Thirteen new ant species discovery in Hong Kong

This September 2018 video says about itself:

Lives of Asian Weaver Ants ||Ants in Hong Kong||

Today is a look into the lives of Oecophylla smaragdina! These are some insane ants! Be sure to watch till the end!

From The University of Hong Kong:

“If you believe that all life surrounding you in Hong Kong has been discovered, then you’ll realise that you just need to look a bit closer… not for big things, but for ants and other insects walking at your feet, to find a plethora of new creatures,” said Dr Benoit Guénard from the School of Biological Sciences of the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

In two separate articles recently published in Zookeys and Asian Myrmecology, Dr Guénard and his team expanded the knowledge on Hong Kong ants by adding 13 species to the 174 species officially recorded.

Among those are three new species of the genus “Strumigenys“, also known as miniature trap-jaw ants, new to science and thus far known only from Hong Kong. As their name indicates, these species are tiny, measuring only 2 to 4mm long but are astounding predators of the small arthropods living in the forest leaf-litter. They can open their mandibles widely and snap their prey with the fast-closing movement of their mandibles.

The new species described by a recent HKU graduate student Wilfred Kit Lam Tang, and the researchers Mr. Mac Pierce and Dr Benoit Guénard, are named Strumigenys hirsuta, in reference to its hairy appearance; Strumigenys lantaui, as this extremely rare species is known only from a single locality on Lantau Island; and Strumigenys nathistorisoc, in honour of the Hong Kong Natural History Society which funded this research through the Name an Ant Program which invites donors to support scientific research on biodiversity in exchange for having a species named after them.

Ken Bradley, Chairman of the Hong Kong Natural History Society said that the Society readily supports Dr. Guénard’s research which is line with the Society’s objective of “encouraging the study of Natural History in general and in particular in Hong Kong.” “There are still many species in Hong Kong to be discovered and the support and involvement from the community in this endeavour is absolutely fundamental,” said Dr. Guénard.

Another five species of Strumigenys are newly recorded from Hong Kong but had already been described from other Asian regions. One of them, Strumigenys formosa, was known only from Taiwan where only two queens had been collected since its discovery in 1988. For the first time, the worker caste is thus described from a single specimen collected in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve; enhancing our knowledge on this species’ distribution and its importance for conservation. Other species recorded were previously known from South East Asia, Japan, Taiwan or other provinces of China. Finding these new, and for some of them rare species, is a good thing for Hong Kong and its biodiversity, but other discoveries are more worrisome.

Indeed, five of the species newly recorded are non-native to Hong Kong, four belonging to the Strumigenys genus, and one, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, here recorded for the first time from mainland Asia. This latter is an urban pest well-known for its ability to enter and establish nests within a wide range of buildings, like hospitals, hotels, schools, and houses, and colonise various rooms such as kitchens, offices, and laundry rooms, but also more sensitive areas such as infirmary and neonatal units. In some American states, where it is also introduced, it has become the species causing the most frequent intervention from pest control companies. If the population in Hong Kong, currently known only from Hung Hom, was to proliferate, it would most likely induce an increase in pest management costs; and more harmful for the environment and populations, a more frequent use of pesticides.

The discovery of five more exotic species in Hong Kong, like the fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) in the early 2000’s, highlights the regional importance of Hong Kong in importing species, some with important consequences for human populations and local biodiversity. It also indicates the need to deploy efficient survey and monitoring programmes to quickly detect these species after their arrival so targeted actions to suppress them or limit their spread through Hong Kong and beyond can be activated.

Monitoring Hong Kong insects can thus reveal both beautiful and alarming discoveries. With probably several hundreds, if not thousands of species waiting to be found, it shows the fantastic diversity that the city still has to offer if protected sufficiently. In parallel, it also represents an important step for uncovering more alarming species, in particular exotic ones for which early detection represents a key requirement to ensure success in the limitation of their spread and negative impacts.

Placozoan primitive animals, new species discovery

This 13 June 2018 video says about itself:

Placozoa | Animal Fact Files

On this episode of Animal Fact Files discover the most simple animal.

From the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in Germany:

Animal taxonomy: Outwardly identical, yet distinct

July 31, 2018

Summary: All placozoans are superficially identical. But comparative genomic data reveals the presence of different genera. This is the first time that a new animal genus has been defined solely by genomics.

Up until quite recently, the animal phylum Placozoa enjoyed a unique position in animal systematics. It was the only phylum to which only a single species had ever been assigned: Trichoplax adhaerens. Now, however, at team led by Professor Gert Wörheide of LMU’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and GeoBio-Center has discovered that placozoan specimens collected from coastal waters off Hong Kong clearly differ from T. adhaerens in their genetic make-up. Indeed, the differences between the two are so striking that the Hong Kong population not only represents a new species but also has been assigned to a new genus — even though the two genera are morphologically indistinguishable. The definition of a new species and genus solely on the basis of comparative genomic data constitutes a new departure in the systematic classification of animals. The findings appear in PLOS Biology.

Placozoa are among the simplest known multicellular animals, lacking both muscles and nerve cells. They are only a few millimeters long and their cells are organized into two flat layers. They have been found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. But, regardless of locality of origin, all placozoans have the same gross morphology and same basic cellular architecture. Since conventional approaches to the definition and differentiation of animal species rely on differences in overall body plans and detailed morphology, all placozoan specimens so far collected have been attributed to the species T. adhaerens, which was first described in 1883. “However, genetic data based on short DNA signature sequences that serve to distinguish species from one another had already suggested that placozoans exhibit a great deal of genetic diversity. And that in turn indicates that the phylum actually includes many different species,” says Wörheide.

