Tuesday, May 31, 2016

[PaleoMammalogy • 2016] Fragilicetus velponi • A New Mysticete Genus and Species and Its Implications for the Origin of Balaenopteridae (Cetacea, Mysticeti)

Fragilicetus velponi 
Bisconti & Bosselaers, 2016

Figure 14. Artistic interpretation of possible interaction between a large shark and Fragilicetus velponi gen. et. sp. nov. as suggested by the shark bite marks on the skull of the holotype specimen. 
The human in the upper right corner serves as a size reference. Illustration by Mark Bosselaers.
 DOI: 10.1111/zoj.12370

A new extinct genus, Fragilicetus gen. nov., is described here based on a partial skull of a baleen-bearing whale from the Early Pliocene of the North Sea. Its type species is Fragilicetus velponi sp. nov. This new whale shows a mix of morphological characters that is intermediate between those of Eschrichtiidae and those of Balaenopteridae. A phylogenetic analysis supported this view and provided insights into some of the morphological transformations that occurred in the process leading to the origin of Balaenopteridae. Balaenopterid whales show specialized feeding behaviour that allows them to catch enormous amounts of prey. This behaviour is possible because of the presence of specialized anatomical features in the supraorbital process of the frontal, temporal fossa, glenoid fossa of the squamosal, and dentary. Fragilicetus velponi gen. et sp. nov. shares the shape of the supraorbital process of the frontal and significant details of the temporal fossa with Balaenopteridae but maintains an eschrichtiid- and cetotheriid-like squamosal bulge and posteriorly protruded exoccipital. The character combination exhibited by this cetacean provides important information about the assembly of the specialized morphological features responsible for the highly efficient prey capture mechanics of Balaenopteridae.  

Keywords: Belgium; feeding behavior; Fragilicetus; phylogeny; Pliocene

Figure 14. Artistic interpretation of possible interaction between a large shark and Fragilicetus velponi gen. et. sp. nov. as suggested by the shark bite marks on the skull of the holotype specimen shown in Figure 3.
The human in the upper right corner serves as a size reference. Illustration by Mark Bosselaers. 

Systematic Palaeontology

Class Mammalia Linnaeus, 1758
Order Cetacea Brisson, 1762
Suborder Mysticeti Cope, 1891
Chaeomysticeti Mitchell, 1989
Balaenomorpha Geisler & Sanders, 2003

Superfamily Thalassotherii Bisconti, Lambert & Bosselaers, 2013
Epifamily Balaenopteroidea Flower, 1864

Family Balaenopteridae Gray, 1864

Fragilicetus gen. nov.

Diagnosis: The diagnosis of Fragilicetus includes the presence of eschrichtiid-like and balaenopterid-like features in the same individual. Fragilicetus is distinguished from the other nonbalaenopterid mysticete families based on the presence, in the same individual, of a squamosal bulging into the temporal fossa; posterior projection of the posterolateral corner of the exoccipital; anterior placement of the posterior apex of the lambdoidal crest; squamosal cleft present and v-shaped (turning ventrally at its lateral end); abruptly depressed and flat supraorbital process of the frontal; anterior portion of temporal crest transversely elongated and forming a dorsal roof to the anterior portion of the temporal fossa; very short intertemporal region; infraorbital region of the frontal exposed dorsally between the ascending processes of the maxillae; anterior end of the parietal located more anteriorly than the posterior ends of the ascending process of the maxilla; descending suprameatal surface from the central portion of the periotic to the superior rim of the internal acoustic meatus; endocranial opening of the facial canal separated from the internal acoustic meatus by a thick crista transversa but not prolonged into a groove; triangular anterior process of the periotic; anterior process of the periotic and central portion of periotic on the same plane; groove for VII cranial nerve in posterior process reduced; anteroposteriorly short and flattened posterior process of the periotic.

Etymology: Fragilis, Latin, fragile, in reference to the extreme fragility of the holotype skull. Cetus, Latin, whale.

Type species: Fragilicetus velponi sp. nov. This is currently the only included species.

Figure 5. Holotype skull of Fragilicetus velponi gen. et. sp. nov. in lateral view. A, photographic representation; B, interpretative representation.
Abbreviations: eam, external acoustic meatus; exo, exoccipital; fr, frontal; max, maxilla; opt, optic channel; par, parietal; pgl, postglenoid process of squamosal; ppp, posterior process of the periotic; pt, pterygoid; soc, supraoccipital; sop, supraorbital process of the frontal; sq, squamosal; sqc, squamosal cleft; vom, vomer; zyg, zygomatic process of the squamosal. Scale bar = 300 mm.

Fragilicetus velponi sp. nov.

Holotype: Item no. NMR 999100007727, housed at the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, The Netherlands (hereinafter, NMR).

Type locality: The specimen was found along the south-west border of the Deurganckdock, approximately 12 km north-west of Antwerp city centre and 4 km north of the village of Kallo (Fig. 1). The Deurganckdock is an artificial excavation located on the left side of the Scheldt River. The geographical coordinates of the discovery site are 51°17′05″N, 4°15′30″E.

Etymology: Velpon is the brand of the glue used in the preparation of the holotype skull.

Figure 6. Skull of Fragilicetus velponi gen. et. sp. nov. in anterior view. A, photo; B, line drawing.
Abbreviations: bocc, basioccipital; bs, basisphenoid; desc sop, descending part of supraorbital process of the frontal; fm, foramen magnum; fr, frontal; max, maxilla; par, parietal; pt, pterygoid; soc, supraoccipital; sop, supraorbital process of the frontal; sq, squamosal; sqc, squamosal cleft; vom, vomer. Scale bar = 300 mm.

