A new orchid from our Dracula Reserve, Lepanthes tulcanensis


Lepanthes tulcanensis, a new species named after the township that contains most of our Dracula Reserve. Click image to enlarge.  Photo: Marco Monteros.

Yesterday the scientific journal Lankesteriana published the scientific description  of another new orchid species from our Dracula Reserve. The authors and discoverers of the new species are our long-time collaborators Luis Baquero (Universidad de las Americas, Quito) and Marco Monteros (EcoMinga):

A new tall and exceptional species of Lepanthes from north-west Ecuador (Orchidaceae: Pleurothallidinae)

Click to access 04.%20Baquero%20et%20Monteros%202020.pdf

The new orchid is in the genus Lepanthes, one of the most diverse genera of flowering plants in the world, with over a thousand species, all in Latin America. Ecuador alone has more than 300 species of Lepanthes. Members of this genus often have very small ranges and seem very fussy about where they grow. They are therefore very useful indicator species of unusual microclimates, or places with unusual biogeographical histories. New Lepanthes had been coming out of what is now the Dracula Reserve for many years, indicating that this was an unusual area, and this latest discovery, along with several others in the process of description, show that we have not reached the end of the surprises here. This particular species is quite an unusual one with several unique features, as explained in the article linked above.


Lepanthes tulcanensis in its habitat. Click image to enlarge. Photo: Marco Monteros.


The authors named the new species after Tulcan, the township that includes much of the Dracula Reserve. This township has been very supportive of our conservation efforts, and it is appropriate that Tulcan should be honored in this way. We hope that this will increase local awareness of the uniqueness of these forests, and maybe even promote a sense of pride in the nature that surrounds the town.

Congratulations to Lucho y Marco for this exciting discovery!


Lepanthes tulcanensis. Photo: Marco Montero.

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

Una nueva orquídea de nuestra Reserva Drácula, Lepanthes tulcanensis


IMG 01 – Lepanthes tulcanensis, una nueva especie nombrada en honor al pueblo que contiene la mayoría de la reserva Drácula. Click en la imagen para agrandar. Fotografía: Marco Monteros
Ayer la revista científica Lankesteriana publicó la descripción científica de otra nueva especie de orquídea de nuestra Reserva Drácula. Los autores y descubridores de la nueva especie son nuestro colaborador de largo tiempo, Luis Baquero (Universidad de las Américas, Quito) y Marco Monteros (EcoMinga).
La nueva orquídea está en el género Lepanthes, uno de los géneros más diversos de plantas con flor en el mundo, con más de mil especies, todas en Latinoamérica. Solo Ecuador tiene más de 300 especies de Lepanthes. Miembros de este género a menudo tienen rangos de distribución muy estrechos y parecen ser muy quisquillosos con respecto a dónde crecen. Por lo tanto, son especies indicadoras muy útiles de microclimas inusuales o lugares con historias biogeográficas inusuales. Las nuevas Lepanthes han estado saliendo de lo que hoy es la Reserva Drácula por muchos años, indicando que se trataba de un área inusual, y este último descubrimiento, junto con varios otros en proceso de descripción, muestran que no hemos alcanzado el final de las sorpresas aquí. Esta especie en particular es muy inusual con varias características únicas, como se explica en el artículo vinculado anteriormente.
IMG 02-Lepanthes tulcanensis en su hábitat. Click en la imagen para agrandar.
Los autores nombraron la nueva especie en honor a Tulcán, el municipio que incluye gran parte de la Reserva Drácula. El municipio ha apoyado mucho en nuestros esfuerzos de conservación, y es apropiado que Tulcán sea honrado de esta manera. Esperamos que esto incremente la conciencia local sobre la singularidad de estos bosques y tal vez incluso promueva un sentido orgullo por la naturaleza que rodea la ciudad.
Felicidades a Lucho y Marco por este emocionante descubrimiento
IMG 03 – Lepanthes tulcanensis. Fotografía: Marco Montero
Lou Jost, Fundación EcoMinga
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano Flores

New genus of rodents discovered in our reserves in western Ecuador

Pattonimus ecominga (joven)JB

Pattonimus ecominga, new species and new genus, from our Dracula Reserve. Photo: Jorge Brito.


