Pristimantis mallii, our tenth new frog species discovered in the upper Rio Pastaza watershed

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Pristimantis mallii in amplexus. Photo: Carolina Reyes

[Ver traduccion en espanol abajo.]

Over the last two decades, scientific work in the upper Rio Pastaza watershed between Banos and Puyo has shown it to be one of Ecuador’s most diverse and under-appreciated biological hotspots. We are regularly discovering new species of plants and animals there, especially frogs, orchids, and melastomes, reflecting the interest of our staff in these groups. Quite a number of new species from this area have been described by us or by our colleagues over the last few months, and I will report on some of these over the next few days.

Today we highlight Pristimantis mallii , a new species from our Rio Zunac Reserve. This is the tenth(!) new species of frog discovered in the upper Rio Pastaza watershed in the last ten years. This one was cryptic; though collections were made as early as 2009, the variability of this species and its closest relatives was not well enough understood to describe it as new until this year.  Its closest relative (as shown by DNA analysis) is P. miktos, a species of the eastern lowlands of Ecuador and Peru from 200-300m elevation. Pristimantis mallii is found only at much higher elevations, 1300-2200m, and it has not yet been found outside the Rio Zunac Reserve.

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Female P. mallii. Photo: Bioweb

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A different female P. mallii. Photo: Bioweb.

 

At our request, the authors of the species description kindly agreed to name this species after my late friend Malli Rao, one of the earliest supporters of the EcoMinga Foundation. The article explains this choice: “The new species is named in honor of the late Dr V. N. Mallikarjuna “Malli” Rao, of Wilmington, Delaware, USA. A winner of the Lavosier Medal at DuPont, he helped develop an environmentally safe alternative to the fluorocarbons that were depleting the ozone layer. His donation to EcoMinga in 2007 started the Río Zuñag Reserve, the type locality of P. mallii.”

A national newspaper picked up the story of this discovery and gave it a nice treatment:

https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2019/03/20/nota/7242944/descubren-nueva-especie-rana-provincia-tungurahua

Para mas informacion en espanol vea aqui.

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

Pristimantis mallii, nuestra décima nueva especie de rana descubierta en la cuenca alta del río Pastaza
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano Flores
** IMG 01 ** – Pristimantis mallii en amplexus. Fotografía: Carolina Reyes
A lo largo de los últimos 20 años, el trabajo científico en la cuenca alta del Río Pastaza, entre Baños y Puyo, ha demostrado ser una de las zonas más diversas y un hotspot poco apreciado biológicamente en Ecuador. Regularmente descubrimos nuevas especies de plantas y animales en este lugar, especialmente anfibios, orquídeas y melastomataceas, reflejando el interés de nuestro equipo en dichos grupos. En los últimos meses hemos descrito, nosotros o nuestros colegas, varias nuevas especies de esta área, e informaré sobre algunas de ellas en los próximos días.
Hoy resaltaremos a Pristimantis mallii, una nueva especie de nuestra reserva Río Zunac. Esta es la décima nueva especie de rana, descubierta en la cuenca alta del Río Pastaza en los últimos 10 años. Esta es críptica; aunque las colecciones se realizadon en 2009, la variabilidad de esta especie y sus parientes más cercanos no fueron comprendidos lo suficiente para describirlos como nuevos hasta este año. Su pariente cercano (como muestra su análisis de ADN) es P. miktos, una especie de las bajuras del este de Ecuador y Perú, de 200 a 300 msnm. Pristimantis mallii se ha encontrado a mayores altitudes, de 1300 a 2200 msnm, y no ha sido encontrada fuera de la Reserva Rio Zunac.
** IMG 02 ** – Hembra de P. mallii. Fotografía: Bioweb
** IMG 03 ** – Otra hembra de P. mallii. Fotografía: Bioweb.
A petición nuestra, los autores de la descripción de las especies, accedieron amablemente a nombrar esta especie en honor a mi difunto amigo Malli Rao, uno de los primeros partidarios de la Fundación EcoMinga. El artículo explica esta elección: “The new species is named in honor of the late Dr V. N. Mallikarjuna “Malli” Rao, of Wilmington, Delaware, USA. A winner of the Lavosier Medal at DuPont, he helped develop an environmentally safe alternative to the fluorocarbons that were depleting the ozone layer. His donation to EcoMinga in 2007 started the Río Zuñag Reserve, the type locality of P. mallii.”
Un periódico nacional tomó la historia del descubrimiento y le dió un buen trato: https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2019/03/20/nota/7242944/descubren-nueva-especie-rana-provincia-tungurahua
Para mayor información pinche aqui.
Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