Figure 3. Localizations and orientations of shark bite marks on the holotype skull of Fragilicetus velponi gen. et. sp. nov. as seen from the anterior view. The shark bite marks are in solid black. The skull is in anterior view; only the right side of the skull is shown because it is that part that bears the shark bite marks.
 Abbreviations: ali, alisphenoid; fr, frontal; pal, palatine; par, parietal; pgl, postglenoid process of squamosal; pt, pterygoid; soc, supraoccipital; sq, squamosal; sqc, squamosal cleft; sq-par, squamosal–parietal suture; sq-pt, squamosal-pterygoid suture; tc, temporal crest; vom, vomer; zyg, zygomatic process of the squamosal. Scale bar = 100 mm.

Figure 14. Artistic interpretation of possible interaction between a large shark and Fragilicetus velponi gen. et. sp. nov. as suggested by the shark bite marks on the skull of the holotype specimen shown in Figure 3.
The human in the upper right corner serves as a size reference. Illustration by Mark Bosselaers.

The new genus Fragilicetus is established based on the new fossil species F. velponi. Fragilicetus is the sister group of later Balaenopteridae; Eschrichtiidae is the sister group of the Balaenopteridae clade. Fragilicetus velponi shares several characters with Eschrichtiidae, e.g. the prominent bulge of the squamosal into the temporal fossa and the posterior protrusion of the posterolateral corner of the exoccipital; it shares with later Balaenopteridae the shape of the abruptly depressed supraorbital process of the frontal, details of the articulation of the rostrum with the frontal, and the shape of the supraoccipital. A phylogenetic analysis revealed that F. velponi is closer to Balaenopteridae than to Eschrichtiidae. The phylogenetic analysis also revealed high levels of homoplasy in the Balaenopteroidea clade but these did not prevent the construction of a highly resolved strict consensus tree. However, the high levels of homoplasy prevent unambiguous diagnoses of the internal nodes of Balaenopteridae. The morphological characters observed in F. velponi showed that the appearance of a wide and flat, abruptly depressed supraorbital process of the frontal and an anteriorly constricted supraoccipital preceded the loss of the squamosal bulge and the loss of strong attachment sites for neck muscles in the evolutionary process leading to the balaenopterid lineage. These characters have functional implications respectively related to the anterior placement of the attachment for the temporalis muscle and to the preservation of a mobile head in the earliest phases of balaenopterid evolution.

Finally, the fossil described in the present paper is a demonstration of direct interaction between sharks and mysticetes in the Pliocene; an illustration of this interaction is shown in Figure 14.

Michelangelo Bisconti and Mark Bosselaers. 2016. Fragilicetus velponi: A New Mysticete Genus and Species and Its Implications for the Origin of Balaenopteridae (Mammalia, Cetacea, Mysticeti). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 177(2); 450–474.  DOI: 10.1111/zoj.12370

[Herpetology • 2016] Resolving the Higher-Order Phylogenetic Relationships of the Circumtropical Mabuya group (Squamata: Scincidae): An Out-of-Asia Diversification

• Concatenated and species tree approaches resolve intergeneric relationships of Mabuya group.
• Southeast Asian lineages are found to be non-monophyletic, supporting Southeast Asian origin of the group.
• Middle-Eastern Trachylepis form a distinct clade and are transferred to a resurrected genus.
Eutropis is rendered polyphyletic by placement of E. novemcarinata sister to Dasia, and a new genus name is provided.

Despite an abundance of phylogenetic studies focused on intrageneric relationships of members of the Mabuya group, the intergeneric relationships between the genera within the circumtropical Mabuya group have remained difficult to resolve. The most-persistent unresolved regions of the phylogeny of the group include: (1.) the placement of the Middle-Eastern Trachylepis with respect to the Afro-Malagasy Trachylepis and its taxonomic status; (2.) the phylogenetic position of the Cape Verdean Chioninia within the larger Mabuya group; (3.) support for the placement of Dasia with respect to the entire group; and (4.) the phylogenetic placement of Eutropis novemcarinata with respect to other Eutropis and Dasia. In this study, we include representatives of all these taxa as well as African Eumecia and Neotropical Mabuya. We seek to address these phylogenetic and systematic issues by generating a well-resolved and supported phylogeny for the Mabuya group as a whole that can be used to develop a stable taxonomy and reconstruct the geographic patterns of diversification within the group. To meet these goals, we built a large multi-locus dataset of 11 markers (nine nuclear and two mitochondrial), and performed concatenated and species tree analyses to generate a well-supported phylogeny for the group. Statistical topology tests reject the monophyly of Middle-Eastern Trachylepis with Afro-Malagasy Trachylepis, and to reflect monophyly we place the Middle-Eastern species into a previously described genus, Heremites. Cape-Verdean Chioninia are resolved as the strongly supported sister-group to Afro-Malagasy Trachylepis. Monophyly of the Southeast-Asian genera, Eutropis and Dasia, is not supported, with a clade composed of Dasia + Eutropis novemcarinata more closely related to the rest of the Mabuya group than to the remaining Eutropis. The phylogenetic position of E. novemcarinata renders Eutropis polyphyletic, and we therefore describe and place E. novemcarinata into a new monotypic genus, Toenayar, to preserve monophyly among the genera. In light of these novel findings, we review and discuss the historical biogeography of the entire Mabuya group.

Keywords: species tree; Toenayar gen. nov; novemcarinata; Heremites; Mabuyidae; Mabuyinae


Toenayar gen nov.

  Background: As the most significant line of evidence towards the naming of this genus is genetic, it is possible that other species within Southeast Asia that do not yet have genetic data may also be included within this new genus. Within Eutropis, the species that currently lack genetic data are E. chapaensis, E. darevskii, E. englei, E. floweri, E. gansi, E. innotata, E. quadratilobus, and E. tytleri. Eutropis innotata, in particular, possesses a transparent disc in the eyelid ( Smith 1935) and has been interpreted to be morphologically similar to E. novemcarinata ( Horton 1973), and is, therefore, a potential candidate species for the new genus. Within Dasia, D. griffini, D. nicobarensis, and D. semicincta do not have any genetic data, however D. griffini and D. semicincta were formerly synonymized with Dasia olivacea ( Greer 1970) suggesting that they are closely related, if not conspecific, with D. olivacea. Vietnascincus rugosus, with only the two type specimens known to date ( Darevsky and Orlov 1994), is expected to be part of the Mabuya group, and it is possible that future studies may find it to be a member of the new genus as well. Lamprolepis vyneri, which has been shown to be part of the Mabuya group ( Linkem et al. 2013), is nested within Dasia based on the available ND2 data (results not shown) and is likely to be transferred to Dasia upon further investigation. Thus, although there are some taxa that may ultimately be referable to the new genus, in the absence of any positive evidence of this, we regard it as monotypic.

