A new species of horned lizard

In June 2012 we went on a field expedition to México to collect horned lizards for a new phylogeny project. There aren’t that many species of horned lizards (16 species), and we were trying to get fresh tissue samples from all of them for genome sequencing. These lizards are exceptionally difficult to find – they’re amazingly camouflaged, and they don’t even move when you walk by them. We failed to find any horned lizards during our 2011 trip to México, but 2012 was different. We had some real horned lizard experts on the team: Wade Sherbrooke (he wrote the book on horned lizards), Adrián Nieto Montes de Oca, and Rafael Lara.  The trip was a real success, and we found everything that we were looking for and more. Jared Grummer published a story about the trip on the Burke Museum Blog: Cloudy with a chance of lizards.

One important piece of information left out of Jared’s story is our discovery of a new species. The new species occurs in the state of Guerrero, in the mountains to the east of Chilpancingo. The last discovery of a new Phrynosoma was in 1906 (P. ditmarsi), and although we’ve seen plenty of taxonomic reshuffling in horned lizards over the past 108 years, the probability of discovering a new one seemed slim to none. The new species is named Phrynosoma sherbrookei in recognition of Wade Sherbrooke for all of his contributions to horned lizard biology.

Our paper describing the new species is published in Herpetologica. There might be a few stories posted about the new species, and we already found a photo of it posted at Science. 

Nieto-Montes de Oca, A., D. Arenas-Moreno, E. Beltrán-Sánchez, and A. D. Leaché. 2014.
A new species of horned lizard (Genus Phrynosoma) from Guerrero, México, with an updated multilocus phylogeny. Herpetologica, 70(2):241–257.

The 2012 field team in Mexico. Wade Sherbrook in center.

The 2012 field team in Mexico. Wade Sherbrooke in center.


A handful of new horned lizards.

New horned lizard

The new species, Phrynosoma sherbrookei.

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Science Comix on our Research

A snippet from the new webcomic.

A snippet from the new webcomic.

Science Comix is a webcomic about science written and illustrated by Winifred Kehl at the Burke Museum. She recently posted a new webcomic about our research on African biodiversity, and how we’re studying the formation of new species. She picked an appropriate title: “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”

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Best ASIH Symposium that Never Was.

Are you going to the 2015 American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) meetings in Reno, Nevada?
If not, then you won’t miss this symposium:
The Next-Generation: Genomic Studies of Herps and Fishes”

The ASIH Symposium Committee rejected our proposal.  The committee informed us that the field is too exploratory. They suggested that we try again after waiting two or three years to let the field develop. They also pointed out that they already have some genomics talks scheduled for 2014. They did offer us the chance to self-organize our talks into a contributed paper session, which could lead to a series of papers in Copeia.

Here’s a sneak peek at the best ASIH symposium that never was!

We proposed a joint symposium of ichthyologists and herpetologists to address the major advances in systematics and evolution that are a result of the NGS revolution. We thought that this symposium was well timed for the broader ichthyology and herpetology communities. The symposium participants would have included experts that spanned phylogenetic and population level analyses of fishes and herps, and different types of NGS methods, including RADseq, sequence capture, whole genome sequencing, and transcriptomics.

List of speakers and topics:
Mike Alfaro – (UCLA) percomorph genomics
Todd Castoe – (UT Arlington) snake genomics
Prosanta Chakrabarty – (LSU) genomics at the family level of fishes
Brant Faircloth – (UCLA) vertebrate genomics
Matt Fujita – (UT Arlington) lizard genomics
Paul Hime – (U Kentucky) amphibian genomics
Adam Leaché – (UW) population genomics
Emily Lemmon – (FSU) frog genomics
Rachel Mueller – (CSU) salamander genomics
Gavin Naylor – (College of Charleston) shark genomics
Tom Near– (Yale) percomorph genomics
Brad Schaffer (UCLA) – amphibian and turtle genomics
Laurie Sorenson – (LSU) squalomorph genomics
Erica Rosenblum – (UC Berkeley) genomics of adaptation
Sara Ruane – (AMNH) Madagascar snake phylogenomics
David Weisrock – (U Kentucky) salamander genomics


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Molecular Evolution: A Statistical Approach

Ziheng Yang's new book with Charles Linkem's cover photo.

Ziheng Yang’s new book with Charles Linkem’s cover photo.

Ziheng Yang’s new book, “Molecular Evolution: A Statistical Approach” is on sale at Amazon. The cover photo, a western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), was taken by Charles Linkem during our collecting trip to Oregon last summer. Some people think that the lizard is beautiful, while others (Ziheng included) think that it looks terrifying. The book covers the statistical and computational foundations of molecular evolution, phylogenetics and phylogeography. It provides explanations and examples using real data analysis. The data and computer programs are available on the web, and course materials are provided at the end of each chapter. This will make it easy to use the book for teaching, perhaps in a graduate seminar course.

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Bayesian Phylogenetics Workshop

A new workshop on Bayesian phylogenetic analysis using the program RevBayes is happening August 25-31, 2014 at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, NC.  The course will cover a lot of useful material, including probability theory, divergence dating, species trees, biogeography, phylodynamics, comparative methods, and fully integrative Bayesian inference of phylogenetic parameters.  The course instructors are awesome too:
Bastien Boussau, LBBE, Lyon, France
Tracy Heath, UC Berkeley & U Kansas
Sebastian Höhna, UC Davis & UC Berkeley
John Huelsenbeck, UC Berkeley
Michael Landis, UC Berkeley
Nicolas Lartillot, LBBE, Lyon, France
Brian Moore, UC Davis
Fredrik Ronquist, NRM Stockholm
Tanja Stadler, ETH Zürich

They expect a lot of competition for space, so get your application in early.

Also, dress will be very casual, with a good chance of thunderstorms.

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