In just four days of fieldwork, botanists find five tree species new to science in our Rio Zuñac Reserve!

Sciodaphyllum zunacense

Sciodaphyllum zunacense, a new species from our Rio Zuñac reserve. Photos: Pete Lowry. Figure 4 from the linked paper.

Our Rio Zuñac Reserve, like most of our reserves, was carefully chosen to protect little-known centers of plant and animal endemism in the Andes of Ecuador. That reserve, in the granitic Cordillera Abitagua, is particularly rich in locally endemic species, because of its unusual microclimates and geology. Since the area is so seldom visited by specialists, many of  the less conspicuous endemic species remain undiscovered. Nearly every time specialists come to visit, they discover new species in “their” group. One of the most striking examples of this was published last month:

Studies in Neotropical Araleaceae. IX. Four New Species of Sciodaphyllum from the Cordillera Abitagua, Eastern Andes of Ecuador, by D. Neill, P. Lowry, G. Plunkett, M. Mora, E. Merino, M. Asanza, and L. Jost

Some readers may know the common houseplant usually known as Schefflera, a small tree from the Old World tropics. A closely related genus, Sciodaphyllum, lives in the New World tropics. These can be trees, climbers, or hemi-epiphytes that get started in the branches of other trees. They don’t have big colorful flowers, so they are easily overlooked by non-specialists. In 2016 a group of specialists (including the lead authors of the above paper) began intensive work on this little-known genus. Their work revealed that this genus is extraordinarily diverse and has an unexpectedly large number of rare, locally endemic species.

These scientists turned their attention to the Rio Zuñac watershed in 2019, holding a Tropical Botany course based out of our Rio Zuñac research station deep in the forest. The paper tells the story:

“This [Rio Zuñac] watershed was the target of our fieldwork in January 2019, as part of our research project on the Neotropical clade formerly included in Schefflera.…A group of 10 students, four instructors, and five field assistants visited the private Río Zuñac Reserve…We also reached the adjacent higher slopes above 2200m which are situated within Llanganates National Park. During a period of just four days and in a radius of less than 3 kilometers, we collected material of five new species of Sciodaphyllum.”

Sciodaphyllum merinoi

Sciodaphyllum merinoi. Photo: Pete Lowry. Figure 1 from the linked paper.

Four of the five new species of Sciodaphyllum were described in the linked paper, these are known exclusively from the Rio Zuñac watershed. The fifth new species is known from the Rio Zuñac and one other location.These same specialists worked in several other parts of the eastern Andes of Ecuador, including a forest just 10km from the Zuñac, but the four new species described in the linked paper were not found in any of these other places. This suggests that these four species really might be restricted to our unique Rio Zuñac watershed and immediately adjacent forests.

Sciodaphyllum purocafeanum

Sciodaphyllum purocafeanum. Photo: Pete Lowry. Figure 2 from the linked paper.

One of the new species, Sciodaphyllum purocafeanum, was named in honor of Puro Coffee, an organic coffee company in the United Kingdom that has played a major role in the conservation of this area through its donations to our partner the World Land Trust. It was a pleasure to recognize them for this strong support over many years. One of their team members, Andy Orchard, even camped with us and was co-discoverer with us of a new plant species, Blakea attenboroughii. That’s real commitment!

Sciodaphyllum recaldiorum

Sciodaphyllum recaldiorum, named for our rangers from the Recalde family. Photos: Pete Lowry. Figure 3 from the linked paper.

Another of the new species, S. recaldiorum, was named after our wonderful rangers from the Recalde family. The paper explains the name:

“This species is named collectively for the members of the Recalde family of the village of El
Placer, Baños canton, Tungurahua, Ecuador, two generations of which (Jesus, Luis, Darwin, Diana, Santiago, and Abdon) have contributed for nearly two decades to the conservation of Ecuadorian forests as reserve guards for the EcoMinga Foundation properties and have also participated in and assisted with field-based research on the flora and fauna of the EcoMinga reserves. They have discovered several new species of trees, orchids, and frogs.”

We are very proud of the kindness and passion of these rangers, who provided indispensable help and guidance to the scientists who discovered these Sciodaphyllum species, and who regularly risk their lives climbing trees and otherwise helping scientists studying other groups of plants and animals. They have become famous among biologists across the country, and are often asked to help with fieldwork. They are supported by the World Land Trust’s “Keepers of the Wild” program, and I encourage readers to consider supporting that program.

