Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The larvae of an Apochrysinid Green Lacewing.


All Insects undergo a set number of moults in their lifetimes, with the phases between these moults known as ‘instars’. Many Insects undergo a dramatic metamorphosis with their final moult, producing an adult instar that bears little resemblance to the larval instars. This can make understanding the life-cycles of Insects difficult, since the larvae often lead very different lifestyles to the adults and may not be readily identifiable. The Apochrysinae are an ancient group of Green Lacewings (Chrysopidae), with  an abundent fossil record but only 25 known living species divided into six genera, of these only the third larval instar of a single Japanese species (Apochrysa matsumurae) has ever been described.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 10 July 2014, Catherine Tauber of the Department of Entomology at Cornell University and the Department of Entomology & Nematology at the University of California, Davis, describes the larvae of a second Apochrysinid Green Lacewing species, Apochrysa voeltzkowi from the Tsitsikamma National Park in South Africa.

One specimen each of the first and second instars were examined, and two specimens of the third instar. The second instar specimen was judged to be close to moulting, so that its head and body were slightly swollen and distorted. For this reason formal descriptions of only the first and third instars were made.

The first instar (neonate) is about 1.6 mm in length and cream in colour with light brown markings on the head; the rest of the body lacked markings. The eyes protrude sideways, and the mandibles are long, thin and curved.

The first instar larvae of Apochrysa voeltzkowi in dorsal view. Tauber (2014).


The third instar was 7.3-8.9 mm in length with a white body with a grey median line and brown markings. The mandibles were long, thin and curved. This was essentially similar to the third instar larvae of Apochrysa matsumurae, although the latter lacked markings.

The third instar larvae of Apochrysa voeltzkowi in dorsal view. Tauber (2014).

See also…


Silky Lacewings (Psychopsidae) are a group of...

Osmylids (Osmylidae) are a group of Neuropteran Insects with a fossil record dating back to the Early Jurassic and are still in existence today. They appear to have been at their most numerous and diverse in the Middle-Late Jurassic, with a number of lineages...




Snakeflies (Raphidioptera) are a group of carnivorous flying insects related to the Lacewings, Antlions and Alderflies. They have long life cycles, with a number of larval stages, but still feed as adults. Modern Snakeflies...


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Asteroid 2014 MG55 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MG55 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 10 080 000 km (26.22 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 6.7% of the average distance between the Earth an the Sun), slightly after 12.25 pm GMT on Friday 25 July 2014. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though were it to do so it would have presented a serious threat. 2014 MG55 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 28-90 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 28-90 m in diameter), and an object towards the upper end of this range would be predicted to be capable of passing through the Earth's atmosphere relatively intact, impacting the ground with an energy equivalent to about 35 megatons of TNT (roughly 2000 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb). Such an event would result in a crater about 1 across, cause devastation on a wide scale and would have the potential to affect the climate globally for years after the impact event.

The calculated orbit of 2014 MG55. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

2014 MJ55 was discovered on 27 June 2014 (28 days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope on Mount Haleakala on Maui. The designation 2014 MG55 implies that it was the 1382nd asteroid (asteroid G55) discovered in the second half of June 2014 (period 2014 M).

While 2014 MG55 occasionally comes near to the Earth, it does not actually cross our orbital path. It has an elliptical 1027 day orbit, at an angle of 9.8° to the plane of the Solar System, that takes it from 1.07 AU from the Sun (1.07 times the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun), slightly outside our orbit, to 2.91 AU from the Sun, (2.91 times the distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, almost twice the distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Sun). As a Near Earth Object that remains strictly outside the orbit of the Earth it is classed as an Amor Family Asteroid.

See also...

 Asteroid 2014 OP2 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 OP2 passed by the Earth at a distance of 199 700 km (0.52 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon), at about 8.35 am GMT on Thursday 24 July 2014. There was no...


 Asteroid 2014 MJ55 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MJ55 passed by the Earth at a distance of about 11 080 000 km (28.83 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 7.4% of the average distance between the Earth and...


 Asteroid 2014 MA6 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2014 MA6 passed by the Earth at a distance of 7 275 000 km (18.93 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, or 4.9% of the average distance between the Earth and the...


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Monday, 28 July 2014

Magnitude 3.2 Earthquake in Payne County, Oklahoma.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.2 Earthquake at a depth of 4.5 km in northeast Payne County, Oklahoma, slightly before 5.20 pm local time (Slightly before 10.20 pm GMT) on Sunday 27 July 2014. There are no reports of any damage or injuries associated with this event, though it was felt locally.

The approximate location of the 27 June 2014 Payne County Earthquake. Google Maps.

Oklahoma is naturally prone to Earthquakes, particularly in the southwest of the state, near the Meers Fault Zone, but since 2009 has suffered a sharp increase in the number of small quakes in the central and northeast parts of the state. While most of these quakes have been quite small, a few have been large enough to potentially cause problems, and any unexplained increase in seismic activity is a cause for concern. 

