Tuesday, January 16, 2018

[Ornithology • 2018] Structural Absorption by Barbule Microstructures of Super Black Bird of Paradise Feathers


Magnificent Riflebird Ptiloris magnificus during courtship display.


in  McCoy, Feo, Harvey & Prum, 2018.
photo: Tim Laman || DOI:  10.1038/s41467-017-02088-w 

Abstract
Many studies have shown how pigments and internal nanostructures generate color in nature. External surface structures can also influence appearance, such as by causing multiple scattering of light (structural absorption) to produce a velvety, super black appearance. Here we show that feathers from five species of birds of paradise (Aves: Paradisaeidae) structurally absorb incident light to produce extremely low-reflectance, super black plumages. Directional reflectance of these feathers (0.05–0.31%) approaches that of man-made ultra-absorbent materials. SEM, nano-CT, and ray-tracing simulations show that super black feathers have titled arrays of highly modified barbules, which cause more multiple scattering, resulting in more structural absorption, than normal black feathers. Super black feathers have an extreme directional reflectance bias and appear darkest when viewed from the distal direction. We hypothesize that structurally absorbing, super black plumage evolved through sensory bias to enhance the perceived brilliance of adjacent color patches during courtship display.

Magnificent Riflebird Bird of Paradise Ptiloris magnificus male displaying to female.
 photo: Tim Laman

Fig. 1  Six species of birds of paradise and one close relative.
a, b Species with normal black plumage patches. cg Species with super black plumage patches.

a Paradise-crow Lycocorax pyrrhopterus. b Lesser Melampitta Melampitta lugubris, a Papuan corvoid closely related to birds of paradise.
c Princess Stephanie’s Astrapia Astrapia stephaniae. d Twelve-wired Birds-of-Paradise Seleucidis melanoleucus. e Paradise Riflebird Ptiloris paradiseus during courtship display. f Wahnes’ Parotia Parotia wahnesi. g Superb Bird-of-Paradise Lophorina superba during courtship display with female (brown plumage).

Photos: a @Hanom Bashari/Burung Indonesia; b Daniel López-Velasco; c Trans Niugini Tours; d–f Tim Laman; g Ed Scholes.  DOI:  10.1038/s41467-017-02088-w 

Fig. 3 Examples of normal and super black feather microstructure.
 a SEM micrograph of Lycocorax pyrrhopterus normal black feather with typical barbule morphology; scale bar, 200 µm. b SEM micrograph of Parotia wahnesi super black feather with modified barbule arrays; scale bar, 50 µm. c Gold sputter-coated normal black breast feather of Melampitta lugubris appears gold. d Gold sputter-coated super black breast feather of Ptiloris paradiseus retains a black appearance indicating structural absorption. SEM stubs are 12.8 mm in diameter.

A comparison of a normal feather, top left, and a feather from a paradise riflebird, top right.
The bottom panels are the feathers coated in gold. Notice how the riflebird’s still appears a deep black.
photos: Dakota McCoy 


Dakota E. McCoy, Teresa Feo, Todd Alan Harvey and Richard O. Prum. 2018. Structural Absorption by Barbule Microstructures of Super Black Bird of Paradise Feathers. Nature Communications. 9, Article number: 1. DOI:  10.1038/s41467-017-02088-w

Evolved illusion: Blackest black gives bird of paradise an edge  news.yale.edu/2018/01/09/evolved-illusion-blackest-black-gives-bird-paradise-edge

[Paleontology • 2018] Phylogenetic Reassessment of Pisanosaurus mertii Casamiquela, 1967, A Basal Dinosauriform from the Late Triassic of Argentina


Pisanosaurus mertii Casamiquela, 1967
in Agnolín & Rozadilla. 2018. 

