Saturday, 29 August 2015

Cryptosporidium discovery at water treatment plant leaves around 300 000 without drinkable water in Lancashire, England.

Around 300 000 homes were left without drinkable water after the parasitic microorganism Cryptosporidium was discovered at the United Utilities operated Franklaw Water Treatment Plant near Preston in Lancashire, northwest England, on Thursday 6 August 2015. The parasite, which causes stomach cramps and diarrhea and which can cause severe and persistent infections in small children and people with immunological disorders, is notoriously hard to remove by the use of disinfectants and is best eradicated from water supplies with exposure to ultraviolet radiation. For this reason around 300 000 customers in the Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Preston, South Ribble and Wyre areas were advised to boil all water prior to use for consumption or cleaning from 7 August onwards. On Thursday 27 August United Utilities lifted the boil water on about 80 000 homes in the Preston, Blackpool and Chorley areas, and the company hopes to restore normal water supplies to all of its customers within a week.

Cryptosporidium: Mature schizont releasing merozoites. The spherical organisms releasing the crescent-shaped merozoites are seen attached to the microvillus brush border. RE Pugh/Deb Stenzel/Laurine Moreau.

Cryptosporidium is an Apicomplexan Protist (single celled Eukaryote, an organism having a cell nucleus) related to the pathogenic Toxoplasma and Malaria causing Plasmodium, though unlike these organisms it causes infections in Mammals and Birds without an intermediate invertebrate host. The organisms live and reproduce inside the small intestines of their hosts, producing large numbers of hardy cysts which are expelled in feces, and which can survive outside a host for long periods of time. It is these cysts which are resistant to disinfectants, making them problematic if they reach water treatment plants, swimming pools or similar man-made environments. Eventually the cysts reach a new host, typically via consumption of water, and mature to become reproductive schizonts, causing a new infection and repeating the infection cycle.

See also...

Water quality is a major issue in South Africa, where efforts to expand clean water supplies to the whole population in the post-Apartheid era have faced severe challenges due to a limited supply of potable...


Free-living Amoebae are unicellular protozoan’s common in aquatic ecosystems, which are also known to colonize Human created water systems such as water supply systems and swimming pools. Whilst in some ways these organisms can be helpful, consuming a range of Bacterial, Viral and Fungal pathogens...


Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that affects humans, and many other animals, across the globe. While it causes disease in many organisms, it reproduces only in Felids, particularly in Domestic Cats, with oocysts (egg-like cysts) being shed in Cat faeces spreading the disease to many other organisms...


Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Lonchophylla inexpectata: A new species of Nectar-feeding Bat from the Caatinga of Brazil.


Nectar-feeding Bats of the genus Lonchophylla are found tropical South and Central America, where they are important pollinators of some plant groups. There are currently twelve recognized species, with a cluster of smaller species having recently been transferred to another genus, Hsunycteris.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 22 July 2015, Ricardo Moratelli of the Fiocruz Mata Atlântica of the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz and the Division of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History and Daniela Dias of the Laboratório de Biologia e Parasitologia de Mamíferos Silvestres Reservatórios at the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, describe a new species of Nectar-feeding Bats of the genus Lonchophylla, from museum specimens collected in the arid Caatinga habitat (dry shrubland and thorn forest) of northeastern Brazil between 1908 and 1976.

The new species is named Lonchophylla inexpectata, where ‘inexpectata’ means ‘unexpected’. It is based entirely on museum specimens previously ascribed to the species Lonchophylla mordax, a species first described in 1903 from Brazil, and which formerly included populations from as far west as Colombia and Ecuador and as far north as Costa Rica, but which is now regarded as exclusively east-Brazilian in distribution. However, while previous taxonomists have removed distant populations from the species, it is currently considered to inhabit both the wet Atlantic Rainforests and arid Caatinga environment within this region, an improbable juxtaposition of habitats.

