Frog fanciness

p_katopriodestitozunac2

Pristimantis katoptroides in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Fausto Recalde/EcoMinga.

 

A recent trip to the Rio Zunac Reserve turned up some beautiful frogs in the genus Pristimantis. This is the largest genus of vertebrates, and its local diversity in our area is staggering. Most of them seem nondescript at first glance, but many of them have bright species-specific “flash colors” on their sides, bellies, or inner thighs. This lovely P. katoptroides photographed  by our forest guard Fausto Recalde is an example. Its inner thighs are an intense indigo blue:

p_katopriodes2titozunac

Pristimantis katoptroides in our Rio Zunac Reserve showing blue flash pattern. Photo Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Here is another Pristimantis found on an earlier trip to the forests adjacent to the reserve, which we are raising money to purchase. This one has dramatic yellow stripes on its inner thighs and sides . Juan Pablo says that this is almost certainly a new species!

dsc08735pristimantiszunacnorte-spnovmaybejprjpg

Possible new species of Pristimantis in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

The eyes can also be very colorful, as in this Pristimantis eriphus found on the same trip as the P. katoptroides:

p_eriphusjprzunac

Pristimantis eriphus in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

This is probably the same species, from our Cerro Candelaria Reserve:

pristimantis-sp1

Pristimantis eriphus? in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve. Photo: Alejandro Arteaga/TropicalHerping

Here’s Pristimantis galdi from the Rio Zunac Reserve with green eyes:

pristimantis-galdi1

Pristimantis galdi in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Javier Aznar/TropicalHerping.

Here’s a Pristimantis lacrimosus with copper eyes:

pristimantis-lacrimosus1

Pristimantis lacrimosus from our Rio Anzu Reserve. Photo: Alejandro Arteaga/TropicalHerping.

 

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation.

 

Ladyslippers 2: Conservation

0519-dsc_0203

Phragmipedium fischeri, one of the most endangered plants in Ecuador. Photo: Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.

As I mentioned in a recent post, ladyslippers as a group are the most endangered of all orchids. More than 37% of the world’s critically endangered orchid species are slipper orchids,  even though they make up less than 2% of orchid species worldwide. Our EcoMinga reserves are fortunate to host at least six slipper orchids in the genus Phragmipedium. Some of these are among the most critically endangered orchids in the world.

plindeniiv3

Phragmipedium lindenii near Banos. Photo: Lou Jost.

The most common of our slipper orchids is the one species that doesn’t have a slipper, Phragmipedium lindenii. It grows in drier habitats in some of our Banos-area reserves. A fortunate mutation in the distant past changed the symmetry of the flower, so that instead of two normal petals and a slipper, it has three normal petals. In slipper orchids there is an anther above each normal petal, and in this mutation the third petal also has an anther, which grows straight into the stigma, always fertilizing the flower.

_1000469

Phragmipedium pearcei in our Rio Anzu Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost.

Our Phragmipedium pearcei is another widespread slipper orchid. In remote places where people do not strip it, this species forms immense colonies along streams which pass through limestone outcrops at the base of the eastern Andes, on the edge of the Amazon basin. Our Rio Anzu reserve protects several large colonies.

dsc01340

Phragmipedium pearcei is often underwater. Photo: Lou Jost.

Several slipper orchids are also found in the vicinity of our Dracula Reserve mosaic in northwest Ecuador. Widespread Phragmipedium longifolium can be found on moist roadside cliffs . There is also a more unusual species whose flowers we have not seen yet, but judging from the leaves, it must be a long-petaled species, perhaps the endangered  Phrag. caudatum.

phragmipedium-longifolium-2

Phragmipedium longifolium in our Dracula Reserve. Photo: Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.

phragmipedium_caudatum_orchi_01

 Phragmipedium caudatum. Photo: Wikipedia.

The species I’ve mentioned so far are fairly widespread, though they are rapidly disappearing as a result of habitat destruction and plant collectors. Much more important for conservation are two slipper orchids which have very limited distributions centered around our Dracula Reserve: Phragmipedium hirtzii and Phragmipedium fischeri.