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.

Frog fanciness

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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:

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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!

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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:

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

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

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Pristimantis eriphus? [Edit 10 Dec 2016: Juan Pablo tells me that this is actually a new frog currently being described] in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve. Photo: Alejandro Arteaga/TropicalHerping

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

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

Here’s a Pristimantis lacrimosus with copper eyes:

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

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation.

New species discovered by EcoMinga staff and co-workers, Part 2: Frogs

The first post in this series listed the new plant species discovered by our staff and co-investigators in and around our reserves near Banos, Ecuador. That post showed why our area is a paradise for botanists. It is no accident that this same area is a paradise for herpetologists too, and so this second post is devoted to the new species of frogs that our staff and their co-investigators discovered here. It’s a good time to post this, since our reserve manager Juan Pablo Reyes’ three latest frog discoveries, Pristimantis puruscafeum, Pristimantis marcoreyesi, and Pristimantis punzan, were just published last week (Tres nuevas especies de ranas terrestres Pristimantis (Anura: Craugastoridae) de la cuenca alta del Rio Pastaza, Ecuador: Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig, Carolina Reyes-Puig, Salamon Ramirez-Jaramillo, Maria Perez-L, y Mario Yanez-Munoz).

Pristimantis puruscafeum. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis puruscafeum. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis puruscafeum, was discovered by Juan Pablo in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve. We named it after Puro Coffee, a UK fair-trade coffee company whose very large donation to the World Land Trust allowed us to buy the first (and largest) block of properties for this reserve. It is a high-elevation frog found at 3100m in cold wet cloud forest. This same elevation is an important one for endemic plants in the reserve; it is the exact elevation where the 16 endemic Teagueia orchid species begin to appear on this mountain. We’ve seen this a lot here—the same unusual forests that host many new species of plants often host a new frog or two as well. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the same evolutionary forces that promoted the speciation of locally endemic cloud forest plants might also be expected to  promote speciation of locally endemic fauna.

This week Andy Orchard of Puro Coffee, his videographer Kendal Kempsey, Juan Pablo, our forest caretakers the Recalde family, and myself will be in Cerro Candelaria looking for this frog, among other things. If we succeed, I’ll post video of it here.

Pristimantis marcoreyesi. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis marcoreyesi. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis marcoreyesi was named after Juan Pablos’ herpetologist brother, Marco, who died suddenly about a year ago. This species has been found in several locations in western end of the upper Rio Pastaza watershed at elevations around 2700m. Our Cerro Candelaria Reserve protects it as well.

Pristimantis punzan. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis punzan. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis punzan, the final species of this new publication, is found at about 2700m on the eastern flanks of Volcan Tungurahua in the upper Rio Pastaza watershed. This one has not yet been found in any of our reserves, but the local people of the type locality, Punzan, have been great caretakers of its habitat. Sr Nelson Palacios deserves special recognition for his conservation work and his willingness to help scientists learn about the area.

These three newest species join the following species previously discovered here by Juan Pablo and his colleagues at the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales. (Special thanks to the director of the museum, Mario Yanez-Muñoz, for his interest in our area and his frequent collaborations with us.)