Moratelli and Dias examined museum specimens of ‘Lonchophylla mordax’ from both Atlantic Rainforest and Caatinga environments, and found that the Caatinga specimens were persistently paler than the Atlantic Forest specimens, many being described in museum records as ‘faded’. Further investigation revealed that these specimens also had smaller skulls, with narrower, more slender snouts, and slightly different dentition, with a well-developed lingual cusp (cusp on the inner, tongue, side of the tooth) on the fourth premolar, which was absent from the Atlantic Forest specimens.

Dorsal (A) and ventral (B) pelage of Lonchophylla inexpectata. Scale bar is 10 mm. Moratelli & Dias (2015).

Lonchophylla inexpectata has not yet been studied as a separate species in the wild, and its exact distribution is unclear, though museum specimens have been identified that were collected in both Pernambuco and Bahia States. However Moratelli and Dias note that expansion of agriculture in eastern Brazil has led to clearing of many areas of Atlantic Rainforest and its replacement with an artificial environment closer to the arid Caatinga, which may have led to Lonchophylla inexpectata expanding its range.

See also…

The diets of most Bats in the UK (and most other temperate countries) have been well studied in summer, but less so in winter. It was assumed for a long time that since such bats hibernate in winter, then they did not eat in winter months. However it is now known that most bat species cannot survive a whole winter...


Bats (Chiroptera) have long been considered to comprise about 25% of all Mammal species, but in recent years they have been shown to be considerably more diverse than previously thought, with a number of small, widespread Bat species being shown by genetic analysis to be made up of complexes of related but distinct cryptic species. Bats are morphologically...



Disk-winged Bats (Thyroptera) are small insectivorous foliage nesting Bats found in lowland moist forests from Mexico to southeastern Brazil. They are distinguished by small adhesive disks on their feet, an...


Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Magnitude 4.3 Earthquake beneath Escuintla Department, Guatemala.

The United States Geological Survey Recorded a Magnitude 4.3 Earthquake at a depth of 78 km in the west of Esculinta Department in southern Guatemala, slightly before 4.50 am local time (slightly 10.50 am GMT) on Friday 21 August 2015. This event was felt across in the municipality of Jocotenango, though there are no reports of any damage or casualties; which is roughly what would be expected from an Earthquake of this size at this depth; the quake is big enough to be felt over a wide area, but most of its energy has dissipated before the shock-waves reach the surface.

The approximate location of the 21 August 2015 Esculinta Earthquake. Google Maps.

Guatemala is located on the southern part of the Caribbean Plate, close to its boundary with the Cocos Plate, which underlies part of the east Pacific. The Cocos Plate is being pushed northwards by expansion of the crust along the East Pacific Rise, and is subducted beneath the Caribbean Plate along the Middle American Trench, which runs parallel to the south coast of Guatemala and neighboring countries, passing under Central America as it sinks into the Earth's interior. This is not a smooth process, the plates tend to stick together, breaking apart again once the pressure from the northward movement of the Cocos Plate builds up to much, triggering Earthquakes. 

Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events, and the structures that cause them. The international non-profit organization Earthquake Report is interested in hearing from people who may have felt this event; if you felt this quake then you can report it to Earthquake Report here.

See also...

The Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia, e Hidrologia in Guatemala has ordered an evacuation of communities close to Mount Fuego, an active volcano in the south of the country...


At least three people have died and several dozen more have been injured, following an Earthquake in the southeast of the Mexican state of Chiapas slightly after 6.20 am local time (slightly after 11.20 am GMT)...


The United States Geological Survey Recorded a Magnitude 5.0 Earthquake at a depth of 74.2 km in the east of Esculinta Department in southern Guatemala...


Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Isolated Theropod teeth from the Middle Jurassic of Niger.


