Sunday, August 20, 2017

[PaleoOrnithology • 2017] Leucocarbo septentrionalis • Speciation, Range Contraction and Extinction in the Endemic New Zealand King Shag Complex

Leucocarbo septentrionalis
Rawlence, Till, Easton, Spencer, Schuckard, Melville, Scofield, Tennyson, Rayner & Waters, 2017

Kohatu Shag || DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.07.011 

• New Zealand King Shag occupied a ‘relict’ distribution for at least the past 240 years.
• Ancient DNA indicates drop in genetic variability and range shortly after human arrival.
• Leucocarbo from northern New Zealand represent new extinct species, Kohatu Shag.
• New Zealand biodiversity hotspot for Phalacrocoracidae.

New Zealand’s endemic King Shag (Leucocarbo carunculatus) has occupied only a narrow portion of the northeastern South Island for at least the past 240 years. However, pre-human Holocene fossil and archaeological remains have suggested a far more widespread distribution of the three Leucocarbo species (King, Otago, Foveaux) on mainland New Zealand at the time of Polynesian settlement in the late 13th Century CE. We use modern and ancient DNA, and morphometric and osteological analyses, of modern King Shags and Holocene fossil Leucocarbo remains to assess the pre-human distribution and taxonomic status of the King Shag on mainland New Zealand, and the resultant conservation implications. Our analyses show that the King Shag was formerly widespread around southern coasts of the North Island and the northern parts of the South Island but experienced population and lineage extinctions, and range contraction, probably after Polynesian arrival. This history parallels range contractions of other New Zealand seabirds. Conservation management of the King Shag should take into account this species narrow distribution and probable reduced genetic diversity. Moreover, combined genetic, morphometric and osteological analyses of prehistoric material from mainland New Zealand suggest that the now extinct northern New Zealand Leucocarbo populations comprised a unique lineage. Although these distinctive populations were previously assigned to the King Shag (based on morphological similarities and geographic proximity to modern Leucocarbo populations), we herein describe them as a new species, the Kohatu Shag (Leucocarbo septentrionalis). The extinction of this species further highlights the dramatic impacts Polynesians and introduced predators had on New Zealand’s coastal and marine biodiversity. The prehistoric presence of at least four species of Leucocarbo shag on mainland NZ further highlights its status as a biodiversity hotspot for Phalacrocoracidae.

Keywords: Ancient DNA; Extinct; Holocene fossil; King Shag; Kohatu Shag; Leucocarbo carunculatusLeucocarbo septentrionalis; New species; New Zealand

Fig. 8. Cranial skeletal elements of the holotype of Kohatu Shag (Leucocarbo septentrionalis; NMNZ S.34434). (a) Lateral view; (b) Dorsal view; (c) Ventral view. 

 Systematic palaeontology


LEUCOCARBO Bonaparte, 1857
 [type species (by subsequent designation, Ogilvie-Grant, 1898) Carbo bougainvillii Lesson, 1837]


English name: Kohatu Shag; Maori name: Kawau Kohatu

Type locality: Tokerau Beach, Doubtless Bay, Northland, New Zealand.

Etymology: septentrionalis from the medieval Latin for northern. This specific name recognises that this was the northernmost New Zealand member of the genus Leucocarbo. The name Kawau Kohatu in Maori is derived from the phrase ‘Te Ao Kohatu’ and means ‘shag [Kawau] from the stone age before our time [Te Ao Kohatu]’. The name recognises the species was found in Holocene fossil deposits of the iwi Ngati Kuri’s tribal area.

Distribution: Formerly of Northland, New Zealand.

Nicolas J. Rawlence, Charlotte E. Till, Luke J. Easton, Hamish G. Spencer, Rob Schuckard, David S. Melville, R. Paul Scofield, Alan J.D. Tennyson, Matt J. Rayner and Jonathan M. Waters. 2017. Speciation, Range Contraction and Extinction in the Endemic New Zealand King Shag Complex.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. in press. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.07.011

Another extinct bird: Northland’s unique shag via @te_papa
Hiding in plain sight: how we found New Zealand’s newest seabird, the Kōhatu Shag"   @sciblogsnz 


[Herpetology • 2017] Species Delimitation with Gene Flow: A Methodological Comparison and Population Genomics Approach to Elucidate Cryptic Species Boundaries in Malaysian Torrent Frogs

