Top Ten wildlife species discoveries of 2015


This video from the USA says about itself:

ESF Top 10 Species of 2015

21 May 2015

ESF’s International Institute of Species Exploration has announced the top 10 newly discovered species from 2014! ESF President and IISE Director Quentin Wheeler tells us about the remarkable, beautiful and bizarre species that made this year’s list.

Learn more about the Top 10 Species of 2015 here.

From Wildlife Extra:

Top 10 new species for 2015 announced

A list of the top 10 new species for 2015, compiled annually by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), has been announced to coincide with the anniversary of the birth on May 23 of Carolus Linnaeus, the 18th century Swedish botanist who is considered to be the father of modern taxonomy. An international committee of taxonomists from the ESF’s International Institute for Species Exploration (IISE) selected the Top 10 from among the approximately 18,000 new species named during 2014.

The annual list, established in 2008, calls attention to discoveries that are made even as species are going extinct faster than they are being identified. Scientists believe 10 million species await discovery, five times the number that are already known to science.

“The last vast unexplored frontier on Earth is the biosphere. We have only begun to explore the astonishing origin, history, and diversity of life,” says Dr. Quentin Wheeler, ESF president and founding director of the IISE. “An inventory of plants and animals begun in the 18th century continues apace with the discovery of about 18,000 additional species each year. The nearly two million species named to date represent a small fraction of an estimated 12 million.

“Among the remaining 10 million are irreplaceable clues to our own origins, a detailed blueprint of how the biosphere self-organised, and precious clues to better, more efficient, and more sustainable ways to meet human needs while conserving wild living things. It is time to mount a mission to planet Earth to distinguish, describe, name and classify its life-forms before it is too late. The Top 10 is a reminder of the wonders awaiting us.”

THE TOP 10 SPECIES OF 2015

Feathered Dinosaur: ‘Chicken from Hell’
Anzu wyliei
Location: U.S.A.

How it made the Top 10: With a mixture of bird and dinosaur features, Anzu wyliei is from a bird-like group of dinosaurs that lived in North America. A contemporary of the more famous T. rex and Triceratops, this species made nests and sat on the eggs until they hatched. Among their bird-like features were feathers, hollow bones and a short snout with a parrot-like beak. These omnivores appear to have lived on floodplains eating vegetation, small animals and possibly eggs. Three well-preserved partial skeletons were discovered in North and South Dakota, in the Hell Creek Formation. Because some caenagnathids were chicken-sized, this new dinosaur was dubbed “chicken from Hell.” However, at more than 10 feet in length (3.5m), 5 feet in height (1.5m) and 600 pounds (200-300kg), this was no chicken.

Coral Plant: Atypical Tubers
Balanophora coralliformis
Location: Philippines

How it made the Top 10: This parasitic plant, discovered and almost immediately considered endangered, has elongated, repeatedly branching, and rough-textured aboveground tubers. These peculiar tubers give this root parasite from the Philippines a coral-like appearance distinct from the more typical underground tubers of related species. Parasitic plants do not contain chlorophyll and are incapable of photosynthesis, so they draw their nutrition from other living plants. This species is, so far, known from fewer than 50 plants, all found between 4,800 and 5,600 feet (1,465 and 1,735 m) elevation on the southwestern slopes of Mt. Mingan in mossy forest areas. Because so few plants are known to exist, and the narrow area in which they live is unprotected, the scientists who described it consider the plant critically endangered.

Cartwheeling Spider: Spinning in the Sand
Cebrennus rechenbergi
Location: Morocco

How it made the Top 10: This agile arachnid from the desert uses a gymnast’s trick to escape from threatening situations: It cartwheels its way out of danger. When danger comes calling, the spider first assumes a threatening posture. If the danger persists, the spider runs and, about half the time that running turns into cartwheeling which is twice as fast. Terrain is not a challenge: the spider can spin across flat ground as well as up and down hills. Rather than attempting to cartwheel away, the spider propels itself toward the source of the threat, perhaps invoking the theory that the best defense is a good offense. In the barren sand dunes where the spider lives, running away can prove pointless because there is no place to hide. The high temperatures of its desert habitat would be fatal to the spider if it persisted in this high-energy routine for long, so cartwheeling is thought to be an escape option of last resort. Even before the spider had been officially named, its behavior inspired a biomimetic robot that can similarly walk or roll.