Pristimantis ardyae. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis ardyae. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis ardyae was discovered in 2012 by Juan Pablo and his colleagues at at 2200m in our Rio Zunac Reserve (Ranas terrestres del género Pristimantis (Anura:Craugastoridae) de la Reserva Ecológica Río Zúñag, Tungurahua, Ecuador: Lista anotada y descripción de una especie nueva: Marco M.Reyes-Puig, Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig, y Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz). It was named after Ardy van Ooij, who along with her husband Henri Botter, have been long-time financial supporters of that reserve. This is another example of the correlation between interesting orchids and interesting frogs; the orchid flora on that mountain changes dramatically around this elevation, with many new and locally endemic species.

Osornophryne simpsoni. Figure 2 of "A new species of Andean toad (Bufonidae, Osornophryne) discovered using molecular and morphological data, with a taxonomic key for the genus." Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, Mario Yánez-Muñoz, ZooKeys 108: 73–97 (2011).

Osornophryne simpsoni. Figure 2 of “A new species of Andean toad (Bufonidae, Osornophryne) discovered using molecular and morphological data, with a taxonomic key for the genus.” Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, Mario Yánez-Muñoz, ZooKeys 108: 73–97 (2011).

Osornophryne simpsonii, discovered by Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, and Mario Yánez-Muñoz (A new species of Andean toad (Bufonidae, Osornophryne) discovered using molecular and morphological data, with a taxonomic key for the genus: Diego J. Páez-Moscoso, Juan M. Guayasamin, Mario Yánez-Muñoz) in the same area, is yet another example of the correlation between distributions of unusual orchids and unusual frogs. This species was named after one of our directors, Nigel Simpson, who has a special interest in frogs and financed much research on them, as well as a book coauthored by Juan Pablo (and with a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough).

Pristimantis bellae. Click to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis bellae. Click to enlarge. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes/EcoMinga.

Pristimantis bellae was discovered in 2008 by Juan Pablo and his colleagues in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve at an elevation of 2000m (Una nueva especie de rana Pristimantis (Anura: Craugastoridae)
del corredor ecológico Llangantes-Sangay, Andes de Ecuador: Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig and Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz
). This is named after Hilary Bell, at the time an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers. When our crew was leaving the then-new Cerro Candelaria Reserve with Andy Orchard of Puro Coffee (see Pristimantis puruscafeum above), we ran into loggers sizing up the neighboring properties (which we also wanted to preserve) to decide whether they were worth buying for their timber. Alarmed, we reached out to the World Land Trust who asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to help us buy this land. Their quick action enabled us to secure this strategic land. We offered to name a frog after them, but they preferred to stage an environmental-themed contest among their employees and name the frog after the winner, who turned out to be Hilary Bell. This frog has since been found in a number of other localities in the upper Rio Pastaza and Rio Napo watersheds.

Pristimantis tungurahua. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis tungurahua. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes.

Pristimantis tungurahua was discovered by Juan Pablo and his colleagues in 2007 on the lower flanks of Volcan Tungurahua at about 2700m (Una nueva especie de rana Pristimantis (Terrarana: Strabomantidae) de los bosques nublados de la cuenca alta del río Pastaza, Ecuador: Juan P. Reyes-Puig, Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz, Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia, Salomón Ramírez). Since then it has also been found at similar elevations in other nearby mountains, including our Cerro Candelaria Reserve.

Pristimantis loujostii. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes. (When I first posted this, I posted the wrong picture, an as-yet-undescribed species. Sorry!)

Pristimantis loujostii. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes. (When I first posted this, I posted the wrong picture, an as-yet-undescribed species. Sorry!)

Pristimantis loujostii was discovered by Juan Pablo and his colleagues in 2008 in our Cerro Candelaria Reserve (Una nueva especie de rana terrestre Pristimantis (Anura: Terrarana: Strabomantidae) de la cuenca alta del Río Pastaza, Ecuador: Mario H. Yánez-Muñoz, Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia,and Juan P. Reyes) They decided to surprise me by naming it after me. Many thanks, my friends! That was a very touching surprise.

For those of you who know Spanish, here is a short talk Juan Pablo gave about our reptiles and amphibians during a recent zoology conference in Colombia:

Lou Jost
http://www.ecominga.com
http://www.loujost.com

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