DOI: 10.1111/mec.14296 


Accurately delimiting species boundaries is a non-trivial undertaking that can have significant effects on downstream inferences. We compared the efficacy of commonly-used species delimitation methods (SDMs) and a population genomics approach based on genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to assess lineage separation in the Malaysian Torrent Frog Complex currently recognized as a single species (Amolops larutensis). First, we used morphological, mitochondrial DNA and genome-wide SNPs to identify putative species boundaries by implementing non-coalescent and coalescent-based SDMs (mPTP, iBPP, BFD*). We then tested the validity of putative boundaries by estimating spatiotemporal gene flow (fastsimcoal2, ABBA-BABA) to assess the extent of genetic isolation among putative species. Our results show that the A. larutensis complex runs the gamut of the speciation continuum from highly divergent, genetically isolated lineages (mean Fst = 0.9) to differentiating populations involving recent gene flow (mean Fst = 0.05; Nm > 5). As expected, SDMs were effective at delimiting divergent lineages in the absence of gene flow but overestimated species in the presence of marked population structure and gene flow. However, using a population genomics approach and the concept of species as separately evolving metapopulation lineages as the only necessary property of a species, we were able to objectively elucidate cryptic species boundaries in the presence of past and present gene flow. This study does not discount the utility of SDMs but highlights the danger of violating model assumptions and the importance of carefully considering methods that appropriately fit the diversification history of a particular system.

Keywords: Amolops, migration rate, fastsimcoal2, site frequency spectrum, gene flow, single-nucleotide polymorphism 

Kin Onn Chan, Alana M. Alexander, Lee L. Grismer, Yong-Chao Su, Jesse L. Grismer, Evan S. H. Quah and Rafe M. Brown. 2017. Species Delimitation with Gene Flow: A Methodological Comparison and Population Genomics Approach to Elucidate Cryptic Species Boundaries in Malaysian Torrent Frogs.  Molecular Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/mec.14296 

[Ichthyology • 2017] Schistura thavonei • A New Species of Loach (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae) from northwestern Laos

 Schistura thavonei  Kottelat, 2017


 Schistura thavonei, new species, is described from the Nam Ma, Mekong drainage, in Louang Namtha Province, northwestern Laos. It is distinguished from all other Nemacheilidae by its unique colour pattern made of two broad dark brown stripes (one middorsal, one midlateral) and between them a pale yellowish-brown stripe (iridescent in life); a row of 12–24 short black bars are located increasingly lower on the flank from head to tail, posterior-most ones restricted to the lower half of the body or forming blotches along the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle. Besides, it has an elongate body with a hump immediately behind the head, 8+7 branched caudalfin rays; and 9–10 total pectoral-fin rays. It was found in riffles, over gravel to stone bottom. 

Key words. Cobitoidei, Schistura, Laos, Mekong basin, stone loach

Diagnosis. Schistura thavonei is distinguished from the other species of the genus by its unique colour pattern made of two broad dark brown stripes (one middorsal, one midlateral) and between them a pale yellowish-brown stripe (iridescent copper to orange in life) from the upper extremity of the gill opening to the upper half of the base of the caudal fin; overimposed to the midlateral stripe, a row of 12–24 short black bars, located increasingly lower on the flank from head to tail, posterior-most ones restricted to the lower half of the body or forming blotches along the ventral midline of the caudal peduncle. Additional characters useful for identification but not unique to the species are: body very elongate (depth 6.2–7.2 times in SL), with a marked hump behind the head; male without suborbital flap; 8+7 branched caudal-fin rays; 7½ branched dorsal fin rays; 9–10 pectoral-fin rays.

Notes on biology. A dissected female (CMK 25066, 46.6 mm SL) had unripe ovaries with white, irregular, not mature, ova about 1.0 mm diameter. The stomach of a 42.4 mm SL specimen was filled with insect larvae about 2–5 mm long. Schistura thavonei was observed in clear water [as expected for a benthic fish with bright coloration and contrasted pattern]. At all sites, S. thavonei has been collected in stretches of streams with riffles (in the sheltered parts with somewhat quieter current), over gravel to stone bottom (Fig. 7).

Distribution. Schistura thavonei is presently known only from the watershed of the Nam Ma in Louang Namtha Province, a tributary of the Mekong, in northeastern Laos (not to be confused with the Nam Ma in Houa Phan Province, which flows to Vietnam and enters the Gulf of Tonkin).

