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

 

_1100120

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

p1110282

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.

p1110295

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.

p1110309

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.

p1110315

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.

_1100050

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.

_1100052

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

p1110364

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.

p1110369

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

_1100062

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

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

_1100092

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.

_1100141

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

2017-01-13-10-10-27-zs-pmax-udr

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

 

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