Vampire Crabs

By James Owen, National Geographic

Vampire crabs, so named because of their glowing yellow eyes, have become popular as pets, but the origin of some of these spooky-looking crustaceans has been cloaked in mystery.
Until now.

Now researchers have traced the freshwater crabs back to their wild source in Southeast Asia—and report that the two most sought-after species are new to science.

The newly described species, Geosesarma dennerle and Geosesarma hagen, were found in separate river valleys on the Indonesian island of Java (map).

“These crabs are kind of special because they’ve been around in the pet trade for ten years, but no one knew where they come from,” said study co-author and professional aquarist Christian Lukhaup of Waiblingen, Germany.

Scientists have identified other vampire crab species before, including those in the aquarium trade, but the newfound species are the most common pets, he said.

The new vampire crab G. dennerle is a deep purple with a creamy splotch on its back. G. hagen catches the eye with its bright orange shell and claws. (Also see “Pictures: New Purple Crab Species Found.”)

These crabs’ blazing eyes and spectacular colors explain their attraction to aquarists.

“Dealers working in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world know what their clients are looking for in terms of colors,” said study co-author Christoph Schubart, of Germany’s Regensburg University’s Institute of Zoology.

“They start collecting in areas where scientists may not have made any expeditions so far, and suddenly the market is formed with some animals that no one has ever given a name,” said Schubart, whose study appeared in January in the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.

Vampire (Crab) Hunter
Measuring less than an inch wide, vampire crabs are also an ideal size for keeping in a small tank, said Lukhaup.

Picture of Geosesarma hagen crab with red claws
A Geosesarma hagen crab has red claws and yellow eyes—colors that help it communicate with its brethren.
The vampire crab hunter of the team, Lukhaup, fittingly, was born in Transylvania, home to the mythical Dracula. (See “Archaeologists Suspect Vampire Burial; An Undead Primer.”)
He used his contacts in the aquarium trade to scout out collectors who might know where the crabs came from.

“There were a lot of false rumors because people don’t want other collectors to go there,” he said.

Lukhaup, who has helped uncover the wild origins of various shrimps and other freshwater crustaceans sold as pets, finally tracked the crabs down in central Java.

Communicating With Color
Schubart suspects there are many more vampire crab species yet to be described on Indonesia’s islands.

Since these freshwater crabs don’t use the ocean as part of their life cycles and tend to stay put, many of Indonesia’s islands have their own vampire crab species, Schubart explained.

These crabs’ amphibious lifestyles also influenced the evolution of their bright coloration. On land, “visual communication becomes much more important,” he said.

“There’s much more emphasis on color and visual cues rather than chemical cues, as used in the water.”

Vulnerable Vamps
The two new vampire crab species are probably each confined to a single watershed, making them particularly vulnerable to collectors, the study team warned. (See “Do You Know Where Your Aquarium Fish Come From?”)

“For the local collectors, it’s their living,” Schubart said. “They just catch what they can get and export it.”

Lukhaup hopes that in the future commercial breeding will help prevent wild populations from being wiped out by the vampire crab craze.

Some private enthusiasts are breeding the crabs, he said, but most still come from Indonesia.

With vampire crabs and other exotic aquarium species, it seems there’s no silver bullet for salvation.

All information was taken from:

Top 20 New Species of 2014

Top 20 New Species of 2014

Jan 18, 2015 by Natali Anderson compiles an annual list of the top 20 new species of animals, plants and insects found in the past twelve months.

1. Araguaian boto (Inia araguaiaensis), a new species of true river dolphin from Brazil:

Inia araguaiaensis. Image credit: © Nicole Dutra.

The Araguaian boto (or Boto-do-Araguaia) can be found in the lower and middle Araguaia River from Barra do Garças to the Santa Isabel rapids, and in several tributaries such as Vermelho, Peixe, Crixás-Açú and Água Limpa Rivers, and dos Tigres and Rico Lakes, all in the state of Goiás, and Lake Montaria in the state of Mato Grosso.

Before the discovery, only five species of true river dolphins were known: the Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), the Bolivian river dolphin (Inia boliviensis), the South Asian river dolphin (Platanista gangetica), the La Plata dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei) and the Baiji.

2. Phryganistria heusii yentuensis, the world’s second-longest insect:

Dr Joachim Bresseel holding a 31.7-cm-long female Phryganistria heusii yentuensis. Image credit: Joachim Bresseel / Jerome Constant.

Phryganistria heusii yentuensis is a stick-insect found in northeast Vietnam.

It can reach up to 32 cm in body length and 52 cm with forelimbs stretched out.

