Sunday, February 23, 2014

The amphibians and reptiles of Mindo, an Ecuadorian cloud forest ecosystem



If you have not yet found the Tropical Herping web site, I would encourage you to visit it. Alejandro Arteaga and colleagues have done an outstanding job building this elegant and information filled website. What follows is a short article from the site and some  photography. 

By Alejandro Arteaga, Lucas Bustamante and Juan Guayasamin

After four years of extensive fieldwork, the research team at Tropical Herping unveiled the richest community of amphibians and reptiles in any cloud forest locality above 1000 m. The team found an array of 101 species, and the results were published in the book The Amphibians and Reptiles of Mindo. But more than just the numbers, it is the value of the species what matters. The array includes some of the rarest and most bizarre amphibians and reptiles on earth, along with many that cannot be found outside Ecuador, and many others that are on the brink of extinction.

In the study area, Mindo, there are 10 species of glassfrogs. One of these is new to science and was not included in the book. This makes Mindo the best place in the world to see these marvelous creatures, which are famous for their partial or total ventral transparency. As it turns out, a visitor may spot five species in just one cloud forest stream.

There are five species of vipers and one is probably new. Among the included species, the Osborne's Lancehead (Bothrops osbornei) and the Spotted Lancehead (Bothrops punctatus) are believed to be Ecuador's rarest species of vipers and also the most venomous. The Ecuadorian Toadhead (Bothrocophias campbelli) is also extremely difficult to spot, but if you are planning to encounter one, Mindo is the place to go.
The Osborne's Lancehead (Bothrops osbornei) is one of the
 rarest and most enigmatic vipers in the world. Less than 20 
individuals have been seen throughout the course of history.
 © 2014 Tropical Herping
One single feature sets the Pinocchio Rainfrog (Pristimantis
appendiculatus) apart from the other nearly 530 species of
amphibians in Ecuador.It has an exaggeratedly elongated
 fleshy tubercle at the tip of its snout. © 2014 Tropical Herping.
With 27 species of rainfrogs, Mindo is the single most species rich locality in the world when it comes to this notoriously varied group of frogs. Not only is the variety of rainfrogs impressive, but also how little is known about them. In fact, one species, the Mindo Rainfrog (Pristimantis mindo), is described in the book as a species new to science. Besides their enigmatic variety, another amazing feature of rainfrogs is their lack of a tadpole stage. Instead, the adults lay terrestrial eggs that later hatch into miniature versions of the adults. Mindo is home to seven species of arboreal lizards, the anoles. One of these, the famous Pinocchio Anole (Anolis proboscis), was thought to be extinct for nearly fifty years. Now that is has been rediscovered, researchers and tourists around the world are visiting the valley of Mindo to study and admire the lizard.

Finally, from the 101 Mindoan amphibians and reptiles, 31 occur only in Ecuador, 72 are threatened with extinction, and two of them are already extinct. 

Ecuador's most wanted: the Pinocchio Anole (Anolis proboscis). 
This lizards was thought to be extinct for nearly fifty years, 
and still after its rediscovery in 2005, it remains hard to locate.
The concentration of endangered species is one of the highest in the continent. What is at stake is one of the most fragile, rare and fascinating communities of amphibians and reptiles in the world. However, there is still a lot you can do to help conserve this natural heritage, from supporting local lodges, reserves and research institutions to spreading the word about the marvelous amphibians and reptiles of the cloud forest.

No comments:

Post a Comment