The specialists found one other new Sciodaphyllum species in our Rio Zuñac Reserve, as yet unpublished. It will be named after the Danish botanist Henrik Balslev who did much pioneering work here in Ecuador. In addition they found another species that may or may not be new, and an unidentified species.

S balslevi inedt

Another new species of Sciodaphyllum. This one was found not only in the Rio Zuñac Reserve but also in one other east Andean locality. It will be named after the famous Danish botanist Henrik Balslev. Photo: Pete Lowry.

S indet lenticellata

This species of Sciodaphyllum from the Rio Zuñac Reserve may or may not be new. More study is needed. Photo: Pete Lowry.


S indet Zunac

An unidentified Sciodaphyllum from the Rio Zuñac Reserve. Photo: Pete Lowry

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga.

¡En sólo cuatro días de trabajo de campo, botánicos encontraron cinco especies de árboles nuevas para la ciencia en nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac!
 
Nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac, como la mayoría de nuestras reservas, fue cuidadosamente elegida para proteger centros de endemismos de plantas y animales poco conocidas en los Andes del Ecuador. Esa reserva, en la granítica Cordillera Abitagua, es particularmente rica en especies endémicas locales, debido a su geología y microclima inusual. Dado que el área rara vez es visitada por especialistas, muchas de las especies endémicas menos conspicuas permanecen sin descubrir. Casi cada vez que los especialistas vienen de visita, descubren nuevas especies en “su” grupo. Uno de los ejemplos más llamativos de esto se publicó el mes pasado:
 
 
Algunos lectores podrían conocer la planta de casa usualmente conocida como Schefflera, un pequeño árbol de los trópicos del Viejo Mundo. Un pariente cercanamente relacionado, Sciodaphyllum, vive en los trópicos del Nuevo Mundo. Estos podrían ser árboles, trepadores o hemi-epífitas que se originan en las ramas de otros árboles. Ellos no tienen grandes flores y coloridas, por lo que los no especialistas las pasan por alto fácilmente. En 2016, un grupo de especialistas (incluyendo los autores principales del artículo anterior) comienzan el trabajo intensivo sobre este género poco conocido. Su trabajo revela que este género es extraordinariamente diverso y tiene un número inesperadamente grande de especies raras y endémicas localmente. 
 
Estos científicos giraron su atención a la cuenca del Río Zuñac en 2019, llevando a cabo un curso de Botánica Tropical con base en nuestra estación de investigación Río Zuñac en lo profundo del bosque. El periódico cuenta la historia:
 
“Esta cuenca [Río Zuñac] fue objeto de nuestro trabajo de campo en Enero 2019, como parte de nuestro proyecto de investigación en el clado Neotropical incluido formalmente en Schefflera… Un grupo de 10 estudiantes, cuatro instructores, y cinco asistentes de campo, visitaron la Reserva Privada Rio Zuñac… También llegamos a las pendientes más altas adyacentes por encima de los 2200 m que se encuentran dentro del Parque Nacional Llanganates. Durante un periodo de tan solo cuatro días y en un radio de menos de 3 km, recolectamos material de cinco nuevas especies de Sciodaphyllum“.
 
IMG – Sciodaphyllum merinoi. Fotografía: Pete Lowry. Figura 1 del artículo relacionado
 
Cuatro de las cinco nuevas especies de Sciodaphyllum fueron descritas en el paper original, estas son conocidas exclusivamente para la cuenca del Río Zuñac. La quinta nueva especie se conoce en el río Zuñac y en otro lugar. Estos mismos especialistas trabajaron en varias otras partes de los Andes orientales de Ecuador, incluido un bosque a solo 10 km del Zuñac, pero las cuatro nuevas especies descritas en el documento vinculado no se encontraron en ninguno de los otros lugares. Esto sugiere que estas cuatro especies realmente podrían estar restringidas a nuestra exclusiva cuenca del río Zuñac y a los bosques inmediatamente adyacentes.
 
IMG- Sciodaphyllum purocafeanum. Fotografía: Pete Lowry. Figura 2 del artículo relacionado
 
Una de las nuevas especies, Sciodaphyllum purocafeanum, fue nombrada en honor a Puro Coffe, una compañía de café orgánico en el Reino Unido que ha jugado un papel importante en la conservación de esta área a través de sus donaciones a nuestro socio World Land Trust. Fue un placer reconocerlos por su fuerte apoyo a lo largo de tantos años. Uno de sus miembros de equipo, Andy Orchard, incluso acampó con nosotros y fue co-descubridor con nosotros de una nueva especie de planta, Blakea attenboroughii. ¡Ese es un compromiso real!
 
