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Next-generation morphological character discovery and evaluation: an X-ray micro-CT enhanced revision of the ant genus Zasphinctus Wheeler (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Dorylinae) in the Afrotropics

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      Abstract

      AbstractNew technologies for imaging and analysis of morphological characters offer opportunities to enhance revisionary taxonomy and better integrate it with the rest of biology. In this study, we revise the Afrotropical fauna of the ant genus Zasphinctus Wheeler, and use high-resolution X-ray microtomography (micro-CT) to analyse a number of morphological characters of taxonomic and biological interest. We recognise and describe three new species: Z. obamai sp. n., Z. sarowiwai sp. n., and Z. wilsoni sp. n. The species delimitations are based on the morphological examination of all physical specimens in combination with 3D scans and volume reconstructions. Based on this approach, we present a new taxonomic discrimination system for the regional fauna that consists of a combination of easily observable morphological characters visible at magnifications of around 80–100 ×, less observable characters that require higher magnifications, as well as characters made visible through virtual dissections that would otherwise require destructive treatment. Zasphinctus are rarely collected ants and the material available to us is comparatively scarce. Consequently, we explore the use of micro-CT as a non-invasive tool for the virtual examination, manipulation, and dissection of such rare material. Furthermore, we delineate the treated species by providing a diagnostic character matrix illustrated by numerous images and supplement that with additional evidence in the form of stacked montage images, 3D PDFs and 3D rotation videos of scans of major body parts and full body (in total we provide 16 stacked montage photographs, 116 images of 3D reconstructions, 15 3D rotation videos, and 13 3D PDFs). In addition to the comparative morphology analyses used for species delimitations, we also apply micro-CT data to examine certain traits, such as mouthparts, cuticle thickness, and thoracic and abdominal muscles in order to assess their taxonomic usefulness or gain insights into the natural history of the genus. The complete datasets comprising the raw micro-CT data, 3D PDFs, 3D rotation videos, still images of 3D models, and coloured montage photos have been made available online as cybertypes (Dryad, http://dx.doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4s3v1).

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          MicroCT for developmental biology: a versatile tool for high-contrast 3D imaging at histological resolutions.

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          Understanding developmental processes requires accurate visualization and parameterization of three-dimensional embryos. Tomographic imaging methods offer automatically aligned and calibrated volumetric images, but the usefulness of X-ray CT imaging for developmental biology has been limited by the low inherent contrast of embryonic tissues. Here, I demonstrate simple staining methods that allow high-contrast imaging of embryonic tissues at histological resolutions using a commercial microCT system. Quantitative comparisons of images of chick embryos treated with different contrast agents show that three very simple methods using inorganic iodine and phosphotungstic acid produce overall contrast and differential tissue contrast for X-ray imaging at least as high as that obtained with osmium. The stains can be used after any common fixation and after storage in aqueous or alcoholic media, and on a wide variety of species. These methods establish microCT imaging as a useful tool for comparative developmental studies, embryo phenotyping, and quantitative modeling of development. (c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ] Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, 1919–1 Tancha, Onna-son 904–0495, Japan
            Author notes
            Corresponding author: Francisco Hita Garcia ( fhitagarcia@ 123456gmail.com )

            Academic editor: B. Fisher

            Journal
            Zookeys
            Zookeys
            ZooKeys
            ZooKeys
            Pensoft Publishers
            1313-2989
            1313-2970
            2017
            23 August 2017
            : 693
            : 33-93
            5777420
            10.3897/zookeys.693.13012
            Francisco Hita Garcia, Georg Fischer, Cong Liu, Tracy L. Audisio, Evan P. Economo

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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