Eleven new frog species discovered in Ecuador


This 23 March 2017 video says about itself:

Researchers described a new endangered frog species: Pristimantis ecuadorensis (Ecuadorian rainfrog or Cutín de Ecuador). The species lives on the western slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes, provinces of Cotopaxi and Pichincha, at elevations between 1450–1480 m, and it is related to the Neotropical rainfrog, Pristimantis ornatissimus.

And now, more relatives of that species have been discovered.

From ScienceDaily:

Eleven new species of rain frogs discovered in the tropical Andes

August 2, 2019

Summary: Eleven new frog species were recently discovered in the tropical Andes. This is the largest number of frog species described in a single article from the western hemisphere in over a decade.

Eleven new to science species of rain frogs are described by two scientists from the Museum of Zoology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in the open-access journal ZooKeys. Discovered in the Ecuadorian Andes, the species are characterized in detail on the basis of genetic, morphological, bioacoustic, and ecological features.

On the one hand, the publication is remarkable because of the large number of new species of frogs. Regarding vertebrate animals, most studies only list between one and five new to science species, because of the difficulty of their collection and the copious amount of work involved in the description of each. To put it into perspective, the last time a single article dealt with a similar number of newly discovered frogs from the western hemisphere was in 2007, when Spanish scientist Ignacio de la Riva described twelve species from Bolivia.

On the other hand, the new paper by Nadia Paez and Dr Santiago Ron is astounding due to the fact that it comes as part of the undergraduate thesis of Nadia Paez, a former Biology student at the Pontifical Catholic University, where she was supervised by Professor Santiago Ron. Normally, such a publication would be the result of the efforts of a large team of senior scientists. Currently, Nadia Paez is a PhD student in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

Unfortunately, amongst the findings of concern is that most of the newly described frog species are listed as either Data Deficient or Threatened with extinction, according to the criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All of the studied amphibians appear to have very restricted geographic ranges, spanning less than 2,500 km2. To make matters worse, their habitats are being destroyed by human activities, especially cattle raising, agriculture, and mining.

Amongst the newly described species, there is the peculiar Multicolored Rain Frog, where the name refers to its outstanding color variation. Individuals vary from bright yellow to dark brown. Initially, the studied specimens were assumed to belong to at least two separate species. However, genetic data demonstrated that they represented a single, even if highly variable, species.

The rest of the previously unknown frogs were either named after scientists, who have made significant contributions in their fields, or given the names of the places they were discovered, in order to highlight places of conservation priority.

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New frog species discoveries in Ecuador


This 7 March 2017 video says about itself:

In the Pui Pui Protected Forest, Peruvian Andes, researchers discovered a new species of terrestrial-breeding frog. The species was named Pristimantis attenboroughi, Attenborough’s Rubber Frog, in honour of Sir David Attenborough.

Now, two yeas later, more relatives of that frog species.

From the University of Central Florida in the USA:

New frog species discovered

July 18, 2019

Summary: An international team of researchers have identified and described two new frog species.

UCF student Veronica Urgiles has helped describe two new frog species discovered in Ecuador, and she named one of them after one of her professors.

Urgiles and an international team of researchers just published their findings in the journal ZooKeys.

“Frogs are by far my favorite”, said Urgiles, who is pursuing a master’s degree in biology. “So, getting to describe and name two of them is terrific. I have been looking at these frogs for years now, so going over the whole process of observing them in their habitats and then analyzing them and comparing them under the microscope, to finally naming them is a long, but very satisfying journey.”

Urgiles, a 2017 Fulbright scholar and the lead author, said she chose to attend UCF for its integration of genetics and genomics in biodiversity research and the emphasis on real-world application. She works with Assistant Professor Anna Savage who specializes in species diversity based on molecular analyses.

“One of the things that I found most interesting about these guys is that they don’t have metamorphosis like a regular frog, but instead they develop entirely inside eggs that adult females deposit in the ground,” Urgiles said. “They really don’t need water bodies for their development. Both of the new frog species inhabit high elevation ecosystems in the mountain range over 8,000 feet, so even though we are right there in the equator, it’s very cold and windy most of the year.”

