Friday, March 28, 2014

[PaleoEntomology • 2014] Cretophasmomima melanogramma • Under Cover at Pre-Angiosperm Times: A Cloaked Phasmatodean Insect from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota

Live reconstruction of Cretophasmomima melanogramma Wang, Béthoux and Ren sp. nov. (several exemplars) among Membranifolia admirabilis Sun and Zheng, 2001 (interpreted as Gingkophyte leaf organ).

Figure 7. Live reconstruction of Cretophasmomima melanogramma Wang, Béthoux and Ren sp. nov. (several exemplars) among Membranifolia admirabilis Sun and Zheng, 2001 in Sun, Zheng, Dilcher, Wang and Mei, 2001 (interpreted as Gingkophyte leaf organ).
A less camouflaged early orthopteran, Parahagla sibirica Sharov, 1968, is captured by the insectivorous Eomaia scansoria Ji, Luo, Yuan, Wible, Zhang and Georgi, 2002, one of the earliest eutherian mammals.
illustration: S. Fernandez. doi:


Fossil species that can be conclusively identified as stem-relatives of stick- and leaf-insects (Phasmatodea) are extremely rare, especially for the Mesozoic era. This dearth in the paleontological record makes assessments on the origin and age of the group problematic and impedes investigations of evolutionary key aspects, such as wing development, sexual size dimorphism and plant mimicry.

Methodology/Principal Findings
A new fossil insect species, Cretophasmomima melanogramma Wang, Béthoux and Ren sp. nov., is described on the basis of one female and two male specimens recovered from the Yixian Formation (Early Cretaceous, ca. 126±4 mya; Inner Mongolia, NE China; known as ‘Jehol biota’). The occurrence of a female abdominal operculum and of a characteristic ‘shoulder pad’ in the forewing allows for the interpretation of a true stem-Phasmatodea. In contrast to the situation in extant forms, sexual size dimorphism is only weakly female-biased in this species. The peculiar wing coloration, viz. dark longitudinal veins, suggests that the leaf-shaped plant organ from the contemporaneous ‘gymnosperm’ Membranifolia admirabilis was used as model for crypsis.

As early as in the Early Cretaceous, some stem-Phasmatodea achieved effective leaf mimicry, although additional refinements characteristic of recent forms, such as curved fore femora, were still lacking. The diversification of small-sized arboreal insectivore birds and mammals might have triggered the acquisition of such primary defenses.

Three specimens of Cretophasmomima melanogramma

Type material: Specimen CNU-PHA-NN2012002.

Locality and horizon: Early Cretaceous (126±4 mya [24]); Yixian Formation; Liutiaogou Village, Ningcheng Country, Inner Mongolia, NE China.

Etymology: Specific epithet composed of ‘melano’, Ancient Greek for ‘black’, and ‘gramme’, Ancient Greek for ‘line’; referring to the coloration of forewings, and of hind wing apices.

Based on the combination of observed characters, viz. presence of ‘shoulder pads’ in the forewings, aspect ratios of thoracic segments and legs, unsegmented cerci, we infer that Cretophasmomima melanogramma is a genuine stem-Phasmatodea. The fossil stick insect already possessed leaf (or leaf-shaped organ) mimicking capabilities, but retained a number of putative plesiomorphic traits in regard to extant forms, such as presence of mandibular incisivi, two lacinial teeth, straight fore femora, well-developed long forewings in both sexes and a low degree of sexual size dimorphism that is only moderately female-biased. This new record suggests that leaf mimicry predated the appearance of twig and bark mimicry in phasmatodeans. Additionally, it complements our growing knowledge of the early attempts of insects to mimic plant parts

Maomin Wang, Olivier Béthoux, Sven Bradler, Frédéric M. B. Jacques, Yingying Cui and Dong Ren. 2014. Under Cover at Pre-Angiosperm Times: A Cloaked Phasmatodean Insect from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota. PLoS ONE. 9(3): e91290. doi:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

[Paleontology • 2014] Anzu wyliei • A New Large-Bodied Oviraptorosaurian Theropod Dinosaur from the Latest Cretaceous of Western North America | A ‘Chicken from Hell’ Dinosaur

Anzu wyliei – a bird-like dinosaur nicknamed the “chicken from hell” that roamed the Dakotas 66 million years ago – appears in its natural environment
Illustration: Mark Klingler, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092022


