyu Song) and Stephen Jackson from Australia, the team of Quan Li conducted a new field survey. Thus, they successfully obtained another specimen and, additionally, recorded observations of two other flying squirrels. As a result, they included a third member to the enigmatic genus: Biswamoyopterus gaoligongensis, also referred to as the Mount Gaoligong flying squirrel. This new to science species was described in a paperpublished in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

“The morphological features of B. gaoligongensis are closer to the critically endangered and missing Namdapha flying squirrel, but is still readily identifiable as a distinct species,” explains Quan Li.

“The new species was discovered in the ‘blank area’ spanning 1,250 km between the isolated habitats of the two known species, which suggests that the genus is much more widespread than previously thought. There is still hope for new Biswamoyopterus populations to be discovered in between or right next to the already known localities,” he says.

As for the conservation status of the newly described species, the researchers note that it inhabits low-altitude forests which are in close proximity to nearby human settlements. Thereby, they are vulnerable to anthropogenic threats, such as agricultural reclamation and poaching.

“Therefore, there is an urgent need to study the ecology, distribution, and conservation status of this rare and very beautiful genus,” concludes the lead author.

The newly described flying squirrel species.
Photo by Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden.

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Original source:

Li Q, Li X-Y, Jackson SM, Li F, Jiang M, Zhao W, Song W-Y, Jiang X-Y (2019) Discovery and description of a mysterious Asian flying squirrel (Rodentia, Sciuridae, Biswamoyopterus) from Mount Gaoligong, southwest China. ZooKeys 864: 147-160. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.864.33678