The X-Phyla: Mysterious Newcomers
Dendrogramma enigmatica
Location: Australia

How it made the Top 10: Dendrogramma enigmatica and a second new species, D. discoid[e]s, are multicellular animals that look rather like mushrooms, with a mouth at the end of the “stem” and the other end in the form of a flattened disc. The best information suggests that they are related to the phylum Cnidaria (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones and hydras) or Ctenophora (comb jellies) or both, but the new animals lack evolutionary novelties unique to either and could be an entirely new phylum. They also resemble fossils from Precambrian time, perhaps making them living fossils of sorts. The mystery surrounding this animal accounts for its name, and its relationships are likely to remain enigmatic until specimens can be collected suitable for DNA analysis. The new animal is small, with a stalk less than a third of an inch (8 mm) in length and a “cap” that measures less than a half-inch (11mm) across. It was found on the sea floor, at a depth of about 3,200 feet (1,000 meters), off Point Hicks, Victoria.

Bone-house Wasp: Morbid Motherhood
Deuteragenia ossarium
Location: China

How it made the Top 10: This insect, which tops out at about a half-inch (15mm) in length, has a unique way to protect its offspring. The wasp constructs nests in hollow stems with several cells, each separated by soil walls. The wasp kills and deposits one spider in each cell to provide nourishment for her developing young. Once her egg is laid, she seals off the cell and hunts a spider for the next cell. Rather than provisioning the final or vestibule cell with a spider, she fills it with as many as 13 bodies of dead ants, thus creating a chemical barrier to the nest. This is the first animal known to take this approach to securing the front door to a nest. This species, found in Gutianshan National Nature Reserve in eastern China, has significantly lower parasitism rates than similar cavity-nesting wasps. Camouflage is supplied by a veil of volatile chemicals emitted by the dead ants, thwarting enemies that hunt wasp larvae by scent.

Indonesian Frog: A Tad Unusual
Limnonectes larvaepartus
Location: Indonesia

How it made the Top 10: There’s an exception to every rule and the newest species of fanged frog is such an exception. Unlike other frogs, Limnonectes larvaepartus from Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, gives birth to tadpoles that are deposited in pools of water. On one occasion, a female gave birth to a tadpole in the hand of a scientist at the moment she was captured. Fewer than a dozen of the world’s 6,455 frog species have internal fertilization and all except this new species lay fertilized eggs or give birth to tiny froglets. The species, about 1.5 inches long (40mm), is found in the island’s Northern Peninsula on the western edge of the Central Core. The region has not been fully explored for frogs, so the extent of this species’ range is not yet known. The frogs live in natural and disturbed forest habitats, often in areas occupied by one to five other species of the same genus. The frogs are found above flowing streams in leaf litter, grassy vegetation, or on rocky substrates.

Walking Stick: Not So Giant
Phryganistria tamdaoensis
Location: Vietnam

How it made the Top 10: While this new stick insect is not the world’s longest, it belongs to a family known as giant sticks. At 9 inches in length, Phryganistria tamdaeoensis is compelling evidence that, in spite of their size, more giant sticks remain to be discovered and our knowledge of these masters of camouflage is far from complete. This giant stick is common in the town of Tam Dao visited by many entomologists, yet it escaped notice until now. If you would like to see one of these big bugs up close, you are in luck. Living specimens are on display at the vivarium of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. The newcomer gets its name from the beautiful Tam Dao National Park in a mountainous area in the northwestern part of Vietnam. By the way, the record is held by Chan’s megastick, Phobaeticus chani, at more than 22 inches (567 mm), named in 2008 from Borneo.

Sea Slug: Beauty of the Deep
Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum
Location: Japan

How it made the Top 10: For this sea slug, the Top 10 competition was more than a beauty contest. It is a “missing link” between sea slugs that feed on hydroids and those specializing on corals. Gastropods do not get more photogenic than sea slugs whose graceful lines and vivid coloration make them beauties of the deep. This new species, which photographs in shades of blue, red and gold, also contributed to a better understanding of the origin of an unusual symbiosis in other species of the genus. Related sea slugs have multi-branched guts in which algae called zooanthellae live. These algae have a primary symbiotic relationship with the corals on which the sea slugs feed. Once sequestered in the gut, the photosynthetic algae produce nutrients of benefit to the host. The newly identified species is an inch long, more or less (17-28 mm), and resides in the Japanese islands.