In a paper published in the journal Geology on 26 March 2013, a team of geologists led by Katie Keranen of the ConocoPhillips School of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma linked one of the largest of these quakes, a Magnitude 5.7 event in November 2011 which caused damage locally and was felt across 17 states, to the practice of pumping liquids (usually brine) into injection wells, which is common in the hydrocarbons industry and used to displace oil or gas, which can then be extracted from nearby extraction wells (where this is done in bursts at pressure to intentionally break up rock it is called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking). Significantly they suggested that the practice could lead to quakes years or even decades after the actual injection.

Witness accounts of quakes can help geologists to understand these events and the rock structures that cause them. If you felt this quake (or if you were in the area but did not, which is also useful information) you can report it to the USGS here.

See also...


The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.1 Earthquake at a depth of 2.4 km in southern Grant County...



The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.3 Earthquake at a depth of 4.4 km in southwest Grant County...



The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 3.6 Earthquake at a depth of 5.0 km in northern Lincoln County...


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A Turiasaurian Sauropod from the Late Jurassic of Portugal.

Sauropod Dinosaurs reached their most diverse in the Late Jurassic, with about 180 species described from around the world. The best known Sauropod faunas from this period are from the Morrison Formation in the United States, the Tendaguru Formation in Tanzania and the Iberian Peninsula. The Sauropod fauna of Iberia appears to be very similar to that of the Morrison Formation, but with two important differences. Firstly the Morrison Formation contains a range of Sauropods of different sizes, suggesting an ecological diversity of animals with different feeding strategies, while all the Iberian Sauropods appear to have been very large animals. It has been suggested that the niches occupied by smaller Sauropod Dinosaurs in the Morrison Formation may have been occupied by other, non-Sauropod herbivores in Iberia, though the absence of juvenile members of the known species cannot be explained this way. Secondly three of the Iberian species, Galveosaurus herreroi, Losillasaurus giganteus and Turiasaurus riodevensis (all from Spain) appear to form a distinct evolutionary lineage, outside the Neosauropoda, which has been named the Turiasauria. This group is entirely absent from North America, although isolated teeth and fragmentary remains from elsewhere in Europe and Tanzania have been attributed to it.

In a paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on 6 may 2014, Octávio Mateus of the Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and the Museu da Lourinhã, Philip Mannion of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London and Paul Upchurch of the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London, describe a new species of Turiasaurian Sauropod from the Late Jurassic Lourinhã Formation of west-central Portugal.

The new Dinosaur is named Zby atlanticus, where ‘Zby’ honours the distinguished Russian-French palaeontologist Georges Zbyszewski, who spent much of his career studying the geology and palaeontology of Portugal, and ‘atlanticus’ refers to the site where the specimen was found, in a bay overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Zby atlanticus is described from a right pectoral girdle (shoulder) and forelimb, plus an isolated tooth and parts of two vertebrae (check). It shows close affinities to Turiasaurus riodevensis, but there are sufficient differences on the limited available material to merit placing it in a different genus.

Locality of Zby atlanticus. (A) photograph of the elements in the ground; (B) line drawing of the elements in the ground. Numbers refer to (1) chevron; (2) scapula; (3) coracoid; (4) humerus; (5) ulna; (6) radius; (7) metacarpal I; (8) metacarpal III; (9) metacarpal IV; (10) manual ungual phalanx I-2; (11) tooth. Note that the additional two manual phalanges are not visible in this view. Scale bar equals 500 mm. Mateus et al. (2014).

Silhouette outline and line drawings of Zby atlanticus. (A) Humerus; (B) tooth; (C) coracoid; (D) scapula; (E) chevron; (F) radius; (G) ulna; (H) metacarpal I; (I) metacarpal III; (J) metacarpal IV; (K) manual phalanx I-1; (L) manual ungual claw I-2. Figures not proportionally to scale to one another. Mateus et al. (2014).

See also…


Titanosaurs were the dominant group of Sauropod Dinosaurs in many Late Cretaceous faunas. The group included the very largest Sauropods, and therefore also the very largest known land animals of any type. Titanosaur remains were first found in Madagascar in the 1890s, though the first species from Madagascar...




Sauropod dinosaurs were massive, long-necked...


Sauropod dinosaurs were massive, long-necked, long-tailed creatures that have long been regarded as the largest land animals ever to have lived. They reached...


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A new species of Braconid Wasp from Madagascar.

Braconid Wasps are small parasitic Wasps which can typically lay several eggs on a large host species (typically another Insect or Spider). The larval Wasps grow inside the host, before emerging to pupate on its surface; unusually for parasitic Wasps the host is not usually killed. Braconid Wasps of the Afro-tropical region are very poorly understood, with little taxonomic sampling in many areas, and no overall phylogenetic analysis of relationships between different groups having been carried out to date.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 16 July 2014, Miles Zhang and Barbara Sharanowski of the Department of Entomology at the University of Manitoba, describe a new species of Braconid Wasp from the Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar.

The new species is placed in the genus Eudiospilus, which currently contains only a single species found in Cameroon and Angola, and is given the specific name rubrumbarus, meaning ‘Red Baron’ in honour of Baron Manfred von Richthofen, due to the resemblance of the head colouration to a leather aviator helmet. Eudiospilus rubrumbarus is described from two female specimens. These are 6.5 mm in length and bright yellow in colour except for the head which is black.