The oviraptorosaurian theropod dinosaur clade Caenagnathidae has long been enigmatic due to the incomplete nature of nearly all described fossils. Here we describe Anzu wyliei gen. et sp. nov., a new taxon of large-bodied caenagnathid based primarily on three well-preserved partial skeletons. The specimens were recovered from the uppermost Cretaceous (upper Maastrichtian) Hell Creek Formation of North and South Dakota, and are therefore among the stratigraphically youngest known oviraptorosaurian remains. Collectively, the fossils include elements from most regions of the skeleton, providing a wealth of information on the osteology and evolutionary relationships of Caenagnathidae. Phylogenetic analysis reaffirms caenagnathid monophyly, and indicates that Anzu is most closely related to Caenagnathus collinsi, a taxon that is definitively known only from a mandible from the Campanian Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta. The problematic oviraptorosaurs Microvenator and Gigantoraptor are recovered as basal caenagnathids, as has previously been suggested. Anzu and other caenagnathids may have favored well-watered floodplain settings over channel margins, and were probably ecological generalists that fed upon vegetation, small animals, and perhaps eggs.

Anzu wyliei skull, shown in a reconstruction, featured a bony crest

Systematic paleontology

Theropoda Marsh 1881 

Oviraptorosauria Barsbold 1976 
Caenagnathidae Sternberg 1940

Anzu gen. nov.
Anzu wyliei sp. nov.


Etymology: The genus name is for Anzu, a feathered demon in ancient Mesopotamian (Sumerian and Akkadian) mythology, and alludes to the distinctive appearance of this large, presumably feathered dinosaur. The species name is for Mr. Wylie J. Tuttle, grandson of Mr. and Mrs. Lee B. Foster, in recognition of Mr. and Mrs. Foster's generous support of the scientific research and collections activities at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Figure 7. Calibrated phylogeny of oviraptorosaurian theropods showing hypothesized position of Anzu wyliei gen. et sp. nov.


Illustration: Bob Walters

Matthew C. Lamanna, Hans-Dieter Sues, Emma R. Schachner and Tyler R. Lyson. 2014. A New Large-Bodied Oviraptorosaurian Theropod Dinosaur from the Latest Cretaceous of Western North America. PLoS ONE. DOI:

A ‘Chicken from Hell’ Dinosaur
Anzu wyliei: Scientists announce new dinosaur discovery

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

[Botany • 2012] Cycas sancti-lasallei • a New Species (Cycadaceae) from Mindanao Island, the Philippines

Cycas sancti-lasallei Agoo & Madulid

Cycas sancti-lasallei, a new species from Mindanao Island, the Philippines is described and illustrated. It can be distinguished from other Cycas species in the Philippines in having long leaves, undulating leaflets, and megasporophyll lamina with a semi-orbicular to orbicular base and triangular top with few but well-defined spines. A key to the species of Cycas currently described from the Philippines is provided.

Keywords: cycad conservation, cycad taxonomy, Philippine Cycas, Philippine, threatened plants


Dr. Agoo and her team named the plant in honor of St. John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of teachers and founder of the De La Salle Schools.

 Agoo, E.M.G.; Madulid, D.A. 2012. Cycas sancti-lasallei (Cycadaceae), a New Species from the Philippines. Blumea - Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants. 57(2); 131-133. 

[Botany • 2013] Goniothalamus palawanensis • A new species of Goniothalamus (Annonaceae) from Palawan, and a new nomenclatural combination in the genus from Fiji

Goniothalamus palawanensis
C.C.Tang & R.M.K.Saunders

A new species, Goniothalamus palawanensis C.C.Tang & R.M.K.Saunders, sp. nov. (Annonaceae), is described from Palawan, Philippines. Goniothalamus palawanensis is most closely related to Goniothalamus amuyon (Blanco) Merr., but differs in its shorter inner petals, hairy ovaries, and funnel-shaped stigmas. A new nomenclatural combination, Goniothalamus angustifolius (A.C.Sm.) B.Xue & R.M.K.Saunders, comb. nov., is furthermore validated to reflect the phylogenetic affinities of a Fijian species previously assigned to Polyalthia.