 Composition: Toenayar gen. nov. includes only its type species Toenayar novemcarinata (Anderson) [จิ้งเหลนเกล็ดสัน].

 Etymology: The generic name comes from the mythology of Myanmar, in which the Toenayar (Pronunciation: “Toh-Ay-Nah-Yar), from the Burmese language, is a mythical dragon or serpent with four legs. The Burmese language has no grammatical gender, but we treat the scientific name, Toenayar, as feminine.

 Description: A medium-sized (SVL to 90 mm), robust skink with well-developed limbs, 32–34 scale rows around the midbody, 7–11 keels on the dorsal scales, adpressed hindlimbs reaching the wrist of the forelimb, 17–21 subdigital lamellae under toe IV, supranasals in contact or slight separation, prefrontals separated or in slight contact, parietals almost always separated by interparietal, frontal in contact with first and second supraocular, one pair of nuchals present, equal in width to two or three adjacent rows of cycloid scales; ear opening with two anterior lobules; 26 presacral vertebrae; palatal rami separated (i.e. open palate); males possess three enlarged, opaque-white heel scales, whereas females do not (Horton, 1973, Smith, 1935 and Taylor, 1963; this study). Color of dorsum light brown, with irregular black spotting; color of thick lateral stripes dark black-brown beginning at the nostril and diminishing posterior to the base of the tail; color of venter cream.

Diagnostic Comparison: Toenayar differs from Mabuya in the number of presacral vertebrae (26 vs. > 27, respectively) and from most species by having keeled (versus smooth) dorsal scales ( Greer et al., 2000 and Mausfeld et al., 2002); from Eumecia in having pentadactyl limbs (versus limb and digital reduction) and Eumecia and Eutropis by having an undivided transparent disk in the lower eyelid and 7–11 keels on the dorsal scales (versus lower eyelid scaly or having greater or less than three keels on dorsal scales); from Dasia by the separation of the palatine bones (open palate) and further by the possession of an undivided transparent disk in the lower eyelid; from Heremites and Trachylepis by the presence of enlarged, differentiated heel scales in males (and enlarged, undifferentiated heel scales in females), and additionally from the vast majority of Trachylepis by possessing 7–11 keels on the dorsal scales; and from Chioninia and Vietnascincus by having 32–34 midbody scale rows and no postnasal scale. Toenayar shares with it’s closest relative, Dasia, male possession of enlarged, differentiated heel scales, however in Toenayar there are three enlarged scales and in Dasia there are two ( Greer 1970).

The relative degree of external morphological conservatism among members of the Mabuya group has led to a lag in the full understanding and appreciation of the immense diversification that has occurred in the complex. Species within the group have spread across the world making unprecedented dispersals across huge oceanic barriers on several occasions. They have adapted to a diverse array of environments, such as arboreal (e.g., Dasia), semi-aquatic (e.g., Trachylepis ivensii), rupicolous (e.g., Trachylepis sulcata and Trachylepis makolowodei), limb-reduced (Eumecia), and also human-commensalism (e.g., Eutropis multifasciata). Furthermore, species within the group have also evolved an extremely wide range of reproductive strategies from oviparity (assumed as the ancestral condition) to several independent derivations of viviparity, and even to some of the most extreme specializations of fetal membranes observed in all Squamates (Mabuya heathi, Eumecia, Trachylepis ivensii; Blackburn and Flemming, 2009). Finally, with the well-supported intergeneric phylogeny presented in this publication, it is now possible to investigate the incredible diversification that has occurred in the Mabuya group in an evolutionary framework.

Benjamin R. Karin, Margarita Metallinou, Jeffrey L. Weinell, Todd R. Jackman and Aaron M. Bauer. 2016.  Resolving the Higher-Order Phylogenetic Relationships of the Circumtropical Mabuya group (Squamata: Scincidae): An Out-of-Asia Diversification. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution

[Botany • 2016] Four New Species of Microchirita (Gesneriaceae) from Thailand

Fig. 1. Microchirita flowers.
A หยาดอุทัย |  Microchirita personata; B บุหงาหุบป่าตาด | M. huppatatensis;
C ศรีเห็มรัตน์ | M. hemratii; D บุหงาอุ้มผาง | M. lilacina.

PHOTOS: P. KARAKET.  DOI: 10.1007/s12225-016-9614-0 

Four new species of Microchirita (C. B. Clarke) Yin Z. Wang are here described: Microchirita huppatatensis C. Puglisi and M. personata C. Puglisi, from Uthai Thani province, and M. hemratii C. Puglisi and M. lilacina C. Puglisi, from Tak province. Proposed conservation assessments are given for all species.

Key Words: Chirita, limestone, Tak, Uthai Thani

หยาดอุทัย | Microchirita personata C. Puglisi sp. nov.
Type: Thailand, Uthai Thani, Lan Sak, Huppatat Non Hunting Area, D. J. Middleton, C. Hemrat, P. Karaket, C. Puglisi & S. Suddee 5688 (holotype BKF; isotypes AAU, E, K, QBG, SING).

Habitat. Lithophyte, on bank over limestone rocks in secondary forest.

Conservation Status. Critically Endangered [CR B1ab(iii,iv)+B2ab(iii,iv)]. This species is only known from the type collection in the Huppatat Non Hunting Area, where only one, small population was observed. The limestone range there is only about 12 km2 in total and is subject to disturbance from tourism. There are no collections from the nearby Khao Pha Ra, and the area is surrounded by cultivated land.

