Showing posts with label new species. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new species. Show all posts

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Masked Water Snakes Revised

A. Homalopsis buccata, B. H. mereljcoxi
C. H. nigroventralis, D. H. semizonata. 
Photo credits: R. Steubing, J. C. Murphy, 
and J. Vidum

Masked water snakes of the genus Homalopsis are the largest members of the family Homalopsidae, exceeding 1.3 m, and are abundant in the low elevation wetlands of Southeast Asia. They have robust bodies, wide heads, distinctive pattern of alternating brown and cream bands outlined in black, and often a pale colored venter with paired dark spots on the lateral edge of the ventrals and first dorsal rows of scales. Masked water snakes are nocturnal ambush predators preying on small fish, and their large size and interesting dorsal pattern makes them a target for the novelty leather industry. Homalopsis is harvested in large numbers at Tonle Sap, Cambodia for its skin and protein. Only one species of Homalopsis was recognized for the majority of the last 250 years until H. nigroventralis was resurrected in 2006. Despite its distribution, abundance, and excessive exploitation, the systematics of Homalopsis and Linnaeus’ original description of Coluber buccatus in 1758 the genus and species has remained poorly studied. Murphy and colleagues analyzed 163 specimens of Homalopsis and found three cryptic species within the genus, bring the total known species to five. These species are based upon relatively subtle morphological characters that follow geographical patterns, and in part explain why these cryptic species have been long confused. Two of the five now known species were previously described; the third had no available name. With the exception of H. nigroventralis, there is no way to identify these species at a glance; scale characteristics and counts need to be examined in detail. The authors recognize Homalopsis hardwickii Gray a species known only from the type specimen and from an unknown location, but presumably somewhere in “India;” and H. semizonata Blyth a species from Myanmar with three prefrontal scales; H. buccata is the type species of the genus and found throughout the Indonesian archipelago, and H. nigroventralis a melanistic species of the Mekong drainage system originally described as a subspecies of H. buccata, and know known from Cambodia and Thailand as well. The new species H. mereljcoxi is, ironically, the most exploited species and is found in Thailand and the Indochinese Peninsula.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Old & New Species

Two new dwarf homalopsid snakes of the genus Myron described in 2011. A. Myron karnsi from the Aru Islands in eastern Indonesia. B. Myron resetari from Western Australia. Both species have been long confused with Myron richardsonii, a species from northern Australia.These are small (less than 400 mm), coastal species that probably hunt fish in marine environments. They are two of a small number of snakes, other than true sea snakes and file snakes, that have been able to adapt to saltwater. M. karnsi is known from a single specimen, M. resetari was known from two specimens when described, but other specimens have been found in the last few months. JCM
This is the time of year for retrospection and it is everywhere. One of the re-occurring stories is the number of new species described during the year. One press release from the California Academy of Sciences reports CAS researchers discovered 140 new species in 2011, including 72 arthropods, 31 sea slugs, 13 fishes, 11 plants, nine sponges, three corals, and one reptile (a tortoise).

A press release from 27 June of 2011 reports scientists discovered 1,060 previously unknown species during a decade of research in New Guinea, the world's second largest island; the majority of new species listed are plants and insects, but the inventory includes 134 amphibians, 71 fish, 43 reptiles, 12 mammals, and 2 birds. A similar, more recent, press release pertaining to the greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reports 1068 species were discovered or newly identified by science between 1997 and 2007 – which averages two new species a week and includes 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad.

Using AmphibiaWeb and the Reptile Database it is possible to tract the number of species of amphibians and reptiles described during a given year. Despite the week or so left in 2011 it is of interest to note that as of now (December 17) 84 new species of reptiles were described during 2011 (one turtle, 21 snakes, and 62 lizards) and 134 species of amphibians (one caecilian, five salamanders, and 128 frogs). Combined that works out to 218 species, or about 0.59 new species per day. So, we can expect another five or six new species of amphibians and reptiles to be described this year.

