Our lab contributed a publication naming two new species of frogs from Manu National Park, further increasing the number of amphibian species of the park. Manu NP already boasts the highest number of amphibian species living inside a natural protected area. The two new species, Pristimantis antisuyu (in the image below) and Pristimantis erythroinguinis (in the image on the left), are closely related but their elevational distributions do not overlap.
Pristimantis antisuyu lives in the cloud forest (image on right with good old Shigella), while P. erythroinguinis is found the Andean foothills and adjacent Amazon lowlands. Both species share with P. cruciocularis the unique pattern of having an iris with a cruciform pattern. Our molecular analyses suggest that P. cruciocularis and the two new species are part of the P. platydactylus-P. llojsintuta species complex, which is likely to contain more cryptic species.
Our paper on frog skin bacteria along the Amazon-Andes elevational transect (500 - 3800 m a.s.l.) was published today in Frontiers in Microbiology. We found lower numbers of anti-Bd isolates at elevations where amphibian declines had been greatest, and high proportion of anti-Bd isolates of high inhibitory strength in Bd-resistant frogs, supporting the idea that symbiotic bacteria play a functional role in amphibian skin defense. Yet this association does not consistently explain the fate of amphibian hosts along the elevational gradient, suggesting complex interactions among bacterial symbionts, hosts, and environmental factors in determining frog persistence in a region of high disease prevalence.
Very excited to be going back to the beautiful Archbold Biological Station for a seminar on March 1st at 3:30 pm. I'll be talking about our lab research on fungal disease and amphibian biodiversity. I spent a year at Archbold in 2007, as a postdoc with Henry Mushinsky and Earl McCoy in a project studying the effects of prescribed fire on Florida sand skinks. Archbold protects a large tract of undisturbed Florida scrub, and is restoring adjacent land to help with the recovery of threatened scrub species. This unique ecosystems hosts several endemic species, many of which are adapted to a regime of frequent natural fires. Because of human development and agriculture modification and encroachment into scrub habitats, fire is generally suppressed. But Archbold operates a very active fire management plan that contributes to maintaining the landscape as a mosaic of frequently burned to long unburned patches, benefiting a variety of native organisms.
Our lab contributed to a publication by collaborator Justin Nowakowski published this week (early view) in Ecology Letters. The study explored the hypothesis that ecophysiological traits of amphibians and reptiles, specifically tolerance to heat (i.e., Critical Thermal Maximum of righting reflex), variation in body temperatures experienced by animals in their habitats, and evaporative water loss were associated with sensitivity to habitat modification. Field data from focal studies in Costa Rica and Colombia were supplemented by a meta-analysis drawing from multiple studies and continents. The results of the analyses were generally consistent across locations and communities, and showed that tolerance to heat can explain roughly 40% and up to 2/3 of variation in sensitivity to habitat modification. For example when tropical forests are logged, the loss of canopy cover dramatically increases maximum daily temperatures. Species of amphibians and reptiles that are unable to tolerate the new high temperatures are thus locally extirpated. Because several ecophysiological traits are conserved within families, an association between these traits and sensitivity to habitat modification can help predict impacts of human disturbance on herpetological biodiversity, and develop mitigation strategies to reduce such impacts.
Bryophryne mancoinca is the newest addition to the genus Bryophryne, a genus of 14 species, 13 of which have been described in the past 10 years. And this year has seen the largest number of new Bryophryne species : in addition to B. mancoinca and B. phuyuhampatu, De la Riva and collaborators have described B. quellokunka, B. tocra and B. wilakunka, extending the known geographic range from Department Cusco to Puno. The description of the new B. mancoinca (photo by Alex Ttito) was led by our collaborator Luis Mamani and has been published in the journal Phyllomedusa.
Research by former lab member David Burkart is featured on the cover of the December issue of Animal Conservation, which also publishes an article from David's M.S. thesis. The photograph illustrates a brooding female of Gastrotheca excubitor and her recently hatched newborn froglet from the highlands of Manu National Park in Peru. Embryos undergo direct development within the eggs, which are carried by the female inside a specialized, sealed dorsal pouch. We previously published a blog post regarding David's research on the role of skin peptides and symbiotic bacteria as defenses against fungal disease in these frogs. This research is also in the SIU News this week. Congratulations David!
Another lab contribution was published this week in the journal Zootaxa, describing a new arboreal species of gymnophthalmid lizard (spectacled lizards). This is a fairly large group of lizards distributed in Central and South America, most species are ground-dwelling and inhabit the forest leaf litter, rocky areas or mosses and grasslands at high elevations, but several species are semi-aquatic and can dive, such as species of Potamites. The new species, named Euspondylus excelsum, however is arboreal and was discovered when the lizard's habitat was flooded by a hydroelectric project in the Amazonian slopes of the Andes in Central Peru. Additional surveys in the area surrounding the flooded area failed to find lizards on the ground; instead all captured lizards were found on leaves and other arboreal microhabitats. Photograph by Lesly Luján.
Doctoral candidate Alex Shepack and collaborators have published a review paper on the salamander-killing fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) in the journal EcoHealth (available here). The study reviews current research on Bsal, which is currently threatening native salamanders in Europe. This virulent fungus has yet to be detected in the Americas, and multiple efforts are under way to prevent its introduction in North America, which supports one of the most diverse salamander fauna. The article also explains the role of the Bsal Task Force, risks associated with the spread of Bsal, and policy measures proposed or enacted to date.
We are excited to announce that our lab is going tropical! We will be moving next January to Florida International University in Miami. The lab will join the Department of Biological Sciences at the main university campus in Miami (Modesto A. Maidique campus). More updates will be posted soon.
News from the lab