Bromeliad: Feliz Navidad
Tillandsia religiosa
Location: Mexico

How it made the Top 10: During Christmas celebrations in Mexico, elaborate altar scenes or “nacimientos” depicting the birth of Christ are assembled by villagers. In Sierra de Tepoztlán, Tlayacapan, San José de los Laureles, and Tepoztlán, a beautiful bromeliad plant is frequently incorporated in the display. The plant turned out to be new to science. Tillandsia religiosa, with its rose-colored spikes and flat green leaves, can be found growing up to 5 feet tall (1.5m) in rocky habitat in northern regions of Morelos, Mexico. Stemless, solitary plants are found on cliffs and vertical walls in deciduous, coniferous, oak and cloud forests at altitudes between 6,000 and 7,000 feet (1,800 to 2,100 m) elevation, where they flower from December to March. The bromeliad is an example of a species long known to local inhabitants but only recently discovered by science.

Pufferfish: ‘Crop Circles’ under the Sea
Torquigener albomaculosus
Location: Japan

How it made the Top 10: Scientists recently solved a 20-year-old mystery under the sea and discovered a new fish. Intricate circles with geometric designs about six feet (2 meters) in diameter, found on the seafloor off the coast of Amami-Ōshima Island, were as weird and unexplained as crop circles. They turn out to be the work of a new species of pufferfish, Torquigener albomaculosus. Males construct these circles as spawning nests by swimming and wriggling in the seafloor sand. The nests, used only once, are made to attract females. The nests have double edges and radiating troughs in a spoke-like geometry. The design isn’t just for show. Scientists discovered the ridges and grooves of the circle serve to minimize ocean current at the center of the nest. This protects the eggs from the turbulent waters and possibly predators too. Yoji Okata, an underwater photographer, first observed the artistic behavior. Subsequently, a team of ichthyologists and a television crew carried out an expedition to record the phenomenon.

Galápagos volcano erupts, pink iguana threatened?


This 2012 video is called Sir David Attenborough Reveals The Pink Iguana on Galapagos 3D.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Galápagos Islands volcanic eruption could threaten pink iguana species

The Wolf volcano, located at the highest point of the islands that inspired Charles Darwin, has erupted for the first time in more than 30 years

Tuesday 26 May 2015 03.27 BST

A volcano perched atop one of Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands erupted in the early hours of Monday, the local authorities said, potentially threatening a unique species of pink iguanas.

The roughly 1.7km (1.1 mile) high Wolf volcano is located on Isabela Island, home to a rich variety of flora and fauna typical of the archipelago that helped inspire Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution following his 1835 visit.

“The Wolf volcano is not located near a populated area. There is not risk for the human population. This is the only population of pink iguanas in the world,” Galápagos national park said in a posting on Twitter.

The park posted pictures showing lava pouring down the sides of the Wolf volcano, the Galápagos’ highest point, while a dark plume estimated to be 10km (6.4 miles) high, billowed overhead.

Wolf had been inactive for 33 years, according to the park.

The lava is flowing down the volcano’s southern face while the iguanas, officially an endangered species, inhabit the opposite side, the Environment Ministry said, adding it expected the animals to escape harm.

The flow is likely to reach the sea, however, where it could harm marine life, the Geophysics Institute said separately. While populated areas of the island are safe from the eruption, the institute said some of the ash cloud could descend upon them.

In April, unusual seismic activity was also reported at the Sierra volcano on the same Isabela Island, the archipelago’s biggest, where yellow iguanas and giant turtles also live.

The eruption in Ecuador comes on the heels of eruptions in Chile, another South American country located on the so-called Pacific ring of fire.

Crustacean, new for the Netherlands, discovered


This Dutch video is about the marine biology expedition to the Klaverbank in the North Sea in May 2015.

Translated from the Dutch ichthyologists of Stichting ANEMOON:

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

During the Greenpeace campaign to protect the Klaverbank from 2 to 10 May 2015 scuba divers and a member of the volunteer organization the ANEMOON Foundation studied the biodiversity of this unique marine Natura 2000 site. In addition, they discovered a new sea creature for the Dutch fauna: Gnathia dentata, a 3 to 4 millimeters lobster-like crustacean. This discovery and observations of many other sea creatures, rare for the Netherlands, reaffirm the natural value of the Klaverbank. It is time that the Dutch government should establish protected status for this valuable and unique natural area in the Dutch North Sea.

Galapagos tortoises freed on island where they had become extinct


This video is called World’s BIGGEST TORTOISE! The Giant Galapagos Tortoise, 5 fascinating facts.

From daijyworld.com:

207 giant turtles to be released in the Galapagos

Quito (Ecuador), May 23 (IANS): Administrators at Ecuador’s Galapagos National Park said 207 giant turtles will be released next month on the island of Santa Fe, where the native tortoises died out more than 150 years ago.