What is more difficult to track is the number of species rescued from synonymy. During the late 19th century, and well into the mid to late 20th century it was popular to lump species, thus many species described during the 200 years after Linnaeus were considered mistakes and their names were placed in the synonymy of other names. Reviewers of species and genera often find old names placed in the synonymy of even older names are in fact valid species. Thus, 20th century zoologists were led to believe that the diversity of life on earth, in this case, the diversity of amphibians and reptiles was much less than what we know it to be today. So, while new names are easy to count, old names become more of a challenge - but they still count because they represent real species that have been misplaced and overlooked for decades, or in some cases centuries. 

Murphy, J. C. 2011. The Nomenclature and Systematics of Some Australasian Homalopsid Snakes (Squamata: Serpentes: Homalopsidae). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 59(2):229-236.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Gymnophthalmids

The Luminous Lizard, Proctoporus shrevei 
Parker, 1935 from Trinidad's Northern
 Range. JCM Natural History Photography
The small teiid lizards, or microteiids are placed in the family Gymnophthalmidae lizards are small, (4-15cm body lengths) and range from southenr Mexico to Argentinia (with one species found on the continental island of Trinidad). About 190 species are known and are currently assigned to about 37 genera. The species in this family have adapted to specilized life styles and they often show limb reduction, body elongation, loss of eyelids and ear openings. They range from lowland tropical rainforests to high elevations in the Andes and may be terrestrial, arboreal, or semi-aquatic. The genus Riama contains small, forest-floor lizards, perhaps the most famous of which is the Luminous Lizard, Riama shrevei from Trinidad.

Sánchez-Pacheco and colleagues (2011) have now described the 28th species in the genus, Riama crypta, a species known only from Pilaló, Cotopaxi, and adjacent areas on the western slope of the Cordillera Occidental at elevations of 2320–2700 m, in Ecuador. Like most species of Riama, R. crypta seems to have a very restricted distribution

Pedro Peloso and colleagues (2011) have described a new genus and species of Gymnophthalmidae with a robust head, elongate body, well developed pentadactyl limbs, and a tail longer than the body. They named the genus, Marinussaurus, in honor of herpetologist Marinus S. Hoogmoed. The specific name M. curupira is derived from the mythical Curupira, an anthropomorphic creature known from many regions in South America which is short, with dark skin and feet pointed backward. The Curupira protects the forest and its inhabitants, severely punishing those who hunt for pleasure and the Curupira is sometimes much feared. The new species is known only from the type locality, located a few kilometers west of the intersection of the Rio Negro and Rio Amazonas/Solimões, in Brazil.

Peloso, Pedro L. V.; Pellegrino, Katia Cristina Machado.; Rodrigues, Miguel Trefaut Urbano.; Ávila-Pires, Teresa C. S. 2011. Description and phylogenetic relationships of a new genus and species of lizard (Squamata, Gymnophthalmidae) from the Amazonian rainforest of northern Brazil. American Museum Novitates, no. 3713, 1-24.

Sánchez-Pacheco, Santiago J.; Kizirian, David A.; Nunes, Pedro M. Sales. (2011) A new species of Riama from Ecuador previously referred to as Riama hyposticta (Boulenger, 1902) (Squamata, Gymnophthalmidae). American Museum Novitates, no. 3719, 1-20.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Squamate Diversity - Five New Lizards

The blind snake lizard Dibamus dalaiensis 
Thy et al. 2011. Photo credit Neang Thy
The continuing discovery of new species of terrestrial vertebrates is a reminder that the diversity of life is much greater than was thought even 25 years ago. In the last few week five lizards (3 geckos, 1 skink, and 1 blind snake lizard) have been described from Venezuela, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

The blind snake lizard Dibamus dalaiensis ( family Dibamidae) was described from the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia by  Neang Thy and colleagues. It is significant because it represents a new family, genus and species record for Cambodia and it raise the number of species in the family Diabamus to 23, eight of these species (34%) have been described in the 21st century.

