Rainforest Trust’s Species Legacy auction program includes new Dracula Reserve frog, forest mouse, and orchid

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New Pristimantis frog. Photo: EcoMinga/Jordy Salazar.

 

[Traducion en espanol abajo]

Tomorrow, December 8, 2018, the Rainforest Trust will put up for auction the naming rights for a number of new species from around the world. The goal is to raise money for Rainforest Trust’s partners, such as EcoMinga, to permanently protect each of these species, and then name each new species after the donor who protects them, or after a person or thing that the donor designates.

Rainforest Trust describes the program as “A historic opportunity to name a species new to science and protect their habitat… Rainforest Trust is celebrating 30 years of conservation success with the largest ever public auction of species naming rights. The twelve newly discovered species pictured below need scientific recognition and we’re providing an exclusive opportunity to preserve your legacy through purchasing the naming rights. Or bid to give the ultimate gift to a loved one this holiday season! Proceeds from this auction go directly to the nature reserves in which these species live, so a bid for one of these species’ names is a chance to both save them from extinction and honor someone or something you care about.”

Rainforest Trust has included three species from the Dracula Reserve and its vicinity, including the most beautiful frog of the whole auction, and the only mammal, and the biggest orchid:

 

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New Pristimantis frog. Photo: Mario Yanez

Pristimantis sp. nov.  (blue eyes)

This stunning new frog with unusual blue to blue-gray eyes was featured in an earlier post. It was found after a long journey into one of the best foothill forests our herpetologist reserve manager, Juan Pablo Reyes, had ever seen in western Ecuador. This forest is adjacent to our current Dracula Reserve, and a target for future purchase, so Juan Pablo and Mario Yanez (INABIO) were charged with investigating it. On their first night in this magnificent forest, these experienced frog scientists quickly became aware of a series of strange unfamiliar frog songs, most of them coming from the canopy above their heads. (Like the best birdwatchers, good frog scientists know the calls of all the local frogs, and hunt for new species mostly by sound.) Searching for the sources of these calls with their flashlights, Juan Pablo and Mario finally located the eye reflections of one of the mystery frogs singing on an aroid leaf about 3.5 meters above  the ground. Juan Pablo climbed a neighboring trunk and was able to use a stick to knock off the leaf, which spun to the ground while the frog stuck firmly to its surface! The herpetologists caught it, and the moment they saw its blue eyes contrasting with the yellow body mottled with brown, they knew they had found a species new to science.

 

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New forest mouse. Photo: Jorge Brito

Chilomys sp. nov.

This little animal was first encountered during our initial Dracula Reserve expedition in 2015, with scientists from the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INABIO) and University of Basel (Switzerland) in search of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Jorge Brito from INABIO was the mammal expert. During the first week of the expedition very few animals were found, but among them were three small individuals in the small genus Chilomys (forest mice) that caught Jorge’s attention, since there were no reports of a Chilomys like this from the region. He could not identify them to species at that time, and listed them as “Chilomys sp.” in his report. No more individuals were found until a new expedition in 2016, when more were found in the highest part of the reserve. With these new individuals Jorge was able to judge the range of variation in the species’ traits. Another individual was collected in 2018 in one of the lower parts of the reserve, showing that this animal was in fact widely distributed throughout our Dracula Reserve mosaic, though most abundant in the highest parts.

Once all the individuals were studied, it became clear that these enigmatic mice were different from the other known species of Chilomys, showing that the region protected by the Dracula Reserve was not only special for plants and frogs but also for mammals.

 

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New Trevoria orchid. Photo: Luis Baquero

Trevoria sp. nov. (orchid)

This species discovery needed a lot of patience. The first known plant was found eight years ago in a remote part of what is now our Dracula Reserve, by orchidologist Luis Baquero and local resident Hector Yela, who is now our reserve guard. It did not have flowers so nothing could be concluded about it. Over the succeeding years several other plants were found in distant parts of the future Dracula Reserve, always without flowers. One of them was collected alive and kept in the Quito Botanical Garden, where it finally flowered for the first time this year. The flower has a strong odor of olive oil. Sadly the creation of our reserve did not happen in time to save the largest population of this species, but we have  managed to protect some of the other populations.