Keywords: GoniothalamusPolyalthia, Fiji, Malesia, Melanesia, Palawan, new combination, new species

Figure 1. Goniothalamus palawanensis, sp. nov.
A Habit (mature individual with flowers) B Branch with leaves (abaxial) C Branch with leaves (adaxial) D, E Flower F Sepals (abaxial) G Very mature flower with two outer petals and one inner petal removed, showing stamens and stigmas H Perianth parts (abaxial; left to right: sepal, inner petal, outer petal) I Perianth parts (adaxial; left to right: sepal, inner petal, outer petal).
Scale bars: H, I = 1 cm; A, D from C.C. Tang 09 (HKU); B, C, F, G from C.C. Tang 06 (HKU); E, H, I from C.C. Tang 14 (HKU). Photos by C.C. Tang.

Chin Cheung Tang, Bine Xue, Richard M.K. Saunders. 2013. A new species of Goniothalamus (Annonaceae) from Palawan, and a new nomenclatural combination in the genus from Fiji. PhytoKeys. 32: 27–35, doi:

[Botany • 2012] Rhododendron chamahensis • A New Species (Ericaceae) from Gunung Chamah, Kelantan, Peninsular Malaysia

Rhododendron chamahensis Rafidah, sp. nov., an epiphytic shrub from Gunung Chamah, Kelantan, Malaysia, is described and illustrated.

Rafidah Abdul Rahman. 2012. Rhododendron chamahensis (Ericaceae), a new species from Peninsular Malaysia. Blumea. 57: 114–115.

New Species of Rhododendron from Malaysia

[Ichthyology • 2006] Morphology and Distribution of the Cave Knifefish Eigenmannia vicentespelaea Triques, 1996 (Gymnotiformes: Sternopygidae) from Central Brazil, with an expanded Diagnosis and comments on Subterranean Evolution

(upper) Living specimen of Eigenmannia vicentespelaea with relatively well developed eyes and translucent aspect. Note the three longitudinal stripes (LEA: 121.9 mm). Photo: José Sabino.
(lower) Sinkhole of São Vicente Cave System, São Domingos karst area, Goiás State, Central Brazil – type locality of Eigenmannia vicentespelaea Triques, 1996. Photo: E. M. Bichuette

We present herein data on morphology and distribution of the cave knifefish Eigenmannia vicentespelaea Triques, 1996, from the São Domingos karst area, Central Brazil, comparing it to the epigean (surface) species, Eigenmannia sp., found in the same area (but not syntopic with E. vicentespelaea) and also with congeners from other localities. Collecting sites comprising epigean and subterranean stream reaches in São Domingos were sampled during the dry seasons of 1999, 2000, and 2001 using several methods. Preserved specimens of E. vicentespelaea (n=25, including holotype and paratype) and of Eigenmannia sp. (n=15) were compared with focus on morphometric characters, body pigmentation and eye condition. A combination of characters separates E. vicentespelaea from Eigenmannia sp. and other congeners: the length from the tip of the snout to the posterior of the anal fin base, ocular diameter: head length and pre-anal distance: head length proportions, and body pigmentation. A wider morphometric variation in E. vicentespelaea is described than that reported in the original description (based on two specimens).

Key words: Morphometric data, electric fishes, cave environment, São Domingos karst area.

Maria Elina Bichuette and Eleonora Trajano. 2006. Morphology and Distribution of the Cave Knifefish Eigenmannia vicentespelaea Triques, 1996 (Gymnotiformes: Sternopygidae) from Central Brazil, with an expanded Diagnosis and comments on Subterranean Evolution. Neotropical Ichthyology. 4(1); 99-105

[Ichthyology / Evolution • 2012] Comparable Ages for the Independent Origins of Electrogenesis in African and South American Weakly Electric Fishes

Figure 2. Morphological convergences between African and South American electric fishes.
Mormyroid African electric fishes (left column) are facing gymnotiform South American electric fishes (right column) with similar aspects of morphology (such as elongate bodies, extended tube-like snouts, reduced eyes, and/or small mouth sizes). Anterior portion of body shown above small image of whole body (except for Petrocephalus sullivani); electric organ discharge waveform shown for every species (each trace 5 ms in total duration with head-positivity plotted upwards).
 (A) Mormyrops zanclirostris, 175 mm standard length (SL), Ivindo River, Gabon,
(B) Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus, 220 mm total length (TL), Rio Negro, Brazil;
(C) Mormyrus proboscirostris, 232 mm standard length, Ubundu, Congo River, D.R. Congo;
(D) Rhamphichthys sp., 305 mm TL, Rio Negro, Brazil;
(E) Mormyrops anguilloides, 195 mm SL, Yangambi, Congo River, D.R. Congo;
(F) Gymnotus sp., 195 mm TL, Rio Negro, Brazil; and (G) Petrocephalus sullivani, Ogooué River, Gabon; (H) Eigenmannia sp., Apure River, Venezuela.
Species A–D feed on benthic invertebrates, species E, F are piscivorous, and G, H feed on pelagic invertebrates.


