News Article | January 27, 2016
A micro-CT image of the skull of a female Calumma vatosoa. The comparison with the skull of the male holotype allowed the scientists to assign the female specimen to its species. Credit: David Proetzel The first females of a scarcely known chameleon species from Northeast Madagascar have been described. Because of lack of genetic data, X-ray micro-computed tomography scans of the chameleon's head were used for species assignment. Regrettably, the habitats of this and many other chameleon species are highly threatened by the ongoing deforestation in Madagascar. The study is published in the open-access journal Zoosystematics and Evolution. Chameleons belong to the most popular animals of Madagascar and have been quite intensively studied in the past. However, many new species are still being discovered and described, and several species are only known by a single or a few specimens. Likewise, the chameleon species Calumma vatosoa from northeastern Madagascar was described in 2001 based on a single male. The identity of females of this species has been unclear until now. Recently, the PhD student David Proetzel of the herpetology section of the Zoologische Staatssammlung Munchen (ZSM), Germany, found specimens of female chameleons in the collection of the Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, that looked similar to Calumma vatosoa. The problem was, how to prove this? The specimens from Frankfurt were collected back in 1933 and therefore, the extraction of DNA for genetic analysis was not possible anymore. Researchers of the ZSM have been using X-ray micro-computed tomography scans for a few years to study the internal morphology of organisms in a non-invasive way. "With the help of Micro-CT you can investigate even the skeleton of very valuable samples like holotypes without destroying them," explains David Proetzel. "In chameleons the morphology of the skeleton, especially the skull, contains important characteristics that distinguish different species," explains the researcher. "Here, the comparison of the skulls of the male and the female showed that they belong to the same chameleon species. With the help of modern technology we could describe females of Calumma vatosoa for the first time, and add another distribution locality of this species." "The habitats of many chameleon species, and not only, are highly threatened by the ongoing deforestation in Madagascar and we need rapidly to expand our knowledge about the biodiversity, so that suitable conservation measures can be taken," he stresses. More information: David Prötzel et al. No longer single! Description of female Calumma vatosoa (Squamata, Chamaeleonidae) including a review of the species and its systematic position, Zoosystematics and Evolution (2016). DOI: 10.3897/zse.92.6464
News Article | February 7, 2017
—If you try to catch a Geckolepis, you might find yourself left with just a handful of scales as a naked gecko wriggles away to safety. The Madagascan lizards have large, fish-like scales that they shed when encountering friction, like that of a predator's mouth or a scientist's hand. But don't worry about the scale-less lizards: the geckos don't stay denuded forever. The scales regenerate within weeks. Researchers have known about these weird lizards for 150 years, but their evasive maneuver means they have proved tricky to study. But scientists have kept at it. Now some researchers have figured out a way to identify new species in the genus – and, for the first time in 75 years, a team of scientists has named a new Geckolepis species. Geckolepis megalepis, as the researchers name the lizard in a paper published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ, has larger scales than the other known members of the genus. "This may mean that it's easier for it to escape from predators than for related species that have considerably smaller scales," says study lead author Mark Scherz, a herpetology PhD candidate at Ludwig-Maximilians Universität and Zoologische Staatssammlung, München. Or perhaps it has the opposite effect, he says in a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor. To explain this idea, Mr. Scherz likens the geckos' large scales to sticky notes. The greater the surface area that's sticky, the greater the force required to peel it off from whatever it's stuck to. Describing new species isn't just about finding fascinating life-forms among us. It could also help save critically endangered animals. "Every time that we describe a new species, we give a little bit of hope for the conservation of that species," Scherz says. For these Madagascan geckos, there might be a ticking clock. "Deforestation is so rampant" there, Scherz says, that much of the diversity on the island is critically endangered. And scientists think many Geckolepis species live only in tiny, fragmented regions on the island. So if those environments are obliterated, the weird lizards could be, too. But understanding the diversity of Geckolepis species could help scientists and conservationists figure out how to best save the enigmatic lizards and their world. Scherz and his colleagues actually identified G. megalepis