Etymology. Named for the personate corolla mouth.

Notes. Microchirita personata is the most immediately recognisable of the four new species and arguably the most distinctive species in the genus. Its main diagnostic feature is the personate corolla, a unique occurrence in Microchirita. The small corolla is also remarkable, with the entire flower hardly reaching 1 cm in length and the upper two lobes strongly reduced. M. personata appears most similar to M. woodii D. J. Middleton & Triboun (2013: 15) and M. huppatatensis, both with a corolla primarily white and with a smaller upper lip and expanded and slightly raised lower lip. These species, however, have much larger and non-personate flowers.

บุหงาหุบป่าตาด | Microchirita huppatatensis C. Puglisi sp. nov.
Type: Thailand, Uthai Thani, Lan Sak, Huppatat Non Hunting Area, D. J. Middleton, C. Hemrat, P. Karaket, C. Puglisi & S. Suddee 5689 (holotype BKF).
Recognition. Very similar to Microchirita woodii, differing in the indumentum of the anthers, the smaller flower, the more prominent yellow ventral stripe, and the acuminate leaves.

Habitat. Lithophyte, on bank over limestone rocks in secondary forest.

Conservation Status. Critically Endangered [CR B1ab(iii,iv)+B2ab(iii,iv)]. This species is only known from the type collection growing in a mixed population with Microchirita personata. Therefore, the same justifications apply.

Etymology. The new species is named after the type locality.

Notes. Microchirita huppatatensis is most similar to M. woodii, a species only known from Nan province. Both species share a corolla colour pattern of mostly white with a yellow ventral stripe surrounded by purple-brownish spots. The two species, however, differ significantly in the size of the corolla (much larger in M. woodii), the leaf ratio (higher in M. huppatatensis), leaf apex (acute, not acuminate, in M. woodii), leaf size (much larger in M. woodii), and the basal inflorescence, which can be compound in M. woodii. In living material the following additional differences in the corolla are observed, but these, unfortunately, are not preserved in dry or rehydrated flowers. The overall mouth shape is depressed in M. woodii and apically compressed in M. huppatatensis; the yellow stripe that runs down the inner, ventral part of the corolla is strongly raised in M. huppatatensis and much less so in M. woodii, which also has the ventral part of the tube linear, not pouched.

ศรีเห็มรัตน์ | Microchirita hemratii C. Puglisi sp. nov.
 Type: Thailand, Tak, Mae Sot distr., Wat Tham Inthanin, D. J. Middleton, C. Hemrat, P. Karaket, C. Puglisi & S. Suddee 5775 (holotype BKF; isotypes E, SING).
Recognition. Similar to Microchirita suddeei D. J. Middleton & Triboun (2013: 18), M. lilacina and M. albiflora Middleton & Triboun (2013: 19), but is characterised by the combination of open corolla mouth (unlike M. suddeei and M. albiflora), ventral yellow stripe (unlike M. suddeei) and hairy anthers (unlike M. albiflora and M. lilacina).

Habitat. Lithophyte on limestone in mixed deciduous forest.conservation status. Endangered [EN B1ab(iii,iv)+B2ab(iii,iv)]. The known EOO of this species would qualify it for Critically Endangered but the collecting localities are in a limestone range much of which has so far not been explored and where it is also likely to occur. Even if it were to occur throughout this range its EOO would still qualify it as Endangered. Parts of this range, including some of the known localities, are outside protected areas and subject to disturbance from visitors, particularly at the religious sites.

Etymology. The species is named in honour of Chandee Hemrat, one of the collectors of the types of all of the new species.
Notes. See notes under Microchirita lilacina.

บุหงาอุ้มผาง | Microchirita lilacina C. Puglisi sp. nov.

Type: Thailand, Tak, Umphang, D. J. Middleton, C. Hemrat, P. Karaket, C. Puglisi & S. Suddee 5704 (holotype BKF; isotypes AAU, E, K, QBG, SING).
Recognition. Similar to Microchirita suddeei, M. albiflora and M. hemratii. Differs from M. suddeei in the glabrous anthers and the presence of a yellow stripe; differs from M. albiflora in the shape of the tube (trumpet shaped in M. albiflora and narrow at base and suddenly broadening into a campanulate upper tube in M. lilacina) and the size of the corolla lobes; and differs from M. hemratii in the glabrous anthers (densely hairy dorsally in M. hemratii).

Habitat. On limestone in dry and disturbed environments.
Conservation status. Endangered (EN B1ab(iii,iv)+B2 ab(iii,iv)). This species is known from disturbed roadside collections, with the exception of two collections in Doi Hua Mot Wildlife Sanctuary, over an area within the bounds of an EOO in the Endangered category. Its known localities are subject to disturbance.

Etymology. The plant is named after its pale lilac corolla.
Notes. Microchirita hemratii and M. lilacina belong to a group of species characterised by corolla colours ranging from pale lilac-white to blue. M. hemratii and M. lilacina have small corollas in comparison with most members of their group, which are also much darker in colour. The only species somewhat similar to them are M. suddeei, M. albiflora and M. karaketii D. J. Middleton & Triboun, all from Northern Thailand. M. karaketii is similar in the shape of the corolla tube, but differs in the colour pattern of the corolla, being white with a ventral yellow line and purple spots to either side of it. M. albiflora is pure white and differs from the other species in having its anthers free, a rare feature in Microchirita. M. suddeei is much closer to M. hemratii and M. lilacina, and the main difference is in the absence of the ventral yellow stripe in the flower, which is present in both the new species. Finally, one other important distinguishing feature between these closely related species is the indumentum dorsally on the anthers, which is present in M. suddeei and M. hemratii, reduced in M. karaketii and absent in M. lilacina and M. albiflora.