For this reason, he and his colleagues decided to sequence the genome of a placozoan line derived from specimens collected in Hong Kong. Their signature sequences indicated that this line was distantly related to T. adhaerens, whose genome was published in 2008. “Based on comparative genomic analysis, we then developed a novel method for the description of a new species based exclusively on genomic data”, says Michael Eitel, first author of the new study. The researchers refer to this approach as ‘taxogenomics’, which takes into account factors such as structural differences between chromosomes, differences in the total number of genes, and sequence differences between selected protein-coding genes.

The genetic and genomic data for the placozoans from Hong Kong revealed such large differences between them and T. adhaerens that they were ultimately assigned not only to a new species, but to a new genus, which represents a higher rank in the hierarchy of biological taxonomy. “This is a completely new departure. It is the first time that a new genus has been erected purely on the basis of genomic data”, Wörheide explains. The new species bears the name Hoilungia hongkongensis. This translates as ‘Hong Kong Sea Dragon’ — which refers to the fact that, just like the Dragon King in Chinese mythology, placozoans can readily alter their shapes.

The authors of the new study believe that the placozoans may have undergone a very peculiar mode of evolution, in which speciation has occurred exclusively at the genetic level without notable morphological diversification. “We have some indications that point to the operation of negative selection, so it is possible that the development of morphological novelties may be repressed. But we are still very much at the beginning of the search for an explanation of this unique evolutionary trajectory”, says Eitel.

The authors also suggest that the taxogenomic approach could also be used for detailed studies of the process of speciation in other animal phyla. This holds in particular for animal groups that consist of minuscule individuals, such as nematodes and mites, in which it is often difficult to discriminate between species by optical inspection alone.

Bird Eco-Art in Hong Kong

This video says about itself:

Birds of Victoria Park, Hong Kong, Winter 2012-3

The stills were shot primarily on a Canon PowerShot SX50 and supplemented by Canon 7D. The park although located next to the bustling shopping centre of Causeway Bay is the winter home for a wide variety of birds. © Bob Thompson

From BirdLife:

27 Oct 2017

Bird Eco-Art in Hong Kong: inspiring a new audience

For thousands of years, nature has inspired artists across the world to create works of breathtaking beauty. And by encouraging people to observe and appreciate nature, we can inspire them to help conserve it. That’s why the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society has introduced an innovative programme which combines conservation and creativity to bring our message to a wider public than ever before.

By Christina YM Chan, Hong Kong Birdwatching Society

Art and nature have always gone hand in hand. In recent decades, movements like Land Art, Earth Art and Environmental Art have swept across Europe, the USA, Japan and Taiwan. These artists use creativity to demonstrate their love of nature and to raise awareness, with some even deploying natural materials and creating their works in the wild.

Since the 1990s, artists have gone one step further and joined forces with conservationists, combining their knowledge to create a new genre, Eco-Art. Eco-Art spans the media, using visual art, installation, music, dance and drama to deliver messages across the whole community, reaching audiences who might not have been interested in hard science.

Over the past 60 years, we at the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society (BirdLife in China (Hong Kong)) have been working hard to realise our vision: People and Birds Together, Nature Forever. Last year, we launched Hong Kong Birds Eco-Art after observing how many artists of all genres had been inspired by the vivid colour and beauty of birds.

We believe that art isn’t just for artists, but for everyone, as everyone has the unique ability to be creative. So we invited members of the public of all backgrounds to join in this innovative education programme, combining birdwatching with art creation. We hoped that the experience of creating art in nature would not only enthuse participants about the birds that inspired them, but also stimulate support for the habitat that they live in.

Our first programme, supported by Hong Kong Railway Company Limited, provided a series of workshops exploring the following skills:

Light Stencils

Many birds overwinter in Hong Kong, or pass by the city on their yearly migration. Factors like climate change and habitat loss mean that some are now rarely seen or have even disappeared. Such species include the Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, Spoon-billed SandpipeEurynorhynchus pygmeus, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna and Black Stork Ciconia nigra.

By cutting out silhouettes and using a flashlight with long exposure photography, workshop participants allowed the soul and spirit of these lost birds to return to Hong Kong in the form of light.

Floating Platforms

A large number of fishponds in northern Hong Kong fall within a Ramsar site. Due to its ample supply of food, this is an important refueling stop for migratory birds. We selected a fishpond in San Tin as the project site.

The floating platforms were intended as a place for visiting birds to forage, or simply to rest during their long migration. Participants practiced associative thinking in a range of exercises, including writing letters to the birds. They then interpreted their feelings and wishes for the birds into floating platform designs, drawing inspiration from surrounding habitat.

Birds in motion

When we mention bird photography, most people’s thought jump straight to nature documentaries. But bird photographers are also experts at capturing form, colour and the distinctive behavior and unique personalities of the different bird species. In fact, it’s easy to compare bird species to different humans: some act like busy blue-collar workers, some like retired old men, and some are vain and beautiful, captivated by their own reflection!

Participants used continuous shooting and time-lapse photography to capture the quirks and foibles of each bird species. The photographs were then made into flipbooks with a title that encapsulated the character of that particular bird.