Illustration: Gabriel Lio  fosil.cl  ||  DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1352623
Abstract
Pisanosaurus mertii was originally described on the basis of an incomplete skeleton from the early Late Triassic (Carnian) of northern Argentina. It is consistently regarded by most authors as a very basal ornithischian, the sister group of remaining members of the clade. The referral to Ornithischia is based mainly on tooth-bearing bones and tooth morphology. On the other hand, the postcranium is recognized as strikingly plesiomorphic for ornithischians, and even for dinosaurs. The recent description of non-dinosaurian dinosauriforms of the clade Silesauridae having ornithischian-like dentition invites a review of the phylogenetic affinities of Pisanosaurus. In this regard, an overview of the holotype specimen allows a reanalysis of previous anatomical interpretations of this taxon. The phylogenetic analysis presented here suggests that Pisanosaurus may be better interpreted as a member of the non-dinosaurian Silesauridae. It shares with silesaurids reduced denticles on the teeth, teeth fused to maxilla and dentary bone, sacral ribs shared between two sacral vertebrae, lateral side of proximal tibia with a fibular flange, and dorsoventrally flattened pedal ungual phalanges. The present analysis indicates that Pisanosaurus should be removed from the base of the Ornithischia and should no longer be considered the oldest representative of this dinosaurian clade.

Keywords: Pisanosaurus mertii, Ornithischia, Silesauridae, Late Triassic, Argentina


 Comparative silhouette of Pisanosaurus mertii based on available material.
A, modified from Bonaparte (1976); B, present study.
Not to scale. Bones in grey indicate non-preserved elements. 




Federico L. Agnolín and Sebastián Rozadilla. 2018. Phylogenetic Reassessment of Pisanosaurus mertii Casamiquela, 1967, A Basal Dinosauriform from the Late Triassic of Argentina.  Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.  DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1352623

[Herpetology • 2018] Systematics and Phylogeography of the Widely Distributed African Skink Trachylepis varia Species Complex: Trachylepis varia, T. damarana & T. laevigata



 Weinell & Bauer, 2018.

Highlights
• A molecular systematic study was conducted for the wide-ranging Trachylepis varia complex.
• Phylogenetic analyses support the existence of at least eight species within the Trachylepis varia complex.
• The Southern African members of the Trachylepis varia complex are phenotypically distinct.
• We update the taxonomy for the southern Africa members of the Trachylepis varia complex.
• Diversification within the Trachylepis varia complex began during the mid to late Miocene or early Pliocene.


Abstract
A systematic study of the Trachylepis varia complex was conducted using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA markers for individuals sampled across the species range. The taxonomic history of T. varia has been complicated and its broad geographic distribution and considerable phenotypic variation has made taxonomic revision difficult, leading earlier taxonomists to suggest that T. varia is a species complex. We used maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference to estimate gene trees and a multilocus time-tree, respectively, and we used these trees to identify the major clades (putative species) within T. varia. Additionally, we used morphological and color pattern data to distinguish and revise the taxonomy of the southern African clades. The major clades recovered in the multilocus time-tree were recovered in each of gene trees, although the relationships among these major clades differed across gene trees. Genetic data support the existence of at least eight species within the T. varia complex, each of which originated during the mid to late Miocene or early Pliocene. We focus our systematic discussion on the southern African members of the T. varia complex, revive Trachylepis damarana (Peters, 1870) and T. laevigata (Peters, 1869), and designate lectotypes for T. damarana and T. varia.

Keywords: Africa, Lygosominae, Phylogenetics, Phylogeography, Trachylepis damarana, Trachylepis laevigata




Trachylepis varia (Peters, 1867)
Euprepes varius Peters, 1867

Trachylepis laevigata (Peters, 1869)
Euprepes laevigatus Peters, 1869

Trachylepis damarana (Peters, 1870)
Euprepes damaranus Peters, 1870

  Trachylepis damarana from Haenertsberg, Limpopo Province, South Africa.


Conclusions: 
We find strong evidence that Trachylepis varia, T. damarana, and T. laevigata are distinct species that occur in southern Africa and that five additional, species-level clades occur north of the Zambezi and Kunene rivers, although future studies are needed to determine whether Trachylepis nyikae and Trachylepis isellii should also be recognized. The allopatric distribution and morphological distinctiveness of T. isellii (Largen and Spawls, 2010) suggests that this species is probably valid and the presence of multiple endemic species on the Nyika Plateau (Poynton, 1997; Burrows and Willis, 2005) suggests that T. nyikae may also be a valid species. Additionally, little is known about the distribution or natural history of the undescribed species sampled in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Tanzania. Lastly, next generation DNA sequencing may be useful in resolving deeper phylogenetic relationships within the T. varia complex and for distinguishing historical gene flow from incomplete lineage sorting. This study is the first to use genetic data to address species diversity, phylogenetic history, and taxonomic issues for the T. varia complex and is an example of how both genetic and phenotypic data can be used to resolve taxonomic problems and to estimate species ranges.