Carmen Puglisi, David J. Middleton and Somran Suddee. 2016. Four New Species of Microchirita (Gesneriaceae) from Thailand.
 Kew Bulletin. 71(1);   DOI: 10.1007/s12225-016-9614-0

[Herpetology • 2016] Pristimantis stictus • A New Small Frog Species of the Genus Pristimantis (Anura: Craugastoridae) from the northern Paramos of Colombia

Pristimantis stictus
Gonzalez-Duran. 2016. 
FIGURE 2. A. Lateral aspect of Pristimantis stictus sp. nov., adult male (ICN-55740). B. Lateral view of P. stictus sp. nov., adult female (ICN55715). C. Lateral view of P. stictus sp. nov., adult female (ICN-55713). D. Lateral aspect of P. stictus sp. nov., adult female (ICN-55716). E. Ventral view of P. stictus sp. nov., adult female (ICN-55713). F. Ventral view of P. stictus sp. nov., adult female (ICN-55716).


I describe a new species of a small-sized frog of the genus Pristimantis found in the paramo ecosystem (3700 masl) on the northern slope of Los Nevados National Park, Cordillera Central, department of Caldas, Colombia. This new species is assigned to the Pristimantis leptolophus species-group, given that Toe V is much longer than Toe III and extends to the distal edge of the distal subarticular tubercle on Toe IV. The new species differs from other taxa by its dorsal golden or yellowish color patterns, the absence of nuptial pads, lateral fringes on its fingers and toes, and the absence of vomerine odontophores. Discriminant analyses of morphometric characters of females of P. leptolophus, P. uranobates, and the new species separate the new species by snout-vent length, tibia length, eye diameter, eye-to-nostril distance, tympanum diameter, and length of toe III. Vomer terms frequently used to describe species are reviewed, such as the oblique keels of the vomer and the different forms of the dentigerous process. Species belonging to the high Andean Pristimantis leptolophus species-group are allopatric, suggesting vicariant speciation in different areas of the paramos.

Keywords: Amphibia, Anura, Craugastoridae, Pristimantis, taxonomy, vomers, oblique keels and odontophores

Gustavo Gonzalez-Duran. 2016. A New Small Frog Species of the Genus Pristimantis (Anura: Craugastoridae) from the northern Paramos of Colombia.
 Zootaxa. 4066(4): 421. DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4066.4.4

[Herpetology • 2016] Pristimantis pluvialis • A New Species of Pristimantis (Anura, Craugastoridae) from the Foothills of the Andes in Manu National Park, southeastern Peru

Pristimantis pluvialis  
Shepack, von May, Ttito & Catenazzi, 2016

 Dorsolateral view of live male Pristimantis pluvialis sp. n.:    Holotype CORBIDI 16510 (SVL 24.6 mm) (A–B).  Photographs by A. Shepack.
aratypes; CORBIDI 11862 (C), CORBIDI 16695 (D), CORBIDI 17014 (E), and CORBIDI 17015 (F). Photographs by A. Catenazzi. 

We describe a new species of Pristimantis from the humid sub-montane forest of the Región Cusco in Peru. Pristimantis pluvialis sp. n. was collected in the Kosñipata and Entoro valleys at elevations from 740 to 1110 m a.s.l., near the borders of Manu National Park and within the Huachiperi Haramba Queros Conservation Concession. The new species can be distinguished from other members of the genus Pristimantis by its rostral tubercle, smooth dorsal skin, and by its advertisement call. Pristimantis lacrimosus and P. waoranii superficially most resemble the new species, but P. pluvialis sp. n. differs from both species by having a rostral tubercle (absent in P. waoranii and variable in P. lacrimosus) and larger size, from P. lacrimosus by its call emitted at a lower frequency, and from P. waoranii for its dorsal coloration with dark markings. Two other species have partially overlapping distributions and resemble the new species, P. mendax and P. olivaceus, but they produce advertisement calls with much higher dominant frequencies than the advertisement call of the new species. Furthermore, P. mendax differs from the new species by lacking a rostral tubercle and by having a sigmoid inner tarsal fold, whereas P. olivaceus differs by being smaller and by having dorsal skin shagreen with scattered tubercles. The new species has snout-vent length of 21.8–26.9 mm in males (n = 12) and 28.8 mm in a single female.

Keywords: Frog, Cusco, Paucartambo, Pristimantis pluvialis, new species

Figure 2. Holotype of Pristimantis pluvialis sp. n., male CORBIDI 16510 (SVL 24.6 mm) in dorsolateral view (A–B); dorsal (C–D) and ventral (E–F) views of specimen alive and fixed.
 Photographs by A. Shepack.  DOI:  10.3897/zookeys.594.8295

Figure 5. Dorsolateral view of six live male paratypes of Pristimantis pluvialis sp. n.: MHNG 2607.11 (A), MUSM 35217 (B), CORBIDI 11862 (C), CORBIDI 16695 (D), CORBIDI 17014 (E), and CORBIDI 17015 (F).
Photographs by A. Catenazzi.  DOI:  10.3897/zookeys.594.8295

Etymology: The name of the new species is a Latin word and refers to the high rainfall recorded at the type locality, which averages ~6 m annually, and represents the peak rainfall amount along the elevational transition from the Amazon lowlands to the Andean peaks. Furthermore, males of P. pluvialis typically call during or immediately after heavy rains.