Etymology. The species is named for Mr. Thavone Phommavong, in appreciation for his help and companionship during several, and sometimes difficult, fish surveys in Laos. A noun in genitive.

Maurice Kottelat. 2017. Schistura thavonei, A New Species of Loach from northwestern Laos (Teleostei: Nemacheilidae). RAFFLES BULLETIN OF ZOOLOGY. 65: 395–403

[Ichthyology • 2017] Five New Species of Marine Gobies of the Genus Grallenia (Teleostei: Gobiidae) from the tropical western Pacific Ocean

Grallenia rubrilineata  Allen & Erdmann, 2017


Five new species belonging to the gobiid fish genus Grallenia of the tropical western Pacific Ocean are described from sand-bottom habitats. Grallenia compta n. sp. (11 specimens, 14.9–17.3 mm SL) from Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea and Grallenia rubrilineata n. sp. (81 specimens, 8.8–15.8 mm SL) from Luzon, Philippines share a suite of features that comprises an absence of cephalic sensory-canal pores, a rectangular first dorsal fin without a filamentous extension of the first spine, and the anterior and posterior scales separated by a scaleless gap, with 15–22 longitudinal scales in the posterior series. The two species differ from each other in dorsal- and anal fin-ray counts (8–9 for G. compta n. sp. vs. 9–11, usually 10, for G. rubrilineata n. sp.), scalation patterns, and coloration. A third new species, Grallenia dimorpha n. sp. (34 specimens, 9.8–16.7 mm SL) from Papua New Guinea is similar, except it has a continuous series of longitudinal scales without a gap, and females possess a triangular first dorsal fin featuring a filamentous extension of the first spine. The last two species, Grallenia lauensis n. sp. (two females, 11.1–11.4 mm SL) and Grallenia solomonensis n. sp. (three females, 11.4–12.5 mm SL), are described from Fiji and the Solomon Islands, respectively. They exhibit similar diagnostic features including the presence of cephalic sensory-canal pores, usually 7 segmented dorsal- and anal-fin rays, and most body scales restricted to the caudal peduncle. Grallenia solomonensis n. sp. differs from G. lauensis n. sp. in having several mid-lateral scales immediately behind the pectoral-fin base (vs. none), 16 (vs. 15) pectoral-fin rays, pelvic-fin rays with 2–3 branch points (vs. a single point), and a truncate (vs. slightly emarginate) caudal fin. An additional 33 non-type specimens, 7.0–15.6 mm SL, from Australia (southern Great Barrier Reef and northwestern Coral Sea) are provisionally identified as G. lauensis n. sp. However, at least some Australian specimens differ slightly in possessing branched segmented dorsal-fin rays and pelvic-fin rays with more than one branch point. Although fins are damaged in most specimens, two Australian males exhibit a long, filamentous first dorsal-fin spine.

Key words: taxonomy, systematics, ichthyology, coral-reef fishes, Indo-Pacific Ocean, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Australia, sand habitat

Grallenia compta, n. sp.
 Ornamented Goby

Etymology. The species is named compta (Latin: ornamented), with reference to the orange markings on the head, body, and fins. It is treated as a feminine singular adjective.

Distribution and habitat. The new species is currently known only from Sideia Island in Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea (Fig. 6), but is no doubt more widespread in this large marine province. The habitat consists of large (5–10 m2 ), flat, sandy areas surrounded by live coral, in depths of about 14–15 m.

Figure 5: Adult males of species of Grallenia: A) G. compta; B) G. dimorpha; C) G. rubrilineata (G.R. Allen & M.V. Erdmann).

Figure 10. Grallenia dimorpha, male (upper) and female (lower), approx. 15 mm SL, underwater photographs in 16 m, White Island, West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea (G.R. Allen). 

Grallenia dimorpha, n. sp.
 Dimorphic Goby

Etymology. The species is named dimorpha (Latin: two shapes) with reference to the sexual dimorphism in relation to dorsal-fin shape. It is treated as a feminine singular adjective. 

Distribution and habitat. The new species is currently known only from Papua New Guinea (Fig. 6). The type series was collected off the southern coast of New Britain Island and the non-type specimens from the vicinity of Madang and near Port Moresby. The habitat consists of sandy substrate in about 8–18 m.

Figure 14. Grallenia lauensis, female, approx. 11 mm SL, underwater photographs in 30–35 m, Lau Archipelago, Fiji (M.V. Erdmann). 

