Two more new frogs discovered in our Rio Zunac Reserve

Pristimantis sacharuna. Photo: Mario Yanez.

Pristimantis sacharuna. Photo: Mario Yanez.


Our Rio Zunac Reserve has been an endless source of new discoveries of plants and animals. I’ve written in the past about the discovery of new magnolia species, new melastomes and orchids, and new frogs. Last month herpetologists Juan Pablo Reyes (who is also our reserve manager), Carolina Reyes, Maria Perez L., and Mario Yanez, (who is also an EcoMinga director and head of the National Institute for Biodiversity), have published two more new frogs from this reserve. One of the new species, Pristimantis pinchaque, was discovered at 1600m elevation in the immediate vicinity of the scientific station that we built there some years ago with the help of the IUCN-Netherlands and the Netherlands Postcode Lottery, while the other new species, Pristimantis sacharuna, was discovered farther up the trail from the station, at 2200m. That makes four new species discovered so far in this reserve, joining Pristimantis ardyae and Osornophryne simpsonii.

Pristimantis pinchaque. Photo: Mario Yanez.

Pristimantis pinchaque. Photo: Mario Yanez.

Pristimantis pinchaque is apparently very rare; it has not been seen since the first two specimens were found in 2008, even though many herpetologists have visited the site since then. It is named after the Mountain Tapir, Tapirus pinchaque, a charismatic and endangered mammal which lives in the same forest. Pristimantis sacharuna is also apparently very rare, with only two specimens found in four years of investigation. It is named after the “duendi” or mythic forest man of indigenous legends.

The story of these discoveries was covered nicely by the national press. The country’s largest newspaper, El Comercio, even made an interactive article that lets readers see the diagnostic traits of each frog by clicking on different parts of its anatomy, and in a special feature for their “Planet” section, they also published a nice diagram to help readers distinguish the frogs:

And there is still more to come! We have two more new frog species being described right now, from survey work supported by a donation from Henri Botter and Ardy Van Ooij of the Netherlands.

These investigations are collaborative efforts between EcoMinga and the National Institute of Biodiversity, the Zoological Museum of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, and the Fundacion Oscar Efren Reyes. We’re excited to have such distinguished collaborators, and we are eager to see what surprises still await us in these very special forests.

Lou Jost

Our new frogs make it into the national newspapers! !Nuestras ranas nuevas llegan a los periodicos nacionales!

Juan Pablo Reyes (foreground), our reserve manager, discovered three of the five species of frogs reported in the Ecuadorian news media last month. Behind him are our staff members Abel Recalde, Abdon Recalde, Luis Recalde, and Tito Recalde. Here they are camping in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: John Clark.

Juan Pablo Reyes (foreground), our reserve manager, discovered three of the five species of frogs reported in the Ecuadorian news media last month. Behind him are our staff members Abel Recalde, Abdon Recalde, Luis Recalde, and Tito Recalde. Here they are camping in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: John Clark.

Recently the national press in Ecuador picked up the story of the three most recent new frogs discovered in and around our reserves by our reserve manager Juan Pablo Reyes and his associates at the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales.

Recientamente la prensa nacional del Ecuador recogio la historia de tres de las nuevas ranas descubierto en y cerca de nuestras reservas por nuestro jefe de reservas, Juan Pablo Reyes, y sus socios en el Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales.

Pristimantis punzan. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis punzan, one of the species discovered by Juan Pablo. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Here is an excerpt from the story in the paper “El Universo”/ Aqui es parte del articulo en “El Universo.”

“Habían pasado seis meses desde que el entonces estudiante universitario de biología Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig había recorrido el bosque. Eran jornadas nocturnas desde las seis de la tarde hasta la una de la mañana en las que bordeaba desfiladeros empinados cortados por riachuelos y ríos caudalosos del flanco oriental del Tungurahua.

“Reyes-Puig quería documentar los efectos de la erupción del volcán en la fauna como parte de su tesis. Seguía trochas naturales abiertas por mamíferos como el oso de anteojos cuando en diciembre del 2007 se topó sobre un helecho con una rana en medio de cedros y podocarpus.

“Su color blanquecino tierra que resaltaba sobre el follaje captó su atención. Tras siete años de análisis y comparaciones se determinó que era una nueva variedad de anfibio.

“La bautizaron como Pristimantis punzan, en honor al sitio Punzan del cantón Baños (Tungurahua), donde habita. Pero no sería la única especie nueva que Reyes-Puig y su equipo encontraron. Los hallazgos siguieron en el 2008 y con el apoyo de otros científicos como Mario Yánez-Muñoz, director del Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales, la labor de campo terminó en descripciones de tres nuevas especies de anfibios de las que recién se conocen detalles con la publicación de su información en diciembre pasado en revistas científicas del exterior.

