New, possibly arboreal rice rat species discovered in Ecuador

Three expeditions led an international research team to the nearly inaccessible Cordillera de Kutukú in southeastern Ecuador to find just a single specimen of the previously unknown species

New rat species of the little known and rare genus Mindomys described: Three expeditions led an international research team with participation from the Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change (LIB) to the Cordillera de Kutukú, an isolated mountain range in Ecuador, to find just one specimen of the previously unknown species. The find in the Amazonian side of the Andes underlines the valuable biological role of this mountainous region.

Drawing of the new species Mindomys kutuku. © Glenda Pozo

“In total, the expeditions to the Kutukú region in southeastern Ecuador involved 1,200 trap nights, but only one specimen of the new species Mindomys kutuku was found,” says Dr. Claudia Koch, curator of herpetology at the LIB, Museum Koenig Bonn, explaining the effort that went into locating the rare animal. From the collected specimen, the dry skin, skeleton and tissue were preserved for the collections. Preservation will allow future research to detect environmental changes, learn more about the ecology of the animals and plants – and securely document the new species description, which was published in late February in the prestigious journal Evolutionary Systematics.

The rice rat genus Mindomys was previously considered monotypic and included only the type species Mindomys hammondi. This species is known from only a few specimens, all of which were collected in the foothill forests of the Andes in northwestern Ecuador.

Using computed tomography images obtained for the new species at LIB and for the holotype (specimen from which a species was described) of M. hammondi at the Natural History Museum in London, the researchers Jorge Brito of the Instituto Nacional de la Biodiversidad (INABIO), Claudia Koch, Nicolás Tinoco from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE) and Ulyses Pardiñas from the Instituto de Diversidad y Evolución del Sur (IDEAus-CONICET) were able to compare the skulls of the two species in great detail in a 3D model and distinguish between the two species.

According to Jorge Brito, INABIO’s mammal curator, the new species is easily distinguished from Mindomys hammondi by a number of anatomical features: “These include larger jugals, “wings” of the parietal bone extending to the zygomatic roots, larger otic capsules, narrow zygomatic plates almost without upper free borders, a posteriorly oriented foramen magnum (large occipital hole), larger molars and an accessory root of the first upper molar.”

The adult male of M. kutuku measures just under 35 cm from snout to tip of tail, of which the tail makes up about 20 cm. It has a dark reddish-brown dorsal coloration and a pale yellow ventral fur.

Since the only specimen found was captured with the help of a ground trap set, it could not be observed in its habitat. Thus, as with its sister species M. hammondi, which was described in 1913, virtually nothing is known about the natural history of the new species. The scientists suspect that both of them could be arboreal species. A tail that is significantly longer than the body length and also covered with long hairs could be two features that indicate an arboreal lifestyle. However, aboreality is the least studied way of life within the New World mice and a reliable study of the anatomical aspects typical of this way of life is still lacking.

Previously, Mindomys records were restricted to the western Andean foothills of Ecuador. The Kutukú material now shows that the genus also occurs on the Amazonian side of the Andes and underscores the valuable biological importance of the isolated mountain ranges in eastern Ecuador.

Research article:

Brito J, Koch C, Tinoco N, Pardiñas UFJ (2022) A new species of Mindomys (Rodentia, Cricetidae) with remarks on external traits as indicators of arboreality in sigmodontine rodents. Evolutionary Systematics 6(1): 35-55. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.6.76879

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New beautiful, dragon-like species of lizard discovered in the Tropical Andes

Enyalioides feiruzae is a colourful, highly variable new species of lizard discovered in the upper basin of the Huallaga River in central Peru. The authors, having searched for amphibians and reptiles in the area between 2011 and 2018, have now finally described this stunning reptile as new to science in the open-access journal Evolutionary Systematics. In fact, E. feiruzae is the fourth herp species discovered by the team in this biologically underresearched part of Peru.

The Huallaga River in the Andes of central Peru extends for 1,138 km, making it the largest tributary of the Marañón River, the spinal cord of the Amazon River. This basin harbours a great variety of ecosystems, including the Peruvian Yunga ecoregion, which is considered a shelter of endemic birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Closeup of a male of Enyalioides feiruzae. Photo by Pablo J. Venegas

How is it possible, then, that this corner of the Tropical Andes remains poorly known to biologists to this day? The main reason is indeed a quite simple one and it lies in the civil wars with terrorist organisations and drug traffickers that were going on in the region in the 1980s, disrupting biological studies. 