Grallenia lauensis, n. sp. 
Lau Goby

Etymology. The species is named lauensis with reference to the Lau Archipelago type locality. 

Distribution and habitat. The new species is currently known from the southern Lau Archipelago of southeastern Fiji and 33 non-type specimens from the Great Barrier Reef and northwestern Coral Sea. The Lau habitat consists of extensive gradual slopes of clean white sand in 30–35m depth. Both Lau sites were located in channel passes from the outer reef to extensive inner lagoons, and were hence subject to frequent strong currents and high rates of water exchange.

Figure 18. Grallenia rubrilineata, male (right), female (center), and juvenile (left) approx. 8–15 mm SL, underwater photograph in 15 m, Ligpo Island near Anilao, Batangas Province, Philippines (G.R. Allen).

Grallenia rubrilineata, n. sp. 
Redstripe Goby

Etymology. The species is named rubrilineata (Latin: “red-lined” or “red-striped”), with reference to the characteristic marking on the dorsal fin of adult males. It is treated as a feminine compound adjective.

 Distribution and habitat. The new species is currently known from the Philippines, including the type locality near Anilao in Batangas Province, Luzon, and on the basis of a photograph from Dauin, Negros in the Central Visayas Group. A female specimen examined at WAM (P.30410-015), 18 mm SL, from Bohaydulong Island, Sabah State, Malaysia is probably G. rubrilineata, judging from fin-ray counts, scale pattern, and lack of head pores; however, additional specimens, including males, would be required to verify this identification. The habitat at Anilao consists of extensive areas of sand/silt substrate in about 12–15 m. The new species was very abundant in some areas, including the type locality, with an estimated abundance of 10–15 individuals per square meter. It was typically seen in small groups.

Grallenia solomonensis, n. sp. 
Solomons Goby

Etymology. The species is named solomonensis with reference to the Solomon Islands type locality.

Gerald R. Allen and Mark V. Erdmann. 2017. Description of Five New Species of Marine Gobies (Teleostei: Gobiidae) of the Genus Grallenia from the tropical western Pacific Ocean. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation. 27; 20–47.

[Botany • 2017] Begonia nosymangabensis & B. pteridoides • Two New Species of Begonia sect. Erminea (Begoniaceae) from Nosy Mangabe in Madagascar

Begonia pteridoides & Begonia nosymangabensis


Begonia nosymangabensis Scherber. & Duruiss. and Begonia pteridoides Scherber. & Duruiss. are described and illustrated. Both new species belong to Begonia sect. Erminea A. DC. Begonia nosymangabensis is compared to Begonia keraudreniae Bosser, from which it differs in having larger and more deeply incised leaves which lack adaxial hairs. Begonia pteridoides is related to Begonia bogneri Ziesenh. but differs by its very divided leaves. Both new species are micro-endemics, restricted to Nosy Mangabe island in northeast Madagascar and are assessed as “Vulnerable” according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.

Keywords: BEGONIACEAEBegonia, Madagascar, Masoala, Nosy Mangabe, Taxonomy

 Begonia nosymangabensis Scherber. & Duruiss.  

  Begonia pteridoides Scherber. & Duruiss.

David Scherberich and Jacky Duruisseau. 2017. Two New Species of Begonia sect. Erminea (Begoniaceae) from Nosy Mangabe in Madagascar.
 Candollea. 72(2); 257–263. DOI:  10.15553/c2017v722a3

Résumé: Begonia nosymangabensis Scherber. & Duruiss. et Begonia pteridoides Scherber. & Duruiss. sont décrits et illustrés. Les deux nouvelles espèces appartiennent au genre Begonia sect. Erminea A. DC. Begonia nosymangabensis se rapproche de Begonia keraudreniae Bosser, dont il diffère par ses feuilles plus grandes et plus profondément incisées et l'absence de poils à la face adaxiale. Begonia pteridoides est apparenté à Begonia bogneri Ziesenh., mais en diffère par ses feuilles très divisées. Les deux nouvelles espèces sont des micro-endémiques, restreintes à l'île de Nosy Mangabe au nord-est de Madagascar et sont considérées comme «Vulnérables» selon les Catégories et Critères de la Liste Rouge de l'UICN.

Scherberich, D. & J. Duruisseau. 2017. Deux nouveaux Begonia sect. Erminea (Begoniaceae) de Nosy Mangabe à Madagascar. Candollea. 72; 257–263. 