 Jeffrey L. Weinell and Aaron M. Bauer. 2018. Systematics and Phylogeography of the Widely Distributed African Skink Trachylepis varia Species Complex. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.  120; 103-117. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.11.014



[Entomology • 2018] Nymphister kronaueri • An Army Ant-associated Beetle Species (Coleoptera: Histeridae: Haeteriinae) with An Exceptional Mechanism of Phoresy


Nymphister kronaueri 
von Beeren & Tishechkin, 2017 


Abstract 
Background: 
For more than a century we have known that a high diversity of arthropod species lives in close relationship with army ant colonies. For instance, several hundred guest species have been described to be associated with the Neotropical army ant Eciton burchellii Westwood, 1842. Despite ongoing efforts to survey army ant guest diversity, it is evident that many more species await scientific discovery.

Results: 
We conducted a large-scale community survey of Eciton-associated symbionts, combined with extensive DNA barcoding, which led to the discovery of numerous new species, among them a highly specialized histerid beetle, which is formally described here. Analyses of genitalic morphology with support of molecular characters revealed that the new species is a member of the genus Nymphister. We provide a literature review of host records and host-following mechanisms of Eciton-associated Haeteriinae demonstrating that the new species uses an unusual way of phoretic transport to track the nomadic habit of host ants. Using its long mandibles as gripping pliers, the beetle attaches between the ants’ petiole and postpetiole. The beetles specifically attach to medium-sized ant workers, thus participating as hitchhikers in the regular colony emigrations of the single host species Eciton mexicanum Roger, 1863.

Conclusion: 
By providing tools for reliable species identification via morphology and DNA barcodes for hitherto unknown army ant guest species, we set the baseline for studies targeting the ecological and evolutionary dynamics in these species-rich host-symbiont communities.

Keywords: Phoresy, Social parasitism, Myrmecophile, Eciton, Host specificity, Nymphister, Army ants, Specialization, Symbiosis






Nymphister kronaueri 

Etymology. We dedicate this species to Daniel Kronauer, an avid field biologist and long-time army ant researcher, who discovered the species during an Eciton mexicanum s. str. colony emigration.

Distribution. Known only from the type locality, i.e. La Selva Biological Station, a lowland Atlantic rainforest in Costa Rica.

  

Conclusions
Despite the enduring efforts to explore the microcosm of army ant-associated arthropods, a large proportion of unknown biodiversity still exists today. Myrmecophile communities of army ant species other than E. burchellii and E. hamatum have not been intensively studied, and thus it can be expected that many more species with fascinating adaptations still await scientific discovery. The present study is an example demonstrating the benefits of a combined approach, using morphology and DNA barcodes, to discover and describe new species in ant-myrmecophile communities.


Christoph von Beeren and Alexey K. Tishechkin. 2017. Nymphister kronaueri von Beeren & Tishechkin sp. nov., An Army Ant-associated Beetle Species (Coleoptera: Histeridae: Haeteriinae) with An Exceptional Mechanism of Phoresy. BMC Zoology. 2:3.   DOI: 10.1186/s40850-016-0010-x

Newly discovered beetle catches a ride on the backs of army ants to get around  news.mongabay.com/2017/02/newly-discovered-beetle-catches-a-ride-on-the-backs-of-army-ants-to-get-around/ via @Mongabay
Newly discovered beetle species catches a ride on the back of army ants phy.so/405885610 via @physorg_com

    

[Mammalogy • 2017] Cheirogaleus grovesi • A New Cheirogaleus (Cheirogaleidae: Cheirogaleus crossleyi Group) Species from Southeastern Madagascar