One of the most remarkable examples of convergent evolution among vertebrates is illustrated by the independent origins of an active electric sense in South American and African weakly electric fishes, the Gymnotiformes and Mormyroidea, respectively. These groups independently evolved similar complex systems for object localization and communication via the generation and reception of weak electric fields. While good estimates of divergence times are critical to understanding the temporal context for the evolution and diversification of these two groups, their respective ages have been difficult to estimate due to the absence of an informative fossil record, use of strict molecular clock models in previous studies, and/or incomplete taxonomic sampling. Here, we examine the timing of the origins of the Gymnotiformes and the Mormyroidea using complete mitogenome sequences and a parametric Bayesian method for divergence time reconstruction. Under two different fossil-based calibration methods, we estimated similar ages for the independent origins of the Mormyroidea and Gymnotiformes. Our absolute estimates for the origins of these groups either slightly postdate, or just predate, the final separation of Africa and South America by continental drift. The most recent common ancestor of the Mormyroidea and Gymnotiformes was found to be a non-electrogenic basal teleost living more than 85 millions years earlier. For both electric fish lineages, we also estimated similar intervals (16–19 or 22–26 million years, depending on calibration method) between the appearance of electroreception and the origin of myogenic electric organs, providing rough upper estimates for the time periods during which these complex electric organs evolved de novo from skeletal muscle precursors. The fact that the Gymnotiformes and Mormyroidea are of similar age enhances the comparative value of the weakly electric fish system for investigating pathways to evolutionary novelty, as well as the influences of key innovations in communication on the process of species radiation.

Sébastien Lavoué, Masaki Miya, Matthew E. Arnegard, John P. Sullivan, Carl D. Hopkins and Mutsumi Nishida. 2013. Comparable Ages for the Independent Origins of Electrogenesis in African and South American Weakly Electric Fishes. PLoS ONE. 7(5): e36287. doi:

Monday, March 17, 2014

[Herpetology / Behaviour • 2014] First Satellite Tracks of Neonate Sea Turtles redefine the 'Lost Years' Oceanic Niche

Loggerhead Caretta caretta

Few at-sea behavioural data exist for oceanic-stage neonate sea turtles, a life-stage commonly referred to as the sea turtle ‘lost years’. Historically, the long-term tracking of small, fast-growing organisms in the open ocean was logistically or technologically impossible. Here, we provide the first long-term satellite tracks of neonate sea turtles. Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) were remotely tracked in the Atlantic Ocean using small solar-powered satellite transmitters. We show that oceanic-stage turtles (i) rarely travel in Continental Shelf waters, (ii) frequently depart the currents associated with the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre, (iii) travel quickly when in Gyre currents, and (iv) select sea surface habitats that are likely to provide a thermal benefit or refuge to young sea turtles, supporting growth, foraging and survival. Our satellite tracks help define Atlantic loggerhead nursery grounds and early loggerhead habitat use, allowing us to re-examine sea turtle ‘lost years’ paradigms.

Keywords: sea turtle ‘lost years’, ocean migration, satellite telemetry, oceanic stage sea turtles, Caretta caretta, thermal niche

Tagged loggerhead sea turtle at swim.
Photo: Jim Abernethy

Katherine L. Mansfield, Jeanette Wyneken, Warren P. Porter and Jiangang Luo. 2014. First Satellite Tracks of Neonate Sea Turtles redefine the 'Lost Years' Oceanic Niche. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 281, 20133039.

Mansfield KL, Wyneken J, Rittschoff D, Walsh M, Lim CW, Richards P. 2012. Satellite tag attachment methods for tracking neonate sea turtles. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 457, 181 – 192. doi: dx.doi.org10.3354/meps09485

A Turtle's Tale: researchers discover baby turtles' kindergarten

[Ichthyology • 2014] ปลาอีดน้ำลึก | Lepidocephalus nanensis | Thai Spirit Loach • A Revision of the Spirit Loaches, genus Lepidocephalus (Cypriniformes, Cobitidae)

ปลาอีดน้ำลึก | Thai Spirit Loach
Lepidocephalus nanensis Deein, Tangjitjaroen & Page 2014  