0726-dsc_0269

Phragmipedium hirtzii. It is easily distinguished from Phragmipedium longifolium by the lack of black “eyelashes” on its staminode (the shield-like green thing covering the entrance to the pouch). Photo: Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.

Phragmipedium hirtzii is classified as “Endangered” in the IUCN Red List, and is only known from a few sites in extreme southwest Colombia and adjacent extreme northwest Ecuador. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) reports that there are only three sites covering a total of 12 sq. kilometers. It is under heavy pressure by plant collectors. One of the populations is in our target area for expansion of the Dracula Reserve.

0501-img_3082

Critically endangered Phragmipedium fischeri in its natural habitat. Photo: Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.

Phragmipedium fischeri is even more threatened than Phragmipedium hirtzii. It is endemic to a very small area near our existing Dracula Reserve in extreme northwest Ecuador, and nearby southwest Colombia. It is classified by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered,” and they estimate the total area of occupied habitat is only around 4 sq. kilometers. The IUCN estimates there may be fewer than 100 adult individuals, and reports that even this small number is rapidly declining. If this is true, the species is on the brink of extinction and it is among the most endangered plants in Ecuador.

0523-img_3088

Fallen Phragmipedium fischeri and Phragmipedium longifolium gathered at the P.  fischeri site. Photo: Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde.

This beautiful orchid urgently needs protection. We are therefore assuming the responsibility to buy and conserve the only known Ecuadorian location for this species. Because of its importance and because increasing demand for the species from collectors, we have taken the unusual step of temporarily securing the property using borrowed money, which we must replace quickly.

The Orchid Conservation Alliance is committed to help us  extend the Dracula Reserve to include this Phragmipedium fischeri site, a Phragmipedium hirtzii site, and additional unusual habitats rich in rare and undescribed orchids and other plants and animals. We urge readers interested in slipper orchids to donate to the Orchid Conservation Alliance for this project. Please make sure you specify “Dracula Reserve” when you contact them– they support many projects, including other projects of ours. Write to tobias@scripps.edu

or send a check to

Peter Tobias, Orchid Conservation Alliance

564 Arden Drive

Encinitas, CA 92024 USA

Thanks!

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

0495-img_3076

Luis Baquero photographing Phragmipedium fischeri in its natural habitat. Photo: Gabriel Iturralde.

List of IUCN Critically Endangered Slipper Orchids:

This year’s Black-and-chestnut Eagle nest is doing well

bb6o9891

Black-and-chestnut Eagle adult landing in the nest. Click photo to enlarge. Photo: Ralph Buij.

My childhood dreams about the tropics were partly fired by a wonderful book my parents had bought me, Birds of Prey of the World. One of the most mysterious birds it described was the Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori, back then called Oroaetus isidori), an inhabitant of the remote Andean cloud forests. Hardly ever seen, almost nothing was known about it. Today forty years later this endangered species is still one of the least-known Neotropical eagles, and it continues to capture the imagination of bird students everywhere.

In January of this year I got a letter from one such person, Ralph Buij, a raptor specialist from the Netherlands. He wrote “only for seeing those eagles I’d be willing to fly halfway across the world…” He had read on this blog about our eagle nest the previous year (the young bird died shortly after leaving the nest), and hoped the eagles would re-use the nest again this year.

In late May and early June our rangers saw the adults bringing sticks to the old nest. By July an adult was sitting on the nest. Ralph began to plan his trip.

