The lab has two new members! PhD students Cara Giordano and Gustavo Ruano-Fajardo joined the lab this semester. Cara graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor's degree in biology and environmental sciences, with a specialization in conservation. Her undergraduate research investigated natural and sexual selection in brown anoles, focusing primarily on the role of secondary sexual characteristics as honest signals of male quality. After graduating, she worked for the National Park Service conducting invasive plant management in the DC metropolitan area. She is interested in investigating species responses to environmental changes induced by human activity.
Gustavo graduated from the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala – USAC, where he investigated salamanders and bromeliads interaction. He then obtained a master from the Universidade Federal de Alagoas (Brazil), continuing his research on bromeligenous amphibians, this time incorporating the risk of infection with the chytrid fungus in frogs of the Northeastern Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Bromeliad tanks are important for amphibians because they may be environmental refuges from diseases, climatic change, and habitat loss. Understanding amphibian dynamics within this microhabitat could be fundamental for amphibian diversity facing threats from global change. His current research interests are the amphibian microbiome, host-pathogen interactions, and bromeliads micro-ecosystems.
The lab has been busy presenting research at conferences this month. Rachel presented results from her research investigating whether Chytrid avoidance is an innate behavior in the strawberry poison frog at the Animal Behavioral Society meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, from 20-23 July.
Jon presented his poster on Transmission of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in terrestrial-breeding frogs in andean montane forests at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Spokane from 27-31 July. Alessandro moderated the Amphibian disease session and gave a talk on Why don't diseases fade away: Role of disease-tolerant species in amplifying transmission of chytridiomycosis. Both presentations will also contribute to the First Global Amphibian and Reptile Disease Conference (GARD) in Knoxville from 4-10 August, where Alessandro will also co-author a talk on First evidence of Ranavirus in native and invasive amphibians in Colombia (presented by lead author Vicky Flechas).
Anne presented her research on Sociality and the oral microbiome in prairie voles at the International Society for Behavioral Ecology Congress in Stockholm, Sweden, from 28 July to 2 August. Congrats to all presenters!
Alessandro participated as Resource Faculty for the OTS course Tropical Biology at La Selva Biological Station in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. The group of student surveyed amphibians and reptiles in nine 10x10 m leaf litter plots across three soil types (recent alluvial, old alluvial, and residual) throughout the reserve. There is a long tradition for OTS course students to survey the litter herpetofauna, and an overview of these studies discovered that amphibian and squamate abundance and diversity declines during the period from 1972 to 2007. The densities we estimated this month are still low compared with densities from the 70s, but (at first glance) not as low as one would have predicted given the rate of decline estimated in 2008 (see publication here). One of the species, Dendrobates auratus (black and green poison dart frog; see photo in gallery) seems to be spreading through La Selva after a suspected accidental introduction from a nearby breeding facility.
Alessandro dio una charla durante el Simposio por el Aniversario del Parque Nacional del Manu el 23 de mayo en la Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cusco. El título de su charla fue Por qué no se acaban las pandemias: El caso de la quitidiomicosis en bosques nublados. La charla explica el papel de una especie resorvorio que tolera la infección, la cual podría contribuir a mantener la enfermedad entre las demás especies de ranas. La diapositiva en la foto muestra el laboratorio de campo (cero emisiones) que permite detectar la presencia de la enfermedades usando frotis de piel y un ensayo molecular (PCR).
Last year we started a project surveying terrestrial-breeding frogs in the cloud forests of the Amazonian Andes. The project aims to explain how epizootics (epidemics of wildlife) of chytridiomycosis occur among terrestrial-breeding frogs, and how climate interacts with disease dynamics to trigger these epizootics. As part of our work, we have been marking and recapturing hundreds of frogs in a dozen transects in the cloud forest. After one year, we have been able to recapture many of these frogs, and collect valuable data regarding their infection status, growth rate, movements and habitat use. We are pleased to confirm a few preliminary findings...for example, some frogs have been able to clear infection without any external intervention. The greatest majority of recaptured frogs barely move around the original or previous point of capture, suggesting they have extremely small home ranges. We recaptured one frog after 12 months, sitting on the same shrub!