Please spread the word about this opportunity to support conservation and name a species. Remember, tomorrow is the day!

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

Nuevas especies de ranas, orquídeas y ratones de bosque de la Reserva Drácula se incluyen en Subasta de Nominación de Especies de Rainforest Trust
Traducido por: Alejandra Solórzano Flores
 
IMG 01- Nueva rana de Pristimantis. Fotografía: EcoMinga/Jordy Salazar.
 
Mañana, 8 de diciembre 2018, la organización Rainforest Trust pondrá en subasta los derechos para nombrar nuevas especies alrededor del mundo. La meta es recaudar dinero para los socios de Rainforest Trust, como EcoMinga, para proteger permanentemente cada una de estas especies, y nombrar cada nueva especie en honor del donador que las protege, o de una persona o cosa que el donador designe.
Rainforest Trust describe el programa como “Una oportunidad histórica de nombrar una especie nueva para la ciencia y proteger su háibitat… Rainforest Trust está celebrando 30 años de éxito en conservación con la mayor subasta pública de derechos para la denominación de especies. Las 12 nuevas especies descubiertas que se muestran a continuación necesitan un reconocimiento científico y estamos brindando una oportunidad exclusiva para preservar su legado mediante la compra de los derechos de nominación. ¡O haga una oferta para darle el mejor regalo a un ser querido en estas fiestas! Los ingresos de esta subasta irán directamente a las reservas naturales en las cuales estas especies viven, por lo que una oferta por la nominación de estas especies es una oportunidad para salvarlas de la extinción y honrar a alguien o algo por quien te preocupas“.
Rainforest Trust ha incluido tres especies de la Reserva Dracula y sus alrededores, incluyendo el más hermoso anfibio de la subasta, el único mamífero, y la orquídea más grande.