Unlike Mammals, Dinosaurs replaced their teeth throughout their lives, continuously growing new teeth and shedding older, worn ones. This, combined with the hard enamel coating found on all vertebrate teeth, makes isolated teeth the most commonly encountered Dinosaur specimens, so being able to accurately assign teeth to specific Dinosaur groups has great importance for understanding the origins and distributions of such groups. Within the Theropods, some groups have  very distinctive teeth which allow confident assignment of teeth by simple examination, for example Spinosaurid teeth have deeply veined enamel and fluted ridges, as well as tiny denticles (toothlets) on the carinae (cutting blades on the back of the tooth), however most groups lack such obvious characteristics and therefore palaeontologists have developed methods based upon morphometric analysis (mathematical comparison of different measurements and angles on a tooth, bone or shell), which allow isolated teeth to be compared to teeth found in situ on more complete fossil specimens.

In a paper published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonca on 1 July 2015,  Alejandro Serrano-Martínez of the Grupo de Biología Evolutiva at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, the Departamento de Biología at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Departamento de Paleobiología at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Daniel Vidal, also of the Departamento de Biología at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Lara Scisio of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, Francisco Ortega, also of the Grupo de Biología Evolutiva at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, and Fabien Knoll of the Departamento de Paleobiología at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester and the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol describe four isolated Theropod Dinosaur teeth that were found in association with a fossil Sauropod, Spinophorosaurus nigerensis, from the late Middle Jurassic Tiourarén Formation of Aderbissinat in Niger.

The first tooth, MUPE HB-142 is also the best preserved, lacking only its tip, estimated to have been 31 mm in height, laterally compressed (flattened sideways) and curved towards the tip. It has an unserrated carina on its upper portion, and large, closely spaced denticles, with a density of roughly 2.25 denticles per mm. The crown of the tooth has undulations (wrinkles) close to the carina, and a slightly braded enamel texture.

MUPE HB-142 in close-up (A1), labial (A2), distal (A3), lingual (A4), and basal (A5) views. Scale bars (A1) 5 mm, all others 1 cm. Serrano-Martínez et al. (2015).

Morphometric analysis of MUPE HB-142 suggests that it probably derived from a Megalosaurid, as it shows affinities with Megalosaurus, Dubreuillosaurus and Afrovenator. However it also shows some affinities with the basal Tetanuran Torvosaurus, (the Tetanurans are a wider group which include the Megalosaurs, Allosaurs, Spinosaurs and other groups, basal Tetanurans are Tetanurans that predate the splitting of the Tetanurans into these groups) and falls within the morphospace (complete range of size and shapes) of both Megalosaurus and Allosaurus, though it is closer to average values for Megalosaurus, so the possibility that this tooth came from an Allosaurid cannot be ruled out.

The second tooth examined, MUPE HB-118, is the largest tooth in the collection, with a total height of 37.47 mm. This is similar in shape to MUPE HB-142, with denticles on the top third portion of the tooth and a similar braided texture to the enamel. The carina has chisel-like denticles, with a density of 3 per mm.

MUPE HB-118 in lateral (B1), close-up (B2), lateral (B3), distal (B4), and basal (B5) views. Scale bars, (B2) 2 mm, all others 1 cm. Serrano-Martínez et al. (2015).

This tooth also shows affinities to the Megalosaurids Megalosaurus, Dubreuillosaurus and Afrovenator, as well as with the early Neotheropod Dilophosaurus (related to but not included in the early Tetanurans) and the basal Tetanuran  Piatnitzkysaurus. Like MUPE HB-142 it falls within the morphospace of both Megalosarus and Allosaurus, but while MUPE HB-142 was closer to average values for Megalosaurus, MUPE HB-118 falls closer to average values for Allosaurus.  However the similarity of MUPE HB-118 to the teeth of Dubreuillosaurus and Afrovenator, combined with its proximity to another tooth assigned to a Magalosaurid and the absence of known Allosaurid teeth from the Southern Hemisphere in the Middle Jurassic leads Serrano-Martínez et al. to conclude that this is also a Magalosaurid tooth.

