Thursday 31 December 2020

Idaho Half-Wolf, Half-Man


From unidentified aerial phenomenon to lake monsters, Pterosaurs to Bigfoot, a large number of Idaho residents report claims of supernatural or ...

Flying human-like figure spotted over California coast

 Super Man or Iron Man? Flying human-like figure spotted over California coast, netizens have ...

"It could be Bigfoot with a jet pack," commented another. "We all know that's Elon Musk," declared a third. What are your thoughts on this clip? Ad ...

Wednesday 30 December 2020

BBC: Tame robin becomes 'good friend' to aspiring photographer


MONGABAY: A New Species of the Hermit Crab Genus Cancellus


[Crustacea • 2020] Cancellus heatherae • A New Species of the Hermit Crab Genus Cancellus H. Milne Edwards, 1836 (Decapoda: Diogenidae) from A Mesophotic Deep Bank in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico

Cancellus heatherae  
Felder & Lemaitre, 2020

Recent sampling on mesophotic deep banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico has produced a previously undescribed hermit crab assignable to the genus Cancellus H. Milne Edwards, 1836. Members of the genus are most often found to occupy cavities of eroded coral, siliceous sponges, porous calcareous rock fragments, algal concretions, or worm tubes as shelters. The present specimen was found loose as by-catch in a dredged rhodolith sample taken for algal life history studies. In situ, it likely occupied a cavity within one of the collected calcareous rhodoliths or small sponges in the by-catch. While our description is based on a single female specimen, the holotype is fully mature and intact, and it was solidly frozen in seawater until its coloration could be photographically documented and tissues extracted for sequencing. In comparison to the three other known western Atlantic species, the frontal rim of the carapace shield in the new species is continuous between the blunt lateral teeth as in C. ornatus Benedict, 1901 and C. viridis Mayo, 1873, and thus distinct from the subdivided front found in C. spongicola Benedict, 1901. The rim itself is somewhat flattened as in C. ornatus rather than inflated as in C. viridis. However, each of the ocular scales bears a pair of spines at the tip, as in C. viridis. The lower palms of the chelipeds, while distinctly rugose, do not have a separated patch of stridulating ridges comparable to those reported for C. spongicola. The yellow-orange to deep-orange pigmentation of the color pattern differs from fresh coloration in both C. ornatus and C. viridis, but that of C. spongicola is unknown for other than preserved specimens. Description of the single available specimen is in this case justified by the low likelihood for timely acquiring of additional samples from the type locality or adjacent habitats, most of which are deep banks warranting protection under pending habitat management changes. Our diagnosis includes GenBank accession numbers for COI sequences to facilitate future molecular phylogenetic comparisons.

Keywords: Crustacea, new species, Anomura, Cancellus, mesophotic, Gulf of Mexico

FIGURE 3. Cancellus heatherae n. sp., female holotype, sl 4.0 mm (USNM 1618800 = ULLZ 18309), northwestern Gulf of Mexico: A, habitus, dorsal; B, habitus, right side; C, habitus, ventral; D, sixth tergite and telson, dorsal.
 Cancellus viridis Mayo, 1973, female, sl 2.2 mm (USNM 1544358 = ULLZ 8947), southeastern Gulf of Mexico: E, in carcinoecium, front; F, habitus, dorsal. 
Cancellus ornatus Benedict, 1901, female, sl 6.9 mm (USNM 1539291 = ULLZ 2089), northeastern Gulf of Mexico: G, front; H, habitus, dorsal.

Family Diogenidae 

Genus Cancellus H. Milne Edwards, 1836 

Cancellus heatherae n. sp.

