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.
Congratulations to PhD candidate Rachel Prokopius and PhD student Jon Adamaski for being awarded Tinker grants in support of their field research in Costa Rica and Peru!
Anne Sabol and Rachel Prokopius have defended their proposals today. Anne's proposal is titled The impact of urbanization on the life history of an invasive amphibian. Rachel's proposal is titled Living with Chytrid: The roles behavior and resource allocation play in surviving on a pathogen-ridden planet. Congrats to both Anne and Rachel!
Our lab and collaborator Alex Ttito from the Museo de Biodiversidad in Cusco named a new species of terrestrial-breeding frog, Pristimantis achupalla. The species epithet, achupalla, is a Quechua noun for bromeliads. These minute frogs inhabit water-filled bromeliads, despite their likely (but presumed) direct-development mode of laying eggs in moist environments, with embryos bypassing the tadpole stages and tiny froglets hatching from the terrestrial eggs. The type locality is near Thiuni, in the Department of Puno (province of Carabaya) in the upper watershed of a tributary of the Inambari River. This is the same locality where we also discovered Noblella thiuni and Psychrophrynella glauca, all of them during a short hike to the edge of the cloud forest. The article appeared today in the open access journal PeerJ.
This month's lab contribution to amphibian biodiversity is the description of a new species of toad from the montane forests of northern Peru: Rhinella moralesi. Along with collaborators Edgar Lehr, Juan Carlos Cusi, Lily Rodriguez, Pablo Venegas and Luis Alberto Garcia, we name the new species to honor the memory of the late Peruvian herpetologist Victor Morales, who at the time of his untimely death was professor at Universidad Ricardo Palma in Lima.
We tentatively assign the new species to the Rhinella festae species Group based on morphological similarities with its other 19 members. It is characterised by large size (maximum SVL 91.6 mm in females), a pointed and protruding snout that is posteroventrally inclined, absence of a visible tympanic annulus and tympanic membrane, long parotoid glands in contact with upper eyelid, presence of a dorsolateral row of enlarged tubercles, outer dorsolateral tarsus surface with a subconical ridge of fused tubercles, and absence of subgular vocal sac and vocal slits in males.
The species has been observed in both the San Martin and Amazonas departments, at elevations around 1700-2300 m a.s.l. At one of the locations, at least one specimen was infected with the pathogenic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which has caused population declines and extirpations in many species of toads (Bufonidae family). It is unclear what effect this pathogen has on Rhinella moralesi.
The article appeared today in the open-access journal Taxonomy.
FIU researcher Alessandro Catenazzi helped gather the critical information needed to expedite the establishment of nine new protected areas in one of the most biologically diverse regions of Peru.
The Institute of Environment biologist was part of a large collaborative conservation effort led by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The team’s extensive rapid biological and social inventory work helped quadruple the previous number of protected areas in Loreto, an expanse of Amazonian lowlands and Andean foothills bordering Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.
The study led by Dr. Nigel Pitman (Field Museum) was published today in Science Advances. Read more about our lab's contribution at https://news.fiu.edu/2021/researcher-helps-collect-key-data-to-establish-9-new-protected-areas-in-peru.
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