Scientists identify northeast Mindanao as major ‘bull’s-eye’ of biodiversity

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.124836_web

“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.

 

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Original Source:

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

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

Emerald and gold: Two new jewel-eyed endemic tree frog species from Taiwan

Two endemic tree frog species, not recognised by science until now, have been identified in broadleaf forests in the island country of Taiwan. Unlike their siblings from mainland China and Southern Asia, they demonstrate reproductive behaviour, characterised with egg-eating (oophagous) tadpole embryos feeding on eggs, while still inside the mother’s womb. What told them apart initially, however, were their jewel-coloured eyes. The research team, led by Dr. Shu-Ping Wu, University of Taipei, have their study published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

One of the new species, whose scientific name, K. berylliniris, translates from Latin to ‘green-coloured iris’, has been found to dwell among the leaves of moist forests in eastern Taiwan. It is a slender-bodied amphibian with the females slightly bigger than the males, measuring an average length of 41 mm versus 35 mm, respectively. Matching its emerald eyes is its body, which can be either dark green in colour, or deep tan. It is only the belly and the throat that, in contrast, are white and sometimes faintly speckled. On the other hand, its tadpoles vary from heavily dark brown to black.

The second new tree frog, called Kurixalus wangi after pioneer herpetologist Mr. Ching-Shong Wang, can be distinguished with its golden-yellow eyes and extraordinarily small body. Compared to its related species, this one measures an average of 30 mm for males and 34 for female individuals. Its upper-side body is brownish-green with deep brown and black spots, while its belly and throat – whitish.

2 species tree frogs img 2

Both new frog species have been seen to lay their eggs in tree holes, but at different time of the year. The couple, described in the present paper, are also the first representatives of their genus found in the East-Asian country, although the scientists believe it is unlikely for them to be the only ones.

“The actual amphibian species diversity on the island of Taiwan is likely higher than currently thought, given the diverse habitats and the dynamic history of geographic events,” they argue. “Although Taiwan is a highly developed island with significant alterations to the natural landscape and destruction of critical habitats for amphibians, it is noteworthy that during the last fifty years, six of the seven newly described frog species in Taiwan were tree frogs inhabiting forested areas.”

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Original source:

Wu S-P, Huang C-C, Tsai C-L, Lin T-E, Jhang J-J, Wu S-H (2016) Systematic revision of the Taiwanese genus Kurixalus members with a description of two new endemic species (Anura, Rhacophoridae). ZooKeys 557: 121-153. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.557.6131