Cheirogaleus grovesi
McLain, Lei, Frasier, Taylor, Bailey, Robertson, Nash, Randriamanana, Mittermeier & Louis, 2017

 Primate Conservation. 31;

Abstract  
 A new species in the genus Cheirogaleus is described from Ranomafana and Andringitra national parks, Madagascar. Ranomafana National Park is a rainforest situated in a montane region, and Andringitra National Park is comprised of grassland, lowland and highland forests displaying great altitudinal variation. Both parks are known to harbor wide species diversity in flora and fauna. Genetic and morphometric analyses of the samples collected at these localities confirmed that this Cheirogaleus lineage represents a new species in the C. crossleyi group, and here we elevate it to species status as Cheirogaleus grovesi, for the British-Australian biological anthropologist, evolutionary biologist and taxonomist Colin Groves.

Key Words: Cheirogaleus, dwarf lemur, cryptic species, Madagascar


Figure 2. Illustration of Cheirogaleus sp. nov. 2 and closely related species (Fig. 8 in Lei et al. 2014), Illustrations by Stephen D. Nash (Conservation International).
   Top left panel represents a lateral view of Cheirogaleus sp nov. 2 = C. grovesi, top right panel includes all lineages in the Cheirogaleus crossleyi group. 

Bottom photographs are of the holotype of Cheirogaleus sp. nov. 2 (TRA8.81) at Andringitra National Park.
Photographs by Edward E. Louis, Jr. 





the holotype of Cheirogaleus grovesi sp. nov. (TRA8.81) at Andringitra National Park. 
Photographs by Edward E. Louis, Jr

 Cheirogaleus grovesi
 Formerly Cheirogaleus sp. nov. 2, also CCS3/Crossleyi D (Lei et al. 2014), 
also Cheirogaleus sp. Ranomafana Andrambovato (Thiele et al. 2013).


Description. The dorsum, limbs, and head are rufous-brown. The areas around the orbits are brownish-black, with a white patch proximal to the fleshy part of the nose in the inter-ocular space. The pelage on the ventral surface of the mandible is white, which continues onto the rufous-grey pelage of the ventrum.

....

Distribution. Cheirogaleus grovesi is known from the national parks of Ranomafana and Andringitra, as well as surrounding areas, and likely occupies a fragmented range between the two parks across the Haute Matsiatra region of Madagascar. Observed at 754–999 m above sea level (Fig. 3).

Etymology. This species is named for the late British-Australian biological anthropologist, Professor Colin Groves (1942- 2017), in recognition of his more than forty years of work in the fields of primatology, evolutionary biology, morphological analysis, mammalian taxonomy and associated disciplines. Professor Groves embodied the true spirit of collaboration. His fastidious research on historical collections incorporated the work of those that preceded him, which he combined with the efforts of his contemporaries, creating compositions that span hundreds of years of scientific exploration. At the time of his passing, Professor Groves was widely regarded as the greatest living primate taxonomist.

Vernacular Names. Groves’, Andringitra, or Haute Matsiatra dwarf lemur.

   


 Adam T. McLain, Runhua Lei, Cynthia L. Frasier, Justin M. Taylor, Carolyn A. Bailey, Brittani A. D. Robertson, Stephen D. Nash, Jean Claude Randriamanana, Russell A. Mittermeier and Edward E. Louis Jr. 2017. A New Cheirogaleus (Cheirogaleidae: Cheirogaleus crossleyi Group) Species from Southeastern Madagascar. Primate Conservation. 31; 27-36.
 static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/1200343/27796558/1515535112763/PC31_McLain_et_al_New_Cheirogaleus_sp.pdf
New lemur species discovered by Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium scientists wowt.com/content/news/New-lemur-species-discovered-by-Henry-Doorly-Zoo-and-Aquarium-scientists-468401553.html



  

Big-Eyed, Fluffy-Tailed Lemur Species Discovered  on.natgeo.com/2CWqF9m via @NatGeo
There’s a new member of the lemur family  news.mongabay.com/2018/01/theres-a-new-member-of-the-lemur-family/ via @Mongabay