Lepidocephalus has been assumed to include only two species and confined to peninsular Malaysia and Indonesia. However, based on records and collections reported herein, the genus contains five species and is most common in the Chao Phraya basin of Thailand. Large rivers seem to be the preferred habitat, and difficulty in collecting these rivers may account for the paucity of specimens in collections. The known range of these five species includes western and southern Borneo, Java, Sumatra, peninsular Malaysia, and central Thailand.
Keywords: Teleostei, Southeast Asia, Lepidocephalichthys, Lepidocephalus nanensis

ปลาอีดน้ำลึก Lepidocephalus nanensis
photo: N. Panitvong |

Lepidocephalus nanensis Deein, Tangjitjaroen & Page 2014 
Thai Spirit Loach

Etymology. The name nanensis, an adjective, refers to the river system where most specimens have been collected. 
Distribution. Lepidocephalus nanensis is found in Thailand in the Nan River and in the Chao-Phraya River below the confluence of the Nan and Yom rivers (Fig. 2). To our knowledge, Šlechtová et al. (2008) first recorded this species from Thailand (as L. macrochir) and included molecular data from specimens collected at a fishpond at Nakom Savan (Nakon Sawan, Nakon Sawan Province), Thailand. Recent collections suggest that this species is common in the Nan and lower Chao Phraya rivers. These large rivers seem to be the preferred habitat of the species.


Deein, Gridsada, Weerapongse Tangjitjaroen & Lawrence M. Page. 2014. A Revision of the Spirit Loaches, genus Lepidocephalus (Cypriniformes, Cobitidae). Zootaxa. 3779(3): 341–352.

[Ichthyology • 2010] Microcobitis • a New Genus Name for Cobitis misgurnoides Rendahl, 1944 (Teleostei: Cobitidae) from river basins in Central Vietnam

Microcobitis, new genus, is established with Cobitis misgurnoides Rendahl, 1944 as type species. It is diagnosed by having the lower lip developed into four barbel-like lobes, adult males bearing a lamina circularis at the base of the second pectoral-fin ray, suborbital spine in a groove under the eye and not covered by skin, a pre-epiphysal fontanel between the frontal bones, a cartilaginous epiphysal bar, and the absence of body swellings in males.

Etymology. The name is derived from the Greek word ‘micros’, small, used as prefix here, and the generic name Cobitis, the type genus of Cobitidae, in which Microcobitis was originally placed due to the similar shape of the lamina circularis in males. Gender feminine.

Distribution. Presently reported from river basins in Central Vietnam. Microcobitis has also been reported to occur in some tributaries of the Mekong in Laos on the western slope of the Annamite range (M. Kottelat, pers. comm.).

Bohlen, J. and Harant, R. 2010. Microcobitis, a New Genus Name for Cobitis misgurnoides (Teleostei: Cobitidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 21(4): 295-300.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

[Ichthyology • 2013] Schistura crocotula • A New Loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) from Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, southern Thailand

Schistura crocotula Plongsesthee, Kottelat & Beamish 2013

Schistura crocotula, a new species, is described from Khanan River, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, southern Thailand. It is distinguished from other species of Schistura in Southeast Asia by a depressed head; 6-11 dark brown bars against an orange background; the first bar is the widest, two bars are under dorsal fin; interspaces are often indistinct on posterior part of body; a thick black bar at the base of the caudal fin.

Diagnosis: Schistura crocotula is distinguished from the other species of the genus by the combination of the following characters: lateral line incomplete; 7 1/2 branched dorsal-fin rays; 8 + 8 branched caudal-fin rays; pelvic-fin origin in front of dorsal-fin origin; anterior nostril pierced on front side of a pointed flap reaching eye; body with 6-11 regular dark brown bars on an orange (in life) or gray (when preserved) background; the first bar is wider than other bars; one or two bars are under dorsal fin, 1-1.5 times wider than interspaces; bars and interspaces often indistinct posterior to anus and orange-brown in life; black basal caudal bar conspicuous, wide, reaching dorsal and ventral midlines.
Size: 48.5 mm SL

Distribution: Schistura crocotula is known only from the Khanan River in Bangsapan and Pranburi river in Pranburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, peninsular Thailand. It is possible that some of the S. robertsi samples reported by Kottelat (1990) include more than one species and that some specimens from the eastern slope of peninsular Thailand (NIFI 2071) might be S. crocotula. The juvenile specimen from Tapi drainage (CMK 5179, 22.5 mm SL) also reported as S. robertsi is plain brown and uninformative; the identity of this population requires sampling of adult specimens.