Eudiospilus rubrumbarus in lateral view. Zhang & Sharanowski (2014).

See also…


Braconid Wasps are parasitoid Wasps (i.e. Wasps whose larvae mature inside the living bodies of other insects, which generally die as a result) related to the more familiar Ichneumon Wasps, but much smaller. They have a formidable appearance, but are in fact stingless, making them harmless to non-host species. There are about...



Braconid Wasps are parasitoid Wasps (i.e. Wasps whose larvae mature inside the living bodies of other insects, which generally die as a result) related to the more familiar Ichneumon Wasps, but much smaller. They have a formidable appearance, but are in fact stingless, making them harmless to non-host species. There are about 150 000 known species found across the globe.


 Three new species of Braconid Wasps from the Late Cretaceous of Magadan Province in the Russian Far East.

Braconid Wasps are parasitoid Wasps (Wasp's whose larvae grow inside the bodies of other insects) related to Ichneumon Wasps, but...


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Major fire out of control at Libya's largest oil storage facility.

A fire is burning out of control at a fuel storage facility in Tripoli, after a tank holding 6 million liters of oil was hit by a rocket during fighting between militia groups on Sunday 27 July 2014. The fire was initially brought under control by firefighters, but the were forced to withdraw when fighting resumed early on Monday 28 July, shortly after which a second oil tank was ignited by shrapnel. The fire is now described by the Libyan National Oil Company as 'out of control', provoking fears of a major explosion or environmental catastrophe. Local officials are recommending that residents evacuate the area within five kilometers of the facility, but with ongoing fighting in the area it is unclear whether many people will be able to comply.

Smoke from the burning storage facility hangs over Tripoli. Reuters.

Fighting between militia groups has occurred sporadically since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, as the various groups that took part in the regime change had little in common and since then have been engaged in an uneasy truce with intervals of open conflict. The situation appears to have deteriorated markedly during the past two weeks, with over 100 people killed in Tripoli alone, including 23 Egyptian migrant workers in a single incident. Turkey, the United States and the United Nations have begun to evacuate their diplomatic staff, while Britain, France Germany and Spain are recommending their nationals to leave.

The fire at the oil terminal appears to have been caused by fighting over control of the cities airport, between the Zintan Militia (a regional militia from the Zintan Mountains), who have held the airport since the revolution, and the Islamist Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room, who were formerly responsible for policing and security within the capitol and Benghazi, but who were stripped of their authority in October 2013 after attempting to kidnap Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, apparently as part of a botched coup attempt in which other militia groups may-or-may-not have been planning to join, and who are now engaged in an escalating conflict with other groups.

See also...


A pipeline carrying Marib Light Crude from the  Safer Oilfield to the port of Ras Isa on the Red Sea reopened on Thursday 24 July 2014, forty two days after it was blown up by unknown insurgents near...



A pipeline carrying oil from the Diffra Oil Field to the Red Sea was blown up at Abyei, on the border between South Sudan and the...



Thirteen workers at uranium mine operated by French company Areva were injured when the site was attacked by a suicide bomber...


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Sangihe Dwarf-kingfisher classified as Critically Endangered.


Birdlife International published an assessment of the conservation status of 350 newly described Bird Species for the  International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species on 24 July 2014, the first such assessment by the organization. 25% of the species described are considered to be threatened, compared to about 13% of all known bird species, though this is in part due to the discovery of cryptic species; populations of birds formerly thought to be part of more widespread species, that are now understood to be genetically distinct species, incapable of reproduction with the species of which they were thought to form a population. Such cryptic species have smaller populations and more restricted ranges than they were previously thought to have, and therefore are more likely to be threatened.

One such newly described species is the Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx sangirensis) formerly thought to be a population of the Sulawesi Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx fallax) but reclessified in the 2014 edition of the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. The Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher is a small Kingfisher (about 13 cm) with a bright red beak, a black cap speckled with blue, lilac cheeks, white neck patch and throat, orange underparts, brown wings and a blue back and tail.

The Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx sangirensis). John Gerrard Keulemans (1842-1912)/Wikimedia Commons.

The Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher has not been sighted since 1997, despite searches in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2014. It is native to lowland forests on Sangehi (Indonesia) and possibly the neighbouring island of Taub. However the indigenous forests of Sangehi have been almost entirely cleared to make ways for agriculture, making it likely that any remaining population will be extremely small.

The former range of the Sangihe Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx sangirensis) (yellow). International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

See also...


Birdlife International published an assessment of the conservation status of 350 newly described Bird Species for International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species on 24 July 2014, the first such assessment by the organization. 25% of...



Birdlife International published an assessment of the conservation status of 350 newly described Bird Species for International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species on 24 July 2014, the first such assessment by the organization. 25% of the species described are considered to be threatened, compared to about 13% of all known bird species, though this is in part due to the discovery of cryptic species; populations of birds formerly thought to be part of...



Birdlife International published an assessment of the conservation status of 350 newly described Bird Species for International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species on 24 July 2014, the first such assessment by the organization. 25% of...


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