Amphibians & reptiles
We describe a new species of the genus Tylototriton from Ingyin Taung Mt., Mohnyin Township, Kachin State, Myanmar, based on morphological and molecular evidence. The new species is assigned to the subgenus Tylototriton s. str. and is clearly distinct from all known congeners by the following characters: medium body size; thin, long tail, lacking lateral grooves; rough skin; truncate snout; wide, protruding supratemporal bony ridges on head, beginning at anterior corner of orbit; weak, almost indistinct sagittal ridge; long, thin limbs, broadly overlapping when adpressed along body; distinct, wide, non-segmented vertebral ridge; 13 or 14 rib nodules; brown to dark-brown background coloration with dull orange-brown to yellowish-brown markings on labial regions, parotoids, rib nodules, whole limbs, vent, and ventral tail ridge. We also briefly discuss biogeography and species diversity of the genus Tylototriton in Myanmar.
A new species of the genus Amolops Cope, 1865 is described from Xinduqiao, Kangding, Sichuan. It was previously identified as Amolops kangtingensis, which is synonymized to Amolops mantzorum in this study. The new species, Amolops xinduqiao sp. nov., is distinguished from all other congeners by the following combination of characters: (1) medium body size, adult males SVL 41.2–47.5 mm (n=15, average 43.9 mm), adult females SVL 48.5–56.6 mm (n=15, average 52.5 mm); (2) head length equal to width or slightly wider than long; (3) tympanum small, but distinct; (4) vomerine teeth in two tiny rows, separated by a space about one vomerine teeth row; (5) bony projections on lower jaw absent; (6) dorsolateral folds usually absent; (7) tarsal folds or glands on tarsus absent; (8) circummarginal groove on disc of finger I absent; (9) tibiotarsal articulation reaching nostril or beyond; (10) webs of toe IV reaching to distal articulation, other toes fully webbed to disc; and (11) vocal sac absent in males.
A computer software package called ‘FasParser’ was developed for manipulating sequence data. It can be used on personal computers to perform series of analyses, including counting and viewing differences between two sequences at both DNA and codon levels, identifying overlapping regions between two alignments, sorting of sequences according to their IDs or lengths, concatenating sequences of multiple loci for a particular set of samples, translating nucleotide sequences to amino acids, and constructing alignments in several different formats, as well as some extracting and filtrating of data for a particular FASTA file. Majority of these functions can be run in a batch mode, which is very useful for analyzing large data sets. This package can be used by a broad audience, and is designed for researchers that do not have programming experience in sequence analyses. The GUI version of FasParser can be downloaded from https://github.com/Sun-Yanbo/FasParser, free of charge.
Food availability significantly affects an animal's energy metabolism, and thus its phenotype, survival, and reproduction. Maternal and offspring responses to food conditions are critical for understanding population dynamics and life-history evolution of a species. In this study, we conducted food manipulation experiments in field enclosures to identify the effect of food restriction on female reproductive traits and postpartum body condition, as well as on hatchling phenotypes, in a lacertid viviparous lizard from the Inner Mongolian desert steppe of China. Females under low-food availability treatment (LFT) had poorer immune function and body condition compared with those under high-food availability treatment (HFT). The food availability treatments significantly affected the litter size and litter mass of the females, but not their gestation period in captivity or brood success, or the body size, sprint speed, and sex ratio of the neonates. Females from the LFT group had smaller litter sizes and, therefore, lower litter mass than those from the HFT group. These results suggest that female racerunners facing food restriction lay fewer offspring with unchanged body size and locomotor performance, and incur a cost in the form of poor postpartum body condition and immune function. The flexibility of maternal responses to variable food availability represents an important life strategy that could enhance the resistance of lizards to unpredictable environmental change.
We describe a new species of frog in the dicroglossid genus Fejervarya from Ban Monjong, Omkoi District, Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand. Analysis of DNA sequence data from the mitochondrial gene 16S, advertisement calls, and morphological distinctiveness support recognition of the new species. Matrilineal genealogy suggests that the new population from Chiang Mai is a sister taxon to the South Asian clade that includes F. syhadrensis, F. granosa, and F. pierrei. The new species, Fejervarya chiangmaiensis sp. nov., differs morphologically from its congeners by its relatively small body size and proportions and the presence of dorsal warts and dermal ridges. Discovery of this new species indicates that the biodiversity of amphibians in this region remains underestimated.
Model organisms have long been important in biology and medicine due to their specific characteristics. Amphibians, especially Xenopus, play key roles in answering fundamental questions on developmental biology, regeneration, genetics, and toxicology due to their large and abundant eggs, as well as their versatile embryos, which can be readily manipulated and developed in vivo. Furthermore, amphibians have also proven to be of considerable benefit in human disease research due to their conserved cellular developmental and genomic organization. This review gives a brief introduction on the progress and limitations of these animal models in biology and human disease research, and discusses the potential and challenge of Microhyla fissipes as a new model organism.