The team of researchers has been studying frogs in Ecuador the past few years. In 2017, Urgiles found the first new species and named it Pristimantis quintanai, after one of her biology professors — Pedro Quintana-Ascencio. She and Savage found the second species — Pristimantis cajanuma — in 2018. Both were found in the Paramo and montane forest of the southern Ecuadorean Andes.

The frogs are tiny, measuring .8 inch. Pristimantis quintanai females are brown and black and Pristimantis cajanuma are green and black, both easily blending into the foliage. They have a distinct call that is sharp and continuous, sounding like tik-tik-tik-tik.

Urgiles examined DNA samples collected by the international team back in Savage’s lab at UCF, generated genetic sequences, and constructed the phylogenetic analysis. Other team members also worked the morphological diagnosis and comparisons with other frogs and an acoustic analysis of the frogs’ calls.

“In these analyses, we use all of the genetic similarities and differences we find to build phylogenetic trees, and when we find that a ‘branch’ on the ‘tree’ has strong support and contains all of the individuals that share the same morphological characteristics, then we have good evidence to describe it as a new species,” says Savage, whose expertise includes describing species diversity based on molecular analyses. “We used this method, along with vocalization and location data, to conclude that the two species we describe are distinct from any other species that have ever been characterized.”

The work is critical because of the vast diversity that has yet to be discovered in the tropical Andes of South America, Urgiles says. In 2018, 13 new species of frogs were documented in the tropical Andes of Ecuador and so far in 2019 five new frogs have been documented.

There are potentially thousands of new plants and animals in the area that may hold the key to other discoveries. It’s important to know what is there, to better understand the threats to habitat loss and disease so conservation methods can be established to protect the resources.

Galápagos wildlife threatened by Donald Trump militarism


This 17 June 2019 video says about itself:

Galápagos Islands: outcry after Ecuador allows US military to use airstrip

The Galápagos Islands are at the centre of political row in Ecuador after the government agreed to allow US anti-narcotics planes to use [and expand] an airstrip on the archipelago which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the main government office in Quito on Monday to protest against a plan they described as a threat to the world heritage site’s unique environment – and an attack on Ecuador’s sovereignty.

The Galápagos Islands, 563 miles west of the South American continent, are renowned for their unique plants and wildlife. Unesco describes the archipelago – visited by a quarter of a million tourists every year – as a “living museum and a showcase for evolution”.

Ecuador’s defense minister, Oswaldo Jarrín, provoked patriotic and environmental outrage last week when he said last week that US aircraft would be able to use the airbase on San Cristóbal Island, and described the islands as a “natural aircraft carrier”.

Former [leftist] Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa [who had strengthened pro-environment measures on the Galápagos Islands] tweeted: “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorean province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Correa – once a close ally but now a bitter enemy of his successor, Lenín Moreno –

Moreno during his election campaign had promised to continue the leftist policies of Correa. But now he prefers to be a poodle of Donald Trump.

accused the government of capitulating to US pressure. Correa closed a US military base in Manta in 2008, changing the constitution to ban foreign military bases on Ecuadorean soil and in 2014 ordered all US defence department staff to leave the country.

But Ecuador’s foreign minister, José Valencia, tweeted that Jarrín’s remarks had been intentionally distorted. “There is not nor will there be a foreign military base”, Norman Wray, president of the Galápagos government council, said in a statement last week. But the islands’ governor did admit to a deal with the US to improve [expand] the runway at the San Cristóbal airport while allowing the “refueling of two planes monitoring illegal activities in the extensive marine reserve”. …

Last week, lawmakers in Quito voted to summon Jarrín and the environment minister, Marcelo Mata, to explain the scope of the cooperation with the US on the islands, which are considered one of the last near pristine wildernesses on the planet. Opposition MP Brenda Flor said the archipelago should be considered a “living and unique laboratory which we must protect”.

This 2017 video is called Wildlife of the Galápagos Islands.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Ecuadorian government gives Pentagon a base in the Galapagos

18 June 2019

The Ecuadorian government of President Lenin Moreno has reached an agreement with the Pentagon to allow the US military to use the Galapagos island of San Cristobal as a military base.

Made public last week, the agreement has provoked popular outrage in Ecuador, where it is rightly reviled as a grotesque violation of the country’s national sovereignty and constitution, as well as a threat to one of the most treasured and sensitive environmental sites on the planet.