IMG 02 – Nueva rana Pristimantis. Fotografía: Mario Yanez


Pristimantis sp. nov.  (ojos azules)
Este nuevo anfibio con inusuales ojos azules a gris-azules fueron reportados en un post anterior. Fue encontrado después de un largo viaje en uno de los mejores bosques de las estribaciones que nuestro gerente de reserva herpetólogo, Juan Pablo Reyes, ha visto alguna vez en el oeste de Ecuador. Este bosque se encuentra adyacente a nuestra Reserva Drácula actual, y es un objetivo para futuras adquisiciones, así que Juan Pablo y Mario Yánez (INABIO) se encargaron de investigarlo. Durante la primera noche en este magnifico bosque, estos cientificos experimentados en ranas se dieron cuenta rápidamente de una serie de extraños cantos de rana desconocidos, muchas de ellos provenientes del dosel sobre sus cabezas (Como los mejores observadores de aves, los buenos científicos de ranas conocen las llamadas de todos las las ranas locales, y buscan nuevas especies en su mayoría por el sonido). Buscando la fuente de estas llamadas con sus linternas, Juan Pablo y Mario finalmente encontraron el reflejo de los ojos de una de las misteriosas ranas cantando en una hoja de aracea unos 3.5 metros sobre el suelo. Juan Pablo trepó un tronco vecino y logró usar un palo para golpear la hoja, la cual cayó al suelo mientras la rana se sostenía firmemente a su superficie! Los herpetólogos la atraparon, y el momento que vieron sus ojos azules contrastando con su cuerpo amarillo con manchas color café, supieron que habían encontrado una nueva especie para la ciencia.
IMG 03 – Nuevo ratón de bosque. Fotografía: Jorge Brito
Chilomys sp. nov.
Este pequeño animal fue encontrado primero durante nuestra expedicioón inicial a Reserva Drácula en 2015, con científicos del Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INABIO) y la Universidad de Basilea (Suiza) en la búsqueda de mamíferos, reptiles y anfibios. Jorge Brito del INABIO fue el experto en mamíferos. Durante la primera semana de la expedición, muy pocos animales fueron encontrados, pero entre ellos hubo tres pequeños individuos del género Chilomys (ratón del bosque) que captó la atención de Jorge, ya que no había reportes de Chilomys como este en la región. Él no pudo identificar la especie en este momento, y lo enlistó como “Chilomys sp.” en su informe. No se encontraron más individuos  hasta una nueva expedición en 2016, cuando se encontraron más en la parte más alta de la reserva. Con estos nuevos individos Jorge fue capaz de evaluar el rango de variacion de las características de esta especie. Otro individuo fue colectado en 2018 en una de las partes más bajas de la reserva, demostrando que, de hecho, este animal se distribuye ampliamente dentro del mosaico de nuestra Reserva Drácula, aunque es más abundante en las partes altas.
Una vez todos los individuos fueron estudiados, se volvió claro que estos enigmáticos ratones eran diferentes de otras especies conocidas de Chilomys, demostrando que el área protegida por la Reserva Drácula no fue especial sólo para plantas y anfibios, si no también para mamíferos.
IMG 04 – Nueva orquídea Trevoria. Fotografía: Luis Baquero
Trevoria sp. nov. (orquídea)
El descubrimiento de esta especie necesitó de mucha paciencia. La primera planta conocida fue encontrada ocho años atrás en una parte remora nde lo que hoy es Reserva Drácula por el orquideólogo Luis Baquero y el residente local Héctor Yela, quien ahora es nuestro guardia de la reserva. El individuo no tenía flores, así que no podía concluirse nada acerca de este. A lo largo de los siguientes años, muchas otras plantas se encontraron en diferentes partes de la futura Reserva Drácula, siempre sin flores. Una de ellas se colectó viva y se envió al Jardín Botánico de Quito, donde finalmente floreció por primera vez ese año. La flor tenía un fuerte aroma a aceite de oliva. Tristemente la creación de nuestra reserva no ocurrió a tiempo para salvar a la población más grande de esta especie, pero hemos logrado proteger a algunas de las otras poblaciones.
Por favor difundan la voz acerca de esta oportunidad para apoyar la conservación y nombrar una especie. Recuerden, mañana es el día!
Lou Jost, fundación EcoMinga.

New species of Anolis lizard described from our Dracula Reserve

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The new Anolis lizard. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga

The deep, dry Rio Mira valley separates the montane forests protected by our Dracula Reserve from the montane forests further south (such as those protected by our Manduriacu Reserve). Evidently this Rio Mira valley has served as a barrier for many cloud forest organisms over evolutionary time, leading to the evolution of different sister species on each side. The endangered Andean toads Rhaebo olallai in Manduriacu and Rhaebo colomai in the Dracula Reserve may form such a species pair. A pair of still-undescribed forest mice, one in Manduriacu and the other in the Dracula Reserve, appear to be another instance of this phenomenon. EcoMinga’s Juan Pablo Reyes and his colleagues at the National Institute of Biodiversity (INABIO) have just added another example of this divergence, as they published a description of a new species of Anolis lizard from the Dracula Reserve that is the sister species of a common Anolis south of the Rio Mira. The article is published in ZooKeys.

 

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The Mira valley separates the new species, Anolis dracula, from its sister species A. aequatorialis. Map from the article.

This lizard is the most common Anolis of the area. Here is a comparison, from the article, of the new species and its closest relative, A. aequatorialis:

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Top: Anolis dracula. Bottom: A. aequatorialis. From the article.

The scientists who discovered this species were supported in this investigation by INABIO (National Institute for Biodiversity), SENECYT, UNAM (Mexico), the University of Basel Botanical Garden, and EcoMinga. We strongly believe that science should drive conservation, and we always encourage scientists to investigate our reserves. We provide logistical support and sometimes can also help fund studies. Such investigations help us understand the diversity we protect, and let us identify and prioritize new areas for conservation our conservation purchases.

We would like to thank recent donors who make these investigations and land purchases possible: World Land Trust, Rainforest Trust, Orchid Conservation Alliance, University of Basel Botanical Garden, Andean Studies Program, Fundacion Condor, and individuals including Henri Botter and Ardy Van Ooij, Judith Rapacz, Mark Wilson, Vera Lee Rao, and Vicki Byrd.

