Sunday, January 26, 2014

The herpetofauna of Manú National Park, highest species count of any known localilty

Atelopus erythropus, Photo credit A. Catenazzi
Alessandro Catenazzi, Edgar Lehr, and Rudolf von May (2014) have compile a list of all amphibians and reptiles known to occur within Manú National Park, Peru as well as its buffer zone. The park is located in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Covering approximately 0.01% of the planet’s terrestrial surface, this protected area holds 155 species of amphibians and 132 species of reptiles, corresponding to 2.2% and 1.5% respectively of the known diversity for these groups. Manú National Park also preserves natural habitats and populations of the critically endangered (Atelopus erythropus), three endangered (Bryophryne cophites, Pristimantis cosnipatae and Psychrophrynella usurpator), three vulnerable amphibians (Atelopus tricolor, Gastrotheca excubitor, Rhinella manu); and two vulnerable reptiles (Chelonoidis denticulata, Podocnemis unifilis), according to the threat categories of the IUCN Red List.

Unfortunately the authors report, the montane amphibian fauna within the park and the adjacent Kosñipata valley have recently experienced dramatic declines and local extinctions. The collapse of amphibian diversity and abundance has been more pronounced at mid-elevations (1200-2000 m) and for stream-breeding species. These declines occurred over less than a decade and coincided with the arrival of the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) to southern Peru. The sudden disappearance of a sizable proportion of the montane anuran fauna despite the excellent state of conservation of the forest and protection granted by Manú  NP shows that additional conservation actions are needed to preserve amphibian biodiversity.

Squamates and anurans constitute the bulk of  reptile and amphibian diversity. Given the wide elevational gradient and large area of montane and high-elevation habitats protected by Manú National Park, the greater relative richness of anurans vs. squamates is probably replicated across several watersheds (and not just the Kosñipata watershed), adds to the species richness.

In an interview with National Geographic, von May said, "Manú now stands as the park or protected area with the highest number of species of amphibians and reptiles on the planet." Follow the link to see more photos of the herpetofauna of Manú.

Prior to this  study, Yasuní National Park in Ecuador was first, with 150 amphibian and 121 reptile species. Both Manú and Yasuní protect large areas of lowland rain forest, but Manú also spans high-elevation cloud forests and Andean grasslands.

The report is available on-line in both Spanish and English.

Catenazzi, A., Lehr, E. & von May, R. The amphibians and reptiles of Manu National Park and its buffer zone, Amazon basin and eastern slopes of the Andes, Peru. Biota Neotropica. 13(4): http://www.biotaneotropica. ISSN 1676-0603

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