Windhoek, Namibia
Windhoek, Namibia

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Adams A.M.,Texas A&M University | Marais E.,National Museum of Namibia | Turner J.S.,New York University | Prendini L.,American Museum of Natural History | Pinshow B.,Ben - Gurion University of the Negev
Die Naturwissenschaften | Year: 2016

Many animals reside in burrows that may serve as refuges from predators and adverse environmental conditions. Burrow design varies widely among and within taxa, and these structures are adaptive, fulfilling physiological (and other) functions. We examined the burrow architecture of three scorpion species of the family Scorpionidae: Scorpio palmatus from the Negev desert, Israel; Opistophthalmus setifrons, from the Central Highlands, Namibia; and Opistophthalmus wahlbergii from the Kalahari desert, Namibia. We hypothesized that burrow structure maintains temperature and soil moisture conditions optimal for the behavior and physiology of the scorpion. Casts of burrows, poured in situ with molten aluminum, were scanned in 3D to quantify burrow structure. Three architectural features were common to the burrows of all species: (1) a horizontal platform near the ground surface, long enough to accommodate the scorpion, located just below the entrance, 2-5 cm under the surface, which may provide a safe place where the scorpion can monitor the presence of potential prey, predators, and mates and where the scorpion warms up before foraging; (2) at least two bends that might deter incursion by predators and may reduce convective ventilation, thereby maintaining relatively high humidity and low temperature; and (3) an enlarged terminal chamber to a depth at which temperatures are almost constant (±2-4 °C). These common features among the burrows of three different species suggest that they are important for regulating the physical environment of their inhabitants and that burrows are part of scorpions' "extended physiology" (sensu Turner, Physiol Biochem Zool 74:798-822, 2000).


Dumbacher J.P.,California Academy of Sciences | Rathbun G.B.,California Academy of Sciences | Smit H.A.,University of California at Berkeley | Smit H.A.,Stellenbosch University | Eiseb S.J.,National Museum of Namibia
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The round-eared sengis or elephant-shrews (genus Macroscelides) exhibit striking pelage variation throughout their ranges. Over ten taxonomic names have been proposed to describe this variation, but currently only two taxa are recognized (M. proboscideus proboscideus and M. p. flavicaudatus). Here, we review the taxonomic history of Macroscelides, and we use data on the geographic distribution, morphology, and mitochondrial DNA sequence to evaluate the current taxonomy. Our data support only two taxa that correspond to the currently recognized subspecies M. p. proboscideus and M. p. flavicaudatus. Mitochondrial haplotypes of these two taxa are reciprocally monophyletic with over 13% uncorrected sequence divergence between them. PCA analysis of 14 morphological characters (mostly cranial) grouped the two taxa into non-overlapping clusters, and body mass alone is a relatively reliable distinguishing character throughout much of Macroscelides range. Although fieldworkers were unable to find sympatric populations, the two taxa were found within 50 km of each other, and genetic analysis showed no evidence of gene flow. Based upon corroborating genetic data, morphological data, near sympatry with no evidence of gene flow, and differences in habitat use, we elevate these two forms to full species. © 2012 Dumbacher et al.


Dunlop J.A.,Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science | Bird T.L.,National Museum of Namibia | Brookhart J.O.,Denver Museum of Nature and Science | Bechly G.,Staatliches Museum fur Naturkunde Stuttgart
Cretaceous Research | Year: 2015

The first camel spider (Arachnida, Solifugae) from the Upper Cretaceous (lowermost Cenomanian, ca. 99 Ma) Burmese amber from Myanmar is described as Cushingia ellenbergeri gen. et sp. nov. It represents one of only a handful of fossils belonging to this arachnid order, but its precise systematic affinities are difficult to resolve. It shares characters with Karschiidae, the subfamily Gylippinae among the Gylippidae and the subfamily Dinorhaxinae containing a single, monotypic genus Dinorhax Simon, 1879 in the family Melanoblossiidae; the latter genus occurring in South-East Asia today. Its general habitus is closest to Dinorhax, but differences between the fossil and this modern genus remain. On balance, the uncertain nature of some features precludes unequivocal referral to any one of the families above. We prefer to place this new genus as Solifugae incertae sedis and further discuss the wider biogeographical implications of this find. Our new fossil is also significant for coming from a presumed forest habitat, whereas most camel spiders today are associated with arid environments. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Dumbacher J.P.,California Academy of Sciences | Rathbun G.B.,California Academy of Sciences | Osborne T.O.,California Academy of Sciences | Griffin M.,Ministry of Environment and Tourism | Eiseb S.J.,National Museum of Namibia
Journal of Mammalogy | Year: 2014