Marcelo Sturaro and Teresa Avila-Pires described two new species of dwarf day geckos of the genus Gonotodes (family Spaheordactylidae); one from eastern Amazonia, in the states of Pará and Amapá in Brazil (Gonatodes nascimentoi), and another from central Colombia, east of the Andes (Gonatodes riveroi), both are species of the Gonatodes concinnatus complex.The describtion of these geckos raise the number of species in the genus Gonatodes to 26, nine (33%) of which have been described in the 21st century.

Skinks make up the largest family of lizards, with more than 1450 known species. Aurelien Miralles and colleagues have described Madascincus arenicola, a new skink from the sand dunes of northern Madagascar. But, also of interest their molecular analysis found two related species (M. polleni and M. intermedius) genetically distinct, but morphologically indistinguishable. Madascincus now contains 11 species, 2 of which were described in the 21st century.

Djoko Iskandar and colleagues have described Cyrtodactylus batik a new species collected from Mount Tompotika, in the Balantak Mountains of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. This large Cyrtodactylus (up to 115 mm in body length), forms a lineage with C. wallacei and C. jellesmae that appears to be endemic to Sulawesi. This raises the number of Cyrtodactylus geckos to 139, 59 (42%) of which have been described in the 21st century.

The message here - squamates are much more diverse than previously thought.

Iskandar, D. T., A. Rachmansah and Umilaela. 2011. A new bent-toed gecko of the genus Cyrtodactylus Gray, 1827 (Reptilia, Gekkonidae) from Mount Tompotika, eastern peninsula of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Zootaxa 2838:65-78.

Miralles, A.,  Kohler, J., Glaw, F., and M Vences. 2011. A molecular phylogeny of the “Madascincus polleni species complex”, with description of a new species of scincid lizard from the coastal dune area of northern Madagascar. Zootaxa 2876:1-16.

Thy, N., Holden, J, Eastoe, T., Rathea Seng, Saveng Ith, and Grismer, L.L. 2011. A new species of Dibamus (Squamata: Dibamidae) from Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, southwestern Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia. Zootaxa 2828:58-68.

Sturaro, M. J. and T. C. S. Avila-Pires. 2011. Taxonomic revision of the geckos of the Gonatodes concinnatus complex (Squamata: Sphaerodactylidae), with description of two new species. Zootaxa 2869:1-36.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another New Tiny Frog From Borneo

The Borneo microhylid, Microhyla 
berdmorei. This species is larger
than the one described here, females
of this species reach 32 mm JCM
Frogs in the family Microhylidae are mostly small, ground dwelling species that specilize in feeding on ants - there are exceptions, some have adapted to life in the trees, others are burrowers, and some are semi-aquatic; and some have adapted to eating larger prey. The genus Microhyla is widely distributed from the Japan, Taiwan, and southern China, westward to Southeast Asia, and South Asia including Sri Lanka Currently, about 30 species are recognized. The island of Borneo contains five known species of Microhyla (M. berdmorei, M. borneensis, M. perparva, M. petrigena, and M. maculifera). Recently, Das and Haas described M. nepenthicola from Sarawak, emphasizing its small size as the Old World’s smallest frog, and recorded its unique nepenthiphilous breeding habits - depositing the eggs in water that collects in plants - when they described the species. In the description of M. nepenthicola they treated a sympatric, and sometimes syntopic, larger sized species as M. borneensis. Parker (1934) identified a nepenthiphilous larva from Kuching, near the type locality of M. borneensis. During herpetological fieldwork in Sarawak, Masafumi Matsui studied nepenthiphilous larvae and their parental species at various altitudes of Gunung (= Mt.) Serapi, including the type locality of M. nepenthicola (Das & Haas). Some specimens that keyed out to M. borneensis using Inger's (1966) key, except they had a smaller adult body size. At the same locality, specimens of Microhyla sympatric with the small form also keyed out to M. borneensis. However their body size better fits his description than the smaller form. Matsui also found the large form and larvae assigned to M. borneensis in ponds and stream-side pools in Sarawak and Sabah, and the literature led him to consider the small, nepenthiphilous form as true M. borneensis, and idea confirmed examination of the holotype of M. borneensis. This lead Matsui to described Microhyla malang, a new species of microhylid from Gunung Serapi, Matang Range, in the suburbs of Kuching, Sarawak.The name malang is a Malay word meaning "unlucky," and alludes to the long history of taxonomic confusion with its related species, M. borneensis.To date the new species is known from western Sarawak and eastern Sabah, Malaysian Borneo at altitudes of 50 to 555 m above sea level. M. malang is sympatric with M. borneensis around the type locality, in Kubah National Park. Tadpoles were found in ponds and in shallow, muddy pools in drying stream beds. Adult males are in the size range of 18 to 22 mm, making it one of the smallest frogs of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Matsui, M. 2011. Taxonomic revision of one of the Old World's smallest frogs, with description of a new Bornean Microhyla (Amphibia: Microhylidae) Zootaxa 2814:33-49.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Revision of Some Indian Tree Snakes, Dendrelaphis