3. Moroccan flic-flac spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi), a cartwheeling spider from Morocco:

The Moroccan flic-flac spider, Cebrennus rechenbergi. Image credit: Ingo Rechenberg.

The Moroccan flic-flac spider belongs to Sparassidae, a family of spiders known as huntsmen due to their speed and mode of hunting.

It is a nocturnal spider native to the Morocco’s southeastern desert, Erg Chebbi.

According to scientists, the spider is able to move by means of flic-flac jumps. Like a gymnast, it propels itself off the ground, followed by a series of rapid flic-flac movements of its legs.

The flic-flac jumps, at almost 2 m/sec, allow the spider to move twice as fast as in simple walking mode.

4. Dendrogramma enigmatica and D. discoides, two unclassifiable deep-sea animals from Australia:

Specimens of Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides (with *). Image credit: Just J et al.

Copenhagen University researcher Dr Jørgen Olesen and his colleagues collected Dendrogramma enigmatica and D. discoides at 400 and 1,000 m deep on the Australian continental slope off eastern Bass Strait and Tasmania.

According to scientists, these mushroom-shaped organisms cannot at present be placed in an existing phylum (primary subdivision of a taxonomic kingdom).

5. Aquitanian pike (Esox aquitanicus), a fish species from France:

The Aquitanian pike (Esox aquitanicus), holotype specimen. Image credit: G.P.J. Denys et al.

The Aquitanian pike can be found in the Charente, Dordogne, Eyre, and Adour basins; Lake Mouriscot constitutes its currently known most southern location.

The fish has grey to yellow-green flanks adorned with 16 to 30 oblique vertical bars with a width of 1–1.5 scale. The fins’ color is yellow to orange; dark pigmentation on paired fins are faint, as opposed to the unpaired fins which have well-developed dark vermiculations.

Some specimens can exceed 1 meter in total length.

6. Musa arunachalensis, a species of wild banana from India:

Musa arunachalensis. Image credit: Sreejith PE et al.

Musa arunachalensis is found in West Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India.

The species flowers and fruits from January to May and differs from other Musaspecies in the nature of its inflorescence. The color of the bract is reddish orange with a yellow tip.

7. Black-tailed antechinus (Antechinus arktos), a species of marsupial from Australia:

The Black-tailed Antechinus, Antechinus arktos. Image credit: © Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum.

The Black-tailed antechinus is a carnivorous, mouse-like marsupial.

It is known only from areas of high altitude and high rainfall on the Tweed Volcano caldera of far south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales, Australia.

8. Deraniyagala’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon hotaula), a species of beaked whale from the Pacific:

Mother, right, and calf of the Deraniyagala's beaked whale (Mesoplodon hotaula) at Palmyra Atoll in 2007. Notable are the cookie-cutter shark bites healed in dark skin callercolor, pronounced melon and beak, and large blow hole. Image credit: S. Baumann-Pickering, via R.L. Brownell et al.

The Deraniyagala’s beaked whale is known only from seven specimens found stranded on tropical islands in the western and central Pacific.

9. Aetobatus narutobiei, a species of eagle ray from northwest Pacific:

Lateral head view of Aetobatus narutobiei. Image credit: White WT et al.

Aetobatus narutobiei is a medium- to large-sized ray, up to 1.5 m in width.

The species is found in the waters off eastern Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Korea and southern Japan.

It is particularly abundant in Ariake Bay in southern Japan where it is considered a pest species that predates heavily on farmed bivalve stocks.

10. Edwardsiella andrillae, a species of sea anemone from waters beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica:

In an underwater image, Edwardsiella andrillae anemones protrude from the bottom surface of the Ross Ice Shelf. They glow in the camera's light. Image credit: Frank Rack / ANDRILL Science Management Office, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Edwardsiella andrillae is the first known sea anemone to live in ice.

The species is very small, measuring less than 2.5 cm in length.

It lives upside down, hanging from the ice, compared to other sea anemones that live on or in the seafloor.

11. Pempheris flavicycla, a tropical fish from the Indian Ocean:

Pempheris flavicycla marisrubri, Ras Mohammed, Red Sea. Image credit: S.V. Bogorodsky.

Pempheris flavicycla measures 12-14 cm in length and has a bright yellow ring around the pupil of the eye, a black outer border on the anal and caudal fins and a black spot at the base of the pectoral fins.

The species can be found in clear-water, coral-reef areas not exposed to heavy seas, and usually in less than 15 m.