Otra de las nuevas especies, S. recaldiorum, fue nombrada en honor de nuestros maravillosos guardaparques de la familia Recalde. El artículo explica el nombre: 
 
“Esta especie se nombra colectivamente por los miembros de la familia Recalde del pueblo de El Placer, cantón Baños, Tungurahua, Ecuador, dos generaciones de las cuales (Jesús, Luis, Darwin, Diana, Santiago y Abdón) han contribuido por cerca de dos décadas a la conservación de los bosques ecuatorianos como guardias de reserva de las propiedades de la Fundación EcoMinga y también han participado en y colaborado con investigaciones de campo sobre la flora y fauna de las reservas de EcoMinga. Han descubierto varias especies nuevas de árboles, orquídeas y ranas.”
 
Estamos muy orgullosos de la amabilidad y la pasión de estos guardabosques, que brindaron ayuda y orientación indispensable a los científicos que descubrieron estas especies de Sciodaphyllum, y que regularmente arriesgan sus vidas trepando árboles y ayudando a los científicos que estudian otros grupos de plantas y animales. Se han hecho famosos entre los biólogos de todo el país y, a menudo, se les pide que ayuden con el trabajo de campo. Cuentan con el apoyo del programa “Keepers of the Wild” de The World Land Trust, y animo a los lectores a que consideren apoyar ese programa. 
 
El especialista encontró otra nueva especie de Sciodaphyllum en nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac, aún inédita. Llevará el nombre del botánico danés Henrik Baslev, quien hizo mucho trabajo pionero aquí en Ecuador. Adicionalmente encontraron otra especie que puede ser nueva o no, y una especie no identificada. 
 
IMG – Otra nueva especie de Sciodaphyllum. Esta fue encontrada no solo en la Reserva Río Zuñac, sino también en otra localidad andina oriental. Llevará el nombre del famoso botánico danés Henrik Balslev. Fotografía: Pete Lowry
 
IMG – Esta especie de Sciodaphyllum de la Reserva Río Zuñac puede o no puede ser nueva. Se necesitan más estudios. Fotografía: Pete Lowry.
 
IMG – Una Sciodaphyllum sin identificar de la Reserva Río Zuñac. Fotografía: Pete Lowry
 
Lou Jost, Fundación EcoMinga. 
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano-Flores

Cloud forest images from our Rio Zunac Reserve, and canopy access at last

 

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Aroids in our Rio Zunac cloud forest. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

Last week our rangers and I went on a  camping trip in the wet cloud forests of our Rio Zunac Reserve. We were on a mission to put climbing ropes into the canopies of some of our Magnolia trees, so that we (and other researchers) could study their reproduction, and perhaps protect the seed capsules from insect predators, and try other techniques to help them reproduce. We never see very young plants of these species, so we are a bit worried about their future.

I also used the opportunity to capture some better photos of the complex interior of this beautiful cloud forest. The ridgetop forest above 1700m is very special, one of the wettest forests in Ecuador, with plant life bursting from every available surface, plants piled on other plants. We didn’t have many photos of this forest.

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Rio Zunac cloud forest, 2000m. Click to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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Rio Zunac cloud forest, 2000m. Click image to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

 

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Rio Zunac cloud forest, 2000m. Click image to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

A grant from BGCI allowed us to buy mountain-climbing rope and harnesses. In the 1990s I used to spend a lot of time climbing tropical rain forest trees, and I still had my powerful bow and arrows and fishing reel; with this I can shoot a fishing line over a chosen branch. Then the fishing line pulls up a heavier line, and then  a heavier line, and after a series of between three and six successively heavier lines, I can pull up the mountain-climbing cord.