Diagnosis. Cephalothoracic shield width not exceeding length; rostrum well developed, angular, produced anteriorly beyond blunt anterolateral projections; narrow flattened frontal rim continuous across front between anterolateral projections, crossing rostrum without disjuncture; dorsal surface with angular depression on either side of shield posterior to rim behind each ocular peduncle. Median calcified plate of cardiac region subrectangular, slightly longer than wide. Ocular acicles armed with 2 spinules distally. Antennal acicle extending anteriorly less than onehalf length of ocular peduncle. Cheliped and second pereopod distal segments adapted to form operculum when withdrawn into habitat opening, outer surfaces of carpus and propodus with concave opercular depression. Cheliped propodus (palm) with opercular depression limited mesially by crest of 7 or 8 marginally denticulate lobes. Second pereopod propodus with opercular depression limited laterally by crest of 5 marginally denticulate lobes. Pleon elongate, with lightly sclerotized transverse tergites dorsally, 4 minute biramous pleopods on left side, depressed longitudinal groove along left side; sixth pleonite greatest width exceeding three-fourths greatest length, anterior lobes to either side of median incision each armed by 7 or 8 strong spines. Uropods and telson symmetrical; telson subovoid, anteriorly with subtriangular median dorsal prominence, posterior margin entire, unarmed except for setae. Color pattern of orange to yellow-orange dominating most dorsal surfaces and superior surfaces of anterior appendages, darker blotches and spots of deeper orange to reddish brown. A diagnostic COI gene sequence available under GenBank accession number MT800937. 

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NOVATAXA: A New Species of Snakehead


[Ichthyology • 2020] Channa aristonei • A New Species of Snakehead (Teleostei: Channidae) from East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, Northeastern India

Channa aristonei 
Praveenraj, Thackeray, Singh, Uma, Moulitharan & Mukhim, 2020

A new species of colorful snakehead from Meghalaya, northeastern India is distinguished from all its congeners by possessing a uniform bright blue to bluish-green body, bright-blue dorsal, anal, and caudal fins, submarginally black with white distal margin, series of brown to maroon-red, rounded, oblong or clover-shaped blotches or spots on dorsolateral, postorbital, and ventrolateral region of head, continued on body forming oblique pattern or randomly distributed. The new species superficially resembles C. pardalis and C. bipuli in appearance, but it can be distinguished from both in having brown to maroon-red, rounded, oblong or clover-shaped blotches or spots on head and sides of the body (vs. possession of well-defined, black to brown, rounded to oblong spots), fewer pre-dorsal scales (7 vs. 8–9), more caudal-fin rays (15 vs. 13), and more vertebrae (49 vs. 45). The new species differs from both C. pardalis and C. bipuli by Kimura's two-parameter (K2P) distance of 4.2–4.8 and 4.9–6.0% in the coxI gene sequence. A key to the snakehead Gachua group of the Eastern Himalayan region is provided herein.

Channa aristonei 
Holotype, BNHS FWF 1017, 136 mm SL 

Channa aristonei

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NOVATAXA: A New, Miniaturized Genus and Species of Snake

[Herpetology • 2020] Levitonius mirus • A New, Miniaturized Genus and Species of Snake (Cyclocoridae) from the Philippines

Levitonius mirus 
Weinell, Paluh, Siler & Brown, 2020

Waray Dwarf Burrowing Snake ||

The Philippine archipelago is an exceptionally biodiverse region that includes at least 112 species of land snakes from 41 genera and 12 families. Recently, Cyclocoridae (formerly Lamprophiidae: Cyclocorinae) was proposed as a distinct, Philippine-endemic family, containing four genera: Cyclocorus, Hologerrhum, Myersophis, and Oxyrhabdium. Here, we describe an additional cyclocorid genus and species, Levitonius mirus, new genus and species, from Samar and Leyte Islands, Philippines. Molecular data support Levitonius, new genus, to be most closely related to Myersophis and Oxyrhabdium, and it shares multiple skeletal characteristics with these genera; Levitonius, new genus, differs from all of these taxa in body size, scalation, and other characters. Skeletal and other phenotypic data suggest that Levitonius, new genus, is fossorial and likely has a diet that is specialized on earthworms. Levitonius mirus, new genus and species, has a maximum total length of 172 mm and is at present the smallest known species in Elapoidea. Our results highlight the need for future work on Samar and Leyte Islands, which have received relatively little attention from systematists, in part because of a prevailing biogeographic paradigm that predicted (not necessarily correctly) that these islands would simply have a nested faunal subset of the Mindanao faunal region land vertebrates. The discovery of a strikingly distinct and phylogenetically divergent snake lineage on these landmasses joins numerous related studies calling for a wholesale reconsideration of the Pleistocene Aggregate Island Complex model (the PAIC paradigm of diversification) biogeographic framework.