[Ecology • 2017] A Possible Mutualistic Interaction Between Vertebrates: Frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus) Use Water Buffaloes (Bubalus bubalis) As A Foraging Place

foraging frogs (Pelophylax ridibundusand flies on buffalo (Bubalus bubalisfur.

 Zduniak, Erciyas-Yavuz & Tryjanowski, 2017.


Mutualisms shape biodiversity by influencing the ecology and the evolution of populations and communities. For example, among many others, birds commonly forage in association with large mammals, including livestock, but so far no similar relationship has been described for amphibians. In this note we describe the association between the Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus) and the Anatolian Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) in Turkey and provide possible explanations for the existence of direct relations between these representatives of two vertebrate classes. We hope that our note stimulates future research on this subject.

Keywords: Bubalus bubalis, interaction, Pelophylax ridibundus.

Fig. 1. Photographs of the interaction between frogs and buffaloes; sitting buffaloes with many frogs on the fur. 

Fig. 1. Photographs of the interaction between frogs and buffaloes; foraging frogs and flies on buffalo fur.  

Piotr Zduniak, Kiraz Erciyas-Yavuz and Piotr Tryjanowski. 2017. A Possible Mutualistic Interaction Between Vertebrates: Frogs Use Water Buffaloes As A Foraging Place.
 Acta Herpetologica. 12(1); 113-116. DOI: 10.13128/Acta_Herpetol-20574

Frogs Hitch Ride on Water Buffalo—Never Before Seen  @NatGeo

[Herpetology • 2017] Records of the Indian Sand Snake Psammophis condanarus (Merrem, 1820) (Reptilia: Lamprophiidae) in southern India

Psammophis condanarus (Merrem, 1820)

 We present new records of the Indian Sand Snake Psammophis condanarus from southern India, where its existence has remained doubtful till date. Our records are based on both live and preserved voucher specimens that are illustrated and described here. We furnish distribution records of this species from two sites belonging to two different ecoregions in southern India—Tirupati in the Eastern Ghats and Hospete in the Deccan plateau. Our work highlights the obscurity of certain, large-growing, diurnal land snakes that have as yet managed to evade the attention of field biologists largely due to a lack of field surveys in certain ecoregions.

Keywords: Distribution, literature records, snake, southern India.

Psammophis condanarus (Merrem, 1820)
Coluber condanarus Merrem, 1820
Leptophis bellii Jerdon, 1854
Psammophis taeniata Günther, 1862
Psammophis indicus Beddome, 1863
Phayrea isabellina Theobald, 1868 (inc. sed. fide Wall 1921)
Psammophis sibilans quadrilineata Jan, 1870 in Jan & Sordelli, 1866–1870
Mike elegantissima Werner, 1924
Psammophis condanarus condanarus - Smith 1943
Taphrometopon condanarum - Wallach et al. 2014

Image 2. Psammophis condanarus illustrated in life colouration:
(a) from Tirupathi, Chittoor District, Andhra Pradesh, Eastern Ghats © Bubesh Guptha, (b) from Hospete, Bellary District, Karnataka, Deccan plateau © Vivek Sharma, (c) from Nasik, Maharashtra © Vivek Sharma
Image 3. Coluber condanarus. Reproduction of the lectotype’s drawing in plate 27 of Russell (1796)

S.R. Ganesh, Vivek Sharma and M. Bubesh Guptha. 2017. Records of the Indian Sand Snake Psammophis condanarus (Merrem, 1820) (Reptilia: Lamprophiidae) in southern India. Journal of Threatened Taxa. 9(7); 10453-10458.  DOI: 10.11609/jott.3468.9.7.10453-10458


[PaleoMammalogy • 2017] Xibalbaonyx oviceps • A New Megalonychid Ground Sloth (Folivora, Xenarthra) from the Late Pleistocene of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, and Its Paleobiogeographic Significance

Xibalbaonyx oviceps 
Stinnesbeck, Frey, Olguín, Stinnesbeck, Zell, Mallison, González, Núñez, Morlet, Mata, Sanvicente, Hering & Sandoval, 2017.

 DOI: 10.1007/s12542-017-0349-5 

Here we describe a new genus and species of giant ground sloth, Xibalbaonyx oviceps (Megalonychidae, Xenarthra), from the drowned cave system of the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula. The specimen is Late Pleistocene in age and was discovered in the Zapote sinkhole (cenote) near Puerto Morelos in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Xibalbaonyx oviceps differs significantly from all hitherto known Megalonychidae including those from the Greater Antilles and South America. The new taxon suggests a local Caribbean radiation of ground sloths during the Late Pleistocene, which is consistent with the dispersal of the group along a Mexican corridor.