12-16. Ryland’s bold-faced saki (Pithecia rylandsi), Mittermeier’s Tapajos Saki (Pithecia mittermeieri), Isabel’s Saki (Pithecia isabela), Cazuza’s saki (Pithecia cazuzai), and Pissinatti’s bald-faced saki (Pithecia pissinattii) – five species of saki monkeys from South America:

The Pissinatti’s bald-faced saki (Pithecia pissinattii), at Juma Jungle Lodge, Brazil, adult male. Image credit: Crijnfotin.

Saki monkeys (sakis or flying monkeys) are a poorly studied group of primates.

These monkeys can quickly flee an area through the treetops in a series of leaps of up to 9 meters.

They form small groups of 2 to 9 individuals, generally comprising a single male-female breeding pair and several young.

The Ryland’s bold-faced saki lives in north-western Bolivia, south-eastern Peru, and possibly in the south of the state of Rondônia and the west of the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil.

The Mittermeier’s Tapajos Saki is found only in Brazil, south of the Rio Amazonas between the rios Madeira and Tapajos.

The Isabel’s saki is found only in Peru.

The Cazuza’s saki lives in Brazil and is currently known only from very northern sections south of the Rio Solimões on either side of the Rio Juruá at Fonte Boa and Uarini.

The Pissinatti’s bald-faced saki is known only from Brazil, south of the Rio Solimões in the northern area between the rios Purus and Madeira.

17-18. Keesingia gigas and Malo bella, two extremely venomous Irukandji jellyfish from Australia:

Keesingia gigas in bloom of sea tomatoes, Crambione mastigophora. Image credit: John Totterdell / MIRG Australia.

Irukandji jellyfish are able to fire their stingers into their victim. Their stings are only moderately painful. However, 20-30 min later some patients may develop systemic symptoms collectively known as Irukandji syndrome.

The condition can cause severe abdominal pain, back, limb or joint pain, nausea and vomiting, profuse sweating and agitation. The patients may also experience numbness or paraesthesia. More severe reactions to Irukandji stings can include hypertension and tachycardia. The symptoms last from hours to weeks, and victims usually require hospitalization.

Keesingia gigas and Malo bella are both believed to cause Irukandji syndrome.

While most Irukandji jellyfish range from 5 mm to 2.5 cm in bell height,Keesingia gigas can reach 50 cm. To date, only two cases of stinging by this species have been documented – one produced severe Irukandji syndrome, whilst the other caused only local and groin pain.

Malo bella has a small, bell-shaped body, about 19 mm in bell height. It is the smallest species yet described in the genus Malo.

19. Lophiaris silverarum, a species of orchid from Panama:

Lophiaris silverarum. Image credit: K. Silvera / University of California, Riverside.

The Orchid family contains the largest number of plant species in the world – up to 30,000. Panama alone has about 1,100 known species.

Orchids are unique in that the flower’s female and male reproductive parts are fused together. They can easily hybridize or cross and, as a result, some 300,000 orchid hybrids are man-made and commercially available to the public.

Lophiaris silverarum is known to grow only in central Panama. The species blooms in November, the flowers lasting about a month.

20. Bumba lennoni, a species of tarantula from Brazil:

Bumba lennoni. Image credit: © Laura Miglio / Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi.

Named after John Lennon, Bumba lennoni belongs to the tarantula family Theraphosidae.

It is a mainly nocturnal spider, about 3-4 cm long.

As other tarantulas it has defensive hairs on the abdomen that produce irritation upon contact with the skin or sensible tissues.

Butterflies tastes food with their feet

Chemosensory Basis of Host Recognition in Butterflies—Multi-component System of Oviposition Stimulants and Deterrents

  1. Ritsuo Nishida

+Author Affiliations

  1. Laboratory of Chemical Ecology, Division of Applied Life Sciences, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan
  1. Correspondence to be sent to: Ritsuo Nishida, e-mail:


Larvae of most butterfly species feed on a limited number of host species belonging to a single plant family. The choice of host plants is determined both at the egg-laying and larval-feeding stages (Schoonhoven et al., 1998). The choice of oviposition site by an adult female is crucial to the survival of their offspring, and thus the mother butterflies lay their eggs with great precision on the host plants. Although host recognition by phytophagous insects involves multiple sensory modalities, including visual, olfactory and gustatory cues, contact chemical stimuli from host and non-host plants play an important role at the final step of egg-laying behavior. The contact chemoreceptors responsible for detection of both host and non-host allelochemicals at oviposition are located on the foretarsi of the female butterfly (Roessingh et al., 1991; Nishida, 1995).

