Sunday 16 September 2012

A new species of Leaf Bug from the Mangrove Forests of Singapore and Thailand.

Mangroves are terrestrial plants that can survive immersion in salt water, typically inhabiting the tidal zone, or occasionally slightly beyond. Mangroves are an ecological rather than a taxonomic group, the ability to survive saltwater inundation having arisen numerous times in different plant groups, although the term Mangrove is usually reserved for tree-sized plants (and often inly tropical ones at that), whereas tidal habitats dominated by salt-tolerant herbaceous plants are generally called salt-marshes. One group of monocotyledonous plants, the Seagrasses, has moved beyond the tidal environment and returned to a fully marine lifestyle.

Mangroves present a unique environment, exploited by both terrestrial and marine life-forms, many of which have become adapted to live exclusively in Mangroves, including Fish such as mudskippers that now spend some of their lives out of water, and some animals from terrestrial groups usually intolerant of salt water, such as Amphibians and Insects.

In a paper published in The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology on 29 February 2012, Dennis Murphy of the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore and Dan Polhemus of the Department of Natural Sciences at  Bishop Museum in Honolulu describe a new species of Leaf Bug from the Mangrove Forests of Thailand and Singapore.

The new species is given the name Mangalcoris miniatus, the Miniature Mangrove Leaf Bug. It is under 2 mm in length, bright red in colour, lacks wings and has exceptionally long legs. Mangalcoris miniatus was found living on the underside of wet intertidal timber in Magrove Forests in Singapore and Thailand. When the timbers were overturned the Bugs relocated to the new underside rapidly. Murphy and Polhemus suggest that the species may have escaped notice until now due to its small size and resemblance to Trombiculid Mites. When collected the Bugs produced a distinctive odour, presumably as a deterrent to predators. It was not possible to determine the Bugs diet.

Mangalcors miniatus. Male specimens at top, female specimens below. Murphy & Polhemus (2012).

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