He arrived in September and the eagles did not disappoint. These are some of his photos.

isidors4

This year’s baby Black-and-chestnut Eagle. Click photo to enlarge. Photo: Ralph Buij.

bb6o0225

Black-and-chestnut Eagle adult bringing leaves to the nest. Looks like the baby is thinking “Mom, you KNOW I hate vegetables!” Click photo to enlarge. Photo: Ralph Buij.

bb6o0310

Black-and-chestnut Eagle adult bringing more leaves to the nest. These leaves may repel insects or acarid nest parasites. It would be worth investigating these further. Ralph’s photos may be good enough to get a tentative ID for the plants. Click photo to enlarge. Photo: Ralph Buij.

bb6o0086

Black-and-chestnut Eagle adult and young at our nest. Click photo to enlarge. Photo: Ralph Buij.

bb6o9895

Black-and-chestnut Eagle adult and baby in the nest. Click photo to enlarge. Photo: Ralph Buij.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

Earlier EcoMinga posts on the Black-and-chestnut (or Andean) Eagle, Spizaetus isidori:

Last photos of our young Black-and-chestnut Eagle, (Spizaetus isidori)

Sad news: our baby eagle died

Our baby Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) leaves its nest 

An eagle specialist team visits our Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) nest

Monkey killer: Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori)

Black-and-chestnut Eagle nest discovered here at last!!!!!!!!!!

Better views of our Black-and-chestnut Eagle nest

Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) again, in a different reserve

Our baby Black-and-chestnut Eagle is growing up fast!

Rio Zunac update: predator and prey

 

 

How to land a fixed-wing drone in a dense forest

Answer: Giant butterfly nets!

Ryan Lynch and Sebastian Kohn have been using an expensive fixed-wing drone, owned and operated by  Pablo Melo and Diego Andrade of Drone And GIS, to map our Manduriacu Reserve in exquisite detail. I’ll show some of those results later as they are processed and assembled. Fixed-wing drones can travel much farther than electric helicopter-drones. But there are some practical difficulties to this work. How do you land one of these fragile multi-thousand-dollar things in a forest full of trees? This is the technique that Pablo and Diego and Sebastian and Ryan used. So far it has worked.

dsc_9282

The drone rides a mule to the launch site. Photo: Sebastian Kohn.

dsc_9374

The small clearing around the Manduriacu cabin is big enough to launch the drone but not big enough, or flat enough, to land it. Photo: Sebastian Kohn.

dsc_9381

Off it goes! Photo: Sebastian Kohn.

img_0460

The drone takes detailed photos of the canopy. Courtesy Sebastian Kohn.

Thanks to Pablo Melo and Diego Andrade and their company, Drone And GIS, for their hard work to map this reserve.

 

More posts on the Manduriacu Reserve:

https://ecomingafoundation.wordpress.com/2016/07/27/a-lost-toad-rediscovered-we-join-the-effort-to-protect-rhaebo-olallai/

https://ecomingafoundation.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/jaguar-returns-to-our-manduriacu-reserve/

https://ecomingafoundation.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/manduriacu-reserve-from-the-air/

https://ecomingafoundation.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/the-pacarana-dinomys-branickii/

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

Two of our new Magnolias are spotlighted in the Ecuadorian national press; and a fourth new species of Magnolia is found in our Dracula Reserve

dsc0006

Magnolia vargasiana with flea beetle pollinator. Click caption to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Over the weekend one of the largest newspapers in Ecuador ran a nice story about the two new species of Magnolia discovered in our Rio Zunac Reserve some years ago. The article quotes David Neill explaining the remarkable story of the recent explosion of Latin American discoveries in this genus: “As of two years ago only five species of magnolia were known from Ecuador; now there are 23.”

The article notes that Fundacion EcoMinga protects the two newly-discovered species, M. llanganatensis and M. vargasiana. Our “Keepers of the Wild” reserve guards played a crucial role in their discoveries and are co-authors of the scientific articles describing these species.

dsc0054

Magnolia llanganatensis. Click caption to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost.

David mentions that many Magnolia species are endangered, but that these two species are safe thanks to our foundation.

The article only mentions two of our species, but as readers of this blog know, our guards had recently found a third undescribed species, in our new Forests in the Sky reserve near Banos, very close to the Rio Zunac Reserve where the other two Magnolias were found. That species had originally been discovered somewhat north of there, and is currently being described.

