Science

Tiny frog species among series of finds in Andean ‘sky islands’ 

A tiny frog measuring just 0.3 of an inch (10mm) in length – less than the width of a 5p coin – is among the discoveries in a ‘pristine’ section of the Andes mountain range, in Bolvia, South America. 

The lilliputian frog may be the smallest amphibian in the Andes and among the smallest amphibian in the world, researchers say. 

The creature was found during an expedition led by US non-profit organisation Conservation International in the Zongo Valley near the city of La Paz in Bolivia. 

Researchers found a total of 20 species that were entirely new to science – including a mountain viper, a ‘Bolivian flag snake’, four orchids and four butterflies.   

They also observed 1,984 previously known species including  the ‘devil-eyed frog’, which has not seen for more than 20 years and was previously thought to be extinct. 

A lilliputian frog recently found at the forests of Bolivias Zongo Valley, north of La Paz, Bolivia

FROG NEW TO SCIENCE IS SMALLER THAN 5P COIN 

Lilliputian frog measures around 0.39 inches (10mm) in length.

A five 5p coin, meanwhile, is about 0.66 inches (17mm) in diameter. 

It may be among the smallest amphibians in the world, experts say.

Nestled in the Andes, the forests of Bolivia’s Zongo Valley are more than 10,000 feet above sea level and shrouded in pillowy clouds. 

‘These discoveries are the result of 14 days of intense field work spread across the rugged terrain, misty cloud forests and cascading waterfalls of the Zongo – a truly beautiful and diverse landscape,’ said Trond Larsen, director of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP).  

‘The remarkable rediscovery of species once thought extinct, especially so close to the city of La Paz, illustrates how sustainable development that embraces conservation of nature can ensure long-term protection of biodiversity as well as the benefits ecosystems provide to people. 

‘Overall, we identified a total of 1,204 species in the Zongo Valley, 20 of which were completely new to science. 

‘The diversity in each taxonomic group was exceptionally high for this level of sampling in this part of the world.’

The experts said the lilliputian frog lives in tunnels beneath the thick layers of moss and humus – the organic material that forms in soil when plant and animal matter decays – which may explain why it has not been discovered until now.  

Among the other species new to science is the mountain fer-de-lance (Bothrops monsignifer), a new species of venomous pit viper, which uses heat-sensing pits on its head to detect prey. 

The expedition was co-led by Trond Larsen, director of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) and Claudia Cortez, Head of Conservation and Wildlife Management for the Municipal Government of La Paz. It brought 17 scientists to the Chawi Grande, a locality belonging to the Hualylipaya community of La Paz, Bolivia. The area is known as Zongo Valley or 'heart' of the region.

The expedition was co-led by Trond Larsen, director of Conservation International’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) and Claudia Cortez, Head of Conservation and Wildlife Management for the Municipal Government of La Paz. It brought 17 scientists to the Chawi Grande, a locality belonging to the Hualylipaya community of La Paz, Bolivia. The area is known as Zongo Valley or ‘heart’ of the region.

According to Conservation International, only one or two new viper species are described for the Americas every decade, making this an exciting find.  

Another new species is the Bolivian flag snake, a slender terrestrial snake distinguished by red, yellow and green colours similar to the Bolivian flag. 

This snake was found in the thick undergrowth of stunted elfin forest along the crest of the mountain at the highest elevation surveyed. 

The Andean mountains of the Zongo Valley in Bolivia where the RAP expedition took place are steep and rugged, with numerous waterfalls and cascades.

The Andean mountains of the Zongo Valley in Bolivia where the RAP expedition took place are steep and rugged, with numerous waterfalls and cascades.

The so-called Bolivian flag snake - named for its distinctive colours - recently found at the forests of Bolivias Zongo Valley, north of La Paz, Bolivia

The so-called Bolivian flag snake – named for its distinctive colours – recently found at the forests of Bolivias Zongo Valley, north of La Paz, Bolivia

Among the four new butterfly species are two species of metalmark butterflies which feed on flower nectar in open areas and forest clearings.

The other two butterflies, a satyr and another metalmark butterfly, were only caught with a long-handled net while flying high in the forest canopy. 

Four new orchids include a new species of Adder’s mouth orchid with flower parts that appear to mimic an insect and may serve to fool unwitting pollinators.

In the rediscovered species category was the devil-eyed frog (Oreobates zongoensis), which is named for its black body and intense red eyes. 

A devil-eyed frog (Oreobates zongoensis), which was thought to be extinct, and rediscovered

A devil-eyed frog (Oreobates zongoensis), which was thought to be extinct, and rediscovered

O. zongoensis was previously known only from a single individual observed in 1997 in the Zongo Valley a small hole under a large rock.

