Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Atherigona reversura: Bermudagrass Stem Maggot reported in South America.

The Bermudagrass Stem Maggot, Atherigona reversura, is the larvae of a Muscid Fly (House Fly) which burrows into the shoots of young Grass plants, killing or damaging the plant. It's favoured food is Bermudagrass, Cynodon dactylon, (which doesn't actually come from Bermuda), but it will feed on many species of Grass, and is considered a serious agricultural pest in pastureland in tropical and subtropical areas. The Maggot is native to Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan, but has been introduced to a number of other areas, including Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Oman, the continental United States, and Mexico.

Bermudagrass Stem Maggot identified in a Florida Bermudagrass hay field. Liza Garcia-Jimenez/University of Florida.

In a paper published in the journal Check List on 15 July 2016, Luciano Patitucci of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”, Matías Dufek of Biología de los Artrópodos at the Universidad Nacional del Nordeste, and Pablo Mulieri, also of the Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”, report the first known occurances of the Bermudagrass Stem Maggot in South America.

Adult specimens of Atherigona reversura were discovered during a survey of Flies in the Oriental Chaco and Pampas Grasslands ecoregions. The presence of the Fly was established in three provinces, Buenos Aires, Chaco, and Santa Fe. Given the wide range established for the Fly in Argentina, and the variety of ecosystems in which is was found, as well as the widespread growth of Bermudagrass as a fodder crop in South America, Patitucci et al. consider establishing the full range of the Fly in South America a matter of some urgency, and recommend further surveys in other areas of Argentina, as well as areas of Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay with similar climates.

 Male of Atherigona reversura, lateral view. Pablo Mulieri in Patitucci et al. (2016).

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/western-flower-thrips-reported-in-india.htmlWestern Flower Thrips reported in India. Thrips (the word is both singular and plural),Thripidae, are very small Insects with wings reduced to feathery growths (though this is sufficient to support them in flying due to their small size). They feed by sucking fluids from plants, and as such are...
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/tripius-gyraloura-sphaerularid-nematode.htmlTripius gyraloura, a Sphaerularid Nematode infecting the Arundo Gall Midge.          Sphaerularid Nematodes are highly virulent parasites of Insect hosts. While most parasites seek to keep their host alive for as long as possible, enabling them to live and produce offspring for as long as possible, Sphaerularids begging to reproduce at a high...
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/two-new-species-of-ironwood-infesting.htmlTwo new species of Ironwood infesting Gall Wasps from Micronesia and Australia.   Ironwood Trees of the genus Casuarinaare native to Australia, Southeast Asia, South America and the islands of the western Pacific. They are widely grown for their timber, as well as for windbreaks and for their ability to stabilize soils in erosion-prone areas...
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Second miner injured at Saskatchewan potash mine.

A miner is being treated in hospital after an accident at the Agrium Inc. operated Vascoy Potash Mine in Saskatchewan Province, Canada, on Sunday 21 August 2016. The name of the miner, the nature of his injuries and the cause of the accident have not yet been released, but it is understood the man was airlifted to hospital for emergancy surgery, and is described as being in a serious, but non-life-threatening condition. The incident is of particular concern as it is the second such incident at the mine this month; on Monday 8 August miner Chad Wiklun was rushed to hospital after becoming trapped in equipment and later died of his injuries.

The Vascoy Potash Mine. Agrium/Ron Garnett/Airscapes.

There are large reserves of potash (potassium salt), an important mineral in the production of commercial fertilizers, buried beneath the plains of southern Saskatchewan, though accessing these has proved difficult for mining contractors. The potash-bearing deposits are at their shallowest along a line that runs southeast from Saskatoon to Regina, where they are buried at a depth of approximately 1000 m. The deposits get deeper to the southwest of this line, reaching 1600 m at Belle Plaine (between Regina and Moose Jaw) and as deep as 3000 m bellow Montana and North Dakota. This depth in itself is not an insurmountable problem, but the deposits are also beneath the Blairmore Aquifer, at a depth of 400-600 m in the Saskatoon/Regina area, which needs to be sealed of by mining engineers sinking shafts to the potash deposits in order prevent flooding (water bearing strata can overlie dry strata as long as there is a water-impermeable layer, typically clay, in between).

 Simplified geology of the Saskatchewan potash deposits (labeled as 'Salt). Uralkali.

See also...