Fig. 1 (A) Elevation map of the Philippines, showing location of islands and PAICs mentioned in this article; B.I. = Babuyan Island Group, Sb. = Sibuyan Island, Sq. = Siquijor Island, C.S. = Camiguin Sur, Tb. = Tablas.
(B) Samar, Leyte, and nearby islands; red star indicates the type locality of Levitonius mirus, new genus and species; blue circle indicates a second occurrence locality;
(C) karst rainforest habitat at the L. mirus, new genus and species, type locality (Barangay San Rafael, Municipality of Taft, Samar Island).

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NOVQATAXA: New Forest-Dwelling Frog Species of the Genus Adenomera


[Herpetology • 2020] Adenomera glauciae • A New Forest-Dwelling Frog Species of the Genus Adenomera (Anura: Leptodactylidae) from Northwestern Brazilian Amazonia

Adenomera glauciae
de Carvalho, Simões, Gagliardi-Urrutia, Rojas-Runjaic, Haddad & Castroviejo-Fisher, 2020

We describe a new species of the South American frog genus Adenomera, based on external morphology, color patterns, advertisement call, and mtDNA sequences. The new species was collected from the Japurá River basin in northwestern Brazilian Amazonia and is distinguished from all congeners by the combination of large snout–vent length (SVL), toe tips unexpanded, presence of antebrachial tubercle on underside of forearm, and by a multi-note advertisement call composed of non-pulsed notes. This new species is part of the A. lutzi clade together with a candidate new species known as Adenomera sp. P and A. lutzi. The three species have the largest SVL in the genus. The presence of toe tips fully expanded and a single-note advertisement call distinguish A. lutzi from the new species. Acoustic and morphological data are still required to assess the taxonomic identity of Adenomera sp. P. Our new species of Adenomera is the third anuran species described from the Solimões-Japurá interfluve. This flags this poorly known region of lowland forests as an important area of species richness in northwestern Amazonia.

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NOVATAXA: A Second Species of Striped Gecko in the New Zealand Gecko Genus Toropuku


[Herpetology • 2020] Toropuku inexpectatus • Earning Your Stripes: A Second Species of Striped Gecko in the New Zealand Gecko Genus Toropuku (Gekkota: Diplodactylidae)

Toropuku inexpectatus 
 Hitchmough, Nielsen & Bauer, 2020

Photos by D. van Winkel.

The New Zealand diplodactylid gecko genus Toropuku is currently monotypic, but the sole member of the genus, T. stephensi, is distributed in two disjunct, geographically distant regions of New Zealand – the islands of Cook Strait (which includes the type locality, Stephens Island), between New Zealand’s North and South Islands, and the Coromandel Peninsula, in the northeastern North Island. Previously published phylogenetic results, based on three total individuals, recognized substantial—possibly species-level—diversity between these disparate localities, although no taxonomic decisions were made at that time. More recently, additional animals have been found on the Coromandel Peninsula. We here present phylogenetic and morphological evidence based on this expanded dataset to formally describe the populations on the Coromandel Peninsula as a new species, Toropuku inexpectatus sp. nov. The specific epithet refers to the species’ surprise discovery in a herpetologically well-surveyed area. The recognition of T. inexpectatus sp. nov. as a distinct species has implications for the conservation status of T. stephensi, which is now considered restricted to three islands in Cook Strait.

Keywords: Gekkota, taxonomy, Toropuku inexpectatus sp. nov., Toropuku stephensi, mainland relics, disjunct, conservation

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NOVATAXA: Cryptic Speciation in A Thread Snake


[Herpetology • 2020] Leptotyphlops sylvicolus Broadley & Wallach, 1997 • One Species hides Many: Molecular and Morphological Evidence for Cryptic Speciation in A Thread Snake (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae)


 Leptotyphlops sylvicolus Broadley & Wallach, 1997

in Busschau, Conradie & Daniels. 2020. 

We investigate the phylogeographic structure of a fossorial forest‐living snake species, the forest thread snake, Leptotyphlops sylvicolus Broadley & Wallach, 1997 by sampling specimens from the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu‐Natal provinces of South Africa. Phylogenetic results, using Bayesian inferences and maximum likelihood, from the combined mitochondrial sequence data (cyt b and ND4), along with population genetic analyses suggest the presence of phylogeographic breaks broadly congruent to those exhibited by other forest‐living taxa. Divergence‐time estimates indicate that cladogenesis within the study taxon occurred during the late Miocene climatic shifts, suggesting that cladogenesis was driven by habitat fragmentation. We further investigate the species‐level divergence within L. sylvicolus by including two partial nuclear loci (PRLR and RAG1). The three species delimitation methods (ABGD, bGMYC, and STACEY), retrieved 10–12 putative species nested within the L. sylvicolus species complex. These results were corroborated by iBPP implementing molecular and morphological data in an integrative Bayesian framework. The morphological analyses exhibit large overlap among putative species but indicate differences between grassland and forest species. Due to the narrow distributions of these putative species, the results of the present study have further implications for the conservation status of the L. sylvicolus species complex and suggest that forest and grassland habitats along the east coast of South Africa may harbor significantly higher levels of diversity than currently recognized.