The third tooth examined, MUPE HB-125, is the smallest in the sample, and has a broken apex, and an estimated crown height of 20.26 mm. It is laterally flattened with a curved tip, though less so than MUPE HB-142 and MUPE HB-118. It has a carina occupying ¾ of the length of the tooth, with convex denticles on its bottom part and chisel-like denticles towards the top. The enamel of the tooth is unwrinkled, and shows only weak texturing.

MUPE HB-125 in lateral (C1, C3) and distal (C2) views. Scale bar 1 cm. Serrano-Martínez et al. (2015).

This tooth shows affinities to Allosaurus the Megalosaurids Dubreuillosaurus and Afrovenator,  and the basal Tetanuran Erectopus, but does not fall within the morphospace of any known Dinosaur group, lying between the values of Allosaurids, Megalosaurids and Dromaeosaurids. Again the close proximity of this tooth to other Megalosaurid teeth, and absence of known Allosaurid teeth from the Southern Hemisphere in the Middle Jurassic leads Serrano-Martínez et al. to conclude that this is more likely to be a Megalosaurid than an Allosaurid tooth.

The final tooth examined, MUPE HB-87, is less curved than the other specimens and 23.82 mm in height. It has a deeply veined enamel texture, and week undulations on the labial (inner) side of its carina. The carina itself has tightly packed chisel shaped denticles towards its tip, with smaller more convex denticles lower down.

MUPE HB-87, from the Middle Jurassic Tegama Group, Niger; in distal (A), lingual (B), mesial (C), and labial (D) views; close-up view of the labial side (E). Note the deeply veined enamel surface texture and the shape and size of the distal denticles. Scale bars (A−D), 1 cm; (E), 1 mm. Serrano-Martínez et al. (2015).

This tooth shows affinities to Allosaurus the basal Tetanuran Berberosaurus, but falls within the morphospace of the Spinosaurid group. It shows the deeply veined enamel texture typical of Spinosaurids (and never top date recorded in any non-Spinosaurid Dinosaur), but lacks the fluted ridges also typical of the group. It shows reduction in the size of denticles on the carina, but not to the extent seen in later Spinosaurids, and has other features intermediate between Spinosaurids and other Tetanuran groups, suggesting that it is an early member of the Spinosaur group, probably close to the split between this group and the related Megalosaurids.

The Spinosaurs are divided into two groups, the Baryonychines from Laurasia (North America, Europe and Asia) and the Spinosaurines in Gondwana (Africa, South America, India, Madagascar, Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand, though the group is not known from all these areas). However while the closely related Megalosaurs are well established in the Middle Jurassic, almost all known Spinosaur specimens come from the Cretaceous, making the origins of the group somewhat obscure. The Spinosaurines are generally considered to be more derived than the Baryonychines, which led palaeontologists to theorize that the group originated in Laurasia and spread to Gondwana, however recent discoveries of possible Spinosaurid teeth from the Middle Jurassic of Tanzania and Niger, combined with the presence of the group in Australia, which split away from the rest of Gondwana early in the break-up of the supercontinent, leads Serrano-Martínez et al. to suggest an alternative view, that the Spinosaurs originated in Africa in the Middle Jurassic and from there spread to other areas of Gondwana, as well as to Laurasia through Iberia and Europe.

Generalized palaeogeographic locations of spinosaurids (yellow) and the specimen of HB site (red), through time from Bajocian/Bathonian, Tithonian, Barremian−Aptian, and Albian−Cenomanian. Serrano-Martínez et al. (2015).

See also…

Large carnivorous Theropod Dinosaurs are considered to have been the top predators in Late Cretaceous...


Terrestrial faunas of the Triassic comprised a wide variety of large Vertebrates, including Synapsids and both Dinosaurian and non-Dinosaurian Archosaurs. At the end of the Triassic a major extinction event wiped out or greatly reduced most of these groups, with the...



A Megatheropod tooth from the Early Cretaceous of Guanxi Province, China.
In recent years China has become a focus for studies...


Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Pearsonia lamphunensis: A new species of Cyclophorid Land Snail from Thailand.


Cyclophorid Land Snails are the most abundant group of terrestrial operculate Gastropods (Land Snails having an operculum, a lid which can be used to plug the shell opening) in Africa, Asia and Australia, and comprise 53 of the 234 known Land Snails in Thailand. Members of the genus Pearsonia are distinguished by a flattened, but not quite disk-shaped shell with a distinctive sutural tube that originates from the suture (join between two whorls of the shell) at the last part of the body whorl; they are known from India, Myanmar, South China, Laos and Malaysia, but have not previously been recorded from Thailand.

In a paper published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology on 1 July 2015, Sakboworn Tumpeesuwan of the Department of Biology and Palaeontological Research and Education Centre at Mahasarakham University and Chanidaporn Tumpeesuwan, also of the Department of Biology at Mahasarakham University describe a new species of Pearsonia from Lamphun Province in northern Thailand, the first member of the genus found in the country.

The new species is named Pearsonia lamphunensis, meaning ‘from Lamphun’. The species is described from four specimens, with shells measuring from 9 to 10 mm in height and 15 to 17 mm in width. All are dextral (curving to the right) and have 5¼–5½ whorls and a sutural tube which points backwards horizontally. The shells have a zig-zag patternation.

Pearsonia lamphunensis, aestivating living snail in natural habitat. Tumpeesuwan & Tumpeesuwan (2015).

See also…

Tryonia infernalis: A new species of Cochliopid Snail from a hot spring in the southern Nevada Desert.
The deserts of southeast California and southwest Nevada have been shown to host a distinctive fauna...

A new subspecies of Polygyrid Snail from West Virginia.
The Appalachian Mountain of eastern North America are considered to be a hotspot for Land Snail biodiversity. There are currently at least ten described species of Polygyrid Snails in the genus Triodopsis in West...


Dog Whelks, Nassariidae, are burrowing carnivorous Gastropods living in muddy or sandy sediments, from the intertidal zones to...

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Gastrodia madagascariensis: A (not so) new species of parasitic Orchid from Madagascar.


The German botanist Rudolf Schlechter published Orchidaceae Perrierianae, a description of all then known species of Orchids from Madagascar, including 332 new species based upon material supplied by the French plant-collector Joseph Marie Henry Alfred Perrier de la Bâthie. One specimen mentioned in this volume was a leafless orchid lacking chlorophyll, which Schlester assigned to the genus Gastrodia, but did not assign to a specific genus due to the limited material available. Unfortunately Schlechter died shortly after this volume was published, leaving much material supplied by Perrier de la Bâthie undescribed. In 1939 and 1942 Perrier de la Bâthie published his own description of this material in the two volume work Flore de Madagascar, including a description of chlorophyll-less Orchid under the name Gastrodia madagascariensis. However Perrier de la Bâthie’s description was in French, in breach of then requirements of the International Code of Nomenclature which required descriptions in Latin, and much of the material was subsequently destroyed the bombing of the Berlin Herbarium in March 1943, leaving the status of Perrier de la Bâthie’s Orchid in limbo.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 28 July 2015, Florent Martos, Steven Johnson and Benny Bytebier of the School of Life Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, describe new specimens of a parasitic Orchid from Madagascar, which they believe to be the same species as Perrier de la Bâthie’s Orchid, and formally redescribe this as Gastrodia madagascariensis.

Gastrodia madagascariensis is a slender leafless Orchid reaching 100-300 mm in height, with a dark brown or blackish stem. It produces 3-12 light or reddish brown in colour, darkening to blackish at the apex, with yellow-orange and emerald green markings. It was growing as an understory plant in the humid evergreen Ambodiriana Forest, at altitudes below 200 m.