Dendrelaphis andamanensis
Dendrelaphs pictus
Genot Vogel and Johan van Rooijen investigated the taxonomic status of the Indian forms of the Dendrelaphis pictus (Gmelin, 1789) group using a multivariate analyses of morphological data taken from 176 museum specimens and two living specimens. They describe a geographically isolated, new species  from the Western Ghats, southwest India, Dendrelaphis ashoki  and found the subspecies Dendrelaphis pictus andamanensis (Anderson, 1871), to be an endemic species from the Andaman Islands. The populations of  D. pictus from Indochina and northeast India, are shown to be comprised of two morphologically distinct forms. These forms are distributed parapatrically with a transition near the northern and northwestern borders of Indochina. The two forms are considered to represent distinct evolutionary lineages. The name Dendrelaphis proarchos (Wall, 1909) is revalidated to represent the northwestern form while the southeastern form is referred to as D. pictus (Gmelin, 1789).

Vogel, G and J. van Rooijen. 2011. Contributions to a Review of the Dendrelaphis pictus (Gmelin, 1789) Complex (Serpentes: Colubridae)—3. The Indian Forms, with the Description of a New Species from the Western Ghats. Journal of Herpetology 45:100-110.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A New Brazilian Leptotyphlopid, and the Status of Leptotyphlops brasiliensis Laurent

The Neotropical leptotyphlopid 
Epictia tenella (Klauber) was previously 
considered a member of the albifrons
Group. JCM
Until recently the burrowing worm snakes of the genus Leptotyphlops comprised 114 species inhabiting mostly Africa and the Neotropics. The genus was recently divided into 10 different genera by Adalsteinsson et al. (2009). In South America about 40 species of leptotyphlopids occurred from Colombia to Argentina. Their strictly fossorial life style was supported by a compactly built skull, smooth scales, and reduced eyes covered by an ocular plate. All of these highly specialized snakes have a diet of small invertebrates and have highly derived, short mandibles and a highly kinetic mandibular joint. In 1970, Peters and Orejas-Miranda recognized five groups of Neotropical worm snakes based on appearance: L. albifrons, L. dulcis, L. melanotermus, L. septemstriatus, and L. tesselatus species groups. The L. septemstriatus species group was diagnosed by absence of supraocular scales and included L. borrichianus, L. brasiliensis, L. cupinensis, L. nasalis, and L. septemstriatus. Previously, Laurent (1949) had described L. brasiliensis, and 45 years later, Rodrigues and Puorto (1994) described a second specimen from Barreiras, state of Bahia. One of the most important features supporting the identification of this second individual was the absence of supraoculars, a characteristic emphasized by Laurent (1949) in the original description. However, the specimen of Rodrigues and Puorto (1994) did not agree with the holotype regarding supralabial number, because Laurent noted only two supralabials scales (1+1), whereas the specimen from Barreiras had three (2+1) distinct supralabials bordering the mouth. Wallach (1996) reported a third specimen from the same locality as that of Rodrigues and Puorto (1994), restricting the type locality of the species to Barreiras, state of Bahia, Brazil. Curcio et al. (2002) recorded four specimens of L. brasiliensis from the Brazilian Cerrado (central Brazilian savannas) of southwestern Piauı´ State, all with three supralabials. In view of the differences in supralabial counts between the holotype and the other known specimens of L. brasiliensis, these authors claimed that larger samples would allow more precise conclusions regarding the variation of this character.