as a new species by studying its bone structure. Because the geckos are so difficult to study alive and with all their scales on their bodies, the team micro CT scanned preserved museum specimens. They knew from a 2013 genetic study of the genus that there should be about 10 genetically distinct members of Geckolepis, perhaps more. But only four species had been identified. That's why they turned to the morphology of the animals to find features that would help sort out distinct species. Taken with that genetic data, this new research provides "overwhelming evidence that this thing is new," Tony Gamble, an evolutionary biologist at Marquette University who was not part of the study, says in a phone interview with the Monitor. And, according to the genetic data, there could be five or perhaps more Geckolepis species yet to be named. Anthony Russell, a professor emeritus of biology at the University of Calgary, says he is not really surprised by the new research. "It adds a lot of detail about the fine points of skeletal structure, but this is only of direct interest to those who use such data for classificatory purposes," he writes in an email to the Monitor. The details identified by Scherz and his colleagues, Dr. Russell says, are largely minutiae, and a larger sample size of specimens would be required for the researchers to really identify the variation that distinguishes species. The team did scan specimens across the group, as they were hunting for other clues to compare against the genetic data from 2013. There was some confusion as to which clade one of the other species, Geckolepis maculata, belonged. Researchers thought that G. maculata belonged in the AB clade, but the new osteological data revealed that the skeletons of the Geckolepis specimens that belong to that clade are "totally different from maculata," Scherz tells the Monitor in a phone interview. Scherz hopes an osteological survey of the whole genus will help reveal exactly where G. maculata belongs. The team also noticed a few characteristics of Geckolepis skeletons that are rare in other geckos, which may help them identify specimens belonging to the genus in the future. Although this won't help scientists identify the geckos in the wild, it will help them amass larger sample sizes to study in the laboratory. "The genus has always been difficult to work with and species boundaries have been vague, leading to taxonomic confusion," Aaron Bauer, an integrative biologist at Villanova University who was not involved in the study, writes in an email to the Monitor. Dr. Gamble says the use of micro CT scanning could be used in the future to help resolve questions about mysterious animals more generally. "I'm pretty confident that this will be used more frequently" as the technology becomes cheaper and more user-friendly, he says. One major benefit: the technique allows researchers to see specimens that may have been gathering dust in museum collections in a different light. "If you look on their insides, you're able to look at a whole new array of characteristics of these organisms," Gamble explains. But others are more skeptical about the osteological method. "Micro CT scanning is a neat tool, but it tends to seem to deliver because of the 'high tech' nature of the approach, rather than because it really reveals 'new' things," Russell says. For Gamble, however, any tool to help discover new species is important. "There are still a shockingly large number of species left to be described" to fully understand the diversity of life on Earth, he says, and more than 30 new species of gecko alone are described each year. "In aggregate, that's a shockingly large number of new species every year in just one little branch of the tree of life." Geckolepis isn't the only genus of gecko to have these strange, tear-away, regenerating scales. The first time Gamble had a freshly-denuded lizard (which he says looked somewhat like raw chicken) slip out of its skin in his hand, it was actually a Madagascan day gecko. "It totally works," he says of the animal's great escape. "I let the lizard go because I was so shocked." But geckos are well-known for other surprising loss and regeneration of body parts. Most famously, some lose and subsequently regrow their tails to escape a threatening grasp. Others, including Geckolepis, have "regional integumentary skin loss," Dr. Bauer points out, and such skin regeneration could reveal key insights for medical innovation. "Although the authors wax lyrical about the enlarged and mineralized scales, they missed an opportunity to really investigate their structure," Russell says. "The detailed structure of the scales, and the tissues that they contain, would be the most novel way to go with this research topic, because it would have a much broader significance to those who study the structure of skin in general." In fact, that sort of research is already being done on other geckos. Scherz agrees that these geckos could be important subjects of regeneration study, but his focus is "to provide the first knowledge, the baseline" of understanding of these animals and other researchers who focus on the cellular level can take it from there.