[Fungi • 2018] Genetic Diversity of the Genus Terfezia (Pezizaceae, Pezizales): New Species, Terfezia crassiverrucosa, and New Record from North Africa


Terfezia crassiverrucosa  
  Zitouni-Haouar, G. Moreno, Manjón, Fortas, & Carlavilla

in Zitouni-Haouar, Carlavilla, Moreno, Manjón & Fortas, 2018

Abstract

Morphological and phylogenetic analyses of large ribosomal subunit (28S rDNA) and internal transcribed spacer (ITS rDNA) of Terfezia samples collected from several bioclimatic zones in Algeria and Spain revealed the presence of six distinct Terfezia species: T. arenaria, T. boudieri, T. claveryi; T. eliocrocae (reported here for the first time from North Africa), T. olbiensis, and a new speciesTerfezia crassiverrucosa sp. nov., proposed and described here, characterized by its phylogenetic position and unique combination of morphological characters. A discussion on the unresolved problems in the taxonomy of the spiny-spored Terfezia species is conducted after the present results.

Keywords: desert truffles, Pezizaceae, phylogeny, taxonomy, Fungi


FIGURE 2. Macro- and microscopic characters of Terfezia crassiverrucosa.
a. ascocarp collected under Helianthemum hirtum. b. gleba, cross section. c,d. asci with spores. e–h. ascospores (f–h. scanning electron micrograph).

Bars: a–b = 1 cm, c–d = 10 µm, e = 5 µm, f–g = 5 µm, h = 2 µm.

Terfezia crassiverrucosa Zitouni-Haouar, G. Moreno, Manjón, Fortas, & Carlavilla, sp. nov.  

  Diagnosis:— Ascomata hypogeous, subglobose, substipitate with short basal attachment, <8 cm broad (Fig. 2a). Peridium smooth, light to dark brownish, 100–200 µm thick with emergent hyphae 6–10 µm broad at septa, pseudoparenchymatous, composed of subglobose, polygonal to irregularly oblong cells (9–) 12.5–38 × 15–60(–62) µm, with cell walls 1–2 µm thick. Gleba solid, fleshy, light pink to pale yellow with subglobose to elongate light pink to pale gray pockets of fertile tissue, separated by light yellow to pale orangish yellow sterile veins (Fig. 2b). Asci (4–6)–8– spored, hyaline, often ellipsoid to ovoid or at times subglobose, 51–60 × 60–81 µm, nonstalked (Fig. 2 c & d). Ascospores globose, first hyaline, turning light yellowish to bright orange with age, measuring (16–) 17–21 (–24) µm in diameter including ornamentation, consisting in more or less broad flat truncate to round-tipped warts (0.5–) 1–1.5 × 2–4.5 (– 6) µm, and relatively elongated rounded elements measuring 1–1.5 × 1.5–3 µm. The prominent, crowded ornamentation hides a fine reticulum on the spore surface formed between the warts (Fig. 2 c–h).

Etymology:— The epithet (Latin crassiverrucosa) refers to the large warts covering the spore surface of this species. 

Habitat:— Algerian arid area. In high steppe plains south of Constantine (Chrea, Tebessa), associated with Helianthemum sp. In high steppe plains south of Algiers (Bouchouat, Tiaret), found under Helianthemum hirtum and H. salicifolium associated mostly with Stipa parviflora on sandy loam alkaline soil, in sites also producing T. claveryi and T. eliocrocae. March, April.

  
 Fatima El-Houaria Zitouni-Haouar, Juan Ramón Carlavilla, Gabriel Moreno, José Luis Manjón and Zohra Fortas. 2018. Genetic Diversity of the Genus Terfezia (Pezizaceae, Pezizales): New Species and New Record from North Africa. Phytotaxa.  334(2); 183–194.  DOI: 10.11646/phytotaxa.334.2.7 

[Paleontology • 2018] Caihong juji • A Bony-crested Jurassic Dinosaur with Evidence of Iridescent Plumage highlights Complexity in Early Paravian Evolution


Caihong juji 
Hu, Clarke, Eliason, Qiu, Li, Shawkey, Zhao, D’Alba, Jiang & Xu, 2018