Roberta Pinto and Felipe Curcio (2011) have now describe the geographic variation and hemipenial morphology of Leptotyphlops brasiliensis Laurent using 23 specimens, and re-examine its generic identity. They propose the new combination, Tricheilostoma brasiliensis, noting that the presence of two supralabials, as mentioned in the original description of S. brasiliensis, is not a common feature for this species. They also describe a new species of worm snake Siagonodon acutirostris from the savannas of the state of Tocantins, Brazil. The new species differs from others in the same genus by having an acuminate snout in lateral and ventral views, sub-circular rostral in dorsal view, and 12 scale rows around middle of tail.

Pinto, R. R. and F. F. Curcio. 2011. On the Generic Identity of Siagonodon brasiliensis, with the Description of a New Leptotyphlopid from Central Brazil (Serpentes: Leptotyphlopidae). Copeia (1):53-63.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A New Desert Viper From Tunisia

Three species and two subspecies currently make up the arid land viperid genus Cerastes Laurenti,1768. Cerastes is known from Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. All Cerastes are adapted for xeric environments and they range in maximum body size from the 80 cm Cerastes cerastes to the less than 50 cm Cerastes vipera. The third species is Cerastes gasperettii of the the Arabian Peninsula and Middle East.  Philip Wagner and Thomas M. Wilms have now described a fourth species of Cerastes from Tunisia, Cerastes boehmei a species closely related to Cerastes vipera but quite distinct from it. C. vipera has horn-like supraocular scales above its eyes, while C. boehmei has tufts of erected supraocular scales forming crown-like structures above the eyes. The crown-like tufts contain several vertically erect, blunt scales, unlike the supraocular horn-like scales of C. cerastes or C. gasperettii that consist of one long, pointed scale. The description of C. boehmei is based on a single specimen, but additional specimens were seen but subsequently lost by private terrarium keepers. The new species is believed to be endemic to Tunisia and is probably widespread in the area of Bani Kheddache. It is named in honor of Wolfgang Böhme, of the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, for his contributions to African herpetology. The authors also comment on the status of the name “Cerastes cerastes karlhartli” and it is considered to be nomen nudum. And, they attribute the authorship of “Cerastes cornutus” to Boulenger. Follow the link below to the full text.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Frogs - Discovery and Extinction in Sri Lanka

New species of amphibians are being discovered at a remarkably rapid rate. AmphibiaWeb reports that during the past eight years 1336 new species of amphibians were described, that is one new amphibian species every 2.18 days for 8 years. We are only about 37 days into 2011 and 14 new species of amphibians have already been described (about one species every 2.7 days). In January 2010, an article in New Scientist reported the discovery of 30 new frog species in western Ecuador, 14 of which were found in a patch of cloud forest only a couple of miles wide. Needless to say most of the newly discovered amphibians are frogs, but the occasional new salamander or caecilian are found. 
Caption: The Sri Lankan Bush Frog, Pseudophilautus schmarda (Kelaart, 1854) is known only from the forested hill area of central Sri Lanka between 800 and  2300 feet above sea level. It can be found in low  vegetation and on the ground. JCM Natural History Photography.

However, despite the fact that new species are being discovered at a rapid rate, signs that amphibian species are disappearing due to human modifications of the environment are prevalent. Tthe Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka conducted extensive surveys of the island’s amphibian fauna between 1993 and 2003 and discovered a large number of new species. An examination of the Natural History Museum (NHM- London) collection revealed about 140 specimens of frogs collected in Sri Lanka between 1850 and 1940. This was a time when rainforests were being cleared for tree planatations in the island's central mountains and southwestern wet zone. The wet forested habitat was reduced from about 16,000 km2 to about 750 km2. The NHM collection included 19 species of frogs (now placed in the genus Pseudophilautus) that have yet to be found on the island and are presumably extinct. Of particular interest was a frog Meegaskumbura et al. (2007) named Philautus maia (now Pseudophilautus maia), which appears to have carried its eggs attached to the abdomen, a behavior unknown in any other frogs. It has not been seen since 1876.