Gastrodia madagascariensis. (A) Growing plant; note the dark colour of the peduncle contrasting with the whitish pedicels, and the dark colour of the perianth tube at the apex. (B) Open flower, front view; note the perianth tube spreading towards the apex, and the reddish brown (bottom half) and light brown (top half) colour of the perianth tube on the inner surface. (C). Open flower, three quarter view; note the emerald green colour of the lip tip and of two tubercular calli borne on the column-foot (also seen on B). D. Dehiscent capsules borne on elongated fruiting pedicels. (E) Fusiform rhizome with fine adventitious roots. A Charbouillot and Jean-Michel Hervouet in Martos et al. (2015).

All terrestrial plants survive by forming symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi, which absorb minerals and nutrients from the soil and pass them on to the plant roots in return for sugars produced by photosynthesis. However in a few groups of plants some members have developed the ability to live parasitically upon these fungi, absorbing both minerals and sugars produced by other plants through their roots. These plants do not produce chlorophyll or photosynthesize themselves.

In 1953 Victor Summerhayes suggested that Perrier de la Bâthie’s Orchid should be placed in the genus Didymoplexis, due to its elongated fruiting pedicles, and though since this time other members of the genus Gastrodia have been found with elongated fruiting pedicles, it has not been possible to resolve the precise generic position of Perrier de la Bâthie’s Orchid with the limited material available. Perrier de la Bâthie collected his specimens in 1912, and no further specimens of either genus were discovered on Madagascar until 2005, when specimens of Didymoplexis were found growing on the island; since this time two new members of that genus have been described from Madagascar, and one southern African species has also been found on the island, and while none of these could be connected directly to Perrier de la Bâthie’s Orchid, they did lend support to the idea that this could also be a member of the genus Didymoplexis.

The Orchids discovered by Martos et al. were found growing in Ambodiriana Forest near Manompana, near to the river Manompana and its tributaries. This is less than 10 km from the location given by Perrier de la Bâthie for his Orchid, in the basin of the river Fandrarazana. Martos et al.’s Orchid flowers in the cooler dryer season (the forests of east Madagascar do not have a dry cool or dry season) in July to August and produces fruits in August to September, while Perrier de la Bâthie collected his Orchid’s in September, when they were in fruit. It cannot be asserted conclusively that Martos et al.’s and Perrier de la Bâthie’s Orchids are the same species without DNA barcoding, however this would involve destroying the very limited material remaining from Perrier de la Bâthie’s Orchid, and could not be guaranteed to produce results anyway, as this material is over 100 years old and current DNA barcoding techniques are notoriously unreliable for Orchid’s at the best of times.

Map of Madagascar showing the distribution of the various observations of Gastrodieae on the island. Didymoplexis avaratraensis and Didymoplexis recurvata, both endemic to Madagascar, co-occur in the northern province of Antsiranana, in evergreen wet forest at mid elevation. Didymoplexis verrucosa, also known from South Africa, was recently photographed in the western province of Mahajanga, in deciduous seasonally dry forest. Gastrodia madagascariensis occurs in the eastern province of Toamasina opposite the island Nosy Boraha, in evergreen wet forest at low elevation. Filled triangles: flowers observed. Open triangle: only fruits observed. Martos et al. (2015).

The Ambodiriana Forest is a protected forest controlled by the Association de Défense de la Forêt d’Ambodiriana, however like other forests of east Madagascar, protected or otherwise, it is considered vulnerable to slash-and-burn agriculture, with fields currently reaching within 2 km of the forest’s border. All of the known plants of Gastrodia madagascariensis  were found growing within an area of 2.25 km2, with less than 50 plants observed in the 2013 growing season. It is also likely that the plant needs to be associated with particular mycorrhizal fungi for carbon-uptake. For this reason Martos et al. recommend that it be listed as Critically Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Inflorescence of Gastrodia madagascariensis. A Charbouillot in Martos et al. (2015).

See also…

Catasetum telespirense: A new species of epiphytic Orchid from the southern Brazilian Amazon.
In 2011-2012 a series of series of rescue expeditions recovered and relocated around 105 000 epiphytic plants (plants which live on other plants, typically...


