EvoLiteracy News 04 07 2015

Today’s EvoLiteracy picks are quite fun:  First, a note about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s participation at this year’s UMass Amherst Undergraduate Commencement. Neill will be speaking to 5.5k undergrads on May 8th. Second, three new species descriptions –just published yesterday, April 6– of lizards in the genus Enyalioides, by colleagues at the Museum of Zoology QCAZ at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador (yes, my undergraduate “Alma Mater”). And, third, a cool animation by TEDEd about how geckos defy gravity! Enjoy – GPC.

Neil deGrasse Tyson to be Commencement Speaker at UMass Amherst.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Photo Richard Shotwell

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson to be Commencement Speaker at UMass Amherst, on May 8, 2015 – Photo Richard Shotwell

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, will be this year’s keynote speaker at the Undergraduate Commencement of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Dr. Tyson will address 5,500 students receiving bachelor’s degrees, as well as family and friends, on May 8th.

The UMass Amherst press release states: “Dr. Tyson’s professional research interests  include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies and the structure of the Milky Way. He most recently became executive editor and on-camera host for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the 21st century reboot of Carl Sagan’s landmark television series. The show ran 13 episodes and appeared in 181 countries and in 45 languages –on the National Geographic Channels. Cosmos has been nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Documentary.” Read detailed story at UMass Amherst News & Media Relations, and The Boston Globe.

More from Ecuador and Peru: Colorful New ‘Dwarf Dragons’ Found in South America.

From Nat Geo: “Wood lizards are among the largest and most colorful lizards in South American forests, making their discovery even more notable. It took a decade for scientists to identify the reptiels, which are commonly called wood lizards. They are the Alto Tambo wood lizard (Enyalioides altotambo), rough-scaled wood lizard (E. anisolepis), and Rothschild’s wood lizard (E. sophiarothschildae). The discovery brings the total number of wood lizard species to 15. That’s nearly twice the number of species known in 2006—giving this group of South American reptiles one of the fastest discovery rates of the past decade.”

The study, authored by Omar Torres-Carvajal, Pablo J. Venegas and Kevin de Queiroz was published yesterday, April 6, 2015, in ZooKeys. The authors summarize the research as follows: “The discovery of three new species of Enyalioides from the tropical Andes in Ecuador and northern Peru is reported. Enyalioides altotambo sp. n. [new species] occurs in northwestern Ecuador and differs from other species of Enyalioides in having dorsal scales that are both smooth and homogeneous in size, a brown iris, and in lacking enlarged, circular and keeled scales on the flanks. Enyalioides anisolepis sp. n. [new species] occurs on the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in southern Ecuador and northern Peru and can be distinguished from other species of Enyalioides by its scattered, projecting large scales on the dorsum, flanks, and hind limbs, as well as a well-developed vertebral crest, with the vertebrals on the neck at least three times higher than those between the hind limbs. Enyalioides sophiarothschildae sp. n. [new species] is from the Amazonian slopes of the Cordillera Central in northeastern Peru; it differs from other species of Enyalioides in having caudal scales that are relatively homogeneous in size on each caudal segment, a white gular region with a black medial patch and several turquoise scales in males, as well as immaculate white labials and chin. A molecular phylogenetic tree of 18 species of hoplocercines is presented, including the three species described in this paper and E. cofanorum, as well as an updated identification key for species of Hoplocercinae.” For complete study and images go to ZooKeys, and for popular media article go to NatGeo.

Enyalioides altotambo Photo Luis A Coloma

Above: Holotype of Enyalioides altotambo. Photo Luis A. Coloma.

Paratype Enyalioides altotambo Photo Luis A Coloma

Above: Paratype of Enyalioides altotambo. Photo by Luis A. Coloma.

Enyalioides anisolepis Three Images Photo Omar Torres-Carvajal

Above: Holotype of Enyalioides anisolepis. Photo by Omar Torres-Carvajal.

Holotype of Enyalioides sophiarothschildae Photo Pablo J Venegas

Above: Holotype of Enyalioides sophiarothschildae.  Photo by Pablo J. Venegas

How do geckos defy gravity? Watch a cute video, with some serious information by TEDEd Lessons Worth Sharing.

From TEDEd: “Geckos aren’t covered in adhesives or hooks or suction cups, and yet they can effortlessly scale vertical walls and hang from ceilings. What’s going on? Eleanor Nelsen explains how geckos’ feet allow them to defy gravity.” Watch the video produced by TEDEd Lessons Worth Sharing.