Oviposition stimulants

In recent years, suites of specific host-finding cues have been characterized for several families of butterfly species including Papilionidae, Pieridae and Nymphalidae (Honda and Nishida, 1999). Oviposition stimulants of the citrus swallowtail butterfly, Papilio xuthus(Papilionidae) were found to consist of multiple components which included flavonoids (1 and 2), a nucleoside (adenosine), alkaloids (3 and4), a cyclitol (5) and an amino acid derivative (6) (Nishida et al., 1987;Nishida, 1995) (Figure 1). None of the individual components elicited oviposition responses alone. The specific activity was provoked only when these components were applied as a mixture. Synergistic effects among stimulant components can be seen in several papilionid species (Honda and Nishida, 1999). The butterflies seem to perceive a subset of ingredients simultaneously as a ‘blend taste’ with the toothbrush-like chemosensilla densely distributed on the tarsal segments. However, its sensory mechanism—how the butterfly integrates the complex signal arising from the many components—remains unknown. We do not know whether the stimulants are perceived simultaneously as a chemical blend on each sensillum or separately with each specific chemoreceptor cell. A multi-component system of oviposition stimulants seems to provide a high specificity in host recognition. On the other hand, it also provides some flexibility in host choices, allowing them to lay eggs not only onCitrus but also on rutaceous hosts belonging to other genera (e.g.Poncirus and Xanthoxylum) that partially share some common subsets of ingredients (unpublished data). Related swallowtail species such as P. protenor and P. polyxenes (Feeny et al., 1988; Honda, 1990) also use the same classes of chemicals as the host-finding cues (e.g. flavonoid glycosides, phenethylamines and quinic acid derivatives). Such underlying chemical similarity may have provided a route to colonization on novel hosts among the papilionid butterflies (Feeny et al., 1988; Nishida, 1995;Honda and Nishida, 1999).

Figure 1 Multi-component systems of oviposition stimulants contained in a host plant, Citrus unshiu(left), and oviposition deterrents in a non-host rutaceous plant, Orixa japonica (right), for a Rutaceae-feeding swallowtail butterfly, Papilio xuthus. 1, hesperidin; 2, rutin; 3, bufotenine; 4, synephrine; 5,chiro-inositol; 6, stachydrine; 7, quercetin 3-O-(2G-β-D-xylopyranosylrutinoside); 8, 5-{[2-O-(β-D-apiofuranosyl)- β –D-glucopyranosyl]oxy}-2-hydroxybenzoic acid; and 9, disyringoyl aldaric acid ester.

Oviposition deterrents

Although P. xuthus feed on various rutaceous species, both the adult females and the larvae reject a rutaceous plant, Orixa japonica. A flavonoid triglycoside (7) was identified as one of the oviposition deterrents (Figure 1). Compound 7 is a xylosyl derivative of rutin (2), a positive stimulant for the butterfly (Nishida et al., 1990). This compound may disrupt the oviposition stimulant activity due to its structural resemblance and relatively high concentrations in the leaves, competing for the same receptor cells. Two hydroxybenzoic acid derivatives (8 and 9) were characterized as potent deterrents at both oviposition and larval feeding (Ono et al., 2004). Simultaneous occurrence of these compounds in O. japonica appears to provide an effective chemical barrier against the butterfly. Kairomones (stimulants) and allomones (deterrents) responsible for host recognition stimulate specific receptor cells in the tarsal chemosensilla of butterflies (Roessingh et al., 1991). It remains unclear, however, whether these deterrent compounds block the intrinsic activity of the stimulants or exert their effect by other mechanisms in P. xuthus.

Larval gustatory responses to plant allelochemicals

The chemosensory mechanisms of oviposition and larval feeding must be intrinsically coordinated, for females usually select the plants the larvae accept. However, the nature of such gustatory responsiveness to allellochemicals at both larval and adult stages is not well understood. The fact that both oviposition and larval feeding are elicited (or deterred) by the same subset of chemicals suggests a congruent sensory mechanism between the tarsal chemoreceptors of adults and the gustatory chemoreceptors of larvae (Nishida, 1995; Ono et al., 2004). Electrophysiological responses of the host kairomones and non-host allomones were examined against tarsal and larval mouthpart chemosensilla in P. xuthus. Both larval feeding stimulant (e.g. quinic acid) and deterrent (e.g. gentisic acid glycoside 8) components evoked large numbers of spikes, probably stimulating different receptor cells of medial and lateral styloconic sensilla of the fifth instar larvae (unpublished). A comparison of the chemosensory components used by these butterflies to make food and oviposition choices reveals their evolutionary route to chemosensory adaptation at the insect–plant interface.


