Butuan City, Agusan del Norte. In a scientific report appearing Monday October 17th in the open access journal Zookeys, a team of researchers led by herpetologist Dr. Marites Sanguila of Father Saturnino Urios University announced that they have identified a new “epicenter” of southern Philippine biodiversity in amphibians and reptiles.
The international team of herpetologists (scientists who study frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles, and crocodiles) collaborating on the study is composed of scientists from Father Saturnino Urios University, the University of Kansas, the University of Oklahoma, the National Museum of the Philippines, Silliman University, and the Philippine Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. After an intensive five-year study, the team came to the ground-breaking conclusion that the Caraga Region of northeast Mindanao has the single highest herpetological species count of any similarly sized region in the country known to date.
Following a series of expeditions to four mountains in northern Mindanao, plus analyses of the distributions of species documented in museums around the world, the multi-institution effort culminated today with the announcement that the Caraga region is home total of 126 species of amphibians and reptiles.
According to Dr. Sanguila, this strikingly high diversity includes 40 species of frogs, one kind of caecilian (a secretive eel-like amphibian), 49 types of lizards, 35 varieties of snakes, plus one native freshwater turtle and, of course, one species of crocodile. According to the new study, the key to understanding the Caraga Region’s high biodiversity newly documented distributions of those 126 species, which overlap in northeast Mindanao. At a boundary between mainland Mindanao Island and the eastern Visayas (Samar, Leyte, Bohol, Dinagat, Siargao islands), “the Caraga region is an area where many species’ distributions come together and overlap, making this spot a kind of central hub of biodiversity,” said Dr. Sanguila. The new study brings more good news from the Philippines, a country internationally recognized as global biodiversity conservation hotspot of biodiversity.
“International collaborative biodiversity inventories are a great way to promote student training and faculty research development,” said Dr. Marites Sanguila, “In this research, we followed the example of the life-long collaboration between Dr. Angel Alcala, from the Silliman University, and Dr. Walter Brown, from California Academy of Sciences, and invited our U.S. counterparts to join in the effort to synthesize information on Caraga amphibian and reptile biodiversity. The results have unfolded in ways we could not have predicted, and generated opportunities for students on both sides of the Pacific.”
“Dr. Sanguila’s research tells us in a very special way something we have known intuitively for years, but have been unable to articulate: there is something very special about the unique biodiversity of the Caraga region! At the ‘center of the center’ of southern Philippine biodiversity, our small corner of Mindanao is undoubtedly unique, in need of conservation, and worthy of intensive scientific study,” said Rev. Fr. John Christian Young, president of Father Saturnino Urios University.
Sanguila MB, Cobb KA, Siler CD, Diesmos AC, Alcala AC, Brown RM (2016) The amphibians and reptiles of Mindanao Island, southern Philippines, II: the herpetofauna of northeast Mindanao and adjacent islands. ZooKeys 624: 1-132. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.624.9814