It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the Peruvian government was able to liberate the area, and that’s when, little by little, some biologists began to venture back to the Huallaga Valley. However, forest destruction by coca plantations during the internal war, which eventually led to the construction of a hydroelectric power plant, left the Huallaga valley highly fragmented, making for an even more urgent need for biodiversity research in the area.

An adult female of Enyalioides feiruzae. Photo by Pablo J. Venegas

A new species of wood lizard, Enyalioides feiruzae, was recently confirmed from the premontane forest of the Huallaga river basin, and described in the open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal Evolutionary Systematics. It took the researchers seven years of field surveys to formally describe it. To do so, they had first to spend plenty of nights in the forests, in order to pick by hand lizards that were sleeping on bushes 20–150 cm above the ground.

The Feiruz wood lizards – especially the males – come in a stunning variety of colours. Males can have brownish turquoise, gray, or greenish brown backs traced with pale lines. Females, in turn, can be greenish brown or floury brown, with faint dark brown lines on their back, limbs and tail, and spots on the sides.

The researchers believe E. feiruzae might have established as a separate species after it got geographically separated from a very similar lizard, E. rudolfarndti, possibly as a result from tectonic activity and climatic oscillations that occurred from the Late Oligocene to the Early Miocene.

The Feiruz wood lizard was named after – you guessed it – Feiruz – “a female green iguana, muse and lifelong friend”. The owner of Feiruz the iguana, Catherine Thomson, supported the authors’ efforts in taxonomic research and nature conservation.

The habitat of the E. feiruzae is very fragmented by croplands and pastures for cattle ranching, and for now we only know of a single protected population in the Tingo Maria National Park. Much more remains to be discovered about the size and distribution of E. feiruzae populations and their ability to survive and adapt in a fragmented landscape.

The new species belongs to the genus Enyalioides, which contains sixteen species. More than half of the known Enyalioides species have been described in the last two decades, largely due to the recent surveys of remote places in the Tropical Andes from Ecuador and Peru.

Original source:

Venegas PJ, Chávez G, García-Ayachi LA, Duran V, Torres-Carvajal O (2021) A new species of wood lizard (Hoplocercinae, Enyalioides) from the Río Huallaga Basin in Central Peru. Evolutionary Systematics 5(2): 263-273. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.5.69227

UCF student names a new frog species after her professor


The newly described species Pristimantis quintanai.
Photo by UCF, Veronica Urgiles.

The team described two new species from the Ecuadorian Andes

University of Central Florida student Veronica Urgiles has helped describe two new frog species discovered in Ecuador, and she named one of them after one of her professors.

Urgiles and an international team of researchers published their findings in the journal ZooKeys.

UCF student Veronica Urgiles named one of the new frog species in honor of Biology Professor Pedro Quintana-Ascencio for his years of dedication to conservation efforts in Ecuador.
Photo by UCF, Karen Norum.

She explains:

“Frogs are by far my favorite. So, getting to describe and name two of them is terrific. I have been looking at these frogs for years now, so going over the whole process of observing them in their habitats and then analyzing them and comparing them under the microscope, to finally naming them is a long, but very satisfying journey.”

Urgiles, a 2017 Fulbright scholar and the lead author, said she chose to attend UCF for its integration of genetics and genomics in biodiversity research and the emphasis on real-world application. She works with Assistant Professor Anna Savage who specializes in species diversity based on molecular analyses.

“One of the things that I found most interesting about these guys is that they don’t have metamorphosis like a regular frog, but instead they develop entirely inside eggs that adult females deposit in the ground,” Urgiles said. “They really don’t need water bodies for their development. Both of the new frog species inhabit high elevation ecosystems in the mountain range over 8,000 feet, so even though we are right there in the equator, it’s very cold and windy most of the year.”

The team of researchers has been studying frogs in Ecuador the past few years. In 2017, Urgiles found the first new species and named it Pristimantis quintanai, after one of her biology professors — Pedro Quintana-Ascencio. She and Savage found the second species — Pristimantis cajanuma — in 2018. Both were found in the Paramo and montane forest of the southern Ecuadorean Andes.

The newly described species Pristimantis cajanuma.
Photo by UCF, Veronica Urgiles.

The frogs are tiny, measuring 0.8 inch. Pristimantis quintanai females are brown and black and Pristimantis cajanuma are green and black, both easily blending into the foliage. They have a distinct call that is sharp and continuous, sounding like tik-tik-tik-tik.