Pattonimus ecominga from our Dracula Reserve. Photo from the article cited below.

A new genus of rodents has just been announced, based primarily on discoveries made over the last five years in our Dracula and Manduriacu Reserves in western Ecuador:

A new genus of oryzomyine rodents (Cricetidae, Sigmodontinae) with three new species from montane cloud forests, western Andean cordillera of Colombia and Ecuador

Jorge Brito and his co-workers have been doing field work in our western reserves for many yerars, gradually filling the void in our knowledge of the mammals of the northwestern Choco cloud forests in Ecuador. Today’s publication describes a new genus of medium-sized rats, Pattonimus, which these researchers discovered in our reserves. Pattonimus ecominga (named after us – thank you Jorge!) was the first species of this new genus discovered; it was found in 2016 in our Dracula Reserve in Carchi province, The second species of this new genus, P. musseri, was discovered the following year in our Manduriacu Reserve in the province of Imbabura. This is a pattern we have also seen with frogs, orchids, and many other groups: the area north of the Rio Mira, where we established our Dracula Reserve, and the area south of that river, where our Manduriacu Reserve is located, often have closely-related endemic species-pairs. Jorge and his co-workers also found another new species of this genus farther south, in the Otonga Reserve established by Geovanni Onore, and another possible new species north of our reserves, in Colombia. There was not enough material to describe the Otonga species, but genetic evidence suggests it is distinct from both P. ecominga and P. musseri. The authors were not able to closely study the Colombian specimens, which may or may not be distinct from P. ecominga.


Locality map for the new species of Pattonimus from the paper cited above.

It’s a real surprise to discover a new genus with multiple new species spread over such a wide area! It shows how poorly known this area is, and also how unique it is. That’s why we have two reserves there. The region is severely threatened by mining and deforestation, so we are actively expanding both of these reserves. The World Land Trust, IUCN/Netherlands, and Fundacion Condor Andino is helping us expand the Manduriacu Reserve, while Rainforest Trust, the University of Basel Botanical Garden, the Youth Land Trust, and the Orchid Conservation Alliance are currrently helping us expand the Dracula Reserve. We are making good progress, and we’ll bring you up to date on that in a future blog post.

Congratulations to Jorge and his team at the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad for these discoveries, and we look forward to continued collaborations in the future!

Lou Jost, Director, Fundacion EcoMinga

Photo links are now fixed in our last post about Jaime Culebras’ photos

WordPress has changed its interface in unfathomable ways, ruining the image links in our last post. I have now fixed then so Jaime’s wonderful photos can be seen in full screen by clicking on their captions. Sorry for the error. I will probably make more mistakes in the future thanks to these very annoying WordPress changes.


Lou Jost

Jaime Culebras wins a Natural History Museum “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” award for a photo from our Manduriacu Reserve


_DSC6558_N_manduriacuNymphargus manduriacu eating a spider. Winner of the “Life in the Balance” award. Click this caption to enlarge. Photo by Jaime Culebras.

[Traduccion en espanol abajo]

Last week our collaborator Jaime Culebras, a herpetologist and wildlife photographer from Spain who resides in Ecuador, won a prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award from the Natural History Museum (UK). His winning picture is of the recently-discovered Manduriacu Glass Frog, Nymphargus manduriacu, photographed in our Manduriacu Reserve in western Ecuador. We’re very excited for him!

From the Award text: “Jaime walked for four hours to reach this location, determined to share his passion for glass frogs. He was thrilled to catch sight of one eating a spider, its eyes like shimmering mosaics. Serenaded by a frog chorus in torrential rain, Jaime claimed the first-ever picture of this species feeding. Distinguished by the yellow spots on its back and the lack of webbing between its fingers, the Manduriacu frog is found only in a small area in the foothills of the Andes. It is threatened by habitat loss and environmental contamination associated with cattle ranching, agriculture and mining. This frog could soon face extinction.”