Keywords: Ground sloths, Pleistocene, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico 

Systematic palaeontology
Superorder Xenarthra Cope, 1889
Order Pilosa Flower, 1883

Superfamily Megatherioidea Gray, 1821
Family Megalonychidae Gervais, 1855

Diagnosis of the family. Xibalbaonyx oviceps is identified as a member of Megalonychidae based on the following features: dorsal contour of skull evenly convex in lateral view. The glenoid fossa is mediolaterally widened, its posterior surface smooth and the fossa is well separated from the porus acusticus. The lateral plate of the entotympanic is thin with a medial expansion and weak participation in the floor of the tympanic cavity. The paroccipital process is well developed (Patterson et al. 1992; Gaudin 1995, 2004; McDonald et al. 2013b).

Fig. 4: Xibalbaonyx oviceps (Za2014-01) skull in lateral view (left side). 

Fig. 3: Xibalbaonyx oviceps in situ within the Zapote cenote; Skull and mandible (Za2014-01, -05)

Xibalbaonyx oviceps gen. et sp. nov.

Etymology. For the genus: Xibalbá = Maya for “underground” or “place of fear,” dedicated to the cave divers who dive into the “underworld,” the cenotes, and collect the fossils under risky conditions, but also in honor of the Yucatán Peninsula, which is also called the Maya region; “őνυξ” (onyx) = Greek for “claw” or “finger nail;” for the species: oviceps from ovum = Latin for “egg” and caput = “head,” “egghead,” referring to the regularly domed skull roof of the specimen.

Stratigraphic and geographic distribution. The Cenote Zapote 16 Q 0486971 UTM 2305968, Ruta de los Cenotes Puerto Morelos Quintana Roo, Mexico. Late Pleistocene and/or Early Holocene (9.305 ± 35 14C bp, 10.647–10.305 cal bp).


The well-preserved skull and mandible of a ground sloth discovered in the Zapote cenote Cave near Puerto Morelos on the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico is here described as a new genus and species of Megalonychidae. The individual, here named Xibalbaonyx oviceps, has a dental formula of 5/4 including a greatly enlarged caniniform tooth of triangular cross-section. This caniniform is separated by a long diastema from the molariform tooth rows in both the lower and upper jaw. The molariform teeth show oval, rounded rectangular to reniform (McDonald et al. 2013b) occlusal shapes with transverse crests. All teeth except for the upper caniniforms, show striations and apicobasal sulci that may be expressed as shallow grooves or deep sulci. The ascending process of the jugal is longer than the descending and middle process of the jugal. The pterygoids are inflated. The glenoid fossa is transversally widened. The skull is elongated and narrow, with a nasional impression on the nasals. The temporal lines are widely separated and do not form a sagittal crest. The skull is narrow and gracile compared that of other Megalonychidae of similar size, such as Megalonyx or Ahytherium. The Zapote ground sloth was a subadult individual, based on the degree of suture fusion in the skull, faint temporal lines and the condition of the occlusion faces of the molariforms. To present knowledge Xibalbaonyx appears to have been endemic on the Yucatán Peninsula, suggesting a local microevolution on this karst desert during the Late Pleistocene.

Sarah R. Stinnesbeck, Eberhard Frey, Jerónimo Avíles Olguín, Wolfgang Stinnesbeck, Patrick Zell, Heinrich Mallison, Arturo González González, Eugenio Aceves Núñez, Adriana Velázquez Morlet, Alejandro Terrazas Mata, Martha Benavente Sanvicente, Fabio Hering and Carmen Rojas Sandoval. 2017. Xibalbaonyx oviceps, A New Megalonychid Ground Sloth (Folivora, Xenarthra) from the Late Pleistocene of the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, and Its Paleobiogeographic Significance. PalZ [Paläontologische Zeitschrift]. 91(2); 245–271.   DOI: 10.1007/s12542-017-0349-5

