Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 25th, 2006
As 2006 rolls to a close, scientists are releasing more announcements of new species and subspecies. Here are details of a new lizard, new birds, a new fish and a new subspecies of tiger.
Thailand: New Lizard (Not Salamander)
The Bangkok, Thailand newspaper, The Nation is reporting on December 25, 2006, that a new species of reptile, apparently incorrectly translated as a “salamander,” but as noted by Chad Arment, a lizard has been discovered that features a “short tail with thornlike scales.”
The Huai Hang Nam [lizard] was found living in a seasonal rain forest near Tevada Mountain in Chaiyaphum’s Phu Khieo Wildlife Reserve, the park’s forestry official, Monkol Khamsuk [said].
The [lizard] is among 37 species found for the first in the time in wildlife reserve during a study of its amphibians and reptiles sponsored by the BRT programme. Fifteen of the species were amphibians and 22 reptiles.
The Huai Hang Nam lizard, probably a new scaly-tail skink, named Tropidophorus hangnam, sp nov, mentions The Nation, is “entirely new to the world.”
Nepal: New Birds
Craig Heinselman passes along the news that “three new species of birds” have been found in Nepal.
Hem Subedi, member of Nepal Endangered Birds Committee, announced in mid-December 2006, that three new bird species had been found in the remote forest of Nepal’s Chepang Hill Siraichuli Trek area of the southern Chitwan district, some 100 km southwest of Kathmandu. The birds were discovered at the altitude of 1500 to 1930 meters from sea surface. No species names have been announced yet.
My caution with Nepali discoveries is that earlier this year, when the “discovery” of the red-breasted flycatcher (Ficedula parva) (pictured below) was announced, it was misleading.
The reality is that the finding of the red-breasted flycatcher was only of a new species record for Nepal specifically, not a new discovery within zoology.
When a new animal is absolutely a new species, then it takes on a different aura. For instance, the Naung Mung Scimitar-Babbler (Jabouilleia naungmungensis) (pictured at top) was discovered in the pre-montane rainforests of northern Myanmar (Burma) in 2005. Their discovery, however, was not announced until 2006, and it is a unique new species. (See the painting at the top of this post, from the cover of the Auk.)
Antarctic: New Fish
Meanwhile in the Antarctic, a new species of purple-gold-colored fish that is a little over 13 inches long, likes the cold and has two holes between the eyes has been announced as new to science. The new fish is Cryothenia amphitreta, was discovered by a member of a research team from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Cryothenia amphitreta is detailed in the December 2006 issue of Copeia for the first time, even though it was found in McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica in November 2004
Indochina: New Tiger Subspecies
Traditionally, there have been eight classified subspecies of Panthera tigris, although three have been declared extinct since the 1940s. Now, it appears there are six living subspecies of the tiger, not five, according to a December 12, 2006 article on a study led by Shu-Jin Luo of the Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota, in the journal PLoS Biology.
Genetic material was analyzed from over 100 tigers, from Siberia to China, Indochina, Malaya Peninsula, Sumatra, and the Indian subcontinent. The new study found that the Indochinese subspecies should be divided into two groups, representing a northern Indochinese and a peninsular Malaya population.
The tiger report is presented as “new” for 2006, but in further research done by Craig Heinselman, it is obvious the report is from 2004.
Heinselman notes the original paper can be accessed online, “Phylogeography and Genetic Ancestry of Tigers (Panthera tigris)“.
Within the publication, the authors state the following:
…subspecies definition of O’Brien and Mayr (1991) and Avise and Ball (1990), our data suggest that there are at least five and possibly six tiger subspecies: Amur tigers (P. t. altaica); northern Indochinese tigers (P. t. corbetti I); southern Indochinese tigers (P. t. corbetti II), which are confined to the Malayan Peninsula; Sumatran tigers (P. t. sumatrae); Bengal tigers (P. t. tigris); and, if its uniqueness is affirmed by more extensive sampling, South China tiger (P. t. amoyensis). These conclusions are based on significant genetic structure among tigers from these different geographic regions with the MHC, mtDNA, and microsatellite data, and extremely limited gene flow as shown by disjunct distributions of genetic variation (unique mtDNA haplotypes and microsatellite alleles) and the high mtDNA Fst and microsatellite Rst values. In addition, each subspecies has an allopatric geographical distribution and differential natural history (Kitchener 1999; Seidensticker et al. 1999).>/em>
What new species’ surprises await us in 2007?