Urgiles examined DNA samples collected by the international team back in Savage’s lab at UCF, generated genetic sequences, and constructed the phylogenetic analysis. Other team members also worked the morphological diagnosis and comparisons with other frogs and an acoustic analysis of the frogs’ calls.

Anna Savage, whose expertise includes describing species diversity based on molecular analyses, says:

“In these analyses, we use all of the genetic similarities and differences we find to build phylogenetic trees, and when we find that a ‘branch’ on the ‘tree’ has strong support and contains all of the individuals that share the same morphological characteristics, then we have good evidence to describe it as a new species. We used this method, along with vocalization and location data, to conclude that the two species we describe are distinct from any other species that have ever been characterized.”

The work is critical because of the vast diversity that has yet to be discovered in the tropical Andes of South America, Urgiles adds. In 2018, 13 new species of frogs were documented in the tropical Andes of Ecuador and so far in 2019 five new frogs have been documented.

There are potentially thousands of new plants and animals in the area that may hold the key to other discoveries. It’s important to know what is there, to better understand the threats to habitat loss and disease so conservation methods can be established to protect the resources.

Veronica Urgiles, a UCF student pursuing a master’s in biology. She named one of the two frog species that she and her team discovered after one of her professors.
Photo by UCF, Karen Norum.

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Text originally by UCF.

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Original source:

Urgiles VL, Székely P, Székely D, Christodoulides N, Sanchez-Nivicela JC, Savage AE (2019) Genetic delimitation of Pristimantis orestes (Lynch 1979) and P. saturninoi Brito et al., 2017 and the description of two new terrestrial frogs from the Pristimantis orestes species group (Anura, Strabomantidae). ZooKeys 864: 111-146. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.864.35102

Extraordinary treefrog discovered in the Andes of Ecuador

An adult of the newly described species, Hyloscirtus hillisi. Photo by Gustavo Pazmiño, BIOWEB Ecuador.

A new treefrog species was discovered during a two-week expedition to a remote tabletop mountain at Cordillera del Cóndor, a largely unexplored range in the eastern Andes.

“To reach the tabletop, we walked two days along a steep terrain. Then, between sweat and exhaustion, we arrived to the tabletop where we found a dwarf forest. The rivers had blackwater and the frogs were sitting along them, on branches of brown shrubs similar in color to the frogs’ own. The frogs were difficult to find, because they blended with their background,” Alex Achig, one of the field biologists who discovered the new species comments on the hardships of the expedition.

Curiously, the frog has an extraordinary, enlarged claw-like structure located at the base of the thumb. Its function is unknown, but it could be that it is used either as a defence against predators or as a weapon in fights between competing males.

Having conducted analyses of genetic and morphologic data, scientists Santiago R. Ron, Marcel Caminer, Andrea Varela, and Diego Almeida from the Catholic University of Ecuador concluded that the frog represented a previously unknown species. It was recently described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Unlike other frogs, the new species has a claw at the base of the thumb. Photo by Gustavo Pazmiño, BIOWEB Ecuador.

The species name, Hyloscirtus hillisi, honors Dr. David Hillis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, who discovered three closely related frog species in the same genus in the 1980s, while conducting a series of field trips to the Andes of southern Ecuador. Throughout his career, Dr. Hillis has made significant contributions to the knowledge of Andean amphibians and reptiles.

Despite being newly described, Hyloscirtus hillisi is already at risk of extinction. It has a small distribution range near a large-scale mining operation carried out by a Chinese company. Habitat destruction in the region has been recently documented by the NGO Amazon Conservation.

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Original source:

Ron SR, Caminer MA, Varela-Jaramillo A, Almeida-Reinoso D (2018) A new treefrog from Cordillera del Cóndor with comments on the biogeographic affinity between Cordillera del Cóndor and the Guianan Tepuis (Anura, Hylidae, Hyloscirtus). ZooKeys 809: 97-124. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.809.25207

A metamorph of the new species, Hyloscirtus hillisi. Photo by Darwin Núñez, BIOWEB Ecuador.

Finding the real treasure of the Incas: Two new frog species from an unexplored region

Inaccessibility and mysticism surrounding the mist-veiled mountains of the central Andes make this region promising to hide treasures. With an area of 2197 km2, most of the Llanganates National Park, Ecuador, is nearly unreachable and is traversed only by foot. However, fieldwork conducted by researchers from the Museo de Zoología at Catholic University of Ecuador resulted in the discovery of a more real and tangible gem: biodiversity.