Balanophora coralliformis: A new species of parasitic plant from Luzon Island in the Philippines.
Balanophoras, Balanophoraceae, are parasitic plants related to Sandlewoods and Mistletoes found in tropical and temperate...

A new species of parasitic Orchid from Takeshima Island, Japan.
Orchids of the genus Gastrodia are found across temperate and tropical Asia, Oceania and Madagascar. They are mycoheterotrophs; parasitic plants which obtain nutrients and sugars from Mycorrhizal Fungi (Fungi which normally form symbiotic...


Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Eneopterine Crickets from Leyte Island.


Leyte is the eighth largest island in the Philippines and is considered a site of high biodiversity and conservational importance, particularly the forested mountainous interior of the island. The island was formed by volcanic activity along the Philippine Trench (a subductive plate margin, where one tectonic plate is being forced below another and melted by the heat of the Earth’s interior, with some of the resultant magma rising through the overlying plate to form volcanoes), during the Pleistocene, when it was attached to Greater Mindanao Island. As such it has rich volcanic soils and a fauna and flora made up entirely of species that have colonized during or since the Pleistocene or evolved in situ since this time. Leyte has a tropical climate wet all year round, with the southern part of the island having a distinctive period of higher rainfall between November and April. Despite being an area of acknowledged biogeographical and conservational importance, much of the interior of Leyte remains unexplored by biologists.

In a paper published in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology on 14 April 2015, Tony Robillard of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris and Sheryl Yap of the College of Agriculture and Museum of Natural History at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, describe two new species of Eneopterine Crickets as part of a study of this group on Leyte Island. Eneopterines are small Crickets with distinctive mating signals, noted for their high diversity on the islands of the Pacific and the Philippines in particular.

The first new species described is placed in the genus Lebinthus, which is known from the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore, and given the specific name estrellae, in honour of Regene ‘Estrella’ Portillo, who helped with accessing the locality where the species was discovered and with collecting specimens. The species is described from three male, sixteen female and four juvenile specimens collected in secondary rain forest on a slope at Barangay Villa Corazon near Burauen in the interior of Leyte Island, as well as one male captured as a juvenile at the same location and raised in captivity.

Lebinthus estrellae: (A) Female and (B) juvenile specimens in leaf litter secondary forest, Barangay Villa Corazon. Robillard & Yap (2015).

Lebinthus estrellae is smaller than other members of the genus, and dark brown in colour with white and yellow markings and a lighter orangish or pinkish brown band on each eye. It was found living in small bushes and leaf litter in secondary rain forest. The males produced a short trilling song with 83-91 sylables.

The second new species described is placed in the wingless genus Paranisitra, which is known from the Philippines and offshore islands of New Guinea, and given the specific name leytensis, meaning ‘from Leyte’. The species is described from two male, six female and four juvenile specimens collected from secondary rainforest at Barangay Villa Corazon and Buo near Burauen in the interior of Leyte Island.

Paranisitra leytensis, new species: (A) Female and (B) male specimens in natural habitat near Burauen, Leyte. Regene Portillo in Robillard & Yap (2015).

Paranisitra leytensis is considerably smaller than other members of the genus, with the males being notably smaller than the females. The adults are yellow- or grey-brown, with black and white markings, these differing between the sexes. Juveniles are colourful, with green red and yellow patterns, later instars developing the adult colouration.

Paranisitra leytensis, juvenile specimen in dorsal view. Scale bar is 1 mm. Robillard & Yap (2015).

See also…

Mud Crickets, Ripipterygidae, are small Orthopterans...


Katydids (or Buschcrickets), Tettigonioidea, are Members of the Insect Order Orthoptera, which also includes Crickets and Grasshoppers. They are voracious eaters and can consume a...

Katydids of the genus Xizicusand its close relatives are found across eastern Asia, though the taxonomy of the group is currently somewhat confused, in part due to publications being published in different languages...


Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.