Ancient species of giant sloth discovered in Mexico

Kurzfassung: Die Unterwasserhöhlen auf der nordöstlichen Halbinsel Yukatan zeigen eine artenreiche Ansammlung von Großsäugern aus dem späten Pleistozän und frühen Holozän. Hier beschreiben wir die neue Gattung und Art eines Riesenfaultiers, Xibalbaonyx oviceps (Megalonychidae, Xenarthra), aus der Zapote Doline (Cenote) in der Nähe von Puerto Morelos im mexikanischen Bundesstaat Quintana Roo. Das Exemplar unterscheidet sich signifikant von allen bisher dokumentierten Megalonychidae einschließlich derjenigen von den Großen Antillen und aus Südamerika. Das neue Taxon deutet auf eine lokale karibische Radiation von Bodenfaultieren währen des Spätpleistozäns hin, die mit der Ausbreitung der Gruppe entlang des mexikanischen Korridors übereinstimmt.

Schlüsselwörter: Bodenfaultiere Pleistozän Yukatan Halbinsel Mexiko 

[Ichthyology • 2017] Taxonomic Revision of the Seasonal Killifish Genus Nothobranchius (Cyprinodontoidei: Aplocheilidae) from Zanzibar, East Africa

Nothobranchius guentheri and Nothobranchius melanospilus, the two seasonal killifishes of the genus Nothobranchius occurring in Zanzibar Island, Tanzania, were involved in past taxonomical mistakes and are still misidentified in museum collections. A historical review is herein presented and both species are redescribed on the basis of type material and recent collections. Nothobranchius guentheri, a popular aquarium fish, is endemic to Zanzibar, and N. melanospilus, geographically widespread in East Africa, occurring both in Zanzibar and in continental river basins. These species are distinguished by a series of morphological features not previously reported in the literature, including pre-dorsal length and relative position of the anterior portion of the dorsal-fin skeletal support and vertebrae; number of gill-rakers of the first branchial arch, caudal-fin rays, scales of the longitudinal series, series of scales around caudal peduncle, and vertebrae; frontal squamation; and arrangement and number of neuromasts of the supraorbital series. The present taxonomic revision comprising N. guentheri and N. melanospilus, the oldest species names of the genus in the East African biodiversity hotspot, is important to improve the knowledge of the genus in a region where its taxonomy is still problematic

KEYWORDS: Biodiversity hotspot, East African coastal forests, systematics, Unguja Island

Figure 2. Nothobranchius guentheri (Pfeffer 1893), live exemplars: (a) UFRJ 8420, male, 33.1 mm SL; (b) UFRJ 8420, female, 29.3 mm SL.
Figure 6. Nothobranchius melanospilus (Pfeffer 1896), live exemplars: (a) UFRJ 6515, male, 32.6 mm SL; (b) UFRJ 6515, female, 31.1 mm SL.

Wilson J. E. M. Costa. 2017. Taxonomic Revision of the Seasonal Killifish Genus Nothobranchius from Zanzibar, East Africa (Cyprinodontoidei: Aplocheilidae). Journal of Natural History. 51(27-28); 1069-1624.  DOI: 10.1080/00222933.2017.1330976

[PaleoMammalogy • 2017] Anatoliadelphys maasae • Skeleton of An Unusual, Cat-sized Marsupial Relative (Metatheria: Marsupialiformes) from the middle Eocene (Lutetian) of Turkey

Anatoliadelphys maasae  Maga & Beck, 2017


We describe a near-complete, three-dimensionally preserved skeleton of a metatherian (relative of modern marsupials) from the middle Eocene (Lutetian: 44–43 million years ago) Lülük member of the Uzunçarşıdere Formation, central Turkey. With an estimated body mass of 3–4 kg, about the size of a domestic cat (Felis catus) or spotted quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), it is an order of magnitude larger than the largest fossil metatherians previously known from the Cenozoic of the northern hemisphere. This new taxon is characterised by large, broad third premolars that probably represent adaptations for hard object feeding (durophagy), and its craniodental morphology suggests the capacity to generate high bite forces. Qualitative and quantitative functional analyses of its postcranial skeleton indicate that it was probably scansorial and relatively agile, perhaps broadly similar in locomotor mode to the spotted quoll, but with a greater capacity for climbing and grasping. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of a total evidence dataset comprising 259 morphological characters and 9kb of DNA sequence data from five nuclear protein-coding genes, using both undated and “tip-and-node dating” approaches, place the new taxon outside the marsupial crown-clade, but within the clade Marsupialiformes. It demonstrates that at least one metatherian lineage evolved to occupy the small-medium, meso- or hypo-carnivore niche in the northern hemisphere during the early Cenozoic, at a time when there were numerous eutherians (placentals and their fossil relatives) filling similar niches. However, the known mammal fauna from Uzunçarşıdere Formation appears highly endemic, and geological evidence suggests that this region of Turkey was an island for at least part of the early Cenozoic, and so the new taxon may have evolved in isolation from potential eutherian competitors. Nevertheless, the new taxon reveals previously unsuspected ecomorphological disparity among northern hemisphere metatherians during the first half of the Cenozoic.