Miner injured in accident at Saskatchewan mine.                                                              A miner is in a critical condition in a hospital in Saskatchewan following an accident at a potash mine in...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/96-miners-trapped-underground-by-fire.html96 miners trapped underground by fire in Saskatchewan.                                          Ninety Six workers were forced to evacuate to underground shelters after a fire at a PotashCorp operated mine at Allan in Saskatchewan (about...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/worker-dies-at-saskatchewan-potash-mine.htmlWorker dies at Saskatchewan potash mine.   A 25 year old man from Newfoundland has died at the Agrium owned Vanscoy Potash Mine, approximately 32 kilometers southwest of Saskatoon, apparently after falling 18 m from

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Monday, 22 August 2016

Lepidochrysops liberti & Ceratrichia fako: Two new species of Butterfly from the slopes of Mount Cameroon.

Mount Cameroon is a 4095 m high stratovolcano (cone shaped volcano made up of successive layers of ash and lava) on the coast of Cameroon, about 80 km northwest of the capital, Douala. The volcano sits slightly to the north of the Central African Shear Zone, which cuts though the country from southwest to northeast. The slopes of Mount Cameroon are considered an important biodiversity hotspot, having formed part of the Gulf of Guinea Highlands forest refugium during the Pleistocene glacial maximums when the surrounding lowlands were an arid grassland, enabling forest species to survive here that were wiped out in the lowlands.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 11 August 2016, Szabolcs Sáfián of the Institute of Silviculture and Forest Protection at the University of West Hungary and the Faculty of Science at the University of South Bohemia and Robert Tropek of the Faculty of Science at Charles University in Prague and the Institute of Entomology of the Czech Academy of Science describe two new species of Butterfly from the slopes of Mount Cameroon discovered during expeditions to the area, in 2014-15.

The first species is assigned to the Polyommatinae (Blues), being placed in the genus Lepidochrysops, and given the specific name liberti, in honour of the lepidopterist Michel Libert, who devoted his life to studying the Butterflies of Africa. The species was found in Elephant-disturbed mosaic forest on the southwestern slopes of Mount Cameroon, at altitudes of between 1100 m and 1200 m. 

Male specimen of Lepidochrysops liberti in dorsal view. Sáfián & Tropek (2016).

Male specimens of Lepidochrysops liberti had wingspans of slightly over 30 mm across and had white wings with blue colouring around the bases and black on the tips of the forewings as well as a single black spot on each hindwing. The single female found had a wingspan of 40.5 mm, with stronger black markings.

Female specimen of Lepidochrysops liberti in dorsal view. Sáfián & Tropek (2016).

The second new species described is assigned to the Hesperiidae (Skippers), being placed in the genus Ceratrichia and given the specific name fako, from 'Fako' the local name for Mount Cameroon.  The species was first discovered in sub-montane forest at an altitude of about 1700 m, above the town of Bokwaongo-Buea, then later at a number of other localities on the southwestern slopes of the mountain between 1100 m and 1500 m.

Male specimen of Ceratrichia fako in dorsal view. Sáfián & Tropek (2016).

These Butterflies had wingspans of slightly over 25 mm and were chocolate brown in colour with a scattering of gold scales on their wings. The underside of the hind wing is yellow, with a pattern of spots. Females are similar to the males, but with spots on both sides of the forewings.

Female specimen of Ceratrichia fako in dorsal view. Sáfián & Tropek (2016).

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Notomela joliveti: A new species of Flea Beetle from Principe Island.

Flea Beetles, Alticini, are highly specialized Leaf Beetles, Chrysomelidae, which get their common name from their highly modified rear legs, which enable them to make sudden long jumps when threatened. They are small for Leaf Beetles, though not exceptionally so, and are herbivorous, with each species favoring...

A new species of Arctiid Moth from southwest Cameroon.                                                 Lichen Moths, Wasp Moths and Footmen. They are unusual for Moths in that they have sound producing organs used to communicate (though not at any frequency Humans can hear). Their caterpillars are typically extremely hairy, and often absorb toxins...

Explosions on Mount Cameroon.

An explosion on Mount Cameroon is said to have injured two tourist guides working on the mountain on Friday 3 February 2012. Local people also reported seeing bursts of flame and clouds of ash. Residents close to the mountain have reportedly been voluntarily moving away from the volcano, which has a history...

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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Chrysosporium guizhouense & Chrysosporium hubeiense: Two new species of Onygenal Fungi from China.

Fungi of the Order Onygenales are Ascomycete Fungi capable of breaking down keratin, the protein that forms skin, scales, hair and feathers in terrestrial vertebrates. These Fungi lack large, conspicuous fruiting bodies and are often overlooked, but play an important role in the decomposition of vertebrate remains and droppings, as well as in soil dwelling microbial communities, and are responsible for some Human illnesses, including Athelete's Foot and a range of infections which found in AIDS sufferers.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 19 August 2016, Yan-Wei Zhang, Wan-Hao Chen, Gui-Ping Zeng, Yu-Rong Wang, Xiao Zou, Yan-Feng Han, Shu-Yi Qiu and Zong-Qi Liang of the College of Life Science at Guizhou University describe two new species of Onygenal Fungi isolated from soil samples in China, both being placed in the soil-dwelling genus Chrysosporium.