Now, Meegaskumbura and Aanamendra-Arachchi (2011) have described two, very small, new species of Sri Lankan shrub frogs in the genus Pseudophilautus. Pseudophilautus schneideri and Pseudophilautus hankeni, (22.8 mm and  21.9 mm SVL respectively). Pseudophilautus schneideri inhabits shrubs in open areas of the low to mid-elevations of the island’s southwestern wet zone that receive about 2 m per year, while P. hankeni  occurs on shrubs in the understorey of montane forests of the highest peaks ( 1,200–1,600 m elevation) of the Knuckles region. These two new frogs raise the total number of valid species of Sri Lankan Pseudophilautus to 67, 48 of which are extant and 19 are believed to extinct.  

Meegaskumbura, M. and K. Manamendra-Arachchi. 2011. Two new species of shrub frogs Rhacophoridae: Pseudophilautus) from Sri Lanka. Zootaxa 2747:1-18.
Meegaskumbura, M., K. Manamendra-Arachchi, C. J. Schneider, and  R. Pethiyagoda.  2007. New species amongst Sri Lanka’s extinct shrub frogs. Zootaxa, 1397, 1–15.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A New, Tiny, Two-toed Flea Toad

This illustration of a related species,
Brachycephalus ephippium shows the 
reduced digits on the hands and feet.
The family Brachycephalidae holds 47 species in two genera, Brachycephalus and Ischnocnema. These anurans have toad-like bodies, don’t jump very far, and are often brightly colored with yellow or orange on the dorsum. The 16 members of the genus Brachycephalus are commonly known as Saddle-back Toads due to the presence of bony shields above their vertebrae, or Pumpkin Toads, because of the bright orange or yellow coloration of some species. But, two species: B. didactylus and B. hermogenesi are known as flea toads because of their exceptionally small size, they are in the 8 to 9 mm range. Marcello Felgueiras Napoli and colleagues have now described a new species of flea toad from Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. The new species, Brachycephalus pulex, was found on Serra Bonita Mountain which contains a remnant of the Atlantic rainforest and is within the Municipality of Camacan, Bahia, Brazil, this locality represents the northernmost record for the genus. Brachycephalus pulex was found in the leaf litter and on a tree trunk in an area that is 800- 930 m above sea level, is only known from the type locality. Four specimens were between 8.0 and 8.4 mm in body length. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this tiny frog are its greatly reduced fingers and toes, there are two digits or digit remnants on each appendage.  

NAPOLI, M. F., U. CARAMASCHI, C. A. GONÇALVES CRUZ and I. RIBEIRO DIAS. 2011. A new species of flea-toad, genus Brachycephalus Fitzinger (Amphibia: Anura: Brachycephalidae), from the Atlantic rainforest of southern Bahia, Brazil. Zootaxa 2739: 33–40

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A New Species of Wolf Snake from Yunnan China

There are more than 40 species of  Asian Wolf Snakes in the genus Lycodon. Gernot Vogel and Patrick David have now described Lycodon synaptor from Yunnan Province in China. The new species can be recognized by the combination of the loreal scale not entering orbit; and its narrow dorsal bands, with the first band starting at ventral 5–9. Most other characters are shared with Lycodon fasciatus. The species is indirectly named in honor of Dr. Wolfgang Böhme for his efforts to unite professional and amateur herpetologists. There is no information available on the biology of Boehme’s Wolf Snake, but the region it comes from - Dongchuan - is mountainous.