Systematic palaeontology

Mammalia; Theria
Metatheria; Marsupialiformes

Anatoliadelphys gen. nov.  
Anatoliadelphys maasae sp. nov.  

Etymology: Anatolia (Greek): the geographic name for the Asian part of Turkey; delphys (Greek): uterus, a common suffix for marsupials and their fossil relatives; maasae: in honour of Dr. Mary Maas and her contributions to Paleogene mammalian palaeontology, particularly in Turkey.

Holotype: Ankara Üniversitesi Jeoloji Müzesi (AÜJM) specimen 2002–25, which comprises a fragmented partial cranium, both dentaries, and associated postcranial elements, including most of the vertebral column, partial pectoral and pelvic girdles, all of the long limb bones, both calcanei, two metapodials, and a few phalanges.

Locality and age: AÜJM 2002–25 was collected from the Lülük member of the Uzunçarşıdere Formation (UCF), which is part of the small Orhaniye-Güvenç sedimentary basin located at the northwestern edge of the city of Ankara, approximately 5 km southwest of the town of Kazan, in central Turkey. The Lülük member is the lowest of the three members currently recognised within the UCF (together with the Gökdere [middle], and Sarıbeyler [upper] members), and is the source of all fossil mammals known from the UCF to date. AÜJM 2002–25 is from locality AK33, which is approximately 90m above the base of the UCF, at Memlik village. Until recently, the age of the UCF was poorly constrained, but a combination of U-Pb dating of zircons and magnetostratigraphy now support a date of 44–42 MYA (= Lutetian) for the formation as a whole, and 44–43 MYA for the Lülük member.

Diagnosis: Anatoliadelphys maasae differs from all other metatherians in the following combination of features: comparatively large size (estimated body mass 3–4 kg); premolars increase markedly in size posteriorly (occlusal area of p1 less than one sixth that of p3); P3 and p3 very large (similar in occlusal area to M2 and m2 respectively) and also broad (labiolingual width:mesiodistal length ratio is 0.89 for P3 and 0.7 for p3); modified tribosphenic molar dentition, in which M1-3 and m1-4 increase markedly in size posteriorly (occlusal area of M1 approximately one third that of M3; occlusal area of m1 approximately one seventh that of m4); upper molars with cingula extending along the anterior and posterior margins; protocone large but conules indistinct or absent; metacone taller than the paracone on M3 but smaller than the paracone on M4; centrocrista v-shaped on M3, with the premetacrista extending labially to stylar cusp D; centrocrista straight on M4; parastylar lobe very large on M4; anterior cingulid weakly developed on m3-4; m4 trigonid dominated by enormous protoconid, with paraconid and metaconid both greatly reduced; preentocristid and cristid obliqua of m3-4 both with carnassial notch; posterior cingulid present but very faint on m3-4; strongly curved radius and tibia; femur with prominent third trochanter, well-marked trochlea and distal condyles of approximately equal width; calcaneus with medially-inflected tuber, large peroneal process with prominent groove for peroneus longus tendon, concave calcaneocuboid facet, and prominent pit (probably for plantar calcaneocuboid ligament) on ventral surface.


Fig 1. Holotype skeleton of Anatoliadelphys maasae (AÜJM 2002–25). Scale bar = 5 cm. 

Reconstruction of the Anatoliadelphys maasae.
Illustration: Peter Schouten 

A. Murat Maga and Robin M. D. Beck. 2017. Skeleton of An Unusual, Cat-sized Marsupial Relative (Metatheria: Marsupialiformes) from the middle Eocene (Lutetian: 44-43 million years ago) of Turkey.  PLoS ONE. 12(8); e0181712.  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181712

Cenozoic carnivore from Turkey may have evolved without placental competitors via @physorg_com
Ancient Carnivorous Dread-Possum Is Upending The History Of Mammals | Gizmodo Australia (via @GizmodoAU)