Mar 21

Photographs on the Arkive website  have helped two naturalists who had never met and work around 200 miles (310 kms) apart to identify two previously unrecorded species of one of Earth’s oldest flowering plants: the magnolia.

In 2010, Roberto Pedraza Ruiz gave Arkive a series of animal and plant photos he had taken in a life-rich cloud forest within eastern Mexico’s Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. One of the photos he donated was identified as being the magnolia, Magnolia dealbata, classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

But the image raised questions for Dr José Antonio Vázquez, a botanist at the University of Guadalajara, when he came across it during a search of Arkive’s 16,000 free-to-view online flora and fauna fact-files.

Magnolia rzedowskiana flower

It was this image that first raised questions. It is now identified as a Magnolia rzedowskiana flower.

As Roberto explains: “For Dr Vázquez, the specimen in the photo seemed unusual and he requested that I sent him more pictures. So I made several more trips to the cloud forest, documenting the flowers and fruits of the trees until finally receiving confirmation that I had photographed not only one but two completely new species of magnolias.”

Two new species of magnolia discovered

The first of the finds, originally identified on Arkive, has already been documented and has been given the name Magnolia rzedowskiana, after Dr Jerzy Rzedoswski, Mexico’s most eminent botanist who has collected and documented over 50,000 species and celebrating his 90th birthday this year.  A description of the second specimen is about to published and will be named Magnolia pedrazae, after Roberto.

He says: “This is without doubt the highest honour that a conservationist and nature photographer can receive. It means that this incredibly special tree – an endemic of the Sierra Gorda and product of an evolutionary process that spans millennia – has become part of the family.”

Magnolia rzedowskiana

Magnolia rzedowskiana

Lucie Muir, Director of Wildscreen, added: “We were absolutely thrilled when Roberto told us that a new species of magnolia had been identified because of botanist looking through the images on the Arkive website. It’s amazing that new species are still being discovered and that on this occasion Arkive was part of the discovery story.”

Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda

The use of the Pedraza name is especially apt as it was Roberto’s parents who started the grassroots movement which led to the creation of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) to look after a section of the eastern Sierra Madre where the high peaks, rain shadow, remoteness and latitude mean biodiversity is especially rich.

Roberto Pedraza Ruiz

Roberto Pedraza Ruiz

Roberto grew up in the region and soon turned to photography as a way of documenting and sharing the area’s biological wealth and GESG’s work to protect it.  It was during one of his GESG expeditions in 1996 that Roberto found loggers at work in the cloud forest where the new species of magnolia grow.   After he raised the alarm, 40 friends clubbed together to buy the land and halt the operation – so saving a habitat where ancient oaks and cypress reach heights of 130 feet (40 metres), their limbs draped in dense mats of moss, ferns, orchids and bromeliads; and a place where he has photographed many rare or previously unrecorded life-forms, including jaguars, pumas and margays and a new family of molluscs.

Roberto says: “These discoveries highlight the importance of protecting sites with high biological value, giving ecosystems and species refuges from human activity, spaces where they are protected from humans’ ever-increasing demands for land and ecosystem services. If steps had not been taken to protect them, these species and others may have disappeared before we even learned of their existence.”

More information

Roberto has been donating his images to Arkive since 2010. View all of his images here and view the new species profile for Magnolia rzedowskiana here.

Find out more about the work of  Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda here.

Mar 5

We continue Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series with the amazing Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi, an amphibian researcher and Arkive media contributor who recently discovered  a new species of water frog with his team in central Peru. Dr. Catenazzi shares how we can halt the spread of chytrid, the role of climate change in its spread, and how he and  his team discovered the new frog species.

Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi

 

And did you know that you, yes you, can take an action right now to support Dr. Catenazzi’s work and the future of amphibians in South America? Dr. Catenazzi  has offered several conservation actions on his “Arkive’s Conservation Heroes Wish List” that support the conservation of  amphibians. If you find his story truly inspiring (or you simply love amphibians), please click on the wish list button below, or at the end of the interview and pledge to take one action to support amphibian conservation. United as one, we can help promote conservation!