News Article | October 28, 2016
SALT LAKE CITY, UT (Oct., 2016) - The reproductive behaviors of birds are some of their most conspicuous and endearing qualities. From the colorful mating display of some birds, like peacocks, to the building of nests by nearly all birds, these are the characters we use to define birds and make them popular study subjects. One peculiar aspect of some birds is communal nesting, where multiple breeding pairs lay eggs in the same nest. This most famously occurs in ostriches, who can have several females lay their eggs in one nest that is tended by one dominant female. The reasons why this behavior may have evolved are unclear, especially when it's known that the females who share a nest are often unrelated. Knowing when this behavior evolved may help elucidate its evolutionary history. Now, thanks to research by Tzu-Ruei Yang and his colleagues, we know this behavior may have its origins back in the ancestors of birds, dinosaurs. Dr. Yang, of the Universita?t Bonn in Germany, and his colleagues, Jasmina Wiemann and Beate Spiering also of Universita?t Bonn, Anneke Van Heteren of the Zoologische Staatssammlung Mu?nchen in Germany, and Chun-Jung Chen of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Taiwan, used the chemical composition of the fossil eggs shells in one nest to determine if they were laid by different mothers. This had been proposed before, but wasn't backed by multiple lines of evidence. "Dinosaur behaviors that are unlikely to be preserved in fossilization could be elucidated by chemical analysis more unambiguously", said Yang. The team used a peculiarity of egg laying physiology: birds of different ages lay eggs with different phosphorous content in their shells. Also, different birds lay eggs of different shapes. It turns out that the same was true for dinosaurs. So by examining the eggs from one nest, they could determine if they were laid by different mothers, and they were. The nests that were examined were of oviraptorid dinosaurs, two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs (theropods) closely related to the group that evolved into modern birds. Said Dr. van Heteren, "This research shows how important interdisciplinary collaborations are to unveal the truth about the past." About the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Founded in 1940 by thirty-four paleontologists, the Society now has more than 2,300 members representing professionals, students, artists, preparators, and others interested in VP. It is organized exclusively for educational and scientific purposes, with the object of advancing the science of vertebrate paleontology. The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (JVP) is the leading journal of professional vertebrate paleontology and the flagship publication of the Society. It was founded in 1980 by Dr. Jiri Zidek and publishes contributions on all aspects of vertebrate paleontology.
Nagy Z.T.,Royal Belgian Institute Of Natural Sciences |
Glaw F.,Zoologische Staatssammlung |
Vences M.,TU Braunschweig
Zoologica Scripta | Year: 2010
Arboreal snakes belonging to the pseudoxyrhophiine genus Stenophis inhabit Madagascar but despite their spectacular appearance, surprisingly little is known about their natural history and systematics. Nonetheless, a close phylogenetic affinity of the genera Stenophis and Lycodryas (the latter genus currently includes a single species from the Comoros) has been hypothesized. Based on recent molecular genetic data, however, the monophyly of Stenophis was challenged. This study aimed at a systematic analysis and taxonomic revision of the genera Stenophis and Lycodryas. On the basis of new molecular genetic and morphological data and analyses, we propose to accommodate these snakes in three monophyletic genera: Lycodryas, Phisalixella and Parastenophis, and to consider Stenophis as a junior synonym of Lycodryas. In the new generic arrangement, the genera can also be well distinguished by morphological characters. On the specific level, Phisalixella tulearensis is resurrected and indications of further, undescribed taxa are revealed. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
Baehr M.,Zoologische Staatssammlung
Australian Entomologist | Year: 2011
Three Australian species of the psydrine genera Melisodera Westwood, Rhaebolestes Sloane and Moriodema Castelnau are described as new: Melisoderagigas from northern New South Wales, Rhaebolestes lamingtonensis from southeastern Queensland and Moriodema regalis from southeastern New South Wales.Keys to the species of the three genera are provided.