“Junto con la Pristimantis punzan se describieron dos especies más: Pristimantis marcoreyesi y Pristimantis puruscafeum….”

Translation:
“For six months the then-student of biology Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig had been investigating this forest. These were night-time trips lasting from 6 p.m until 1 a.m. in the forests on steep canyons dissected by little streams and roaring rivers on the east flank of the volcano Tungurahua.

“Reyes-Puig wanted to document the effects of the volcano’s eruptions on the fauna as part of his thesis. He followed natural trails opened by mammals like the Spectacled Bear, when in December 2007 he came upon a fernwith a frog on it, in a forest of cedars and Podocarpus.

“Its earthy cream color contrasting with the foliage caught his attention. After seven years of analysis and comparisons, he determined that it was a new species of ampbibian.

“He named it Pristimantis punzan, in honor of the place called Punzan(Tungurahua) where it lived. But this was not the only new species Reyes-Puig and his team found. The discoveries continued in 2008 and with the help of other scientists like Mario Yánez-Muñoz, director of the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales, this field work resulted in descriptions of three new species of amphibians, whose details just became known with their publication last December in international scientific journals. Along with Pristimantis punzan two other new species were described: Pristimantis marcoreyesi and Pristimantis puruscafeum.”

Juan Pablo Reyes, who discovered three new species of frogs reported in the news last month.

Juan Pablo Reyes as a student eight years ago during his thesis work.

Pristimantis puruscafeum, one of Juan Pablo's discoveries. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis puruscafeum, another of Juan Pablo’s discoveries. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Links to stories about these frogs/ Links a historias sobre estas ranas:

http://www.eluniverso.com/vida-estilo/2015/01/25/nota/4474801/inventario-anfibios-suma-5-especies-mas

http://www.ecoticias.ec/noticia/se-descubren-5-nuevas-especies-de-anfibios-en-ecuador_4670

Lou Jost/EcoMinga

New book on reptiles and amphibians of our reserves, plus a trip to our Rio Zunac Reserve

Cover of our new book.

Cover of our new book.


Our reserves were originally chosen to protect habitats of rare locally-endemic plants, especially orchids. These orchids evolved in response to unusual climates, geology, or history. The same factors could lead to the evolution of endemic species in some other groups of flora and fauna, including amphibians and reptiles (collectively known as herpetofauna or “herps”). Our reserve manager, Juan Pablo Reyes, is a herpetologist, and he and his colleagues at the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales, led by Mario Yanez-Muñoz, have been studying the herps of EcoMinga’s reserves for several years. It turns out that the upper Rio Pastaza watershed, where our reserves are located, is indeed a very interesting place for herps, and they many new species! I’ll write about some of them in the future, but for now I just want to announce the publication of a new mostly-Spanish book on the reptiles and amphibians of our reserves and those of the Jocotoco Foundation (a foundation similar to EcoMinga but aimed at bird conservation). This book highlighting the conservation importance of private reserves, and also serves as a field guide to the herps of these reserves. It was financed by Nigel Simpson, one of our directors, and is published by the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales and by the Jocotoco and EcoMinga Foundations. It consists of articles on the Jocotoco Foundation’s reserves, articles on the three oldest EcoMinga reserves, and species descriptions. It was released a few weeks ago, with many of Ecuador’s leading herpetologists in attendance.
Juan Pablo Reyes at the book launch, talking about the hard work and the excitement of herpetological explorations.

Juan Pablo Reyes at the book launch, talking about the hard work and the excitement of herpetological explorations.

The book has a forward kindly written by Sir David Attenborough:
“If you protect a patch of the natural world, you should know what lives in it. Your list may not be complete. There will always be surprises. But if you do not have it, how can you measure your success or failure in protecting that community? How can you appreciate the environmental shifts that are part of virtually all ecosystems and take the necessary actions? How can you guard against future dangers?

In some parts of the world making such a faunal list, while time-consuming, does not present too great a challenge for competent naturalists. In the English Midlands where I grew up, there were eleven species of amphibians and reptiles. But in Ecuador there are at least 822.

The numbers alone are daunting. When you add to that the wildness and inaccessibility of the places where the researchers had to work, from the bleak misty slopes of the paramo down to the warm humid rainforests of the Amazon basin, the magnitude of the task they faced becomes truly alarming.

This book lists the amphibians and reptiles that are found in eleven reserves belonging to Fundacion Jocotoco and three of the five on the eastern side of the Andes belonging to Fundacion Ecominga. A team from the Ecuadorian Museum of Natural Sciences over ten years has worked in them all, in some cases several times and often in difficult conditions. They have identified and described 339 species of which 20 are new to Ecuador and at least eight new to science.