Jaime writes:

“It brought me endless joy to win this award and particularly the category in question, since I am mainly dedicated to research and photography of amphibians and reptiles,” Jaime tells us. “However, it also causes me sadness because this species, just described, is already Critically Endangered due to the serious threat of mining projects, which are affecting all of the Ecuadorian tropical Andes”.

“I love to show the secrets of these animals, especially their behaviour. Glass frogs live on the vegetation next to streams, so you often have to wade through the water and in the rain. But it’s amazing – in those moments, you feel free,”

He also had another image from Manduriacu recognized in this competition, a reversal of the previous image, a big spider eating glass frog eggs:

_DSC5741_Spider&Glassfrog_ManduriacuSpider eating frog eggs. Click this caption to enlarge. Photo: Jaime Culebras.

Jaime has contributed many frog portraits to EcoMinga. Here is one of my favorites, his picture of another species of glass frog, Nymphargus balionotus, again from Manduriacu, the only place in the world where it is still known to survive:
Congratulations to Jaime and thanks for your hard work in our reserves!
Lou Jost, Director Ejecutivo, Fundacion EcoMinga
Jaime Culebras gana el premio “Fotógrafo de Vida Silvestre del Año” del Museo de Historia Natural por una fotografía tomada de nuestra Reserva Manduriacu
La semana anterior, nuestro colaborador Jaime Culebras, un herpetólogo y fotógrafo de vida silvestre de España que reside en Ecuador, ganó el prestigioso premio Fotógrafo de Vida Silvestre del Año del Museo de historia Natural (UK), Su imagen ganadora es una de la recientemente descubierta Ranita de Cristal de Manduriacu, Nymphargus manduriacu, fotografiada en nuestra Reserva Manduriacu, Ecuador. ¡Estamos muy emocionados por él!
Del texto ganador: “Jaime caminó por cuatro horas para llegar a la localidad, determinado a compartir su pasión por las ranitas de cristal. Se emocionó al divisar a una comiendo una araña, con sus ojos como mosaicos relucientes. Con serenata de un coro de ranas en una lluvia torrencial, Jaime reclamó la primera imagen de esta especie alimentándose. Distinguida por los puntos amarillos en su espalda, y la ausencia de membranas entre los dedos, la rana de Manduriacu se encuentra solamente en un área pequeña en las estribaciones de los Andes. Está amenazada por la pérdida de hábitat y la contaminación ambiental asociada a la ganadería, la agricultura y la minería. Esta rana pronto podría enfrentar la extinción.”
Jaime escribe: 
“Me trajo una alegría infinita ganar este premio y particularmente la categoría en cuestión, ya que me dedico principalmente a la investigación y fotografía de anfibios y reptiles”, nos dice Jaime. “Sin embargo, también me causa tristeza porque esta especie, recién descrita, ya se encuentra en Peligro Crítico debido a la seria amenaza de los proyectos mineros, que están afectando a todos los Andes tropicales ecuatorianos” 
“Me encanta mostrar los secretos de estos animales, especialmente su comportamiento. Las ranas de cristal viven en la vegetación junto a los arroyos, así que a menudo tienes que atravesar el agua y la lluvia. Pero es increíble. En esos momentos, te sientes libre”
Él también tuvo otra imagen reconocida de Manduriacu en esta competición, una inversión de la imagen previa, una gran araña comiendo huevos de ranas de cristal: 
Jaime ha contribuido con muchos retratos de ranas a EcoMinga. Aquí está uno de mis favoritos, su imagen de otra especie de rana de cristal, Nymphagus balionotus, nuevamente de Manduriacu, el único lugar en el mundo donde todavía se sabe que sobrevive:
¡Felicitaciones a Jaime y gracias por tu arduo trabajo en nuestras reservas!
Lou Jost,  Director Ejecutivo, Fundación EcoMinga
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano-Flores