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

New orchid species discovered in our Dracula Reserve: Pleurothallis chicalensis

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Pleurothallis chicalensis. Photo: Andreas Kay

Our Dracula Reserve in northwest Ecuador has been the source of many orchid discoveries lately, so many in fact that I am rather far behind in reporting them here.  This is the newest discovery, just published yesterday by M. Jimenez, L. Baquero, M. Wilson, and G. Iturralde in the journal Lankesteriana. It is a bright yellow Pleurothallis which was first found by Luis Baquero and Gabriel Iturralde, and later found by Javier Robayo (EcoMinga’s executive director), Hector Yela (our reserve guard) and Andreas Kay (photographer and author of the web page Ecuador Megadiverso) in 2013 in what is now the Cerro Oscuro unit of our Dracula Reserve. The first scientific collection was made in 2016 by Luis Baquero, one of the architects of our reserve design. He found it near what is now the Cerro Colorado unit of the Dracula Reserve, and again on Cerro Oscuro. It was also recognized in a photograph taken near the La Planada reserve in nearby Colombia. The authors named it after the small town of Chical, the nearest community, so that community members might feel some pride in the biodiversity of the magnificent forests which still survive there.

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Pleurothallis chicalensis plant. Note flower at far right. Photo: Andreas Kay.

Big cats in the Dracula Reserve

SnapShot(4)Puma photographed by our camera trap!

 

Male puma scent-marking in our Dracula Reserve.  (Ignore the date stamp, it was not properly set.)

Last month, as part of our investigation of land we are trying to purchase for our Dracula Reserve (sponsored by the Orchid Conservation Alliance, Rainforest Trust, University of Basel Botanical Garden, and their individual donors), Javier Robayo, Juan Pablo Reyes, Jorge Brito, and Hector Yela set up camera traps to observe the hidden mammal fauna of the area under consideration. As we have seen in our earlier camera trap operations about 14 km to the south, these forests are full of life that is never seen by humans. In the above video, a healthy male puma (Felis concolor) visits our banana baits and  makes a scent mark right in front of the camera. This is the same male that we had filmed in our earlier operation, confirming that all these properties are ecologically inter-connected.  We need to maintain their connectivity by linking our existing blocks of properties, and this is one of our current priorities here.

Next, the banana baits were visited by a forest rodent called an agouti, who sniffs the puma urine. This is probably the stuff of nightmares for a defenseless agouti.

The next visitor was a well-fed female puma, clearly very interested in the scent of the male.

There were also several other visitors to the banana baits, as well as animals passing through accidentally. The most interesting were several unusually patterned squirrels; we are not completely certain of their identity:

There were also a few birds, like this group of Dark-backed Wood-Quail (Odontophorus melanotus), a Choco endemic species:

Another passer-by was a Rufous-breasted Ant-Thrush (Formicarius rufipectus) who was captured in reflected infrared in near-darkness:

This is what the ant thrush looks like:158271066.Q9wtg8ln.RufousbreastedAntthrush

Rufous-breasted Ant-Thrush. Photo: Roger Ahlman.

Quite a busy spot! Please help us protect it by donating to our sponsors:

Orchid Conservation Alliance

Rainforest Trust

University of Basel Botanical Garden,

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

Incredible frog discoveries in our Dracula Reserve

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A potentially new species, a blue-eyed Pristimantis! Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

A few weeks ago our executive director Javier Robayo and our ranger Hector Yela organized an expedition to investigate the poorly known amphibians, reptiles, and mammals in an area we are trying to purchase for our Dracula Reserve expansion, in the province of Carchi in Ecuador. Trips into unexplored territory are always exciting, especially when the exploration is done by a team of experts who are famous for finding new or unusual creatures. Besides Javier and Hector, this expedition included Mario Yanez, Glenda Pozo, and Jorge Brito, from Ecuador’s Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, herpetologist Juan Pablo Reyes who is also our reserve manager, Tito Recalde and Jordy Salazar, who are two of EcoMinga’s Banos-area rangers, and several brothers of Hector: Elias, Rigoberto and Rodolfo, who helped prepare trails and keep the expedition supplied with food.  The mission was supported by the University of Basel Botanical Garden.