Riedel A.,Staatliches Museum fur Naturkunde |
Daawia D.,University of Indonesia |
Balke M.,Zoologische Staatssammlung
Zoologica Scripta | Year: 2010
Trigonopterus is a little-known genus of flightless tropical weevils. A survey in one locality, the Cyclops Mountains of West New Guinea, yielded 51 species, at least 48 of them undescribed. In this study, we show that mtDNA sequencing, or DNA barcoding, is an effective and useful tool for rapid discovery and identification of these species, most of them morphologically very difficult to distinguish even for expert taxonomists. The genus is hyperdiverse in New Guinea and different species occur on foliage and in the litter layer. Morphological characters for its diagnosis are provided. Despite their external similarity, the genetic divergence between the species is high (smallest interspecific divergence 16%, mean 20%). We show that Trigonopterus are locally hyperdiverse and genetically very strongly structured. Their potential for rapid local biodiversity assessment surveys in Melanesia is outlined (α-diversity); providing a regional perspective on Trigonopterus diversity and biogeography is the next challenge (β-diversity). © 2009 The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
Baehr M.,Zoologische Staatssammlung
Memoirs of the Queensland Museum | Year: 2016
Five new species of the amblyteline genera Amblytelus Erichson, 1842 and Dystrichothorax Blackburn, 1892 are described from southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, Australia: Amblytelus suturalis, Dystrichothorax trisetosus, and D. rufinus from New England NP, northern New South Wales, and D. wrightae and D. capitis from localites in the Border Ranges about 100 km south-west of Brisbane, south-east Queensland. The species are introduced into the keys to the Australian species of the respective genera. ❒ Coleoptera, Carabidae, Psydrini, Amblytelina, Amblytelus, Dystrichothorax, new species, Australia. © The State of Queensland, Queensland Museum 2016.
New species and new records of the genus Anomotarus Chaudoir from Australia. 2nd supplement to the 'Revisions of the species of the genus Anomotarus Chaudoir' (Insecta, Coleoptera, Carabidae, Lebiini)
Baehr M.,Zoologische Staatssammlung
Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia | Year: 2012
New species and new records of the genus Anomotarus Chaudoir from Australia. 2nd supplement to the 'Revisions of the species of the genus Anomotarus Chaudoir'. Three additional new species of the lebiine genus Anomotarus Chaudoir, subgenus Anomotarus, and one species of the subgenus Nototarus Chaudoir are described from Australia and Tasmania: Anomotarus (s. str.) moorei from Australian Capital Territory, A. (s. str.) kimberleyensis from far northern Western Australia, A. (s. str.) sericipennis from Tasmania, and A (Nototarus) eyrensis from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. The new species are introduced in the most recent keys to the Australian species of the genus Anomotarus (s. 1.). New records of some rare or recently described species of the subgenera Anomotarus s. str., Nototarus Chaudoir, and Amplitarus Baehr are communicated.
Baehr M.,Zoologische Staatssammlung
Memoirs of the Queensland Museum | Year: 2012
The Australian lebiine genus Coptoglossus Chaudoir is revised. Both recorded species, Coptoglossus sulcatulus Chaudoir and C. carteri (Sloane), are redescribed and the male and female genitalia examined and figured. Colpodes porphyriacus (Sloane) is transferred from Platynini to the lebiine genus Coptoglossus, and a new species Coptoglossus excisicollis sp. nov. is described. A key for the four species of the genus is provided. © Queensland Museum.
Schmidt S.,Zoologische Staatssammlung |
Balke M.,Zoologische Staatssammlung |
Lafogler S.,Technisches Buro Munich
ZooKeys | Year: 2012
Here we describe a high-performance imaging system for creating high-resolution images of whole insect drawers. All components of the system are industrial standard and can be adapted to meet the specific needs of entomological collections. A controlling unit allows the setting of imaging area (drawer size), step distance between individual images, number of images, image resolution, and shooting sequence order through a set of parameters. The system is highly configurable and can be used with a wide range of different optical hardware and image processing software. © Stefan Schmidt et al.