Among other surprises, during their expeditions the researchers discovered two new species of rain frogs, formally named P. llanganati and P. yanezi. The new species are characterized by the spiny appearance typical of several species inhabiting montane forests. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The new rain frogs belong to the megadiverse genus Pristimantis. They are direct-developing frogs, which means that they lack a tadpole stage and therefore do not undergo metamorphosis.Amphibia

The Neotropical Andes houses a spectacular radiation of Pristimantis, especially in the Montane Forests of the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes. The species richness of this genus is still underestimated as a consequence of their cryptic morphology and the still sparse amphibian inventories in unexplored regions such as the Llanganates National Park.

The discovery reminds the authors of a mystic local legend dating from the 16th century, when the Inca Empire fell into the hands of Spanish conquerors. Word has it that in exchange for the young emperor’s life, Atahualpa, Incas offered to fill an entire room with tons of gold. However, the Spaniards broke their promise and the emperor was executed. A small group of loyal Incas led by General Rumiñahui decided to hide both, the mummy of Atahualpa and the gold, in the depths of the jungle of the Llanganates National Park.

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Original source:

Navarrete MJ, Venegas PJ, Ron SR (2016) Two new species of frogs of the genus Pristimantis from Llanganates National Park in Ecuador with comments on the regional diversity of Ecuadorian Pristimantis (Anura, Craugastoridae). ZooKeys 593: 139-162. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.593.8063

New immigrant: Shiny Cowbirds noted from a recording altitude of 2,800 m in Ecuador

Two juveniles of Shiny Cowbird, a parasitic bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, were spotted in the Andean city of Quito, Ecuador, for the first time. This finding represents an altitudinal expansion of approximately 500 m.

Breeding populations might have been prompted by forest fragmentation and/or climate change, suggest the research team, led by Dr Verónica Crespo-Pérez, professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE). Resultingly, the ‘immigrants’ could be threatening native birds. The study is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal.

“The Shiny Cowbird is native to the lowlands of South America but within the last 100 years, it has been expanding its distribution to higher altitudes and latitudes” says the lead author.

The bird had already been noted from high altitudes in Bolivia and Perú, and in some localities in the Ecuadorian Andes. Since 2000, Juan Manuel Carrión, co-author and director of the Zoo in Quito, recalls observing Shiny cowbirds near his home in a valley near Quito at 2,300 m above sea level (asl). However, one has never before been reported from an altitude as high as 2,800 m asl.

Moreover, the fact that the observed individuals were juveniles means that the species is already breeding in the city.

“Such a significant expansion of reproductive birds, of approximately 500 m, could be related to human disturbances, like forest fragmentation or climate change,” adds Crespo-Pérez.

The observations took place at the PUCE campus about a year ago. Two juvenile Shiny cowbirds were seen parasitizing two different pairs of Rufous-collared Sparrow, one of the most common birds in Quito. The cowbirds displayed food-begging behaviors to adult sparrows, including chasing the sparrows on the ground and chanting intensely on bushes and tree branches.

“These observations mean that the birth mother of the cowbird laid her eggs in the nests of the sparrows, who inadvertently, became the cowbird’s foster parents and incubated, fed and cared for the it as if it were its own, even though the cowbird is almost twice as big,” says Miguel Pinto, co-author and professor at Escuela Politécnica Nacional, and former postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution.

“The sparrows were not feeding fledglings of their own species, which suggests that the Cowbird could be having some negative effect on the Sparrow, at least on their ability to reproduce,” points out Tjitte de Vries, co-author and professor at PUCE.

There are several published reports of negative effects of Cowbirds on other birds, especially on species that are already endangered or have restricted distribution ranges. Therefore, this report of an expansion of the Shiny Cowbird towards higher altitudes may be of concern, mainly for native, endemic or endangered bird species.

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Original source:

Crespo-Pérez V, Pinto C, Carrión J, Jarrín E R, Poveda C, de Vries T (2016) The Shiny Cowbird, Molothrus bonariensis (Gmelin, 1789) (Aves: Icteridae), at 2,800 m asl in Quito, Ecuador.Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e8184. doi: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e8184

Three new fishing snake species fished out of the Andean slopes in South America

Commonly known as fishing snakes, the Synophis genus has been expanded with as many as three new species following a research in the Andean cloud forests of Amazonian Ecuador and Peru. Not only is the discovery remarkable due to the rarity of new snake species being discovered, but also because this is the first time this mysterious and already eight-member genus is recorded from Peru. The study is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The three new species have been identified as a result of both field and laboratory work, undertaken by Dr. Omar Torres-Carvajal, Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Ecuador, in collaboration with herpetologists from Peru (CORBIDI) and the United States (Francis Marion University). The new species differ from their closest relatives in scale features, male sexual organs and DNA. The unusual discoveries took place in areas within the 1,542,644 km2 of the Tropical Andes hotspot, western South America.