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Preparing the bow and arrows. The arrows, dragging the fishing line behind them through the moss and leaves, have a hard time coming down through all the vegetation. So I use heavy fishing arrows, and I put weights on their tips. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

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Shooting a newly-described Magnolia vargasiana. Accidental photo of the exact millisecond when the arrow leaves the bow– a minor miracle. I think we could try a million times without ever managing to repeat this feat.  Click image to enlarge. An arrow can be shot with fair accuracy over a particular branch, though what happens after it passes the branch is partly up to chance…The arrows are easy to lose, and I lost two of my three remaining arrows (unobtainable in Ecuador) on this trip. The one I’m firing in this picture was one of them–it got embedded in the tree (even though it has a flat tip) and did not come down. Photo:Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

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Shooting another tree, an unidentified species of Magnolia which Fausto Recalde had found the day before. It is not either of the two species previously found here (M. vargasiana and M. llanganatensis, which are both new species recently described by Dr Antonio Vazquez and his collaborators from specimens found on this ridge of the Rio Zunac cloud forest).  This is my last remaining arrow, bent and tattered, but it  worked. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

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Pulling up heavier line. This is delicate work, as the knot sometimes gets caught on stuff. I tape the knots with electric tape to minimize that. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

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While I pull from the far side of the  tree, our rangers release the mountain-climbing cord from the other side. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

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The mystery Magnolia with the climbing rope in place. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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I dress for the climb: harness and helmet. I have a rule that everyone must use gloves on the rope, to keep the rope free of salts from our sweat. In a place with lots of animals, it is important that the rope not attract gnawing critters looking for salt. As a further precaution we normally take the rope down between uses (leaving a cheap string in its place), which also protects it from UV light degradation. But even when stored in the forest or in camp, rodents wouldfind the salt and cause potentially fatal damage. This happened to my rope in Costa Rica. Of course we also inspect the rope before each use…Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

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Climbing the mystery Magnolia. It is thin but tall, and couldn’t be free-climbed. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

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Our rangers below me at the base of the Magnolia. Click to enlarge.  Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

 

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Here’s a flower of the mystery Magnolia. Click image to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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There are many other beautiful trees in this forest. Here is Meriania pastazana, similar to our recently-discovered Meriania aurata but without the yellow wings on the ovaries.

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Flower of Meriania pastazana. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

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The anthers of Meriania pastazana. These are hollow and contain their pollen on the inside. The pollen comes out through small pores (one pore is visible on the top purple tip of the rightmost anther) when the anther is shaken rapidly by a bee or other agent. Click image to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

EcoMinga would like to thank Joachim Gratzfeld and Botanical Gardens Conservation International for a grant which enabled us to purchase climbing ropes and harnesses. I also want to thank our rangers, who risk their lives free-climbing some of the trees.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

 

 

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

The baby stretching his little wings. Photo: Fausto Recalde/EcoMinga.

The baby stretching his little wings. Photo: Fausto Recalde/EcoMinga.

A while ago I reported that our reserve guards had discovered an active nest of the Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) in our Rio Zunac Reserve. The baby has hatched since then and is growing much faster than we expected. It has survived the worst rainy season in recent memory, with torrential rains that even washed out the path to the reserve. Now the weather is better and the path is fixed, and we’ll soon be hosting some eagle specialists who will come to observe the eagles. Meanwhile here are some more photos of the  baby and parents…..

Adult with prey item. Note the pink bird feet sticking out over the left edge of the nest. Photo: Luis Recalde/EcoMinga.

Adult with prey item. Note the pink bird feet sticking out over the left edge of the nest. Photo: Luis Recalde/EcoMinga.

The baby in July. Photo: Fausto Recalde/EcoMinga.

The baby in July. Photo: Fausto Recalde/EcoMinga.

See this post for more photos of the adult at the nest.

Lou Jost

 

¡Nuestro pichón de águila andina está creciendo rápido!
 
IMG – El pichón estirando sus pequeñas alas. Fotografía: Fausto Recalde/EcoMinga
 
Un tiempo atrás informé que nuestros guardias de la reserva habían descubierto un nido activo de Águila andina (Black-and-chestnut Eagle / Spizaetus isidori) en nuestra Reserva Río Zuñac. El pichón ha nacido desde entonces y está creciendo mucho más rápido de lo que esperábamos. Ha sobrevivido a la peor temporada de lluvias de los últimos tiempos, con lluvias torrenciales que incluso arrasaron el camino hacia la reserva. Ahora el clima es mejor y el camino está arreglado, y pronto recibiremos algunos especialistas que vendrán a observar las águilas. Mientras tanto, aquí hay algunas fotos más del bebé y sus padres.
 
IMG – Adulto con ítem de presa. Observe las patas del ave rosada que sobresalen del borde izquierdo del nido. Fotografía: Luis Recalde / EcoMinga
 
IMG – El bebé en julio. Fotografía: Fausto Recalde / EcoMinga
 
Mira esta publicación para más fotografías del adulto en el nido.
 