But that’s still not the end of it! Last month Alvaro Perez of the Universidad Catolica found a new population of an undescribed Magnolia in our Dracula Reserve in northwest Ecuador. That species was originally discovered near Mindo in west-central Ecuador. I suspect we will still discover one or two more new species in our reserves. But even just these four make our reserve system one of the richest in South America for this genus.

Here is the Spanish text of the article:

En Ecuador se descubrieron dos magnolias

” Científicos de la Universidad Estatal Amazónica (UEA) y de la Fundación Ecominga descubrieron dos especies de plantas del género magnolia. Este grupo de árboles es uno de los antepasados más antiguos de las plantas con flor (angiospermas). Son fósiles vivientes que colonizaron la Tierra en la era de los dinosaurios, hace 70 millones de años.
Los árboles miden entre 11 y 27 metros de altura.

Tienen flores grandes que pueden alcanzar los 30 cm de ancho y algunas tienen hasta 50 pétalos, aunque el número varía entre especies e individuos. 
¿Por qué tantos pétalos? Las primeras flores evolucionaron de una especie de piñas características de las plantas de la época del Cretácico. Así lo explicó David Neill, uno de los investigadores del estudio.
 El descubrimiento de especies de magnolia es esencial para estudiar el origen y la evolución de las plantas con flor. En el mundo existen alrededor de 170 especies de este género. 
En la última década, se ha descubierto un gran número de especies neotropicales. Ahora las magnolias que se encuentran en el Nuevo Mundo han aumentado de un tercio a casi la mitad de todos los especímenes a escala mundial.

“Hace dos años se conocían apenas cinco especies de magnolia en Ecuador; ahora son 23”, cuenta Neill. Agrega que esta es una demostración de las pocas investigaciones que se han realizado del género.
 El Ecuador es el país neotropical con más especímenes por área. En especial la región de Zamora Chinchipe, la cual alberga nueve especies por ­cada 10 000 km². 
El descubrimiento de los dos nuevos árboles fue inesperado. Los científicos habían encontrado las flores de los especímenes durante un muestreo en la Cordillera de los Llanganates, en el 2014. Las archi­varon, guardando su secreto en el herbario de la UEA.

Meses más tarde, el botánico mexicano Antonio Vázquez las identificó como dos nuevas especies de plantas únicas en el mundo. A la primera, los científicos la llamaron Magnolia vargasiana, nombrada en honor al rector de la UEA, Julio César Vargas. Las segunda recibió el nombre del lugar donde la encontraron: Magnolia llanganatensis. 
Magnolia vargasiana tiene hojas más puntiagudas que la llanganatensis. Esta última, publicada recientemente como nueva especie, tiene frutos rojos, su flor mide 3 centímetros y posee seis pétalos.

Las dos especies son endémicas de un área limitada de la cordillera central de los Llanganates. Es decir, no se encuentran en ninguna otra parte del mundo. 
Ambas habitan dentro de un área protegida por la Fundación Ecominga, por lo que según Neill no presentan ninguna amenaza, al contrario de otras especies.

Un estudio -realizado por Vázquez y sus colegas- afirma que un 26% de las magnolias del neotrópico se encuentra amenazado de extinción, según la Lista Roja de la Unión Internacional para la Conservación (UICN).
El género magnolia es de origen norteamericano. Este migró a Europa, Asia y Sudamérica. Después de miles de años se extinguió en Europa, dejando solo restos fósiles de su existencia.

Actualmente, debido a la degradación del hábitat, muchas especies de estos fósiles vivientes ya no existen en estado natural . 
En Asia y América, este grupo de árboles tiene una importancia económica y cultural. Su madera es cotizada por ser dura. Muchas especies 
se siembran con fines ornamentales. Otras se utilizan para la industria farmacéutica y la de perfumes.”

Este contenido ha sido publicado originalmente por Diario EL COMERCIO en la siguiente dirección: http://www.elcomercio.com/tendencias/ecuador-descubrieron-magnolias-flora.html. ElComercio.com
Lou Jost
Fundacion EcoMinga