  DOI:   10.1038/s41467-017-02515-y  
Illustration: Velizar Simeonovski

Abstract
The Jurassic Yanliao theropods have offered rare glimpses of the early paravian evolution and particularly of bird origins, but, with the exception of the bizarre scansoriopterygids, they have shown similar skeletal and integumentary morphologies. Here we report a distinctive new Yanliao theropod species bearing prominent lacrimal crests, bony ornaments previously known from more basal theropods. It shows longer arm and leg feathers than Anchiornis and tail feathers with asymmetrical vanes forming a tail surface area even larger than that in Archaeopteryx. Nanostructures, interpreted as melanosomes, are morphologically similar to organized, platelet-shaped organelles that produce bright iridescent colours in extant birds. The new species indicates the presence of bony ornaments, feather colour and flight-related features consistent with proposed rapid character evolution and significant diversity in signalling and locomotor strategies near bird origins.

Caihong juji  prepares to snatch its prey.
Illustration: Zhao Chuang





Fig. 1 Caihong juji holotype specimen (PMoL-B00175).
 Photographs of the slab (a) and counter slab (b) and line drawing (c) of the specimen based on both slabs. Photograph (d) and line drawing (e) of a composite of the rostrum of the skull and mandible exposed on the counter slab and the post-rostrum cranium exposed on the slab. Arrows indicate lacrimal crests. Question mark indicates uncertain identification. Scale bars: 10 cm a–c, 1 cm d and e.

 aof antorbital fenestra, cav caudal vertebra, cev cervical vertebra, dr dorsal rib, dv dorsal vertebra, ect ectopterygoid, emf external mandibular fenestra, en external naris, f feather, fu furcula, ga gastralia, hy hyoid, il ilium, is ischium, la left angular, lar left articular, lc left coracoid, lcr lacrimal crest, ld left dentary, lf left, frontal, lfe left femur, lh left humerus, lj left jugal, ll left lacrimal, lma left maxilla, lm left manus, ln left nasal, lp left pes, lpa left palatine, lpo left postorbital, lq left quadrate, lqj left quadratojugal, lr left radius, ls left scapula, lsp left splenial, lsa left surangular, lsq left squamosal, lt left tibiotarsus, lu left ulna, ma mandible, mf maxillary fenestra, o orbit, p parietal, pm premaxilla, pt pterygoid, pu pubis, rar right articular, rc right coracoid, rd right dentary, rfe right femur, rh right humerus, rm right manus, rp right pes, rpra right prearticular, rq right quadrate, rr right radius, rs right scapula, rt right tibiotarsus, ru right ulna, scl sclerotic bones, sk skull, sy synsacrum

Systematic palaeontology
Theropoda Marsh, 1881
Maniraptora Gauthier, 1986
Paraves Sereno, 1998

Caihong juji gen. et sp. nov.

 Etymology. Caihong is from the Mandarin ‘Caihong’ (rainbow), referring to the beautiful preservation of the holotype specimen of the animal and the array of insights it offers into paravian evolution; juji is from the Mandarin ‘ju’ (big) and ‘ji’ (crest), referring to the animal’s prominent lacrimal crests.

 Holotype. PMoL-B00175 (Paleontological Museum of Liaoning), a nearly complete skeleton with associated plumage preserved on a slab and counter slab from Gangou, Qinglong, northern Hebei Province, Tiaojishan Formation, early Late Jurassic, ~161 Myr.

 Diagnosis. A small theropod with the following autapomorphies within Paraves: accessory fenestra posteroventral to promaxillary fenestra, lacrimal with prominent dorsolaterally oriented crests, robust dentary with anterior tip dorsoventrally deeper than its midsection and short ilium (<50% of the femoral length, compared to considerably >50% in other theropods).

....