Lou Jost, Fundación EcoMinga
Traducción: Salomé Solórzano-Flores

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 species discovered by EcoMinga staff and co-workers, Part 1: Plants

Meriania aurata, a tree species we discovered in what is now EcoMinga's Rio Zunac Reserve. Flower is large, about 7 cm across. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

Meriania aurata, a tree species we discovered in what is now EcoMinga’s Rio Zunac Reserve. Flower is large, about 7 cm across. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

I’m compiling a list of all the plant and animal species discovered by our reserve manager Juan Pablo Reyes, our director Javier Robayo, myself, and our students and co-investigators in and around our EcoMinga reserves near Banos, Ecuador. In this first installment, I’ll deal with the plants. (I’ll be saving some major as-yet-unpublished plant discoveries for a later post.) Nearly all of these species are still known only from our immediate area and nowhere else in the world. Adding these new discoveries to the previously-known locally endemic plants of the area, there are now more plant species unique to this area (the upper Rio Pastaza watershed) than there are in the world-famous Galapagos Islands! This is one reason why we are so committed to its conservation.

I’ll start with two spectacular new species of trees in the melastome family, Meriania aurata and Blakea attenboroughii. Meriania aurata (above) is the most spectacular tree I have ever seen. Imagine big heavy inflorescences half a meter across whose stems look as if they are made of bright shiny yellow plastic, each yellow winged stem carrying an orange rosebud, which becomes a short-lived bright salmon flower 7 cm across with a bizarre row of anthers lined up under the stigma. I first noticed fallen buds of this species here in the Banos area in the 1990s, but that was before I realized just how special the area was. I wrongly assumed that such a dramatic flower must be well-known. By 2001 I understood the area better, and I organized a 15-man expedition to reach new elevations in the Rio Zunac watershed (now part of our Rio Zunac Reserve). David Neill, the renowned Ecuadorian tree expert, came along. We saw this tree; he recognized it as a new species (the sister species of the also-beautiful Meriania hernandoi) and published its description (co-authored by Carmen Ulloa). Even so, we did not find a fresh, fully-opened flower, so the paper does not include a full flower drawing (see below). It was only recently that I finally was able to make these close-up photos of the open flowers (with the help of EcoMinga’s agile tree-climbing guards).

Meriania aurata, from the scientific description of the species, Ulloa, Fernandez, and Neill (2007),  Meriania aurata (Melastomataceae), una Especie Nueva de los Llanganates, Ecuador. Novon 17: 525-528.

Meriania aurata, from the scientific description of the species, Ulloa, Fernandez, and Neill (2007), Meriania aurata (Melastomataceae), una Especie Nueva de los Llanganates, Ecuador. Novon 17: 525-528.

Meriania aurata inflorescence. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

Meriania aurata inflorescence. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

The next species, Blakea attenboroughii from the same family (Melastomataceae) was discovered by Javier Robayo, myself, and Andy Orchard of Puro Coffee, donor to the World Land Trust for the first purchases of our Cerro Candelaria Reserve. I am not an expert in this plant group (I’m an orchid taxonomist), but as soon as I saw it I realized it was something I’d never seen before anywhere. Expert Darin Penneys confirmed it was a new species. We decided to name it after World Land Trust patron and famous BBC TV presenter and conservationist Sir David Attenborough, to thank him for his support for our conservation efforts. I had the pleasure of presenting a picture of it to him at a World Land Trust event in the Linnaean Society headquarters in London, where the centuries-old specimens of Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, are carefully kept. Sir David is a wonderful man.

Blakea attenboroughii, from our Naturetrek and Cerro Candelaria Reserves. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Blakea attenboroughii, from our Naturetrek and Cerro Candelaria Reserves. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Me presenting Sir David Attenborough with a photo of his tree, Blakea attenboroughii, in London. Photo: Nigel Simpson.

Me presenting Sir David Attenborough with a photo of his tree, Blakea attenboroughii, in London. Photo: Nigel Simpson.

On to the new orchids! First and foremost was an amazing evolutionary radiation my students and I discovered on the tops of the highest mountains in the area. At the time I started exploring, the orchid genus Teagueia had only six species in the world, three in Ecuador and three in Colombia. But here on these few mountaintops around Banos we discovered THIRTY new species of this genus!

Some of the thirty new species of Teagueia orchids my students and I discovered on the mountaintops here. You can see a high-resolution printed version of this picture on p 2545 of the Dec 2012 issue of the journal Ecology. Click to enlarge.

