The Ecuadorian Andes Reveal Hidden Secrets
Scientists working with Conservation International along the contested border of Ecuador and Peru have discovered a "fascinating array" of species, many of them never before described by science.
The striking uniqueness of the species is probably a result of their location -- the Upper Nangaritza River Basin, an area of remote forested mountains in the Cordillera del Condor which is geologically isolated from other parts of the Andes. Species living in isolation -- whether on islands, mountaintops or other geographically distinct locations -- tend to evolve novel ways of surviving in their environments.
A nearby area has already been preserved as a "peace park" by the two nations, after decades of border conflict. Conservation International hopes the publicizing of these striking new species will spur the governments to protect this land as well.
Dendrobates Poison Arrow Frog
This poison arrow frog, from the genus Dendrobates, is potentially new to science. Here, the male frog can be seen carrying one of its tadpoles.
The expedition that discovered this and other striking new species was undertaken by CI-Ecuador and partners including Fundacion Arcoiris and the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador, and CIs Rapid Assessment Program, with financial support from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Mulago Foundation through the Conservation Stewards Program, and The Leon and Toby Cooperman Foundation.
"Minute" Pristimantis Frog
This tiny frog -- less than 1/2-inch long at most -- is not only potentially new to science, but is believed to be one of the smallest terrestrial vertebrates ever seen in the Andes.
Conservation International wants to see the area protected, so vulnerable species like this can continue to live in isolation.
"This is pristine mountain forest, and the flora and fauna of this area was largely undisturbed by people other than local communities -- who treated it with respect," said Luis Suarez, Executive Director of Conservation Internationals Ecuador program. "But now there are many threats from agriculture, logging and mining, so it is crucial that the global community and the government of Ecuador recognize the importance of this place and give it the strong protection it deserves."
Hyalinobatrachium Glass Frog
Not new to science, but striking all the same, this glass frog, or crystal frog, Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum, has skin so thin you can see its organs. It's also endangered, as many amphibians around the world are.
In 2008, the world marked the Year of the Frog in recognition that as many as one-third of the world's amphibian species are endangered by habitat loss, pollution, global warming and -- most acutely -- the chytrid fungus spreading rapidly across the globe.
Yes, that's what they call it.
More generously, Conservation International described this salamander from the genus Bolitoglossa as "fascinating looking." Salamanders of this genus are rare, nocturnal amphibians and those found in Ecuador will mostly inhabit forests below 3,280 feet.
The species that we discovered on this expedition are fascinating and make clear how biologically important this area is -- not only because of the wealth of plants and animals that inhabit it but also because of the service that it provides to local people, like clean water and the opportunities for income from ecotourism," said Leeanne Alonso, Vice President of Conservation InternationaIs Rapid Assessment Program. "It is crucial that it is protected properly.
This attractive lizard from the genus Enyalioides is potentially new to science.
In addition to the species that are likely new to science, scientists found several species of frogs and mammals not previously known in Ecuador. The survey also revealed two bird species that are endemic to the this mountain range, at least 25 species considered rare in Ecuador and 11 species threatened or near threatened at the global level.
Potentially new to science, this emerald-legged katydid is common near creeks and rivers at altitudes between 2,788 and 4,264 feet.
It is one of many beautiful katydids Conservation Identified during its recent assessment in the Ecuadorian Andes near the border of Peru.
White-Faced Gnome Katydid
Scientists identified only two females of this potentially new species, which may not even have close relatives in the region.
Another potentially new katydid, this katydid (genus Typophyllum) has a call that is inaudible to the human ear -- a series of 3-6 short pulses at slightly above 20 kHz.
Another potentially new katydids, this spiny-crested kaytdid is in the genus Diacanthodis.
Short-winged Ringfoot Katydid
Another potentially new katydid, the short-winged ringfoot katydid may not only be a new species, but an entirely new genus. It has a characteristic calling song and lives at an elevation of 5,904 to 7,216 feet.
Another katydid that may never before have been described by scientists is this kaytdid in the Mystron genus. The male's song is a series of long trills that caught scientists' attention.