The first species is named Chrysosporium guizhouense, meaning 'from Guizhou', having been isolated from a soil sample collected from under a dried Snake skin in Kaiyang County in Guizhou Province, China. The fungus formed fluffy white colonies on agar, denser in the middle and more sparse around the edges. 

Chrysosporium guizhouense. (1) Colony; (2) Conidia (3) Conidiogenous structures; Bar (1) = 10 mm; Bars (2) - (3) = 10 μm. Zhang et al. (2016).

The second new species is named Chrysosporium hubeiense, meaning 'from Hubei', having been isolated from soil collected from under a feather in Songzi City in Hubei Province. This Fungus formed white, powdery colonies on agar, with irregular outlines, and yellow on the underside.

Chrysosporium hubeiense. (1) Colony; (2) Conidia (3) Conidiogenous structures; Bar (1) = 10 mm; Bars (2) - (3) = 10 μm. Zhang et al. (2016).

See also...

Jahnula purpurea: A new species of Ascomycote Fungi from Martinique.

Ascomycote Fungi of the order Jahnulales are aquatic wood decomposing Fungi found almost exclusively in freshwater environments (one species is known from Mangroves). Members of the genus Jahnula, from which the family gets its name, are primarily tropical in distribution, though some temperate species are known.

Two new species of Amphisphaerid Fungi from southern China.

The Amphisphaerid Fungi (Amphisphaeriaceae) are a group of Ascomycetes found In South America, New Zealand and Eurasia. They are predominantly plant pathogens, with some species being considered...

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Saccoglossus testa: A new species of Acorn Worm from the Late Carboniferous Francis Creek Shale of northern Illinois.

The Deuterostomes are the group of animals which include the Chordates (the wider group that includes the Vertebrates) and Echinoderms, and therefore are of great interest to palaeontologists and evolutionary biologists studying the origins of these groups. Unfortunately all living (and fossil) Chordates and Echinoderms are thought to be highly modified compared to the last common ancestor of the group, leading scientists to theorize that the earliest members of the group probably resembled most closely the third Chordate group, the Hemichordates. The Hemichordates are also highly derived, and comprise two major groups, the colonial, tube-dwelling Pterobranches and the burrowing Enteropneusts or Acorn Worms. Acorn Worms today are almost entirely infaunal (living within marine sediments) a lifestyle thought to have been impossible at the time when the earliest Deuterostomes lived (due to lower oxygen levels in the oceans), but a surface-dwelling Acorn Worm-like animal is a plausible model for the earliest Deuterostomes. The one group of Acorn Worms that live on the surface today are members of the genus Saccoglossus, which use a highly elongated, mucus-secreting proboscis to scrape nutrients from the sediment surface. Unlike most Acorn Worms, which, being soft bodied, are extremely vulnerable to predation if exposed on the surface, Saccoglossus spp. produce a battery of toxic substances to discourage predation, and advertise this with bright warning colours. However Saccoglossus spp. are not thought to be particularly similar to the earliest Acorn Worms, as they have no fossil record, and are therefore thought likely to be a fairly modern group.

In a paper published in the journal Palaeontology on 29 March 2016, Christopher Cameron of the Département de sciences biologiques at the Université de Montréal, reports the discovery of a fossil Acorn Worm assigned to the genus Saccoglossus from the Late Carboniferous Francis Creek Shale of northern Illinois, which is considered to be part of the Mazon Creek Fauna fossil lagerstätte.

The fossil is described as a new species assigned to the genus Saccoglossus and given the specific name testa in honour of Thomas Testa, an assiduous collector of fossils from the Mazon Creek beds who collected of over 7000 such fossils, including the specimen from which the species Saccoglossus testa is described, that are now found in the collection of the Field Museum in Chicago. 

The specimen is preserved as part and counterpart on a split limestone concretion, and closely resembles modern members of the genus, with an elongate proboscis far longer than it is wide (something not seen in other Acorn Worms), and indeed cannot readily be distinguished from modern members of the genus (most of which could not be told apart from a flattened, colourless impression). It is placed in a new species not because it is distinct from modern species, but because of its age; the Mazon Creek beds were laid down about 300 million years ago, far longer than a single species is expected to endure.