Some of the thirty new species of Teagueia orchids my students and I discovered on the mountaintops here. You can see a high-resolution printed version of this picture on p 2545 of the Dec 2012 issue of the journal Ecology. Click to enlarge.

One single mountain, which eventually became our Cerro Candelaria Reserve, had 16 of these new species! They are currently the subject of several ecological and evolutionary studies. It is an unprecedented local speciation event. So far taxonomist Carl Luer and I have described six of the thirty species, including one named after Puro Coffee and another named after the mother of Albertino Abela, in honor of their very important donations to the World Land Trust for EcoMinga, which let us preserve these mountain peaks for posterity.

Teagueia puroana, from our Cerro Candelaria Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Teagueia puroana, from our Cerro Candelaria Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

There are lots more new orchids….here are the citations for some of the first ones I discovered in the Banos area, published in Dr Carl Luer’s many volumes of orchid monographs for the Missouri Botanical Garden. (Note: Carl decided to name some of them after me…NOT my idea, though I am honored!)

Luer, C. A. 2002. Icones Pleurothallidinarum XXIV: A First Century of New Species of Stelis of Ecuador, Part 1. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden:
Lepanthes exigua Luer and Jost, p. 94.

Luer, C. A. 2000. Icones Pleurothallidinarum XX: Sytematics of Jostia, Andinia, Barbosella, Barbodria, and Pleurothallis subgen. Antilla, subgen. Effusia, subgen. Restrepioidia. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden:
New genus Jostia Luer, p. 1.
L. tetrachaeta Luer and Jost, p. 119.
Teagueia alyssana Luer and Jost, p. 131.
T. cymbisepala Luer and Jost, p.132.
T. jostii Luer, p. 132.
T. sancheziae Luer and Jost, p. 133.

Luer, C. A. 1999. Icones Pleurothallidinarum XVIII: Sytematics of Pleurothallis subgen. Pleurothallis sect. Pleurothallis subsect. Antenniferae, subsect. Longiracemosae, subsect. Macrophyllae-Racemosae, subsect. Perplexae, subgen. Pseudostelis, subgen. Acuminatia. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden:
Lepanthes abitaguae Luer and Jost, p. 139.
L. aprina Luer and Jost, p. 139.
L. barbigera Luer and Jost, p. 140.
L. elytrifera Luer and Jost, p. 140.
L. hispidosa Luer and Jost, p.141.
L. hydrae Luer and Jost, p. 141.
L. jostii Luer, p. 142.
L. marshana Luer and Jost, p. 142.
L. privigna Luer and Jost, p. 143.
L. ruthiana Luer and Jost, p. 147.
L. staatsiana Luer and Jost, p. 147.

Luer, C. A. 1998. Icones Pleurothallidinarum XVII: Sytematics of Subgen. Pleurothallis sect. Abortivae, sect. Truncatae, sect. Pleurothallis subsect. Acroniae, subsect. Pleurothallis, subgen. Dracontia, subgen. Unciferia. St. Louis: Missouri Botanical Garden:
Lepanthes ariasiana Luer and Jost, p.104.
L. mooreana Luer and Jost, p. 106.
L. serialina Luer and Jost, p. 107.
L. viebrockiana Luer and Jost, p. 108.
Scaphosepalum jostii Luer, p.116.

My painting of Lepanthes (now Neooreophilus) viebrockiana from our Rio Zunac Reserve.

My painting of Lepanthes (now Neooreophilus) viebrockiana from our Rio Zunac Reserve.

Lepanthes ruthiana. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Lepanthes ruthiana. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Lepanthes pseudomucronata from our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Lepanthes pseudomucronata from our Rio Zunac Reserve. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Some more recent discoveries or co-discoveries of mine in the Banos area include Masdevallia stigii, M. loui, Stellilabium jostii, Trichosalpinx jostii, Lepanthes spruceana, L. ornithocephala, L. mayordomensis, L. pseudomucronata, and quite a backlog of species I still haven’t had time to describe and publish.

Masdevallia stigii. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Masdevallia stigii. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Masdevallia (Alaticaulia) loui, discovered by Stig Dalstrom and myself. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Masdevallia (Alaticaulia) loui, discovered by Stig Dalstrom and myself. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Stellilabium jostii. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

Stellilabium jostii. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga.

All these discoveries in an area only 20 km x 40 km (12.5 miles x 25 miles), smaller than many cities! A paradise for botanists. And as we’ll see in the next installment, a paradise for herpetologists too.

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