Bats and Echolocation

Bats are not blind; in fact they can see almost as well as humans. But to fly around and hunt for insects in the dark, they use a remarkable high frequency system called echolocation.

Echolocation works in a similar way to sonar. Bats make calls as they fly and listen to the returning echoes to build up a sonic map of their surroundings. The bat can tell how far away something is by how long it takes the sounds to return to them.

These calls are usually pitched at a frequency too high for adult humans to hear naturally. Human hearing ranges from approximately 20Hz (cycles per second) to 15 to 20 kHz (1000Hz) depending on age. In comparison, some bats can hear sounds up to 110 kHz in frequency. By emitting a series of often quite loud ultrasounds that either sweep from a high to low frequency or vary around a frequency, bats can distinguish objects and their insect prey and therefore avoid the object or catch the insect.

Individual bat species echolocate within specific frequency ranges that suit their environment and prey types. This means that we can identify many bats simply by listening to their calls with bat detectors.

Dolphins natural Sonar, called Echolocation

The Dolphin Defender

by Irene Tejaratchi

Dolphins use sound to detect the size, shape, and speed of objects hundreds of yards away. Fascinating and complex, the dolphin’s natural sonar, called echolocation, is so precise it can determine the difference between a golf ball and a ping-pong ball based solely on density. Although humans have researched these intelligent marine mammals for decades, much of their acoustical world remains a mystery.

One of the keys to dolphin echolocation is water’s superb conduction of sound. Sound waves travel 4.5 times faster in water than they do in the air. Dolphins use this to their advantage, in ways that would make a superhero envious. Using nasal sacs in their heads, dolphins send out rapid clicks that pass through their bulbous forehead, or “melon.” The sound is focused, then beamed out in front of the dolphin. The sound wave speeds through the water, bounces off the object under investigation, and is reflected back to the dolphin. Fat-filled cavities in the dolphin’s lower jaw receive this information and auditory nerves conduct it to the middle ear and brain, where an acoustic picture is created.

Scientists say that dolphins may also use clicking to communicate with one another. Although dolphins do not possess vocal cords, they still “speak” using sounds such as whistles, squeaks, and trills. A mother dolphin may whistle to her newborn for days, apparently to imprint a signature whistle upon her baby that will enable it to recognize her. It is believed that dolphins use whistles to identify one another and possibly for other functions, such as communicating strategic alerts while hunting in a group, but scientists have yet to crack the code. Many doubt, however, that dolphins have a formal language akin to that of humans.

In the 1950s, researcher John C. Lilly helped pioneer the systematic study of dolphin vocalization. A strong advocate of interspecies communication, Lilly wrote several books about dolphins, inspired the film Day of the Dolphin (1973), and was a supporter of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Another pioneer of dolphin research, Kenneth S. Norris, first obtained evidence of dolphin echolocation by blindfolding a bottlenose to test its ability to locate an object underwater.

Since the 1960s, American military scientists have studied dolphins, and have trained them to perform such tasks as attaching explosives and eavesdropping devices to enemy ships or submarines. In the mid-1980s, the U.S. Navy began training dolphins to search for mines using their echolocation. In 2003, dolphins were deployed for the first time in a real war situation to probe the seafloor for mines near the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. For decades, animal activists have opposed the use of dolphins for entertainment or military activities, citing questionable training methods and the stress-related illnesses, such as ulcers, that the animals can manifest in such situations.

Dolphin advocates also object to the navy’s use of manmade sonar, which is used to scan and investigate the ocean depths, claiming that it is harming dolphins and other marine mammals. They point to incidents such as the beaching of four different whale species off the coast of the Bahamas in March 2000, following navy sonar exercises in the area. Marine mammals strand themselves for a variety of reasons, but investigations confirmed that navy sonar caused the Bahamas stranding. Researchers are not exactly sure how manmade sonar affects marine mammals. Some believe the intense sounds may scare or disorient them and cause them to rapidly flee to the water’s surface, resulting in a sort of decompression sickness that damages sensory organs and causes internal bleeding.

If technological sonar can be implicated in the death of dolphins, it would be a tragic irony, considering that the sonar is based in part upon nature and dolphins’ superior echolocation capability. Efforts to replicate dolphin echolocation continue to fall short, as humans have yet to achieve the complexity and precision that 50 million years of evolution has bestowed upon dolphins. Perhaps if scientists could understand dolphin-speak they’d have more luck, but for now the true nature of dolphin communication remains mysterious.

Science in the News: Dolphins help to save girl

Dolphins Guide Scientists to Rescue Suicidal Girl