The Sagalla caecilian (Boulengerula niedeni) is an endangered amphibian endemic to Sagalla Hill in the Taita Hills. This burrowing worm-like species prefers soft soil with high moisture and organic matter. The major threats to the Sagalla caecilian are soil erosion caused by steep slopes, bare ground and water siphoning/soil hardening from exotic eucalyptus trees. The purpose of this study was to get a better understanding of the local people's attitude towards this species and how they can contribute to its continued conservation through restoration of its remaining habitat. In this study, it was found that 96% of Sagalla people are aware of the species, its habits and its association with soils high in organic matter. It was also found that 96% of Sagalla people use organic manure from cow dung in their farms. Habitat restoration through planting of indigenous plants was found to be ongoing, especially on compounds of public institutions as well as on private lands. Although drought was found to be a challenge for seedlings development especially on the low elevation sites, destruction by livestock especially during the dry season is also a major threat. In this study, it was recommended that any future habitat restoration initiative should include strong chain-link fencing to protect the seedlings from livestock activity. Recognizing that the preferred habitats for the species are in the valleys, systematic planting of keystone plant species such as fig trees (Ficus) creates the best microhabitats. These are better than general woodlots of indigenous trees.
AmphibiaChina, an open-access, web-based database, is designed to provide comprehensive and up-to-date information on Chinese amphibians. It offers an integrated module with six major sections. Compared to other known databases including AmphibiaWeb and Amphibian Species of the World, AmphibiaChina has the following new functions: (1) online species identification based on DNA barcode sequences; (2) comparisons and discussions of different major taxonomic systems; and (3) phylogenetic progress on Chinese amphibians. This database offers a window for the world to access available information of Chinese amphibians. AmphibiaChina with its Chinese version can be accessed at http://www.amphibiachina.org.
Until recently, the agamid species, Japalura flaviceps, was recognized to have the widest geographic distribution among members of the genus occurring in China, from eastern Tibet to Shaanxi Province. However, recent studies restricted the distribution of J. flaviceps to the Dadu River valley only in northwestern Sichuan Province, suggesting that records of J. flaviceps outside the Dadu River valley likely represent undescribed diversity. During two herpetofaunal surveys in 2013 and 2015, eight and 12 specimens of lizards of the genus Japalura were collected from the upper Nujiang (=Salween) Valley in eastern Tibet, China, and upper Lancang (=Mekong) Valley in northwestern Yunnan, China, respectively. These specimens display a unique suite of diagnostic morphological characters. Our robust comparisons of phenotype reveal that these populations can be distinguished readily from J. flaviceps and all other recognized congeners. Herein, we describe the two Japalura lineages as new species, Japalura laeviventris sp. nov. and Japalura iadina sp. nov.. In addition, we provide updated conservation assessments for the new species as well as imperiled congeners according to the IUCN criteria for classification, discuss the importance of color patterns in the diagnosis and description of species in the genus Japalura, and discuss directions for future taxonomic studies of the group.
A new species of the genus Amolops Cope, 1865 is described from Nyingchi, southeastern Tibet, China, based on morphological and molecular data. The new species, Amolops nyingchiensis sp. nov. is assigned to the Amolops monticola group based on its skin smooth, dorsolateral fold distinct, lateral side of head black, upper lip stripe white extending to the shoulder. Amolops nyingchiensis sp. nov. is distinguished from all other species of Amolops by the following combination of characters: (1) medium body size, SVL 48.5-58.3 mm in males, and 57.6-70.7 mm in females; (2) tympanum distinct, slightly larger than one third of the eye diameter; (3) a small tooth-like projection on anteromedial edge of mandible; (4) the absence of white spine on dorsal surface of body; (5) the presence of circummarginal groove on all fingers; (6) the presence of vomerine teeth; (7) background coloration of dorsal surface brown, lateral body gray with yellow; (8) the presence of transverse bands on the dorsal limbs; (9) the presence of nuptial pad on the first finger in males; (10) the absence of vocal sac in males. Taxonomic status of the populations that were previously identified to A. monticola from Tibet is also discussed.