San Cristobal, where the US military is to be based, is the island where Charles Darwin first went ashore from the HMS Beagle in 1835. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the site of continuing seismic and volcanic activity and extremely isolated—620 miles off Ecuador’s coast—the island gave rise to unique forms of animal life. These include the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch, which
provided the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, the island will now become a launching pad for the predatory and lethal operations of US militarism throughout Latin America. The base will pose a direct threat to the lives and freedom of the people of the region, as well the environmental integrity of one of the most priceless areas of biodiversity on the planet.

Nothing could express more nakedly the slavish subservience to imperialism and the outright criminality of Latin America’s capitalist ruling classes.

Touting the deal with the Pentagon, Ecuador’s defense minister, the retired general Oswaldo Jarrín, declared: “Galapagos is for Ecuador our aircraft carrier, it is our natural carrier, because it assures us permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and it is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts.”

Since 2008, Ecuador’s constitution has proclaimed the country “a territory of peace” and that the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed.” A year later, the country expelled US military personnel from their air base in Manta on the Pacific coast, from which it had conducted surveillance flights on the pretext of fighting drug trafficking.

Ecuador’s defense minister extolled the Pentagon’s prowess, declaring, “what the base [Manta] did in its time, can be done now by just one airplane, because of the advanced technology that you have only with the capacity of a power like the United States.”

The plane he is referring to is a Boeing 707, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), with a range of over 4,500 nautical miles. Flying at 30,000 feet, it is capable of monitoring an area covering 120,000 square miles. From its base in the Galapagos, this powerful aircraft will be capable of helping to prepare an invasion of Venezuela, spying on the people of Ecuador itself or even tracking the northward flow of Central America migrants. It will be accompanied by a Lockheed Orion P3, an aircraft developed during the Cold War to track Soviet nuclear submarines.

The US base has immense geo-strategic significance. Washington had sought to establish bases there since 1911, three years before the completion of the Panama Canal. During World War II, the US military established a base on Baltra, a small island in the Galapagos archipelago, where it stationed 2,500 troops as well as warplanes and naval assets for the purpose of guarding the Pacific access to the canal against Japan and Germany.

Today, the Pentagon is basing US military spy planes in the eastern Pacific in the context of an escalating trade war and military buildup aimed at preventing China’s rise as an economic and geo-strategic competitor.

Ecuador is a significant battlefield in this intensifying “great power” conflict, with Washington pointing to Chinese investment and Ecuador’s $6 billion in debt to China as symptomatic of Beijing’s intolerable interference in Yankee imperialism’s “backyard”.

The government of President Moreno has done its utmost to submit to Washington’s demands. The terms of the agreements reached along these lines—signed, sealed and delivered during a visit to Quito a year ago by US Vice President Mike Pence—have become clear.

First and foremost, the Moreno government threw open the doors of its London embassy last April, inviting in a British police snatch squad to drag Julian Assange out of the diplomatic facility where he had been granted political asylum in 2012.

Moreno and his henchmen claimed that the British had offered guarantees that the WikiLeaks co-founder would not be extradited to a country where he would face torture, the death penalty or life in prison. As a result of their betrayal, he is now held in the UK’s Belmarsh maximum security prison under conditions tantamount to torture and the UK home minister has signed an extradition request from the US, where the journalist is facing 18 criminal counts, including under the Espionage Act—which carries the death penalty—for exposing the war crimes and criminal conspiracies of US imperialism.

Meanwhile, Ola Bini, a Swedish programmer and friend of Assange residing in Ecuador, has been jailed without charges for two months. Ecuadorian authorities have indicated that they are going to turn him over to US interrogators.

The trampling on the right to asylum, democratic principles and international law in the Assange case has been accompanied by a radical realignment of Quito’s foreign policy with that of US imperialism, with Moreno becoming one of the most enthusiastic supporters of
Washington’s regime change operation in Venezuela.

At home, the Moreno government has carried out a relentless assault on the jobs and living standards of Ecuadorian workers, faithfully implementing the austerity measures demanded under the agreement it reached with the IMF.

Both these attacks and the betrayal of Assange have provoked protests that have been met with police repression.