Alexander Shepack, Rudolf von May, Alex Ttito and Alessandro Catenazzi. 2016. A New Species of Pristimantis (Amphibia, Anura, Craugastoridae) from the Foothills of the Andes in Manu National Park, southeastern Peru.
ZooKeys. 594: 143-164.  DOI:  10.3897/zookeys.594.8295

Resumen: Describimos una nueva especie de Pristimantis de los bosques sub-montanos de la Región Cusco, en Perú. Pristimantis pluvialis sp. n. fue colectada en los valles de Kosñipata y Entoro a altitudes entre 740 y 1110 m.s.n.m., cerca del límite del Parque Nacional del Manu y dentro de la Concesión para Conservación Huachiperi Haramba Queros. La nueva especie se diferencia de otros miembros del género Pristimantis por su tubérculo rostral, piel dorsal lisa, y por su canto de anuncio. Superficialmente, Pristimantis lacrimosus y P. waoranii se asemejan a la nueva especie, pero P. pluvialis sp. n. difiere de ambas por tener un tubérculo dorsal (ausente en P. waoranii y variable en P. lacrimosus) y mayor tamaño; además, se diferencia de P. lacrimosus por tener un canto de anuncio producido a frecuencias más bajas, y de P. waoranii por su coloración dorsal con manchas oscuras. Dos especies con distribución parcialmente simpátrica se asemejan morfológicamente a la nueva especie, P. mendax y P. olivaceus. Ambas especies producen cantos de anuncio a frecuencias mucho más altas que la nueva especie. Además, P. mendax se distingue de P. pluvialis sp. n. por carecer de tubérculo rostral y por tener un pliegue tarsal interno sigmoideo, mientras que P. olivaceus se distingue por su menor tamaño, y por tener piel finamente granular con algunos tubérculos diseminados en la parte dorsal. La nueva especie tiene una longitud hocico-cloaca de 21.8–26.9 mm en machos (n = 12) y de 28.8 mm en una hembra.

Palabras clave: Rana, Cusco, Paucartambo, especie nueva, Pristimantis pluvialis

[Herpetology • 2016] Pristimantis llanganati & P. yanezi • Two New Species of Frogs of the Genus Pristimantis from Llanganates National Park in Ecuador with Comments on the Regional Diversity of Ecuadorian Pristimantis (Anura, Craugastoridae)

Figure 1. Coloration in life of new species and similar congeners.
A Pristimantis llanganati sp. n., QCAZ 46227, adult male, SVL = 24.0 mm B Pristimantis roni, QCAZ 58928, adult male, SVL = 27.5 mm C P. bellae, QCAZ 46253, adult male, SVL = 22.0 mm D P. yanezi sp. n., QCAZ 45964, adult male, SVL = 27.8 mm E P. inusitatus, QCAZ 40107, SVL = no voucher available F P. crucifer, QCAZ 56765, adult female, SVL = 25.6 mm G P. colonensis, QCAZ 53318, adult female, SVL = 28.8 mm H P. katoptroides, QCAZ 58896, adult male, SVL = 18.9 mm I P. eriphus, QCAZ 58603, adult male, SVL = 23.2 mm. Pictures are not scaled.


We describe two new species of frogs of the genus Pristimantis from the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, at Parque Nacional Llanganates. The new species are characterized by the spiny appearance typical of several species inhabiting montane forests. Pristimantis yanezi sp. n. is most similar to P. colonensis and P. incanus but differs from both in groin coloration and by having smaller tubercles on the upper eyelids, heels, and tarsus. Pristimantis llanganati sp. n. is most similar to P. eriphus and P. chloronotus. It can be distinguished from P. eriphus by the color pattern on the scapular region and by having smaller conical tubercles on the dorsum. Pristimantis chloronotus differs from P. llanganati sp. n. in having a pair of sinuous paravertebral folds. Both new species occur in a region with few amphibian collections and nothing is known about their abundance and ecology. Therefore, it is recommended to assign them to the Data Deficient Red List category. Updated figures of species richness of Pristimantis among biogeographic regions in Ecuador are also presented. Pristimantis reach their highest diversity in Montane Forests of the eastern versant of the Andes. Its species richness across regions cannot be explained by regional area, elevation, temperature, or precipitation. Political endemism in Pristimantis is higher than that of other terrestrial vertebrates.

Keywords: Andes, Pristimantis llanganati sp. n., Pristimantis yanezi sp. n., species richness, systematics, taxonomy, Terrarana

 María Navarrete, Pablo Javier Venegas and Santiago R. Ron. 2016. Two New Species of Frogs of the Genus Pristimantis from Llanganates National Park in Ecuador with Comments on the Regional Diversity of Ecuadorian Pristimantis (Anura, Craugastoridae).
 ZooKeys. 593: 139-162. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.593.8063

[PaleoMammalogy • 2016] Malleodectidae fam. nov. • A New Family of Bizarre Durophagous Carnivorous Marsupials from Miocene Deposits in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland, Australia

Malleodectes mirabilis using its massive, ball-peen-like P3 to break into what were perhaps one of this unique Miocene marsupial’s favourite meals — Riversleigh escargots. 
Illustration by Peter Schouten. DOI: 10.1038/srep26911

A new specimen of the bizarrely specialised Malleodectes mirabilis from middle Miocene deposits in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area provides the first and only information about the molar dentition of this strange group of extinct marsupials. Apart from striking autapomorphies such as the enormous P3, other dental features such as stylar cusp D being larger than B suggest it belongs in the Order Dasyuromorphia. Phylogenetic analysis of 62 craniodental characters places Malleodectes within Dasyuromorphia albeit with weak support and without indication of specific relationships to any of the three established families (Dasyuridae, Myrmecobiidae and Thylacinidae). Accordingly we have allocated Malleodectes to the new family, Malleodectidae. Some features suggest potential links to previously named dasyuromorphians from Riversleigh (e.g., Ganbulanyi) but these are too poorly known to test this possibility. Although the original interpretation of a steeply declining molar row in Malleodectes can be rejected, it continues to seem likely that malleodectids specialised on snails but probably also consumed a wider range of prey items including small vertebrates. Whatever their actual diet, malleodectids appear to have filled a niche in Australia’s rainforests that has not been occupied by any other mammal group anywhere in the world from the Miocene onwards.

Systematic Palaeontology

Subclass: Marsupialia Illiger, 1811
Order: Dasyuromorphia Gill, 1872

Family Malleodectidae nov.