A new species of Scutiger Theobald, 1868 is described from Medog, southeastern Tibet, China, based on morphological and molecular data. The new species was previously identified as Scutiger nyingchiensis, but it can be differentiated from the latter and all other congeners by the following combination of characters: (1) medium adult body size, SVL 50.5-55.6 mm in males and 53.8-57.2 mm in females; (2) maxillary teeth absent; (3) web rudimentary between toes; (4) prominent, conical-shaped tubercles on dorsal and lateral surfaces of body and limbs; (5) tubercles covered by black spines in both sexes in breeding condition; (6) a pair of pectoral glands and a pair of axillary glands present and covered by black spines in males in breeding condition, width of axillary gland less than 50% of pectoral gland; (7) nuptial spines present on dorsal surface of first and second fingers, and inner side of third finger in males in breeding condition; (8) spines absent on the abdominal region; (9) vocal sac absent. In addition, the distribution and conservation status of the new species are also discussed.
A new genus and species of threefrog is described from Medog, southeastern Tibet, China based on morphological and phylogenetic data. The new genus can be distinguished from other treefrog genera by the following combination of characters: (1) body size moderate, 45.0 mm in male; (2) snout rounded; (3) canthus rostralis obtuse and raised prominently, forming a ridge from nostril to anterior corner of eyes; (4) web rudimentary on fingers; (5) web moderately developed on toes; (6) phalange "Y" shaped, visible from dorsal side of fingers and toes; (7) skin of dorsal surfaces relatively smooth, scatted with small tubercles; (8) iris with a pale yellow, "X" shaped pattern of pigmentation.
In an effort to study the systematic affinities and specieslevel phylogenetic relationships of the enigmatic anurans variably assigned to the genera Ingerana or Limnonectes (family Dicroglossidae), we collected new molecular sequence data for five species including four Himalayan taxa, Limnonectes xizangensis, Lim. medogensis, Lim. alpine, Ingerana borealis and one southeast Asian species, I. tasanae, and analyzed these together with data from previous studies involving other ostensibly related taxa. Our surprising results demonstrate unequivocally that Lim. xizangensis, Lim. medogensis and Lim. alpine form a strongly supported clade, the sister-group of the family Australasian forest frog family Ceratobatrachidae. This discovery requires an expansion of the definition of Ceratobatrachidae and represents the first record of this family in China. These three species are distinguished from the species of Ingerana and Limnonectes by the: (1) absence of interdigital webbing of the foot, (2) absence of terminal discs on fingers and toes, (3) absence of circumarginal grooves on the fingers and toes, and (4) absence of tarsal folds. Given their phylogenetic and morphological distinctiveness, we assign them to the oldest available generic name for this clade, Liurana Dubois 1987, and transfer Liurana from Dicroglossidae to the family Ceratobatrachidae. In contrast, Ingerana tasanae was found to be clustered with strong support with the recently described genus Alcalus (Ceratobatrachidae), a small clade of otherwise Sundaic species; this constitutes a new record of the family Ceratobatrachidae for Myanmar and Thailand. Finally, Ingerana borealis clustered with the "true" Ingerana (family Dicroglossidae), for which the type species is I. tenasserimensis.
Faunal species richness is traditionally assumed to decrease with increasing elevation and decreasing primary productivity. Species richness is reported to peak at mid-elevation. This survey examines the herpetofaunal diversity and distribution in Mt. Kenya (central Kenya) by testing the hypothesis that changes in species richness with elevation relate to elevation-dependent changes in climate. Sampling along transects from an elevation of approximately 1 700 m in Chogoria forest block (wind-ward side) and approximately 2 600 m in Sirimon block (rain shadow zone) upwards in March 2009. This starts from the forest to montane alpine zones. Sampling of reptiles and amphibians uses pitfall traps associated with drift fences, time-limited searches and visual encounter surveys. The results show that herpetofaunal richness differs among three vegetation zones along the elevation gradient. Chogoria has higher biodiversity than Sirimon. More species occur at low and middle elevations and few exist at high elevations. The trends are consistent with expected optimum water and energy variables. The lower alpine montane zone has high species richness but low diversity due to dominance of some high elevations species. Unambiguous data do not support a mid-domain effect (mid-elevation peak) because the observed trend better fits a model in which climatic variables (rainfall and temperature) control species richness, which indirectly measures productivity. It is important to continue protection of all indigenous forests, especially at low to mid elevations. These areas are vulnerable to human destruction yet are home to some endemic species. Firebreaks can limit the spread of the perennial wildfires, especially on the moorlands.
One juvenile and one adult female wolf snake (Colubridae: Lycodon) were sampled at Yixian and Fuxi, Huangshan, Anhui, China in the summer of 2011 and 2012, respectively. The two specimens were identified as Lycodon liuchengchaoi based on external morphology and molecular data. This is a new reptile record in Anhui Province. In our laboratory, four eggs were laid and three neonates were hatched successfully. This is the first record of the laying and incubation of L. liuchengchaoi eggs. The five specimens were deposited at the Museum of Huangshan University (HUM20140001) and Guangdong Entomological Institute (HB-lcfsp12613, HB-lcfsp-ch1~3).
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