New GIANT Dinosaur – Puertasaurus reuili

Puertasaurus reuili is the newly named gigantic sauropod that was discovered in Argentina. National Geographic has the full story: Giant Dinosaur Discovered in Argentina. They also published five images related to the story.

Puertasaurus illustrated with other dinosaurs
Lead researcher, Fernando Novas, named the titanosaur after the fossil-hunters, Pablo Puerto and Santiago Reuil, who found and prepared the fossil.

His paper, Giant titanosaur (Dinosauria, Sauropoda) from the Late Cretaceous of Patagonia [pdf], was published in the Journal of the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences.Puertasaurus fossil

The Hairy Museum of Natural History has an excellent blog post discussing the massive size of P. reuili and comparing it to the mythical Amphicoelias fragillimus.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Superorder: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Sauropodomorpha
Infraorder: Sauropoda
Family: Titanosauridae
Genus: Puertasaurus

If you like sauropods you may be interested in two other recently described dinosaurs: the mini Europasaurus holgeri, and the long necked Erketu ellisoni

(Illustration and photo: Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences PR)

Name a Spider!

nameaspider.jpg

Go to www.nameaspider.com and immortalize yourself as a creepy crawly spider! Or give someone a truly unique gift.

The Queensland Museum has just launched a fundraising initiative to sell the naming rights to a limited number of yet to be scientifically described spiders from Australia. Bank of Queensland Managing Director, Mr David Liddy was first and named a new species of Ant spider, Habronestes boq, after the Bank of Queensland.

Money raised will help scientists to continue their extensive research into Australia’s remarkable biodiversity.

Tiny Mouse Lemurs – M. mittermieri, jollyae, simmonsi

In the current issue of the International Journal of Primatology [abstract], Dr. Edward E. Louis, Jr, of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo identifies three new species of mouse lemur. Mittermeier’s Mouse Lemur, Jolly’s Mouse Lemur and Simmons’s Mouse Lemur, are the three new species of discovered lemurs in the Eastern forest of Madagascar. Dr. Louis is head of the Genetics Department of the Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo

mittermeieri
(photo by: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic)

Microcebus mittermieri (above) is named in honor of Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier, President of Conservation International, who has strongly support primate conservation in Madagascar and around the world.

Microcebus jollyae is named in honor of Dr. Alison Jolly, Professor at Princeton University. She has been a researcher and conservationist in Madagascar since 1966, working at Berenty Private Reserve.

Microcebus simmonsi is named in honor of Dr. Lee G. Simmons, Director of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, who has been a long-term, active supporter of conservation programs in Madagascar and throughout the world.

mouse_lemur_illustration.jpgMouse lemurs are the smallest primates in the world. The discovery of these tiny critters join other recentlty announced lemur discoveries including Avahi cleesei, the John Cleese/Monty Python lemur.

For more check out the National Geographic article, Three New Lemurs Discovered, Add to Madagascar’s Diversity.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Cheirogaleidae
Genus: Microcebus

Enhydris gyii AKA the Color Changing Kapuas Mud Snake

A new venomous snake with the ability to spontaneously change color has been discovered in the forests of the Heart of Borneo.

The snake was discovered by a German researcher who described it with the collaboration of two American scientists in the paper, A New Species of Enhydris (Serpentes: Colubridae: Homalopsinae) from the Kapuas River System, West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
“I put the reddish-brown snake in a dark bucket. When I retrieved it a few minutes later, it was almost entirely white,” said Dr Mark Auliya, reptile expert at the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Germany, and a consultant for WWF - the environmental conservation organization.

Dr Auliya collected two specimens of the 2.5 ft long snake in the wetlands and swamped forests around the Kapuas river in the Betung Kerihun National Park, an area in Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo).

The scientists named this slithery critter Enhydris gyii in honor of the late Ko Ko Gyi, an herpetologist who worked hard on the taxonomy of Homalopsinae snakes. They also suggest using “Kapuas mud snake” as the common name.

The announcement of this discovery has been all over the news including this BBC News article sent in by a NewCritter’s reader.

Enhydris gyii
(photo credit WWF-Germany / Mark Auliya)

The genus Enhydris, to which the new snake belongs, is composed of 22 species, only two of which are widespread. All the others have a very restricted range. The scientists believe this newly discovered snake might only occur in the Kapuas River drainage system.

To learn more about Homalopsine snakes in general check out this Field Museum site.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Homalopsinae
Genus: Enhydris

“Mini” Dino Found in Germany – Europasaurus holgeri

A dwarf sauropod has recently been described by paleontologists. Holger Luedtke, a paleontology hobbyist first came across teeth and other remains of a herbivorous dinosaur in a quarry near in North Germany in 1998.

At the time, scientists thought they may be juveniles. However, Dr. Martin Sander, who is an expert on the micro-structure of dinosaur skeletons, studied the bones and concluded that they were adults. In short, he was able to measure rings of growth in the bones. Rings are spaced further apart when the dinosaurs are young and growing rapidly. As they age the space between the rings becomes smaller.

When first found the dino was nicknamed ‘Hanna’, but has now been given the new and official scientific name Europasaurus holgeri, in honor of its discoverer. It essentially means Holger’s reptile of Europe.

So how mini was it? Well, the diagram below shows it was still pretty big compared to a human. But it was quite tiny when compared to one of its closest cousins the Apatosaurus (aka Brontosaurus) who was among the largest land animals that ever existed.