This remarkable book is the fruit of all that labour. Its value is immense for it will make it possible to check on the welfare of the creatures it lists as the years pass and the threats to their survival continue to increase. And that sadly, is likely to happen for amphibians world-wide are endangered by the spread of a chytrid fungus which infects their porous skin, choking its surface through which the animals breathe.

It is to be hoped that this remarkable book will set an example for successive volumes that will survey all the other major groups of animals for which these Jocotoco and Ecominga reserves are such a valuable refuge. Its publication is truly a cause for great celebration and congratulation.” –David Attenborough

I’ve now had a chance to use the book, as I spent the last three days with herpetologist Sam Crothers and two other friends in the scientific station we have built in our 700 hectare Rio Zunac Reserve (more about our station in a later post). We were exhausted each night after hard all-day hikes in the mountains, but we had enough energy (just barely) to go out at night looking for frogs. This was the first time I’ve ever done that in these forests (I am a botanist, a mostly-diurnal occupation). The first thing we saw was a flattened, leaf-like toad which also happens to be one of the first amphibians in the herp book, Rhinella festae. This particular individual was lighter colored than the one in the book, but these are highly variable in color. According to the book, it had already been found by the authors in this reserve, and in our Rio Anzu Reserve. It has not yet been found in the Jocotoco Foundation reserves.

Rhinella festae. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Rhinella festae. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Next came a beautiful streamside frog that we could not find with certainty in the book. We had tracked it down by its call. After I returned from the trip, Juan Pablo identified the frog in the photo as Pristimantis acuminatus, which was in the book’s lists for the Rio Zunac Reserve, but not illustrated.

Pristimantis acuminatus. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis acuminatus. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.


Then we heard a chorus of loud frogs dispersed over a wide area above a small shallow rocky stream only a few meters wide. It took us a while to localize one of them. It was sitting on a leaf that was directly below another leaf, so that the frog was invisible from above and could only be seen from the side. The next calling individual we tracked down was doing exactly the same thing. Once we realized that this was a characteristic habit of this species, it became easy to locate many individuals. The closest thing to it in the book was Hyloscirtus phyllognathus, which the authors had also found here. Juan Pablo later confirmed our ID.
Hyloscirtus phyllognathus calling between two leaves. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Hyloscirtus phyllognathus calling between two leaves. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.


Hyloscirtus phyllognathus

Hyloscirtus phyllognathus. Photo Lou Jost/EcoMinga.


One of the most exciting things about night hikes are all the weird arthropods that one never sees during the day. We found a gigantic arachnid that looked like a cross with a lobster, and some amazing cryptic phasmids (stick insects).
Monster arachnid. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Monster arachnid. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.


Rio Zunac phasmid. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Rio Zunac phasmid. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.


The stream was a busy place at night. We also found frog eggs, pollywogs, and even recently emerged frogs that still had tails. We also heard many other species of frogs, but we were so tired and sore from our daytime adventures that we could not stay awake any longer, so we returned to the station. Later I’ll write about the extraordinary plants we saw on those daytime hikes.
Freshly laid frog eggs in the Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Freshly laid frog eggs in the Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.


Recently emerged frog. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Recently emerged frog. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

On our hike back to civilization, we saw one last frog, much like Pristimantis altamazonicus, though it was more dramatically colored than the individual illustrated in the book. Juan Pablo later identified it as P. ventrimarmoratus, listed for the Rio Zunac Reserve but not illustrated. It is another frog the authors have not yet found in the Jocotoco Foundation reserves.

Pristimantis ventrimarmoratus. Photo Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis ventrimarmoratus. Photo Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

The book, “Herpetofauna en areas prioritarias para la conservacion: El sistema de Reservas Jocotoco y EcoMinga“, is available from us for a donation of $20 or more, plus shipping costs from Ecuador. If in the US, please send the donation (check or Paypal) to our partner, the Orchid Conservation Alliance . The “Donate” PayPal button is on this webpage. Their mailing address is:

Peter Tobias
The Orchid Conservation Alliance
564 Arden Drive
Encinitas, CA 92024-4501
Telephone: 760-753-3173
It is important to let them (and me) know that this donation is for the EcoMinga herp book (they have many other projects going on), by writing to Peter Tobias (peter@orchidconservationalliance dot org). It would be good to let me know too by alerting me in the Comment section here or writing me at my gmail address (my first and last name, as one word, followed by gmail.com) . By the way, larger donations are gratefully accepted and much needed, and are tax-deductible. Make sure to earmark it for EcoMinga.

In Ecuador write Juan Pablo Reyes at foer2005(arroba)yahoo(dot)com or call him at 0998286903.

I’ll also maintain an “Errata and updates” page here on this blog.

Lou Jost
Banos, Tungurahua, Ecuador
www.loujost.com
www.ecominga.com