Theo Busschau, Werner Conradie and Savel R. Daniels. 2020. One Species hides Many: Molecular and Morphological Evidence for Cryptic Speciation in A Thread Snake (Leptotyphlopidae: Leptotyphlops sylvicolus Broadley & Wallach, 1997).  Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. DOI: 10.1111/jzs.12401

Genetic Structuring of the Widespread African Grass Snake

 [Herpetology • 2019] Kladirostratus gen. nov. Psammophylax kellyi • A Snake in the Grass: Genetic Structuring of the Widespread African Grass Snake (Psammophylax Fitzinger 1843), with the Description of A New Genus and A New Species


 Kladirostratus acutus (Günther 1888) 

in Keates, Conradie, Greenbaum & Edwards, 2019. 

Psammophylax (Fitzinger 1843) is a widespread yet poorly studied genus of African grass snakes. A genetic phylogeny of six of the seven species was estimated using multiple phylogenetic and distance‐based methods. To support the genetic analyses, we conducted morphological analyses on the body (traditional morphology) and head (geometric morphometrics) separately. Phylogenetic analyses recovered a similar topology to past studies, but with better resolution and node support. We found substantial genetic structuring within the genus, supported by significantly different head shapes between P. a. acutus and other Psammophylax Psammophylax a. acutus was recovered as sister to its congeners, and sequence divergence values and morphometrics supported its recognition as a new genus. Increased sampling in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia) revealed that Psammophylax multisquamis is polyphyletic, necessitating the description of a new, morphologically cryptic species from northern Tanzania. The distribution of P. multisquamis sensu stricto is likely restricted to Kenya and Ethiopia. The study has further resolved multiple aspects of Psammophylax systematics, including the taxonomic validity of two central African subspecies, P. variabilis vanoyei (Laurent 1956) and P. tritaeniatus subniger (Laurent 1956). Inclusion of specimens from the more remote parts of Africa, in future analyses, may result in the recovery of additional diversity within Psammophylax .

Keywords: geometric morphometrics, grass snake, molecular biology, phylogenetic analysis, Psammophiinae, taxonomy

Kladirostratus acutus comb. nov. 

 Kladirostratus acutus (Günther 1888) 

Kladirostratus gen. nov. Conradie, Keates & Edwards 
Proposed common group name: Branch's Beaked Snakes.

Type species: Psammophis acutus Günther 1888.

Etymology: The name Kladirostratus is derived from the combination of the Greek word κλάδος (klados) meaning “branch,” and the Latin word “rostratus” meaning beaked. The name honors Professor William R. Branch (1947–2018), Curator Emeritus of herpetology at Port Elizabeth Museum, in recognition of his many contributions to the herpetology of Africa, especially regarding snakes. We benefitted from his generosity as a mentor and he helped shape our careers, for which we are thankful. The name is masculine in gender.

NOVATAXA: A New Species of Nemipterus

 [Ichthyology • 2020] Nemipterus elaine • A New Species of Nemipterus (Pisces: Nemipteridae) from the Western Indian Ocean

Nemipterus elaine
 Russell & Gouws, 2020

A new species of threadfin bream, Nemipterus elaine, from the Western Indian Ocean is described. The new species is known so far only from off the coast of southern Mozambique, and appears most closely related morphologically and genetically to N. randalli Russell, 1986, but differs in having shorter pectoral and pelvic fins, and the upper caudal lobe produced to form a short, bright yellow filament (a long red trailing filament present in N. randalli). A key to the species of Nemipterus in the Western Indian Ocean is provided.