Etymology: The species name crocotula is derived from the Latin name of a saffron garment (a saffron-coloured dress) and refers to the background colour of the live fish.

Plongsesthee, R., Kottelat, M. & Beamish, F. W. H.; 2013: Schistura crocotula, A New Loach from Peninsular Thailand (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 24 (2): 171-178.

[Ichthyology • 2013] Schistura maculosa • A New Loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) from Mizoram, northeastern India

Schistura maculosa, a new species of loach, is described from Tuingo and Pharsih Rivers, tributaries of Tuivai River (Barak drainage) in Mizoram, northeastern India. It is distinguished from other closely related Schistura species in having an axillary pelvic lobe; an incomplete lateral line; 20–30 narrow black bars on the body; 3–4 rows of black spots horizontally across the dorsal-fin; a slightly emarginate caudal-fin, with 5–7 rows of black spots more or less regularly arranged vertically on rays across the fin, and 8+8 branched caudal-fin rays.

Keywords: benthic, Brahmaputra basin, Ichthyofauna, Kawlbem

Lalronunga, S., Lalnuntluanga, L. & Lalramliana, L. 2013. Schistura maculosa, A New Species of Loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) from Mizoram, northeastern India. Zootaxa. 3718(6):583–590. 

[Ichthyology • 2012] Schistura mobbsi • Fishes from Phuong Hoang cave, northern Vietnam, with description of a new species of loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae)

Schistura mobbsi Kottelat & Leisher 2012

Four fish species are known from inside Phuong Hoang cave in northern Vietnam. Pterocryptis crenula and Schistura cf. fasciolata are hypogean populations of epigean species. Cyprinus rubrofuscus individuals do not show morphological adaptations to the cave environment. Schistura mobbsi, new species, is characterized by the loss of the eyes, pigmentation and lateral line, reduced number of fin rays, large nostrils displaced forward on snout, and scales not overlapping and restricted to posterior part of flank, becoming very sparsely set anteriorly

Type locality: Vietnam, Thai Nguyen Prov., Phuong Hoang Cave, Bac Song (Lang Song Prov.), probably draining to Cau River, draining to Hai Phong, 21°46'31"N, 106°07'10"E.

Etymology: Named for the discoverer of the Phuong Hoang cave system, Jerry Mobbs.

Schistura mobbsi has no eyes, no pigmentation and a limited ability to sense motion. 

Discovery: New Cave Fish Species Sees “Light of Day”

Kottelat, M. & Leisher, C.. 2012. Fishes from Phuong Hoang cave, northern Vietnam, with description of a new species of loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters. 23 (3): 237-244.

[Ichthyology • 2012] Schistura pantherina Schistura (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) in the Mae Khlong basin in southwestern Thailand with description of a new species

Schistura pantherina
Page, Plongsesthee, Beamish, Kangrang, Randall, Singer & Martin 2012

Recent fieldwork has revealed the presence of six species of Schistura McClelland 1838 in the Mae Khlong basin in southwestern Thailand. These include S. sexcauda (Fowler 1937), S. balteata (Rendahl 1948), S. mahnerti Kottelat 1990, the recently described S. aurantiaca Plongsesthee et al. 2011 and S. tenebrosa Kangrang et al. 2012, and a newly discovered species described herein. Schistura sexcauda previously was the only Schistura species known in the Mae Khlong, and it was mis-identified as S. desmotes (Fowler 1934). Schistura pantherina, n. sp., is easily distinguished from all other species of Schistura by its distinctive color pattern. It appears to be endemic to the Mae Nam Kwai Noi system. 
Key words: Pisces, Cypriniformes, Schistura sexcauda, Schistura desmotes

Type locality: Thailand, Kanchanaburi Prov., Thong Pha Phum, Mae Khlong basin, Mae Nam Kwai Noi system, Kroeng Krawia,  
Etymology: The name pantherina from the Latin means 'like a panther,' is in reference to the spotted pattern on the dorsum and sides of some members of the felid genus Panthera.

Page, L.M.; Plongsesthee, R.; Beamish, F.W.H.; Kangrang, P.; Randall, Z.S.; Singer, R.A.; Martin, Z.P. 2012. Schistura (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) in the Mae Khlong basin in southwestern Thailand with description of a new species. Zootaxa, 3586: 319-328.