While studying the systematics and taxonomy of round-eared sengis (genus Macroscelides), we identified an unusual specimen from remote northwestern Namibia in the collection of the California Academy of Sciences. To determine if this represented a different species, we made 9 collecting trips with 5,616 trap-nights of effort that produced 16 voucher specimens (including the original specimen) of the unusual sengi. These specimens are distinguished from other Macroscelides species by morphological metrics (they are smaller), external features (rusty-tinged pelage, large subcaudal gland, and lack of dark skin pigment), and by divergence at 3 independently segregating DNA loci. These traits are the basis for the description of a new species of Macroscelides that seems to be confined to gravel plains associated with the distinctive reddish colored Etendeka geological formation of northwestern Namibia. The new species appears to be reproductively isolated from congeners, because portions of its distribution are sympatric with that of the Namib round-eared sengi (M. flavicaudatus), and we found no evidence of hybrid individuals or gene flow. The new species is allopatric with the Karoo round-eared sengi (M. proboscideus), which is found about 500 km to the south. The new species, along with M. flavicaudatus, is endemic to Namibia. With this 3rd species in the genus, there are now 19 recognized extant species in the order Macroscelidea. © 2014 American Society of Mammalogists.


PubMed | National Museum of Namibia, Ben - Gurion University of the Negev, American Museum of Natural History and New York University
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Die Naturwissenschaften | Year: 2016

Many animals reside in burrows that may serve as refuges from predators and adverse environmental conditions. Burrow design varies widely among and within taxa, and these structures are adaptive, fulfilling physiological (and other) functions. We examined the burrow architecture of three scorpion species of the family Scorpionidae: Scorpio palmatus from the Negev desert, Israel; Opistophthalmus setifrons, from the Central Highlands, Namibia; and Opistophthalmus wahlbergii from the Kalahari desert, Namibia. We hypothesized that burrow structure maintains temperature and soil moisture conditions optimal for the behavior and physiology of the scorpion. Casts of burrows, poured in situ with molten aluminum, were scanned in 3D to quantify burrow structure. Three architectural features were common to the burrows of all species: (1) a horizontal platform near the ground surface, long enough to accommodate the scorpion, located just below the entrance, 2-5cm under the surface, which may provide a safe place where the scorpion can monitor the presence of potential prey, predators, and mates and where the scorpion warms up before foraging; (2) at least two bends that might deter incursion by predators and may reduce convective ventilation, thereby maintaining relatively high humidity and low temperature; and (3) an enlarged terminal chamber to a depth at which temperatures are almost constant (2-4C). These common features among the burrows of three different species suggest that they are important for regulating the physical environment of their inhabitants and that burrows are part of scorpions extended physiology (sensu Turner, Physiol Biochem Zool 74:798-822, 2000).


Bird T.L.,National Museum of Namibia | Bird T.L.,Colorado State University | Wharton R.A.,Texas A&M University | Prendini L.,Scorpion Systematics Research Group
Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History | Year: 2015

Arachnids of the order Solifugae (solifuges, false spiders, sun spiders, camel spiders, Walzenspinne, wind spiders) possess the largest jaws for body size among the Chelicerata. The chelicerae provide the most important character systems for solifuge systematics, including dentition and the male cheliceral flagellum, both used extensively for species delimitation and diagnosis. However, the terminology used for cheliceral characters is not standardized and often contradictory, in part because it fails to represent homologous structures among taxa. Misinterpretation of character homology may introduce errors in phylogenetic analyses concerning relationships within Solifugae and among the orders of Chelicerata. This contribution presents the first comprehensive analysis of cheliceral morphology across the order Solifugae, the aims of which were to provide a broad survey of cheliceral characters for solifuge systematics, to identify and reinterpret structures based on primary homology, to revise the terminology to be consistent with homology hypotheses, and to provide a guide to terminological synonyms and character interpretations in the literature. Chelicerae were studied in 188 exemplar species (17% of the total), representing all 12 solifuge families, 17 of the 19 subfamilies, 64 genera (46% of the total), and the full range of variation in cheliceral morphology across the order. In total, 157 species representing 49 genera and 17 subfamilies are illustrated. Hypotheses of character transformation, particularly concerning the male flagellum, and a standardized terminology, are presented. The functional morphology of the chelicerae is discussed and the role of sexually dimorphic modifications to the male chelicerae in mating behavior emphasized. The revised terminology, based on hypotheses of primary homology, will facilitate solifuge revisionary systematics and provide a stronger basis for reconstructing phylogenetic relationships within the order Solifugae and testing the phylogenetic position of the order within Chelicerata. © 2015 American Museum of Natural History.