Included genera: Malleodectes Arena et al. (2011)

Familial diagnosis: Medium-sized (~1 kg; see below), durophagous, carnivorously-adapted marsupials that differ from all others in the following combination of features: large, caniniform, laterally compressed C1; narrow, premolariform P1 adpressed against the base of C1; asymmetric P2 with wide, diamond-shaped (in occlusal view) posterior region, posteriorly-sloping crown and low, narrow, attenuated anterior region; uniquely (among known dasyuromorphians) large dP3 (similar in size to M1) with three cusps and a functional postmetacrista; enormous, subrounded, dome-shaped, essentially unicuspid, four-rooted P3 that is wider and longer than M1 and M2 (and probably M3), with (M. moenia) or without (M. mirabilis) a tiny cuspule near the posterior edge of the crown; M1 relatively (compared to M2) hypsodont, longer and wider than M2, with StB and StD directly buccal to the paracone and metacone respectively, StD taller than StB, a deep vertical fissure on the buccal flank of the crown, no anterior ectoloph crest, StE present on posterior ectoloph ridge, poorly-developed straight (M1) centrocrista and no posterior cingulum; M2 more conventionally dasyuromorphian-like with v-shaped centrocrista but with conules better developed than in most undoubted dasyuromorphians.

Etymology: The family name derives from the type genus Malleodectes.

Materials: In addition to specimens noted by Arena et al. (2011) we describe here QM F57925, juvenile cranial material including fragmentary left nasal and? frontal bones and a left maxilla with C1, P1, dP3, P3 crown (unerupted), M1–2, alveoli for P2 and M3. QM F57925 is from AL90 Site, a middle Miocene deposit that has been radiometrically dated as 14.64 ± 0.47 Ma old, and which contains a fauna correlating with mid- to late- Riversleigh Faunal Zone C17,18,19,27. AL90 has been interpreted to be a cave deposit, the original entrance of which acted as a natural pit-fall trap27,28,29.

Estimated body mass: Using the “dasyuromorphian-only” dataset of Myers30, the most accurate regression equation that can be used to calculate body mass for Malleodectes mirabilis is the occlusal area of M2. This gives an estimated body mass (including the smearing estimate) of 896 g.

Description of QM F57925, Malleodectes mirabilis
QM F57925 is identified here as Malleodectes mirabilis and is differentiated from M. moenia based on the following features of P3: absolutely smaller; less rounded; lower-crowned; and lacking a posterior cuspule19. Comparison of P3 with that of the holotype of M. mirabilis (QM F50847) and that which Wroe12 originally referred to Ganbulanyi djadjinguli but which Arena et al. (2011) identified as M. moenia, was enabled through digital extraction of the unerupted P3 from micro-CT images (Fig. 3). All P3s referred here to species of Malleodectes are compared in Fig. 4. P3 of QM F57925 is 5.4 mm wide, 6.7 mm long and most closely approximates P3 in M. mirabilis (5.6 wide; 6.5 mm long) rather than the larger M. moenia (6.5 mm wide; 7.1 mm long).

Malleodectes mirabilis using its massive, ball-peen-like P3 to break into what were perhaps one of this unique Miocene marsupial’s favourite meals — Riversleigh escargots.
Illustration by Peter Schouten.  DOI: 10.1038/srep26911

Although malleodectids are only known on the basis of partial upper dentitions, they clearly represent one of the most distinctive groups of marsupials yet discovered. Because they are known from such limited material and because of the many autapomorphic features they exhibit, relatively few of the preserved features clarify their phylogenetic relationships. The features that are available (most obviously, the larger size of stylar cusp D relative to stylar cusp B on M1–2), suggest, albeit tentatively, that malleodectids are dasyuromorphians. Our phylogenetic analysis confirms this assessment, placing Malleodectes within Dasyuromorphia in a polytomy that also includes dasyurids, thylacinids, the fossil forms Barinya and Mutpuracinus, and the sole known myrmecobiid Myrmecobius fasciatus. In terms of dental function, the well-developed molar dentition of Malleodectes suggests that it ate more diverse foods than just snails. The blades on the molars as well as the wear on anterior teeth suggest that small vertebrates were also part of the malleodectid diet. In combination, the large but laterally compressed C1, laterally compressed, delicate P1, hypertrophied, hammer-like P3 and tribosphenic molars with oblique shearing blades suggest that they occupied a niche in Australia’s Miocene rainforests that no other known mammalian group has managed to occupy since.

M. Archer, S. J. Hand, K. H. Black, R. M. D. Beck, D. A. Arena, L. A. B. Wilson, S. Kealy and T.-t. Hung. 2016. A New Family of Bizarre Durophagous Carnivorous Marsupials from Miocene Deposits in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland. Scientific Reports. 6, Article number: 26911. DOI: 10.1038/srep26911

Remains of bizarre group of extinct snail-eating Australian marsupials d... http://bit.ly/1WPDgSa via @UNSWnews @EurekAlertAAAS

Derrick A. Arena, Michael Archer, Henk Godthelp, Suzanne J. Hand and Scott Hocknull. 2011. Hammer-toothed ‘marsupial skinks' from the Australian Cenozoic. Proc. Roy. Soc. B. 278, 3529–3533.  DOI:  10.1098/rspb.2011.0486

Monday, May 30, 2016

[Paleontology • 2016] Macrofossil Evidence for A Rapid and Severe Cretaceous–Paleogene Mass Extinction in Antarctica

 Typical Cretaceous marine environment in Antarctica, including the paperclip-shaped 'heteromorph' ammonite Diplomoceras
Painted reconstruction: James McKay DOI:  10.1038/ncomms11738 

Debate continues about the nature of the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) mass extinction event. An abrupt crisis triggered by a bolide impact contrasts with ideas of a more gradual extinction involving flood volcanism or climatic changes. Evidence from high latitudes has also been used to suggest that the severity of the extinction decreased from low latitudes towards the poles. Here we present a record of the K–Pg extinction based on extensive assemblages of marine macrofossils (primarily new data from benthic molluscs) from a highly expanded Cretaceous–Paleogene succession: the López de Bertodano Formation of Seymour Island, Antarctica. We show that the extinction was rapid and severe in Antarctica, with no significant biotic decline during the latest Cretaceous, contrary to previous studies. These data are consistent with a catastrophic driver for the extinction, such as bolide impact, rather than a significant contribution from Deccan Traps volcanism during the late Maastrichtian.