[Ichthyology • 2012] Schistura tenebrosa • A New Species of Loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) from the Kwai Noi River system, Mae Khlong basin, western Thailand

Schistura tenebrosa Kangrang, Page & Beamish 2012

A new species of Schistura is described from the Kwai Noi, Mae Khlong basin, in the Thong Pha Phum District of Kanchanaburi Province in western Thailand. The species is distinguished from all other species of Schistura by a uniform dusky brown color pattern without marks on the dorsum or side of body and with many conspicuous supplementary neuromasts along the lateral line and on the head. It is further distinguished from other species of Schistura lacking marks on the body by its dark brown color, an incomplete lateral line extending only to beneath the dorsal fin, and the origin of the dorsal fin located above the origin of the pelvic fin. The species is small, reaching only 46.0 mm SL, 55.1 mm TL, and inhabits shallow gravel and rubble riffles in small streams. 

Key words: loach, Cypriniformes

Type locality: Thailand, Kanchanaburi Prov., Thong Pha Phum, Mae Khlong basin, Kwai Noi River system, Pakkok River, 14º36'22"N, 98º28'14"E.

Etymology: The name tenebrosa is a Latin adjective for dark or gloomy, and was given in reference to the dusky color of this species.

Kangrang, P.; Page, L.M.; Beamish, F.W.H. 2012: Schistura tenebrosa, A New Species of Loach from the Kwai Noi River system, Mae Khlong basin, Thailand (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae). Zootaxa. 3586: 69-77.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

[PaleoAnthropology • 2014] Remnants of an Ancient Forest provide Ecological Context for Early Miocene Fossil Apes

The early ape Proconsul, center, and the primate Dendropithecus, upper right, inhabited a warm and relatively wet, closed canopy tropical seasonal forest 18 million years ago in equatorial eastern Africa – on Rusinga Island, Kenya.
PaleoArt: Jason Brougham.

The lineage of apes and humans (Hominoidea) evolved and radiated across Afro-Arabia in the early Neogene during a time of global climatic changes and ongoing tectonic processes that formed the East African Rift. These changes probably created highly variable environments and introduced selective pressures influencing the diversification of early apes. However, interpreting the connection between environmental dynamics and adaptive evolution is hampered by difficulties in locating taxa within specific ecological contexts: time-averaged or reworked deposits may not faithfully represent individual palaeohabitats. Here we present multiproxy evidence from Early Miocene deposits on Rusinga Island, Kenya, which directly ties the early ape Proconsul to a widespread, dense, multistoried, closed-canopy tropical seasonal forest set in a warm and relatively wet, local climate. These results underscore the importance of forested environments in the evolution of early apes.

Lauren A. Michel, Daniel J. Peppe, James A. Lutz, Steven G. Driese, Holly M. Dunsworth, William E.H. Harcourt-Smith, William H. Horner, Thomas Lehmann, Sheila Nightingale & Kieran P. McNulty. 2014. Remnants of an Ancient Forest provide Ecological Context for Early Miocene Fossil Apes. Nature Communications. 5, article number: 3236; doi:

Proconsul, Dendropithecus: New Research Sheds Light on Life of Early Apes

[PaleoMammalogy • 2014] Semirostrum ceruttii • Unique Feeding Morphology in a New Prognathous Extinct Porpoise from the Pliocene of California

Semirostrum ceruttii 
Racicot, Deméré, Beatty & Boessenecker 2014 
extinct porpoise (Phocoenidae) from the Pliocene San Diego Formation, California.
PaleoArt: Bobby Boessenecker [i]

- A new extinct porpoise species possesses a prognathous fused mandibular symphysis
- This is the first described mammal with an elongate prognathous mandibular symphysis
- Tooth wear, postcrania, and innervation of mandible imply benthic probing function

 Skull and mandible of SDNHM 65276, holotype specimen of Semirostrum ceruttii, a strange porpoise (Phocoenidae) from the Pliocene San Diego Formation, California.

