More than 40 new species published by the Ateneo Biodiversity Laboratory in the year of the pandemic

December 15, 2020
A year intended for intense field work by the Ateneo Biodiversity Laboratory ended early in a hard lockdown with very few of the expeditions undertaken even though intense preparations had been made and field collection permits were secured. Nevertheless, the frustrating time of social distancing and home office has been used efficiently by the lab members, despite of the challenging commitment to online lessons for both, instructors and students. Publications with the description of 46 new species were authored by the team consisting of Dr. Jhoana Garces (current lab head), Emmanuel Delocado, Arthien Pelingen, Marc Ryan Sabordo, Clister Pangantihon, Kyra Mari Dominique Aldaba and Veverle San Juan lead by Prof. Hendrik Freitag. Modern approaches of integrative taxonomy were applied, which incorporate genetic, geographic and ecological information to aid to the species description. For instance, many DNA barcodes were generated and uploaded to the global databases.
Some of the new species (left to right): Labiobaetis pelingeni (a small minnow mayfly), Dudgeodes tabang (a mayfly) named after the Cebuano words tab-ang and tabang (freshwater and help), Neoperla mindoroensis (a stonefly), Rhagovelia gapudi (a riffle bug) named in honour of the late Victor P. Gapud (UPLB), the pioneer of water bug research in the Philippines, Timasius alveus (a velvet water bug) and Ancyronyx negrosensis (a spider riffle beetle).  
The new species of mayflies (24), stoneflies (1), water bugs (4) and aquatic beetles (17) were named in honor of laboratory members, who collected specimens for their colleagues in a mutual effort.  Furthermore, Philippine localities, ethnic groups, fellow peers from the field of Biodiversity Science and supporters were honored by a species name, e.g., Prof. Karl Matthias Wantzen (University of Tours, France & UNESCO Chair "River Culture") who served as keynote speaker during the last Philippine Symposium on Freshwater Biodiversity and Ecosystems (PSFBE) in 2018 and joined an expedition organized by the laboratory. Another species name was kindly sponsored thru the BIOPAT patronage program in honor of Mr. Zoltan Berghauer Sr. (Bratislava, Slovakia). Two new genera of Baetidae were also described from the Philippines.

But the laboratory was not only active in species discovery, several more papers were published, such as a checklist of water bugs of Mindoro with first records of several species for the island. The Pensoft-sponsored paper in BDJ was published in the Proceedings of the 26th Annual Philippine Biodiversity Symposium hosted by the Ateneo in 2017. The paper is mainly based on the output of a graduate course and co-authored by the (former) students Arthien Lovell Pelingen, Kyra Mari Dominique Aldaba, Earl Kevin Fatallo and Jemillie Madonna de Leon.

The Biodiversity Laboratory was established in 2015. The main specialization is systematics and ecology of freshwater arthropods of the Oriental Realm. In 2018, a new, modern lab and collection repository at the PLDT-Convergent Technologies Center was inaugurated together with a molecular-genetics lab. The repository hosts recent and some historic field collections, including paratypes of arthropods that have been described by lab members. The lab is equipped with various microscopic and digital imaging facilities.

Ateneo Biodiversity Laboratory members and BIO-PHIL collaborators sampling Mimpis River in Majayjay, Laguna where some of the new species were collected.
Students from bachelor to doctorate level have used the facilities to conduct their theses and dissertations. Local and foreign scientists from Austria, Brunei, Cambodia, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, and the USA collaborate with lab members, especially under the BIO-PHIL network (current country coordinator: Emmanuel Delocado). Additionally, the laboratory organizes workshops and conferences almost every year to expose enthusiasts to the specialization of the lab and to related biodiversity trends and issues.