Bird T.L.,National Museum of Namibia | Wharton R.A.,Texas A&M University
African Invertebrates | Year: 2015

Melanoblossiidae Roewer, 1933 is a small family of solifuges (Solifugae, Arachnida), comprising two subfamilies: Melanoblossiinae Roewer, 1933 and the monotypic Dinorhaxinae Roewer, 1933. The Melanoblossiinae consists of 15 currently recognised species, restricted to southern Africa. A new species, Melanoblossia ansie sp. n., placed in the Melanoblossiinae, is described from Namibia. This brings to five the number of species in Melanoblossia Purcell, 1903, and is the first record of Melanoblossia from Namibia. The flagellum and principal seta of the setiform flagellar complex characteristic of Melanoblossiinae are discussed. © FUNPEC-RP.


Klann A.E.,University of Greifswald | Bird T.L.,National Museum of Namibia | Talarico G.,Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology
Journal of Arachnology | Year: 2011

The family Hexisopodidae is endemic to southern Africa. Hexisopodids represent a very peculiar group of Solifugae. They differ from all other solifuge families through various autapomorpic adaptations to a subterranean mode of life, most notably the presence of fossorial legs. The phylogeny of the Solifugae is widely unresolved. The ultrastructure of spermatozoa has successfully been used for phylogenetic analyses in other animal taxa. Therefore, the question arose whether the morphological peculiarity of the family Hexisopodidae might also be reflected in the ultrastructure of their spermatozoa. This was investigated for Hexisopus psammophilus Wharton 1981 (Hexisopodidae). Spermatozoa do not seem to aggregate in the testes, nor in the vasa deferentia. Sperm cells are aflagellate, roundish, and with irregularly shaped chromatin bodies. Each sperm is surrounded by a secretion sheath, thus representing a typical cleistosperm, the first record of this form of sperm transfer in solifuges. The sperm cells form finger-like protuberances and contain putative granules of glycogen, features shared with the Ammotrechidae, Da siidae and Solpugidae. The acrosomal complex shows additional similarity with the Solpugidae. Overall, the spermatozoa of H. psammophilus share some morphological features with the Ammotrechidae and Daesiidae, but mostly resemble that of the family Solpugidae. © 2011 The American Arachnological Society.


Suhling F.,TU Braunschweig | Marais E.,National Museum of Namibia
International Journal of Odonatology | Year: 2010

A new species of Crenigomphus is described and illustrated from a type series of eight males and eight females, all collected along the Okavango River in Namibia during December 2004, three non-type adult specimens and several exuviae (holotype ?: Namibia, N'Kwazi Lodge, 19 xii 2004, deposited at NMNW). Both sexes lack foliations at S8-9 as occur in some Crenigomphus, but the male is peculiar in having exceptionally long cerci. The latter character is normally present in the genus Paragomphus. Other characters typical of Crenigomphus include all wings having a bright yellow costal border, S10 longer than S9 in males, colouration mostly ochreous with few darker markings, and the strong blackish serration at the posterior end of the cerci. The larval characters based on exuviae, one associated with an emerged male, do not allow clear separation from Paragomphus.


Pleurdeau D.,French Natural History Museum | Imalwa E.,National Museum of Namibia | Detroit F.,French Natural History Museum | Lesur J.,French Natural History Museum | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The origins of herding practices in southern Africa remain controversial. The first appearance of domesticated caprines in the subcontinent is thought to be c. 2000 years BP; however, the origin of this cultural development is still widely debated. Recent genetic analyses support the long-standing hypothesis of herder migration from the north, while other researchers have argued for a cultural diffusion hypothesis where the spread of herding practices took place without necessarily implicating simultaneous and large population movements. Here we document the Later Stone Age (LSA) site of Leopard Cave (Erongo, Namibia), which contains confirmed caprine remains, from which we infer that domesticates were present in the southern African region as early as the end of the first millennium BC. These remains predate the first evidence of domesticates previously recorded for the subcontinent. This discovery sheds new light on the emergence of herding practices in southern Africa, and also on the possible southward routes used by caprines along the western Atlantic coast. © 2012 Pleurdeau et al.

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