In this lab collaboration, we describe two new species of semifossorial microteiid lizards of the genus Proctoporus from the montane forests of Cusco. We used a variety of approaches including morphological and molecular data concatenating four mitochondrial and a nuclear gene to identify and characterize the new species. We name the two new species Proctoporus katerynae and P. optimus (photo below), the first honoring Kateryn Pino Bolañoz in recognition of her work for mammal conservation in Peru, and the second in reference to Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots in the science fiction movie Transformers, in recognition of the seventh film that was filmed in Machu Picchu: Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. Machu Picchu is the type locality of P. optimus. With these two new species, the genus Proctoporus currently includes 18 species.
Meet one of the Amazon's most recently discovered frog -- the tapir frog (photograph above by Germán Chávez)! So named for the shape of its snout, which is similar to the snout of a tapir (see inset photo left). The scientific names, Synapturanus danta, refers to how local people of the Putumayo river of Amazonian Peru call the Amazon tapir ("danta"). This new species of microhylid frogs live in the soils of stunted pole forests growing on peat, a type of ecosystem which is common in this region of northeastern Peruvian Amazonia.
Synapturanus frogs are fossorial, and often overlooked during herpetological surveys and inventories, and thus their diversity is likely underestimated. Several putative new species have been suggested in different regions of the Amazon basin and the Guiana shield. It is likely that more species remain to be discovered, given the fossorial habits of these frogs reduce their detectability and their limited dispersal abilities may be associated with high endemism.
Reference: Chávez, G., M.E. Thomson, D.A. Sánchez, J.C. Chávez-Arribasplata, A. Catenazzi. 2022. A needle in a haystack: Integrative taxonomy reveals the existence of a new small species of fossorial frog from Peru. Evolutionary Systematics 6: 9-20. https://doi.org/10.3897/evolsdoi.org/10.3897/evolsyst.6.80281
We had the FIU Biosymposium last Saturday, 5 February at the beautiful FIU Biscayne Bay Campus. The FIU Biosymposium provides a chance for graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences to present their work. Our lab was well represented, Anne gave a lightning talk titled The impact of carbon nanoparticles on the growth and development on tadpoles, and Rachel presented a poster titled Is chytrid avoidance an innate behavior in the strawberry poison frog?. Anne won first place in her category, congratulations Anne!
The genus Pristimantis of terrestrial-breeding frogs is the most species-rich genus of frogs, with over 570 species named to date. In the last lab collaboration with Pablo Venegas and Luis Garcia Ayachi from the Centro de Ornitologia y Biodiversidad (CORBIDI), we describe two new species of Pristimantis from the Amazonas department in northern Peru: Pristimantis kiruhampatu and P. paulpittmani (see photo above by A. Marchelie). The genus is exceptionally diverse in the Tropical Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Since 2010, researchers have named 138 species of Pristimantis, among them 20 of the 142 species known to occur in Peru. These numbers suggest that we are far from reaching saturation in terms of the number of species of Pristimantis in Peru, and more generally for the genus across the Tropical Andes. As for other terrestrial-breeding frogs in the Andes, many species of Pristimantis are endemic to small montane valleys, many of which remain poorly explored.
The name kiruhampatu (see photo below)is composed of two Quechua nouns, kiru meaning “tooth”, and hampatu meaning “frog”. The specific name refers to the tubercles along the snout that looks like teeth. The second species is a patronym for Paul Edward Pittman, an American biochemist (1955–2017) who was deeply concerned about climate change’s effects on the biological diversity of tropical forests in the Americas. The name honors his deep concern for and commitment to the conservation of this region’s biodiversity.
The members of the AmphibiaWeb team and of the AmphibiaWebEcuador and AmphibiaChina websites assessed the state of the last five years of amphibian research (2016-2020). The manuscript has been posted as preprint and is available at https://ecoevorxiv.org/r9qga/.
We show that while research and data availability are increasing rapidly, information is not evenly distributed across research fields, clades, or geographic regions, leading to substantial knowledge gaps. A complete review of amphibian NCBI resources indicates that genomic data are poised for rapid expansion, but amphibian genomes pose significant challenges. A review of recent conservation literature and cataloged threats on 1,261 species highlight the need to address land use change and disease using adaptive management strategies.
One of the findings is that amphibian discoveries continue unabated -- nearly 800 new species described from 2016-2020, many of them from Latin America (especially the Andes) and SE Asia (see map below, with new species accumulation curves by region).
We underscore the importance of database integration for advancing amphibian research and conservation and suggest other understudied or imperiled clades would benefit from similar assessments.
News from the lab