Although they are commonly known as fishing snakes, these reptiles most likely do not eat fish. Their diet and behavior are poorly known. So far, it has only been reported that one species feeds on lizards.

The fishing snakes have long been known to live in cloud forests on both sides of the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. Yet, it seems they have waited all along to make an appearance. The new species described herein, along with a recent description of one species from southwestern Ecuador also published in Zookeys, has duplicated the number of species of fishing snakes from four to eight over the span of several months.

During their recent expeditions to several localities along the Andes of Ecuador and Peru the authors collected several individuals of fishing snakes, which they suspected to be previously unknown. After comparing their specimens with those deposited in a number of natural history museums, the authors’ suspicions only became stronger.

Consequently, the scientists examined the male snakes’ sexual organs (hemipenes) and DNA evidence. The results left no doubts that the specimens belonged to three undescribed fishing snake species.

“We started working with fishing snakes a year ago as new specimens were collected in poorly explored areas of the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in Ecuador and Peru,” explains lead author Dr. Omar Torres-Carvajal. “At that time only four species of fishing snakes had been described, and they were recognized in the literature as one of the most rare and secretive groups of snakes in South America.”

“In less than a year, we and other herpetologists doubled the number of known species of fishing snakes, showing that their diversity had been greatly underestimated,” he points out.

“This story is similar to the story of the woodlizards (Enyalioides), a group of dragon-like lizards with more than half of its species discovered in recent years in the tropical Andes,” the scientist reminisces.

“This tells us that this hotspot is more diverse than we thought, so it is very important that basic biodiversity research is properly funded,” Dr. Torres-Carvajal concludes. “Otherwise, we might never know what other scaly creatures are crawling around us.”

 

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Original source:

Torres-Carvajal O, Echevarría LY, Venegas PJ, Chávez G, Camper JD (2015) Description and phylogeny of three new species of Synophis (Colubridae, Dipsadinae) from the tropical Andes in Ecuador and Peru. ZooKeys 546: 153-179. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.546.6533.

New snake species with pitch black eyes from the Andes highlights hidden diversity

Extremely rare and hidden in the forests of the Andes, there are still new snake species left to find. This has recently been evidenced by the colubrid serpent, described for the first time in the present article. Moreover, there is the vicious circle enwrapping its relatives: the harder it is to find more specimens, the tougher it is to describe and thus, start to identify them, which does not help in mapping their distribution and habitats. To address this issue, Dr. R. Alexander Pyron, The George Washington University, and his international research team have included a taxonomic review and discussion on the relationships and origin within a non-venomous snake tribe in a paper, published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Slender and small, the new species, called Synophis zaheri, measures less than 40 cm in length, or between 351 and 372 mm. Contrasting to its slim body with a distinct neck, separating the head from the body, its eyes are large and bulging, making up for more than a third of its head. Being black in colour, it is hard to tell the pupil and the iris apart. While the upper part of the body is grayish-brown with an iridescent sheen, the abdominal side stands out with its yellowish-white colouration.

Typically for the tribe, where the new species has been placed, it is also characterised with a highly modified spine and an enlarged scale row running over it. This is also where the name of this group of snakes comes from with “Diaphorolepidini” consisting of the Greek words for “differentiated” and “scales”. Not so clear, however, is the name of the genus, which the authors have translated also from Greek as “with snake”, but find themselves unaware of the meaning behind. The species is named after Dr. Hussam El-Dine Zaher, a Brazilian herpetologist whose work has been foundational for South American snakes.

In conclusion, the scientists note that the rarity of the observed snake species, especially the genus, where the new serpent belongs, accounts for the unclear species-boundaries as well as for the myriad of undescribed species. “Dipsadine diversity in the Andes is clearly underestimated, and new species are still being discovered in the 21st century,” they point out.