Modern porpoises (Odontoceti: Phocoenidae) are some of the smallest cetaceans and usually feed near the seafloor on small fish and cephalopods. Within both extinct and extant phocoenids, no evidence for specialized mandibular morphology has been documented. Here we describe a new species of extinct porpoise, Semirostrum ceruttii, from the marine Pliocene San Diego (4.2–1.6 mega-annum, Ma) and Purisima (5–2.5 Ma) formations of California. The mandibles comprise a long, fused, and nearly edentulous prognathous symphysis, extending farther beyond the rostrum than in any known mammal. Phylogenetic analyses based on morphology reconstruct Semirostrum ceruttii as sister to extant (crown) porpoise species with moderate support. We describe the spectacularly preserved holotype specimen based on computed tomography (CT) scans, which allowed visualization of the elongate mental and accessory canals within the symphysis. The elongate canals are similar to those found in Rynchops birds and were likely involved in sensory function. Oblique labial wear facets present on numerous small conical mandibular teeth posterior to the symphysis suggest regular contact with benthic substrate. The unique mandibular and dental characteristics, along with robust scapulae, sternum, and unfused cervical vertebrae, support the interpretation that this species employed a form of benthic skim feeding by using its mandible to probe for and obtain prey.

Figure 1. Skull, Mandible, Periotic, and Postcranial Morphology of Semirostrum ceruttii Holotype Specimen SDSNH 65276
(A) Schematic reconstruction based on composite postcrania and skull material. (B) Labeled outlined 3D isosurface reconstructions based on CT scans. From top to bottom: right lateral view of skull, right lateral view of mandible, dorsal view of skull, dorsal view of mandible. (C) Left lateral view of black skimmer bird Rynchops niger with analogous mandibular morphology. (Photo by Don Faulkner, Wikimedia Commons; image cropped and converted to grayscale.) (D) Labeled 3D isosurface reconstruction of holotype skull in posterior view. (E) Labeled 3D isosurface reconstructions of right periotic based on CT scans in dorsal (top) and ventral (bottom) views.

Rachel A. Racicot, Thomas A. Deméré, Brian L. Beatty, Robert W. Boessenecker. 2014. Unique Feeding Morphology in a New Prognathous Extinct Porpoise from the Pliocene of California. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.031
Semirostrum ceruttii: Scientists Discover Extinct Porpoise with Unique Underbite
Extinct Big-Jawed Porpoise Fossil Discovered off California Coast

[PaleoMammalogy • 2014] 'Cerro Ballena' • Repeated Mass Strandings of Miocene Marine Mammals from Atacama Region of Chile point to Sudden Death at Sea

Figure 4. High dynamic range images of orthogonal three-dimensional point clouds capturing adult and juvenile fossil rorqual skeletons from Cerro Ballena.
(a) MPC 678; (b) MPC 684; (c) over-lapping adult and juvenile specimens, clockwise MPC 666, 665 and 667; (d) MPC 685 and (e) MPC 675.
Small-scale bars 20 cm, large-scale bars 30 cm. True north indicated by arrow, and stratigraphic layer noted by bone-bearing level number.
See and the electronic supplementary information for more details and source data. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3316

Marine mammal mass strandings have occurred for millions of years, but their origins defy singular explanations. Beyond human causes, mass strandings have been attributed to herding behaviour, large-scale oceanographic fronts and harmful algal blooms (HABs). Because algal toxins cause organ failure in marine mammals, HABs are the most common mass stranding agent with broad geographical and widespread taxonomic impact. Toxin-mediated mortalities in marine food webs have the potential to occur over geological timescales, but direct evidence for their antiquity has been lacking. Here, we describe an unusually dense accumulation of fossil marine vertebrates from Cerro Ballena, a Late Miocene locality in Atacama Region of Chile, preserving over 40 skeletons of rorqual whales, sperm whales, seals, aquatic sloths, walrus-whales and predatory bony fish. Marine mammal skeletons are distributed in four discrete horizons at the site, representing a recurring accumulation mechanism. Taphonomic analysis points to strong spatial focusing with a rapid death mechanism at sea, before being buried on a barrier-protected supratidal flat. In modern settings, HABs are the only known natural cause for such repeated, multispecies accumulations. This proposed agent suggests that upwelling zones elsewhere in the world should preserve fossil marine vertebrate accumulations in similar modes and densities.

Keywords: taphonomy, strandings, fossil record, harmful algal blooms

Nicholas D. Pyenson, Carolina S. Gutstein, James F. Parham, Jacobus P. Le Roux, Catalina Carreño Chavarría, Holly Little, Adam Metallo, Vincent Rossi, Ana M. Valenzuela-Toro, Jorge Velez-Juarbe, Cara M. Santelli, David Rubilar Rogers, Mario A. Cozzuol and Mario E. Suárez. 2014. Repeated Mass Strandings of Miocene Marine Mammals from Atacama Region of Chile point to Sudden Death at Sea. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20133316.