The excitement in Juan Pablo’s voice was palpable when he called me as soon as he had reached cell phone coverage at the end of the expedition. He reported not just one but at least three exciting discoveries! The most amazing was an apparently new species of frog that was yellow with blue eyes!!!!  It belongs to the huge genus Pristimantis. None of the herpetologists had ever seen anything like it. Still, it could be some rare color mutant, so its DNA will be analyzed by frog expert Santiago Ron to make sure it is new.

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Blue-eyed Pristimantis. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Mario Yanez.

 

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Blue-eyed Pristimantis. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

In addition to this fancy frog, the expedition also discovered a new population of a fancy toad, Atelopus coynei, named by the late Ken Miyata for the famous evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. The often-colorful Atelopus toads are disappearing throughout their range due to the invasive chytrid fungus.  This species too had disappeared from most of its former range, but was recently rediscovered by Andreas Kay about 15kms from this population. The species is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. Mario Yanez wrote “Otras localidades históricas con composiciones similares como Tandayapa o Río Baboso están severamente fragmentadas y han perdido las especies que hoy se mantienen en Carchi. [Este sector] mantiene composiciones taxónomicas y funcionales altamente diversas.” Translation: “Other historic localities with similar compositions, like Tandayapa or Rio Babosa, are severely fragmented and have lost the species which are still present today in Carchi. [This area] still maintains  highly diverse taxonomic and functional compositions.”

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Critically endangered Atelopus coynei from this newly discovered population. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

 

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Atelopus coynei from this population. Photo by Mario Yanez.

As if that wasn’t enough, the team also discovered a second population of Rhaebo colomai, a toad that had just recently been rediscovered in our Dracula Reserve by another team of herpetologists. Like Atelopus coynei, it is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

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Critically endangered Rhaebo colomai from this new population. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Mario Yanez.

Mario concludes: “Se ha registrado una comunidad de anfibios y reptiles taxónomica y funcionalmente completa. En menos de tres meses una segunda especie amenazada es registrada por la gestión Ecominga. Sobresale el hallazgo de especies endémicas y amenazadas de Bufonidos andinos sintópicos en el sector ….Potenciales nuevas especies evidencian que la comunidad de herpetofauna en la cuenca del Río Mira esta poco estudida y nada representada en el sistema nacional de áreas protegidas, al ser diferente a los sectores de Cotacachi – Cayapas, Mindo e Ilinizas. Es una gran oportunidad de hacer conservación efectiva.”

Translation: “We have observed a community of reptiles and amphibians that is taxonomically and functionally complete. In less than three months a second endangered species has been recorded thanks to the efforts of EcoMinga. The discovery multiple sympatric species of threatened Andean Bufonidae [toads] is striking. The presence of potential new species shows that the herpetofauna community in the Rio Mira watershed is poorly studied and not represented at all in national parks or other state protected areas, in contrast with the Cotocachi-Cayapas, Mindo, and Illinizas areas. This is a great opportunity for effective conservation.”

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Glass frog, Espadarana prosoblepon. Note the blue armpit flaps! Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

I’ve heard that the mammals found by the expedition were also very interesting, including new records for Ecuador, but I have not yet received the details. I’ll post about that when I know more.

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Happy frogs along the stream. Apparently another new species, but more work is needed; this species had been seen on an earlier expedition in our Dracula Reserve. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

We are currently raising money to buy land in this area, which is at elevations not represented in the existing units of our Dracula Reserve. You can help by donating to the Orchid Conservation Alliance. Please mention that the donation is for EcoMinga. They have already raised over $90000 in the last few months for this project, and the Rainforest Trust will match that donation. We hope to convince the Rainforest Trust to continue matching future donations; they will probably decide this in February.

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 Anolis purpurascens found during the expedition. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Many thanks to our team of experts for their passion to investigate and save Ecuador’s biodiversity, and to the University of Basel who made this expedition possible.

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga