Three Facts About Tiny Ecuadorian Toads Discovered Recently

2022 began with the addition of two new amphibian species to science in Ecuador. In January, scientists described two Ecuadorian frogs of the genus pristine in a space with great biodiversity: the ecological corridor located in the middle of two of the most important national parks in the Ecuadorian Andes, the llanganates park It is Sangay Park.

Ecuador is one of the countries in Latin America with the highest rates of reports of new amphibians to science. In 2021 alone, experts described 11 species of frogs, as well as reporting a species of glass frog that was thought to only inhabit Colombia. Then, Ecuador reached the sum of 657 species of amphibians, making it the third country with the highest number of these animals. The first two sites are from Brazil and Colombia. However, it should be noted that these last two countries have a much larger territorial extension.

For years the biodiversity of the Llanganates-Sangay ecological corridor. Article published on January 10, 2022, in the magazine ZooKeysshowed the results of herpetological investigations in two mountains of this corridor, where the eco minga foundation protects the cloud forest in the upper basin of the Pastaza River.

This document includes the description of the two new frogs of the genus pristine found in the area that, according to specialists from the National Biodiversity Institute of Ecuador (unskillful), has strong landscape heterogeneity and contains unique amphibian lineages.

Ecuadorian frogs, amphibians, biodiversity

In three keys, we explain this important discovery.

1 How are the new Ecuadorian frogs?

the frog Pristimantis maryanneae was seen and collected in the Naturetrek Vizcaya reserve, while Pristimantis burtoniorum was found in the Machay reserve. These two reserves are part of the 10 private protected areas that EcoMinga owns in the upper basin of the Pastaza River, a region full of endemic species.

Pristimantis maryanneae. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig.

Pristimantis maryanneaMaryanne’s cutis measures between 1.76 and 2.11 cm and is characterized by not having an externally visible eardrum. Pristimantis burtoniorum or Burton cutin, measures between 1.66 and 2.73 cm and is characterized by red coloring on the hidden surfaces of the hind limbs, a row of rounded tubercles along the snout, and a light red belly with dark brown spots.

Pristimantis burtoniorum. Photo: Juan Pablo Reyes-Puig.

two the threats

Experts say these two frogs have a degree of protection because they are located between two large national parks and because their population records are within areas under the care of the EcoMinga foundation. However, amphibians are very vulnerable to temperature changes and therefore see climate change as a major threat, especially for species distributed in the Andes. What is more, the advancement of human activities will always be a concern.

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The researchers say that while the Ecuadorian Andes have suffered severe habitat destruction and fragmentation by the expansion of deforestation, agriculture and miningthere are still some areas with mature forests that are not explored due to their complex topography, difficult access, private protection or conservation for tourist activities.

“Unfortunately, all these sites are under strong anthropic pressure, including mining concessions and expansion of agricultural boundaries, among others. These privileged areas have been shown to maintain an extremely high rate of cryptic diversity (species difficult to differentiate from each other) of small vertebrates and contain the last remnants of populations of numerous endangered species”, says the scientific article.

3 The future of Ecuadorian frogs

Over the past five years, researchers such as Carolina Reyes-Puig, a biologist and co-author of the scientific article, carried out studies in other important areas, such as the western slope of the Andes Mountains, in the provinces of Imbabura and Pichincha. As a result of these efforts, they found the burlap frog Noblella Mindo and they could verify that it was new to science.

This finding has become an argument more for groups opposed to mining in northwest Pichincha and are fighting for a referendum to ban mining activities. The same thing happened to the frog noblella worleyae, another tiny species described in 2020. Scientists have reported the presence of this amphibian in different sectors of the Los Cedros reserve, very close to the Los Cedros Protected Forest. All the evidence the experts have collected shows the importance of the area for endemic species and restricted distributionsmainly in a region that has historically attracted the attention of mining companies.

According to scientists, it is very likely that in the coming months and years Ecuador continues to announce to the world the description of new species of amphibians in the Llanganates-Sangay ecological corridor, as there are still many finds from the last expeditions that will continue to surface.

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