Since then, previous expeditions attempting to find this species had concluded empty-handed – until now. 

O. zongoensis is noted for its ‘elusive nature’, from its habit of hiding beneath the thick moss surrounding roots of bamboo. 

Also rediscovered was the satyr butterfly (Euptychoides fida), found once again in Bolvia after 98 years. The species is only known to live in the Zongo Valley. 

It was captured in a cylindrical mesh trap where it was attracted to a bait of rotten fruit and dung.

And Stromanthe angustifolia, an understory plant endemic to the Zongo, was rediscovered after 125 years. 

This plant moves its leaves vertically to close them at night, similar to hands in prayer. 

Image showing mountain fer-de-lance (Bothrops monsignifer), a new species of venomous pit viper, which uses heat-sensing pits on its head to detect prey

Image showing mountain fer-de-lance (Bothrops monsignifer), a new species of venomous pit viper, which uses heat-sensing pits on its head to detect prey

A new species of metalmark butterfly discovered on the Zongo RAP expedition in Bolivia. This species flies in the cloud forest canopy where it feeds on flower nectar

A new species of metalmark butterfly discovered on the Zongo RAP expedition in Bolivia. This species flies in the cloud forest canopy where it feeds on flower nectar

Conservation International said the findings will help inform sustainable development plans for the rural areas of La Paz, 78 per cent of which falls within the Zongo.  

‘The remarkable discovery of new species and rediscovery of species once thought extinct illustrates just how important it is to continue to sustainably develop La Paz in a way that protects and conserves the nature that surrounds it,’ said Larsen. 

‘This area has become a safe haven for amphibians, butterflies and plants that haven’t been found anywhere else on earth. 

We owe it to future generations to keep it that way.’

EXPEDITION IN BOLIVIA FINDS 20 SPECIES NEW TO SCIENCE 

20 species that are new to science, including:

The lilliputian frog (Noblella sp. nov.) measures approximately 10 mm in length (about half the width of a dime), which may make it the smallest amphibian in the Andes, and among the smallest in the world. Due to their tiny size and habit of living in tunnels beneath the thick layers of moss and humus in the cloud forest, they were difficult to find even by tracking their frequent calls.

The mountain fer-de-lance (Bothrops monsignifer), a new species of venomous pit viper, which uses heat-sensing pits on its head to detect prey. It is very rare to discover new viper species, with only perhaps 1-2 species described for the Americas every decade.

The Bolivian flag snake (Eutrachelophis sp. nov.), a slender terrestrial snake distinguished by red, yellow and green colors similar to the Bolivian flag. This diurnal snake was found in the thick undergrowth of stunted elfin forest along the crest of the mountain at the highest elevation surveyed.

Four butterfly species, including two species of metalmark butterflies (Argyrogrammana sp.) which feed on flower nectar in open areas and forest clearings and two species (a satyr and another metalmark butterfly) which were only caught with a long-handled net while flying high in the forest canopy.

Four orchids, including a new species of Adder’s mouth orchid (Malaxis sp. nov.) with flower parts that appear to mimic an insect and may serve to fool unwitting pollinators, a species of Myoxanthus with flowers that emerge from the base of the leaves, and a cup orchid (Brachionidium sp. nov.) with striking purple and yellow flowers.

A species of bamboo, which although new to science, is well known by indigenous communities who use it to make musical instruments called sikus or zampoñas (they call the bamboo “qulqunch’awa”).

The rediscovery of four species previously believed to be extinct, including:

The devil-eyed frog, which was previously known only from a single individual observed more than 20 years ago, was found to be relatively abundant in the cloud forest. Previous expeditions attempting to find this black frog with red eyes concluded empty-handed. Its elusive nature may be partly due to its habit of hiding beneath the thick moss and humus surrounding the roots of bamboo.

The satyr butterfly Euptychoides fida was rediscovered in Bolivia after 98 years, and is only known to live in the Zongo Valley. It was captured in a cylindrical mesh trap where it was attracted to a bait of rotten fruit and dung.

Stromanthe angustifolia, an understory plant in the arrowroot or prayer-plant family that is endemic to the Zongo (found nowhere else), was rediscovered after 125 years. This plant moves its leaves vertically to close them at night, similar to hands in prayer.

22 species listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List which include:

Four threatened birds – the hooded tinamou, channel-billed toucan, straw-backed tanager and scimitar-winged piha.

Two threatened mammals – the spectacled bear and dwarf brocket deer.


Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button