 

Congratulations on discovering a new frog species in Peru; how exciting! Inquiring minds want to know the story behind the discovery; can you share?

Often times several years can pass between the discovery of a species and the publication of the study based upon the new species. Sometimes as much as 20 years. I discovered this new species, Telmatobius ventriflavum along with coauthor Victor Vargas in October 2012. We were monitoring frog populations in central Peru as part of a monitoring project of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability and Peru LNG.  We had just finished for the day, and on our way back to the hotel, we stopped along the road at a creek under a bridge. It was an unplanned stop and it was there that we saw T. ventriflavum. It had a striking coloration for a water frog. I was relatively confident that it was a new species. My other hypothesis was that it was the species Telmatobius intermedius that had not been seen for a long time. I went to a museum to view the specimen they had of T. intermedius. The significant differences between T. intermedius and T. ventriflavum were the bigger size, the smooth skin, and the bright orange coloration of the new species’ ventral side.  Based on this I had a sensible reason to believe that it was a new species.

Photo of the new water frog species discovered by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Although the small water frog is only just discovered, chytrid is already present within its habitat. What is the current status of this new species?

As of this time its status is uncertain, since we know T. ventriflavum only from this location. Chytrid was found in the area, but not at high concentrations that could be considered deadly. Concentrations of 10000-100000 zoospores on frog’s skin signify dangerous concentrations, but we did not find that here. There were a couple of zoospores present. Warm temperatures are not good for chytrid and this species was found in an area where daily temperatures can be high. We found a total of 7 adults, one male and six females. We kept one male and two females for further assessment, the rest were released. There were also about 43 tadpoles present, of which we kept a few.

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team

Need a refresher on chytrid? Check out Dr. Catenazzi’s first Arkive spotlight in 2010 where he shared more in-depth information on the devastating effects of the chytrid fungus on amphibian populations.

Do you think the spread of chytrid is related to climate change?

Well, it depends on how you define climate change. Some define it purely based on changes in the average temperature and others include the occurrence of extreme weather events. At this time, chytrid is an emergent pathogen. The chytrid strain that affects frogs was only formally described in 1999. We still don’t know much about how it spreads. It could be through a variety of vectors like water, clouds, wind or even getting transported by vehicles. What can be said definitively is that the zoospores require water. To look at how climate change affects chytrid you must look at the local level. There is no doubt that temperature variation will affect the dynamics of disease to some extent. I cannot however, specifically say the degree to which climate change is a factor. Furthermore, chytrid  encompasses multiple strains that potentially get spread through the pet trade and the transfer of goods that occurs in the world.

Many of Arkive’s followers are big fans of amphibians. Can you suggest ways that people reading this can support your research, the survival of the small water frog, or help halt the spread of chytrid?

Well, especially if you travel a lot; it is better to have different sets of clothing for each place at which you reside. If you have boots in your home, do not take those boots with you to a different country. Since boots can carry liquid they might help carry the water from different environments.  If this is not possible then bleach your boots and clothing to prevent the spread of foreign organisms.  Secondly, do not release pets into the wild. Introducing a non-native species to a different environment can cause serious issues. Moreover, in 2013, a chytrid strain that affects only salamanders was formally described. If you have a salamander as a pet get it tested to make sure that it is not infected with or is a carrier of chytrid.

Harlequin frog being swabbed by scientist for chytrid fungus

From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself 

Inspired to take action to support Dr. Catenazzi and the amphibians of the world? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Dr. Catenazzi’s story socially to help spread the word further, to donating to nonprofit organizations that support Dr. Catenazzi’s amphibian conservation work such as the Amazon Conservation AssociationEvery action matters, please consider making a pledge today! 

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