WCS reports that the groundbreaking Bolivian scientific expedition, Identidad Madidi, has found a bizarre bat along with a new species of big-headed or robber frog (Oreobates sp. nov.) from the Craugastoridae family in Madidi National Park.
The researchers found the bizarre tube-lipped nectar bat (Anoura fistulata) -- the first record of this species in the park. Described in Ecuador just a decade ago and known from only three records. It has the longest tongue in relation to its size of any mammal -- stretching 8.5 cm to reach into the deepest flowers.
The frog was found during the first leg of an 18-month long expedition to chronicle the staggering wildlife living in what is believed to be the world's most biodiverse park.
James Aparicio and Mauricio Ocampo, two professional herpetologists from the Bolivian Faunal Collection and the National Natural History Museum, immediately suspected they had found something exceptional in the first week of the expedition in the tropical montane savannas and gallery forests of the Apolo region of Bolivia. Subsequent examination of available literature supports this discovery as a probable new species for science to be confirmed with forthcoming genetic studies.
James Aparicio said, "Robber frogs are small to medium-sized frogs distributed in the Andes and Amazon region and to date there are 23 known species. As soon as we saw these frogs' distinctive orange inner thighs, it aroused our suspicions about a possible new species, especially because this habitat has never really been studied in detail before Identidad Madidi."
Mauricio Ocampo added, "We have spent the last two months ruling out known species at the Bolivian Faunal Collection and also from published accounts, especially recently described species from southern Peru, but we are now confident that this will indeed be confirmed as a new species for science once genetic analyses are completed."
Identidad Madidi is a multi-institutional effort to describe still unknown species and to showcase the wonders of Bolivia's extraordinary natural heritage at home and abroad. The expedition officially began on June 5th, 2015 and will eventually visit 14 sites lasting for 18 months as a team of Bolivian scientists works to expand existing knowledge on Madidi's birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish along an altitudinal pathway descending more than 5,000 meters (more than 16,000 feet) from the mountains of the high Andes into the tropical Amazonian forests and grasslands of northern Bolivia.
Participating institutions include the Ministry of the Environment and Water, the Bolivian National Park Service, the Vice Ministry of Science and Technology, Madidi National Park, the Bolivian Biodiversity Network, WCS, the Institute of Ecology, Bolivian National Herbarium, Bolivian Faunal Collection and Armonia with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and WCS.
Teresa Chávez, Director of the Bolivian Biodiversity and Protected Areas Directorate expressed her satisfaction with the scientific results of the Identidad Madidi expedition: "The description of a new species of robber frog (Oreobates) for science is important news for the country as it confirms the extraordinary biodiversity of Madidi National Park and demonstrates the importance of scientific research in protected areas."
Across the first two study sites in June and July the Identidad Madidi team registered 208 and 254 species of vertebrates respectively, including an impressive 60 species of vertebrates that are new records for the official park list: 15 fish, 5 amphibians, 11 reptiles, 4 birds and 25 mammals. Five of these additions, three catfish, a lizard and another frog, are candidate new species for science and the team continues efforts to determine their identity. Notable new records for the park include the incredible tube-lipped nectar bat (Anoura fistulata) with a record breaking tongue and only a fourth continental distribution record since its discovery in 2005; the beautiful but deadly annellated coral snake (Micrurus annellatus); the bizarre Hagedorn's tube-snouted ghost knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus hagedornae); and the long-tailed rice rat (Nephelomys keaysi).
Dr. Robert Wallace of the Wildlife Conservation Society stated, "This is just the beginning. We are incredibly proud of the team's efforts across the first two study sites and while we are expecting more new species for science, as important is the astounding number of additional species confirmed for Madidi further establishing it as the world´s most biologically diverse park."
The next leg of the expedition will begin on August 20th and will explore three study sites in the High Andes of Madidi, specifically within the Puina valley between 3,750 meters (12,303 feet) and 5,250 meters (17,224 feet) above sea level in Yungas paramo grasslands, Polylepis forests and high mountain puna vegetation.
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