Keywords: Pisces, Nemipteridae, Nemipterus elaine n.sp., Mozambique, Western Indian Ocean

Nemipterus elaine

Barry C. Russell and Gavin Gouws. 2020. A New Species of Nemipterus (Pisces: Nemipteridae) from the Western Indian Ocean. Zootaxa. 4895(4); 573–580. DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4895.4.7

BBC: Rare black fox spotted in Somerset is back home after escape bid


A rare black fox has been returned to a wildlife park after escaping and bringing traffic to a standstill.

It has emerged the animal, who was seen walking near Brean in Somerset on Monday, had escaped from the Animal Farm Adventure Park.

Known as Wilf, he also once escaped from a previous home in Manchester, before being found in the city's Trafford Centre.

His new owners have said they will be building higher fences in future.

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Songbird trade in Indonesia threatens wild Sunda laughingthrush


Songbird trade in Indonesia threatens wild Sunda laughingthrush

JAKARTA — The songbird trade in Indonesia has battered the wild population of the Sunda laughingthrush, an important seed disperser in the primary forest ecosystem, a new study shows. Bird…

MONGABAY: Top 15 species discoveries from 2020 (Photos)

Top 15 species discoveries from 2020 (Photos)

In this well-trodden world, the discovery of a species new to science is an exciting event, a glimmer of the uncharted riches of biodiversity still hidden around the globe. “Every… 

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BBC: Fox and photographer strike up unlikely friendship

Monday 28 December 2020

BBC: Atlantic discovery: 12 new species 'hiding in the deep'

image captionEpizoanthus martinsae lives on black corals at depths of almost 400m

Almost five years of studying the deep Atlantic in unprecedented detail has revealed 12 species new to science. 

The sea mosses, molluscs and corals had eluded discovery because the sea floor is so unexplored, scientists say. 

Researchers warn that the newly discovered animals could already be under threat from climate change. 

Carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean is making it more acidic, causing coral skeletons in particular to corrode.

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Sunday 27 December 2020

BBC: Pi the whale is Christmas treat for Scilly islanders


image captionThe whale has been spotted just off the coast of the Isles of Scilly since Christmas Eve

A humpback whale has provided Scilly islanders with a Christmas treat.

The giant mammal appeared off St Mary's on Christmas Eve and has been spotted every day cruising just a few hundred metres from the shore.

The whale has drawn many islanders to the coastline, including photographer Martin Goodey who nicknamed it Pi after the film Life of Pi.

Pi is also thought to have been spotted off the Cornwall coast over the summer because markings on its tail match.

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Saturday 26 December 2020

Thursday 24 December 2020

BBC: Withernsea: Whales stranded on beach die

Ten sperm whales found washed up on the North Sea coast have died.

The pod was first spotted on a beach between Tunstall and Withernsea, near Hull, at about 08:30 GMT.

Members of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said poor weather conditions and the size of the whales meant it was impossible to save them. 

A spokesperson said the young whales were "in very poor nutritional condition" and had most likely suffered a "navigation error".

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RBA: Arthur Ransome would be beside himself

RBA: Andean Condor heads list of raptors in steep decline


The Andean Condor is now classed as Vulnerable to extinction

Poisoned, poached, persecuted – iconic raptors such as the Andean Condor, Secretarybird and Martial Eagle have moved to higher threat categories in this year’s update to the IUCN Red List, sparking fears that the crisis that brought many Asian and African vultures to the edge of extinction has spread to new continents and species.

The Andean Condor the national bird of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia – is now globally threatened with extinction. This year, the emblematic species had its threat level raised to Vulnerable in our annual update to the IUCN Red List of threatened species (for which BirdLife is the authority for birds). With a wingspan of over three metres, the Andean Condor is one of the world’s largest flying birds, making an unmistakable silhouette as it soars above the Andes mountains at altitudes of up to 6,500 metres. It is also one of the longest-lived bird species, with a natural lifespan of up to 70 years.

However, this majestic scavenger has seen rapid population declines in recent years due to persecution and poisoning. The bird is deliberately shot or targeted using poisoned bait in retaliation to extremely infrequent attacks on livestock. It is also impacted by illegal use in folkloric events and trade, and can die from ingesting lead shot left in carrion.

“The Andean Condor is built to last. But humans are ruining its natural ‘live slow, die old’ life strategy, causing high death rates from which it is hard to recover,” says Ian Davidson, Regional Director, BirdLife in the Americas. “This iconic raptor has been found in Andean folklore since 2,500 BC. To lose it now would be a tragedy for South American culture and ecosystems alike.”

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