Vogel, G. and P. David. 2010. A new species of the genus Lycodon ) Boie, 1826) from Yunnan Province China (Serpentes: Colubridae). Bonn Zoological Bulletin 57:289-296.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A New Gastropod-eating Snake

Sazima’s Gastropod-eating Snake, Dipsas sazimai.
Photo credit. João L. Gasparini
 The Neotropical snake genus Dipsas (Family Dipsididae) contains about 35 known species with exceptionally gracile bodies and large heads. The majority of species with known diets feed on gastropods, slugs and snails. The snakes hunt for their soft bodied prey on the ground and in shrubs and trees, and their light weight bodies make it possible for the snakes to use exceptionally slender branches to support their weight. Daniel Fernandes and colleagues have now described Dipsas sazimai from the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. A species in the Dipsas incerta Group that is distinguished from all congeners a combination of patterns and scale counts.  The species is named in honor of Ivan Sazima for his contributions to Brazilian herpetology. Dispas sazimai  inhabits Brazil’s Atlantic Forest from the  state of Alagoas to north of São Paulo from sea level to about 700 m. Sazima’s Dipsas inhabits dense umbrophilous forests and the sample the authors had suggest it is the rarest species of Dipsas in the Atlantic Forest.

Fernandes, D. S., O. A. V. Marques, and A. J. S. Argolo. 2010. A new species of Dipsas Laurenti from the Atlantic Forest of Brazil (Serpentes: Dipsadidae). Zootaxa 2691:57-66.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Search for the Lost Frogs Gets Results

Undescribed Beaked Toad. CI
Once a species is discovered, described, named, and cataloged in one of the world's museums it often sits there, ignored by most of the world. This is true of most animals, but birds and some mammals may be exceptions. Thus, described species may get lost both literally and figuratively. A literally lost species would occur when the museum specimens disappear from the museum; they may be misplaced, sent to another museum and lost by a researcher or someone else at that institution. A species may be figuratively lost after it has been described and no one can find it again in the field. Both situations happen more often than you would suspect. What follows is a heavily edited press release from Conservation International (CI) and it can be found by clicking HERE.

Conservation International has organized and launched an initiative they are calling "The Search for the Lost Frogs," which they are describing as a quest to rediscover several "lost" amphibians. Other organizations involved in this activity are the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Fundación ProAves. The Search has produced some results since the initiative started in September, including some species that have not been previously described.

Field work in western Colombia has returned with three species of frogs believed new to science. The scientific expedition, led by CI's Amphibian Conservation Specialist Dr. Robin Moore, Dr. Don Church of GWC, and Colombian scientist Alonso Quevedo of Fundación ProAves, into Colombia to search for the long lost Mesopotamia beaked toad (Rhinella proboscideus) described by George Boulenger in 1882. The species has not been seen since the outbreak of World War I, and is categorized as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Despite a week of intensive field study scouring habitats from chilly cloud forests to steamy lowland rainforests in Colombia's Chocó and Antioquia departments, the lost species eluded the team.

"After spending several days searching for the Mesopotamia beaked toad with no success, the team's spirits were pretty low" said Moore, who has organized the Search for Lost Frogs for CI and the ASG, "but finding these new species, including a new beaked toad, was like a shot of adrenaline. We definitely left on a high." Dr. Moore added, "Finding three new species in such a short space of time speaks to the incredibly rich biodiversity of these relatively unexplored forests and highlights their importance for conservation. Protecting these habitats into the future will be essential to ensure the survival of both the amphibians and the benefits that they bring to ecosystems and people." What they did find  was two new species of toads (Family Bufonidae) and a new species of Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobatidae), some details follow.

New species of beaked toad – genus Rhinella, found in the rainforests of Chocó department of Colombia, In addition to its strange appearance, the beaked toad is rather unusual in that it probably skips the tadpole stage, laying eggs on the forest floor that hatch directly into toadlets. The coloration and shape of the head make the toad resemble the dead leaves on which it lives, and the only two individuals found were no larger than 2 cm in length. Moore commented on this toad, “As for the new beaked toad, it is easily one of the strangest amphibians I have ever seen. Its long pointy snout-liked nose reminds me of the nefarious villain, Mr. Burns, from The Simpsons television series."