An artist's depiction of Caihong juji, a species of theropod dinosaur that lived 160 million years ago in what's now northeastern China.
Illustration: Velizar Simeonovski 


Dongyu Hu, Julia A. Clarke, Chad M. Eliason, Rui Qiu, Quanguo Li, Matthew D. Shawkey, Cuilin Zhao, Liliana D’Alba, Jinkai Jiang and Xing Xu. 2018. A Bony-crested Jurassic Dinosaur with Evidence of Iridescent Plumage highlights Complexity in Early Paravian Evolution. Nature Communications. 9, Article number: 217. DOI:   10.1038/s41467-017-02515-y

New 'Rainbow' Dinosaur May Have Sparkled Like a Hummingbird on.natgeo.com/2DyVWQR via @NatGeo
Little 'Rainbow' Dinosaur Discovered in China  shar.es/1NhEiQ via @LiveScience

  

Monday, January 15, 2018

[Herpetology • 2018] Rana lenca • An Integrative Assessment of the Taxonomic Status of Putative Hybrid Leopard Frogs (Anura: Ranidae) from the Chortís Highlands of Central America, with Description of A New Species


Rana lenca
 Luque-Montes, Austin, Weinfurther, Wilson, Hofmann & Townsend, 2018


Integrative taxonomy seeks to approach the complex topic of species diagnosis using independent, complementary lines of evidence. Despite their ubiquity throughout North and Central America, taxonomy of the American leopard frogs (Anura: Ranidae: Rana: subgenus Pantherana) remains largely unresolved, and this is arguably nowhere truer than in the Central American country of Honduras, where there are two nominal species, the taxonomy of which remains unresolved. Leopard frogs from several mountainous areas along the continental divide in Honduras have previously been considered putative hybrids between Rana brownorum and R. cf. forreri, as opposed to two alternate hypotheses: one that they represent a high-altitude eco-morph of a single widespread species that included both lowland forms, or a second that there is an undescribed highland species distinct from either of the recognized lowland forms. We examine this set of hypotheses using three independent lines of evidence. First, we used species distribution modelling to examine potential geographic isolation of the highland form and the two putative parental lowland species, and found strong ecological separation between the highland and lowland forms. Second, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA supports the distinction of the highland form from both putative parental species, with mtDNA data refuting the hypothesis that representatives of either species may represent a matrilineal founder. Morphologically, the highland form is significantly smaller than, and otherwise readily differentiated from, both R. brownorum and R. cf. forreri, as well as all other Rana found in Honduras and adjacent areas. As a result, we formally describe the highland leopard frog as a new species.

Key words: Amphibia, integrative taxonomy, mitochondrial DNA, Pantherana, phylogeny, rhodopsin, species distribution modelling




Rana lenca sp. nov.

Common English name. Lenca Leopard Frog
Common Spanish name. La Rana Lenca

Etymology. The name lenca is given in honour of the indigenous Lenca people, the traditional inhabitants of the mountainous region of south-western Honduras. 

Paratypes of Rana lenca from Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca, 1,640 m elevation, Departamento de Francisco Morazan,Honduras:
(1) adult female paratype (UF 166642; 64.3 mm SL); (2) Subadult female paratype (UF 166643) and tadpole (UF 166637).
Photos by Jason M. Butler. 

Unvouchered examples of Rana lenca; (1) adult male from the type locality; (2) adult female from the type locality; (3) adult male from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca; (4) adult female from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca. 

Unvouchered examples of Rana lenca;
 (1) adult male from the type locality; (2) adult female from the type locality; (3) adult male from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca; (4) adult female from the Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca; (5) adult male at edge of pond at type locality; (6) adult female floating amongst Pinus oocarpa needles in a spring-fed pool at Reserva Biologica Cerro Uyuca. 

Type locality of Rana lenca; San Pedro La Loma, 2010 m elevation, Depto. Intibuca, Honduras. in January 2008 (top) and during drought conditions in May 2015 (bottom). 


Ileana Luque-Montes, James D. Austin, Kayla D. Weinfurther, Larry David Wilson, Erich P. Hofmann and Josiah H. Townsend. 2018. An Integrative Assessment of the Taxonomic Status of Putative Hybrid Leopard Frogs (Anura: Ranidae) from the Chortís Highlands of Central America, with Description of A New Species.  Systematics and Biodiversity. In Press.   DOI  10.1080/14772000.2017.1415232