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Original source:

Pyron RA, Guayasamin JM, Peñafiel N, Bustamante L, Arteaga A (2015) Systematics of Nothopsini (Serpentes, Dipsadidae), with a new species of Synophis from the Pacific Andean slopes of southwestern Ecuador. ZooKeys 541: 109-147. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.541.6058

The owls beyond the Andes: Divergence between distant populations suggests new species

They might be looking quite identical, while perched above humanised farmlands and grasslands across several continents, but each of the populations of two owl species, living in the opposite hemispheres, might actually turn out to be yet another kind. This suggestion has been made by Dr. Nelson Colihueque and his team from Universidad de Los Lagos, Chile, based on new genetic divergence analyses of the Common Barn and the Short-eared Owl populations from southern Chile and comparing them with those from other geographic areas. The study is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Although much has been known about the two widespread owl species, the knowledge about them has so far been restricted mainly to aspects such as their diet, conservation status and habitats. On the other hand, their genetic divergence in comparison with populations in distant areas has received little attention. Moreover, their taxonomical status is still based on traditional identification rather than modern methods such as the herein utilised mitochondrial COI sequencing.

Thus, the Chilean research team concluded a significant genetic divergence among the populations of both species from a few distinctive groups. In the case of the Common Barn Owl they compared the new analysis of its South American representatives with already available such data about populations from North America, Northern Europe and Australasia. For the Short-eared Owl, they compared Chilean and Argentinean birds with North American and North Asian.

One of the reasons behind such an evolutionary divergence might be the geographic isolation, experienced by the peripheral South American populations of both owl species. It is a consequence of the Andean Mountains acting as a natural barrier.

“In the case of the Common Barn Owl, the existence of geographic barriers to gene flow among populations on different continents is to be expected, and this in combination with its non-migratory or short-distance migratory behaviour, should contribute to promote the genetic divergence,” further explain the authors.

In conclusion, the researchers call for additional studies to clarify the taxonomic identification of these owl populations.

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Original source:

Colihueque N, Gantz A, Rau JR, Parraguez M (2015) Genetic divergence analysis of the Common Barn Owl Tyto alba (Scopoli, 1769) and the Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus (Pontoppidan, 1763) from southern Chile using COI sequence. ZooKeys 534: 135-146. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.534.5953

Dark and marked: Strikingly colored new fleshbelly frog from the Andean cloud forest

Carrying itself around with a dark brown mask on its face and a broad shapeless white mark on its chest and belly, a frog had been jumping across the Peruvian cloud forests of the Andes unrecognised by the scientific world. Now, this visibly distinguishable species has been picked up by Dr. Catenazzi of Southern Illinois University and his team from its likely only locality, a cloud forest near Cusco in Peru, at 2350 m elevation by Drs. Catenazzi, Uscapi and May. Their research is published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The new fleshbelly frog species, called N. madreselva, was discovered by Peruvian researcher Vanessa Uscapi in January 2011 amid leaf litter in the humid montane forest of the Andes. Locally abundant and active during the day, the leaping amphibian was found to be small of size and leading a predominantly terrestrial life. It is likely that the new species has restricted distribution, inhabiting the upper watersheds in the valleys adjacent to the locality where it has been discovered.

The name “madreselva”, which translates to “mother jungle” from Spanish, honours the efforts of local conservation initiatives, such as the local ecotourism lodge Madre Selva and the ecological project Sircadia, that aim at protecting the delicate and biologically rich montane forest ecosystems in the region. The new frog is locally abundant in parts of the forest that are protected from logging.

Described by the authors as “striking”, the colouration is what visibly differentiates the new frog species from its relatives. Most noticeably, it stands out with the wide irregularly shaped white mark on black background all across, stretching from the creature’s chest down to its belly. A brown splash on its head forms a distinguishable dark facial mask.

Because of the frog’s limited habitat, the scientists fear that the species is threatened by a large number of risks, including deforestation, diseases and the agricultural activities in the region. However, as for the moment, the frog has been proposed by the researchers to be classified as “Data Deficient” in the IUCN Red List, until new data regarding its distribution become available.

Being often neglected by explorers, small amphibian species like this fleshbelly frog are at high risk of extinction, claim the authors. “It is therefore imperative to document the highly endemic amphibian faunas of wet montane Andean forests as a first step towards designing a network of natural reserves that maximizes protection of amphibian biodiversity,” they insist.

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Original source:

Catenazzi A, Uscapi V, von May R (2015) A new species of Noblella (Amphibia, Anura, Craugastoridae) from the humid montane forests of Cusco, Peru. ZooKeys 516: 71-84. doi:10.3897/zookeys.516.9776