They also found a new toad species of an undetermined genus.  It inhabits the forest floor; this toad is 3 to 4cm in length, with striking bright red eyes. This highly unusual species has scientists baffled – they know nothing about this species other than where it lives. It was found at 2,000 m elevation in the Chocó montane rainforest. In describing the new mystery toad, Dr. Moore said, "I have never seen a toad with such vibrant red eyes. This trait is highly unusual for amphibians, and its discovery offers us a terrific opportunity to learn more about how and why it adapted this way." A new species of rocket frog – genus Silverstoneia was also collected.

The Search, which is taking place in 19 countries on five continents, has also led to the rediscovery of three species in the past few months, including: a Mexican salamander not seen since it was discovered in 1941, a frog from the Ivory Coast not seen since 1967 and another frog from Democratic Republic of Congo not seen since 1979.

The first phase of the Search for the Lost Frogs campaign will continue through the end of 2010, with further rediscoveries expected this year. The search for the Mesopotamia beaked toad also continues. Thanks to support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the four organizations involved in the Colombian search have hired a team of young researchers to explore the mountains of Colombia in search of this and other lost species.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Frogs of the Hyloxalus bocagei Clade (Family Dendrobatidae)

Hyloxalus subpunctatus
Dendrobatid frogs, like other frog clades, have undergone dramatic nomenclatural changes in recent years as the result of molecular studies. One genus, Hyloxalus Jiménez de la Espada, 1870 now contains more than 57 species that over time have been previously placed in genera such as Mannophryne, Colostethus, Cryptophyllobates, and Prostherapis.  Hyloxalus bocagei was first described from Cantón de Quijos, Napo Province, Ecuador.  Spanish zoologist Marco Jiménez de la Espada traveled throughout South America collecting specimens between 1862 and 1865. Three species of the frogs he collected he placed in the genus Hyloxalus – meaning hyla-like. Dunn later moved these frogs to the genus Prostherapis, and Edwards placed them in the genus Colostethus. Today the genus Hyloxalus is known from Panama southward to Peru along the Pacific coast, and on the east side of the Andes from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru eastward into the upper Amazon Basin.

Now Mónica Paez-Vacas and colleagues have examined the H. bocagei clade and report that it contains four previously described species (Hyloxalus bocagei, H. faciopunctulatus, H. maculosus, and H. sauli) as well as two new species (Hyloxalus yasuni and Hyloxalus italoi). The clade is endemic to the eastern Andean slopes and adjacent Amazonian lowlands in southern Colombia, Ecuador and northern Peru. The authors assign the name of Hyloxalus bocagei to the populations surroundings Volcán Reventador (Provincia Napo, Ecuador); describe the tadpoles of Hyloxalus bocagei, H. maculosus, H. italoi, and H. yasuni; and report on the vocalizations of H. bocagei, H. maculosus, H. sauli, H. italoi , and H. yasuni. Adults of italoi and yasuni were indistinguishable using morphological characters, however molecular data, call parameters, and tadpole morphology supported the recognition of these two species as cryptic taxa. Their phylogeny confirms the close relationship of members of the bocagei clade with Andean relatives of Hyloxalus and recurrent dispersal events from the Andes to the Amazon Basin in the late Miocene (less than10 MYA). Their data also support the bocagei clade as the sister to the Andean H. subpunctatus clade.

Members of the bocagei clade are diurnal, stream-side frogs. Males are often found calling on rocks and from crevices, and when disturbed, jump into the water, returning to their calling site several hours later. Males of may also use human modified structures such as plastic drain pipes and concrete walls. The eggs are deposited on the forest floor and guarded by the male, upon hatching he transports them to a stream.

Paez-Vacas, M. I., L. A. Coloma and J. C. Santos. 2010. Systematics of the Hyloxalus bocagei complex (Anura: Dendrobatidae), description of two new cryptic species, and recognition of H. maculosus. Zootaxa 2711: 1–75.