James D. Witts, Rowan J. Whittle, Paul B. Wignall, J. Alistair Crame, Jane E. Francis, Robert J. Newton and Vanessa C. Bowman. 2016. Macrofossil Evidence for A Rapid and Severe Cretaceous–Paleogene Mass Extinction in Antarctica. Nature Communications. 7, Article number: 11738. DOI:  10.1038/ncomms11738 

Antarctic fossils reveal creatures weren’t safer in the south during dinosaur extinction  http://scienmag.com/?p=1471552 via  @Scienmag

Painted reconstruction of typical Cretaceous marine environment in Antarctica, ....: https://goo.gl/vQbTs5
Images from Seymour Island in the Antarctic Peninsula: https://goo.gl/jrVOb1
Photographs of fossils: https://goo.gl/NYRHb1  Credit: Richard Cruise, University of Leeds

[Paleontology • 2014] Latest Cretaceous–earliest Paleogene Vegetation and Climate Change at the High Southern Latitudes: Palynological Evidence from Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula

Fig. 7. Artist's impression of the eastern flank of the Antarctic Peninsula during the Maastrichtian. The vegetation composition and habitat types are based on the nearest living relatives of the terrestrial palynoflora from Seymour Island discussed in this paper. Mixed temperate rainforest grew in the lowlands to mid altitudes composed mainly of a Nothofagus–podocarp–Proteaceae canopy with Lagarastrobus (Tasmanian Huon Pine) occupying the super-wet habitats along riverine margins. Freshwater pools hosted aquatic ferns and green algae with bordering wetlands filled with diverse mosses and ferns. At higher altitudes, open heath-like vegetation may have grown beyond the tree line of montane araucarian forests (detailed in Fig. 8). All fauna are known from the Cretaceous fossil record of the James Ross Basin
( Chatterjee, 1989, Chatterjee, 2002, Case et al., 2000, Case et al., 2003, Case et al., 2007, Clarke et al., 2005, Salgado and Gasparini, 2006, Cerda et al., 2012 and Coria et al., 2013). Artist: James McKay, University of Leeds.  DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.04.018

• First quantitative vegetation analysis for the Antarctic during the Maastrichtian
• Terrestrial palynology suggests a temperate rainforest on the Antarctic Peninsula.
• Floral trends were influenced by concurrent changes in temperature and humidity.
• Cool, humid conditions gave way to a warmer climate ~ 2 myr before the K–Pg event.

Fluctuations in Late Cretaceous climate were already influencing biotic change prior to the environmental upheaval at the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary, but their general nature, magnitude and timing remain controversial. A high-resolution dataset on terrestrially-derived palynomorphs is presented from the high southern palaeolatitudes that unlocks details of small-scale climate variability throughout this period of significant global change. Specifically, this is a quantitative spore and pollen analysis of an expanded uppermost Cretaceous to lowermost Paleogene (Maastrichtian–earliest Danian) shallow marine sedimentary succession from Seymour Island, off the northeastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, then (as now) located at ~ 65°S. Using nearest living relatives the first detailed vegetation, habitat and climate reconstruction is presented for the emergent volcanic arc at this time. On the coastal lowlands, a cool to warm temperate rainforest is envisaged growing in a riverine landscape, with both wet (river margin, pond) and relatively dry (interfluve, canopy gap) habitats. Diverse podocarps and southern beech trees grew alongside angiosperm herbs and shrubs in mean annual temperatures of ~ 10–15 °C. Higher altitude araucarian forests gave way to open ericaceous heathland, beyond the tree line, in subalpine to alpine conditions with mean annual temperatures of a cold ~ 5–8 °C. There is no exact modern botanical equivalent, but the closest modern flora is that of the Andes of southern Chile and Argentina. Maastrichtian climate is shown to have fluctuated from cool, humid conditions, through a rapid warming ~ 2 million years prior to the K–Pg transition, followed by cooling during the earliest Danian, a trend supported by previous work on this interval.

Keywords: Late Cretaceous; Paleogene; Pollen; Palaeoclimate; Palaeoecology; Antarctica

Vanessa C. Bowman, Jane E. Francis, Rosemary A. Askin, James B. Riding and Graeme T. Swindles. 2014.  Latest Cretaceous–earliest Paleogene Vegetation and Climate Change at the High Southern Latitudes: Palynological Evidence from Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 408(15); 26–47.  DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.04.018

Understanding Earth’s response to a future high CO2 world

Sunday, May 29, 2016

[Botany • 2016] A Revision of Aeschynanthus (Gesneriaceae) in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia

 The genus Aeschynanthus Jack is revised for Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. Four species for Singapore and fourteen species for Peninsular Malaysia are recognised, keys to the species are given, all names are typified, and detailed descriptions of all species are provided. Conservation assessments are provided for all species. Eleven names are lectotypified here and one epitype is designated.

Keywords. Conservation assessments, Didymocarpoideae, identification key, lectotypifications

Aeschynanthus albidus (Blume) Steud.
Aeschynanthus angustifolius (Blume) Steud.
Aeschynanthus dischidioides (Ridl.) D.J.Middleton
 Aeschynanthus fecundus P.Woods
 Aeschynanthus fulgens Wall. ex R.Br.
Aeschynanthus longicaulis Wall. ex R.Br
Aeschynanthus longiflorus (Blume) A.DC.
Aeschynanthus obconicus C.B.Clarke in A.DC. & C.DC.

 Aeschynanthus pulcher (Blume) G.Don
 Aeschynanthus radicans Jack
Aeschynanthus rhododendron Ridl.
 Aeschynanthus speciosus Hook.
Aeschynanthus volubilis Jack
Aeschynanthus wallichii R.Br.

D.J. Middleton. 2016. A Revision of Aeschynanthus (Gesneriaceae) in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore. 68(1): 1–63.