Saccoglossus testa, counterparts, frontal fragments of specimen. Abbreviations: C, collar; P, proboscis; T, trunk. Scale bars represent 1 cm. Cameron (2016).

See also...

Oesia disjuncta: Enigmatic Cambrian fossil re-interpreted as a tub-dwelling vermiform Hemichordate.

The Hemichordates are Deuterostome Animals. members of the group which also includes Chordates (including Vertebrates) and Echinoderms. As such...

The Vetulicolians are are group of organisms known from Cambrian deposits at a number of sites around the world. They Have segmented bodies superficially resembling those of Arthropods, but lack any visible limbs. Since palaeontologists and biologist theorize that the earliest Arthropods lacked limbs, having...

A possible bilaterally symmetrical Echinoderm from Spain.

Echinoderms (Crinoids, Sea Urchins, Starfish etc.) are placed within a larger group of animals called the Deuterostomes by taxonomists. These are animals sharing a common form of embryonic development, whose affinity has now been confirmed by genetic studies. The other groups of Deuterostomes are...

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Alabama river hit by sulphuric acid spill.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is investigating after over 560 litres of sulphuric acid was released from a poultry rendering plant into the Mulberry Fork River at Hanceville in Cullman County on Wednesday 17 August 2016. The spill reportedly occurred at the American Proteins plant at about 4.00 pm, after a valve on a containment tank was left open, and resulted in the deaths of large numbers of fish and other aquatic organisms in the river.

Dead Fish in the Mulberry Fork River after the 17 August 2016 sulphuric acid spill. Nelson Brooke/Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

Sulphuric acid, H2SO4, is a highly corrosive dibasic acid (an acid in which each acid molecule can donate two hydrogen ions, making it twice as corrosive as a monobasic acid, such as hydrochloric acid) at the same concentration). At very high concentrations it will react with water (fortunately the acid that entered the Mulberry Fork was already diluted by rainwater), and when diluted remains highly corrosive. Spills of such an acid are, obviously, extremely harmful to anything in the immediate vicinity, though because it is so highly reactive it seldom persists in the environment (though reactions of sulphuric acid often give rise to other sulphur compounds that are themselves harmful).

See also...

Dairy wastewater spill kills hundreds of Fish in Alabama creek.

A spill of dairy wastewater has killed several hundred Fish in the Shades Creek at Homewood, Alabama, close to West Homewood Park, on Monday 19 October 2015. The comprised about 380 liters of wastewater from the Mayfield Creamery, which turned the creek...

'Extinct' Gastropod rediscovered in Alabama.

The Mobile River Basin in Alabama and Georgia is considered to contain the most diverse Mollusc faunas of the entire North American continent. Unfortunately the area is also heavily urbanized and industrialized, with waterways channelized to...

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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Cratera viridimaculata: A new species of Land Flatworm from the Argentinian Atlantic Forest.

Land Flatworms, Geoplanidae, are carnivorous free-living Platyhelminth Worms found in terrestrial habitats. Like other Platyhelminths they have a very simple bodyplan, lacking an internal body cavity which holds the organs or any form of circulatory system or reproductive organs. They have flattened bodies, which allows oxygen absorbed through the skin to reach all the cells, with a simple gut with a single opening that serves as both the mouth and anus. Most Land Flatworms are extremely limited in their environmental tolerances, and consequently have very limited geographical ranges, but a few species have proved to be much more tolerant and have become highly invasive pest species.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 11 August 2016, Lisandro Negrete and Francisco Brusa of the Universidad Nacional de La Plata describe a new species of Land Flatworm from the Argentinian Atlantic Forest of Misiones Province, Argentina.

The new species is placed in the genus Cratera, which has previously only been described from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest (the Argentinian Atlantic Forest is a southern continuation of this forest, but in the cooler climate is semi-deciduous rather than an evergreen tropical forest) and given the specific name viridimaculata, meaning 'green with dots'; the worms are an olive green in colour, with grey speckles. These worms are large, exceeding 50 mm in length, and were found at two sites, in the Esmeralda Provincial Park and San Antonio Strict Nature Reserve, both within Misiones Province.

Dorsal view of a live specimen of Cratera viridimaculata (anterior end to the left). Scale bar: 10 mm. Negrete & Brusa (2016).

See also...

Two new species of terrestrial Flatworm from Brazil.

Flatworms (Platyhelminths) are among the simplest animals, and generally considered to be one of...

Blue Flatworms invade Menorca.                 Land Planarians of the family Geoplanidae (Flatworms) are simple animals; they have a rudimentary nervous system, lack a through gut (so that they must regurgitate any waste products), and have no respiratory organs (they absorb oxygen through their moist, non-watertight skins, but cannot actively collect...
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