The paper describing the new species was published in Nature.

Europasaurus holgeri
Models and photo: Dinopark Münchehagen.

Europasaurus holgeri diagram
Diagram depicting the relative size between two E. holgeri (juvenile and adult) and a human by Octávio Mateus, Museu da Lourinhã

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Superorder: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Sauropodomorpha
Genus: Europasaurus

Check out another recently described sauropod, Erketu ellisoni.

New Hammerhead Shark Species

The discovery of a cryptic species of scalloped hammerhead shark species has recently hit the press.

Cryptic species are groups of species that are anatomically indistinguishable but are reproductively isolated and usually have been differentiated by genetic analysis.

Scalloped hammerhead sharks, known scientifically as Sphyrna lewini, are found all over the globe but the new species seems to live primarily off the east coast of the US and claims the waters of South Carolina for nursery grounds. The 2 species look virtually identical but they are genetically distinct and their numbers of vertebrae differ.

The new species hasn’t been officially described or named yet. However, a likely name is S. gilberti after Carter Gilbert who first noticed the variation in vertebrae among the scalloped hammerhead sharks. Information about the discovery can be found on USC News site, What’s swimming in the waters off the coast? USC scientist finds ‘genetically distinct’ shark.

Also, a brief interview with one of the researchers can be found on South Carolina’s Homepage, Shark! USC researcher helps find new species of hammerhead.

For lots of great information on scalloped hammerheads check out this FACT SHEET.

Hammerhead Shark
(photo University South Carolina)

Researchers have submitted a paper for publication:
Stoner, D. S., J. M. Grady, W. B. Driggers, K. A. Priede and J. M. Quattro. Molecular Evidence for a Cryptic Species of Hammerhead Shark (Genus Sphyrna). Marine Biology.

Lab Mimics Evolution of Butterflies

Here’s some interesting news considering the recent buzz surrounding the Polargrizz discovery.
It seems that scientists may have mimicked evolution by breeding 2 species of butterflies to create a butterfly that almost exactly matches a 3rd butterfly species found in the wild.

heliconius_butterflies
Heliconius cydno, has yellow bands across its forewings. (upper left of photo)
Heliconius melpomene, has wings with bright red bands. (upper right of photo)
Heliconius heurippa, has BOTH yellow and red bands. This caused biologists to theorize that it may be a hybrid of the two other species. (center of photo)

Researchers then bred H. cydno and H. melpomene to see if they could recreate the look of H. heurippa. Just three generations of interbreeding later and they had themselves a critter that looked remarkably like H. heurippa.

The researchers’ findings were published in today’s issue of Nature, Speciation by hybridization in Heliconius butterflies (subscription required). National Geographic also published a story about the research, Two Butterfly Species Evolved Into Third, Study Finds.

A New Shrimp – Neoglyphea neocaledonica

CenSeam researchers Bertrand Richer de Forges and Philippe Bouchet found a new species of shrimp while trolling an undersea plateau in a remote area between Australia and New Caledonia.

If you know French you can read Richer de Forges’ paper, Découverte en mer du Corail d’une deuxième espèce de glyphéide (Crustacea, Decapoda, Glypheoidea) [pdf] otherwise you can visit CenSeam’s site where he talks about the discovery.

The new species was named Neoglyphea neocaledonica which means essentially means “new Glyphea of New Caledonia”.

The interesting thing about this new critter is that it is only the second Neoglyphea to be classified. Neoglyphea inopinata AKA the “fenix lobster” was first caught in 1906 and then stashed away in the Smithsonian Institute’s collection unidentified. It sat there waiting for over 60 years before it was rediscovered and classified by French scientists Forest and de Saint Laurent in 1975. Before that it was thought that ALL Glypheides were extinct as previously all species discoveries were from fossil samples.

Neoglyphea neocaledonica
CHECK OUT THOSE EYES!!
Neoglyphea neocaledonica
(photos by J. Lai)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Suborder: Pleocyemata
Infraorder: Astacidea
Superfamily: Glypheoidea
Family: Glypheidae

FYI: CenSeam formed in 2005 and their mission is to do a Global Census of Marine Life on Seamounts. What’s a Seamount? An underwater mountain, of course! They are often hotspots for biodiversity and it is estimated that there are over 100,000 seamounts throughout the world’s oceans.

Location and information on New Caledonia

New Caledonia Map

Tiktaalik Update

I was flipping thru channels late the other night when I saw Dr. Ted Daeschler and Tiktaalik on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. I missed the first few minutes but was happy to find the entire interview available on Comedy Central’s site.

Deaschler on Colbert

If you missed it definitely check this out – it was great!
(You’ll need Windows Media Player)

Polargrizz?

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a “new” species story but it’s interesting nonetheless.

polargrizzThe first Polar bear / Grizzly bear hybrid found in the wild has been genetically confirmed to be the offspring of a female polar bear and a male Grizzly bear. A man who paid somewhere around $50,000 to hunt Polar bears shot and killed the male bear back in April.

CNN has the story, Grizzly-polar bear hybrid found as well as Canada’s National Post, Name that bear.

Some names floating around are Polargrizz, Grolar bear, Nanaluk, Pizzly, or simply half-breed. What would you name this new hybrid species? And do you think this is a sign of things to come or just a fluke?