The turtles to be set loose on June 5 by the park directors and the Galapagos Conservancy group belong to the species Chelonoidis hoodensis, Spanish news agency Efe reported from the South American nation.

Native to the Galapagos island of Espanola, the Chelonoidis [hoodensis] is morphologically and genetically similar to the original Santa Fe turtle.

The aim of the initiative is to establish “a breeding population that fulfills a function in the ecosystem”, park management said.

“Once the turtles are introduced, a key part of this project is to assess changes in the ecosystem resulting from the presence of these chelonians, and to evaluate the interaction between the turtles and the island’s land iguanas, particularly in the use of shared resources like food,” Danny Rueda, Galapagos ecosystems director, said.

The turtles to be released on Santa Fe range in age from four to 10 and have been raised in captivity.

Around 40 of the turtles will be equipped with a GPS device that will relay data on their movements and activities.

Pirates and whalers depleted the population of turtles in the archipalago, leaving only 15 individuals that allowed park management and the Charles Darwin Foundation to start a breeding programme.

The eradication in 1971 of the goats that had been introduced to the islands contributed greatly to the recovery of the ecosystem.

The Galapagos Islands, located about 1,000 km west of the coast of continental Ecuador, were declared a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978.

An overview of the Rallidae of Algeria with particular reference to the breeding ecology of the Purple Swamp-Hen (Porphyrio porphyrio)


Originally posted on North African Birds:

Samraoui, F., Nedjah, R., Alfarhan, A. H., & Samraoui, B. (in press). An overview of the Rallidae of Algeria with particular reference to the breeding ecology of the Purple Swamp-Hen Porphyrio porphyrio.Wetlands Ecology and Management
doi:10.1007/s11273-014-9404-0

Abstract:

Rallids are good biological models to monitor anthropogenic changes to wetlands. The distribution of the Rallidae was mapped up during a survey of all major wetlands across Algeria and nest site selection, phenology, and breeding parameters of the Purple Swamp-Hen Porphyrio porphyrio were monitored at two distinct sites under contrasting conditions. Data were collected at Boussedra, an unprotected freshwater marsh during the years 2005 and 2008, and at Lake Tonga, a protected freshwater marsh during 2009. The onset of egg-laying was found to occur earlier (mid-February) than was recorded previously (end-March). There was much variation in the egg laying patterns and in the clutch sizes which dropped significantly…

View original 51 more words

Great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, new study


This video from the USA says about itself:

Great Horned Owl Hooting Territorial Evening Call At Sunset

31 December 2012

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) calling for it’s mate on Dixon Branch of White Rock Creek in Dallas, Texas. This particular owl was hooting a territorial call for another owl that can be faintly heard some distance away beginning after the call around the 1:50 mark. The owls call to each other in a duet before finding each other for night hunting and nest building.

Found from the Arctic to the tropical rainforest, from the desert to suburban backyards, the Great Horned Owl is one of the most widespread and common owls in North America. Capable of killing prey larger than themselves, the Great Horned Owl is one of the larger winged predators in the United States.

Often heard but rarely seen the birds are very difficult to photograph since they are nocturnal. This video was shot using Canon Magic Lantern software which allows for extreme low light photography. It was also filmed at a considerable distance giving the owl plenty of space to act naturally. The bird was a couple hundred feet from the camera. It’s important to keep a code of ethics when around large predators such as this. They need a wide berth to not be stressed.

From Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science in the USA:

Landscape Differences around Nests of Great Horned Owls and Red-Tailed Hawks

William Langley

Butler Community College, El Dorado, Kansas

Nesting territories of great-horned owls (Bubo virginianus) and red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) frequently overlap, with the owls using nests of other raptors. Records of use over a 22-year period in one locality were used to distinguish nesting sites used exclusively by great horned owls, exclusively by red-tailed hawks, and those used by both.

To determine the occurrence of various landscape characteristics within the proximity of a nest structure, I measured the total area of various land use types, total perimeter length, and the size of patches across six different land use types i.e., agriculture, pasture, residential, tree, pond, and roadside within circular plots around nests used by breeding pairs.

The landscape features surrounding nests of great horned owls differed from those surrounding red-tailed hawk nests in total perimeter length and size of patch. These differences are consistent with the fact that great horned owls hunt from perches primarily at night using sensory modalities different than diurnal hunting red-tailed hawks.

New fly species discovery in the Netherlands


Schistosoma truncatum

Waarneming.nl in the Netherlands reports by e-mail that a fly species, new for the Netherlands, was discovered in the sand dunes of Meijendel nature reserve. Schistostoma truncatum was found on 20 April 2015 by Arie Benschop.