The stampede to the right by the Moreno government in Ecuador is part of the broader fate of the so-called “Pink Tide”, i.e., the rule by various populist, nationalist bourgeois parties in Latin America. This has seen the ousting of the Workers Party and the coming to power of the fascistic President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the replacement of the Peronist Kirchner … by the right-wing multimillionaire Mauricio Macri in Argentina in 2015 …

In Ecuador, this political process is personified by the current president. Lenin Moreno came into politics as part of a generation of radicalized students who protested against US imperialism’s domination of Latin America and the fascist-military dictatorships that it spawned. He began his career as a member of the MIR (Movement of the Revolutionary Left) …

Moreno has long since shed his youthful radicalism, becoming a ruthless political enforcer for imperialism and the Ecuadorian ruling oligarchy.

As the former vice-president, Moreno was the hand-picked successor of President Rafael Correa, a self-proclaimed supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution [in Venezuela]. … Moreno turned viciously against his former political partner and implemented the policies that have shifted Ecuador violently to the right.

Galapagos wildlife paradise becoming Trump military base?


This 2017 video says about itself:

From weird pink iguanas and painted insects; to mysterious new species; here are the STRANGEST Creatures of the Galapagos Islands!

Galapagos Penguin

Native to the islands, this is the only penguin known to exist north of the equator in the wild. It’s one of the world’s smallest species of penguin at about 19 inches long and weighing some 5.5 pounds. And due to its low population it’s also considered one of the rarest penguin species. Including other factors, the birds have many predators, including introduced species like dogs and rats. When they’re in the water, sharks and sea lions target the penguins.

Marine Iguanas

Charles Darwin was not impressed with their looks and called them ‘imps of darkness’. They’re better known as marine iguanas that are found only on the Galapagos Islands … and are the only sea-going lizard currently known. Some of their marine adaptations include the ability to dive for more than 60 feet, and stay submerged for an hour. Marine iguanas normally subsist on seaweed. But when food gets low, experts say they can somehow shorten their own bones to make them smaller, and more energy efficient. Their dark coloration serves a couple of purposes. While it allows them to blend in with their environment, it also helps them quickly absorb heat after swimming in the cold waters.

Blue-Footed Booby

It’s pretty easy to guess where this marine bird gets its name. While those feet look strange, they do serve a vital purpose when it comes to perpetuating the species. Males will strut around females, lifting their feet up and down in an unusual mating ritual. The guys with the brightest feet indicate greater fertility, and will usually win the ladies. Because the color fades with age, females mate with the younger males. The blue coloration is a result of a pigment the birds absorb from their diet of fresh fish. Unlike some of the critters on the list, these birds are not found only in the Galapagos … but experts say that about half of their global population breeds there.

Galapagos Pink Land Iguanas

There’s only one place in the world … and only one location in the Galapagos where you can see these uniquely colored lizards. In fact, the pinkish hue almost makes you wonder if this isn’t yet another one of those digitally created beasts … either that, or the reptile seems to have had its dark skin scraped off, leaving it pink and raw. But that is their natural coloration. If you want to see one in the pink flesh, they’re found in the Volcan Wolf region of the Galapagos, on Isabela Island. While this iguana is a species unto itself, experts say only around 100 of them known to exist.

And before getting to the number one critter, here’s an honorable mention. We found an interesting story about the Great Frigatebird which nests in the Galapagos. It’s not unlike the Magnificent Frigatebird which we mentioned earlier. In this species, the males also have a red sac at the throat which is inflated to attract a mate. We’re including it because this particular animal was involved with an unusual experiment to see if birds could actually sleep while flying. And while that has been suspected for some time, scientists now have proof of the phenomenon. The brainwaves of Great Frigatebirds were monitored for 10 days. Researchers found that the birds could in fact be half asleep, but kept one eye open (literally) to watch out for potential threats. The stats revealed that the bird subjects would sleep for just over 40 minutes while they flew on autopilot. But when on land, they will sleep for up to 12 hours a day. Experts say it’s an example of ‘unihemispheric sleep’ — where one half of the brain shuts down while the other half remains alert.

Galapagos Tortoises

The world’s largest species of tortoise can weigh more than 900 pounds. That enormous size has helped make them so iconic, that the Galapagos Islands were actually named after these reptiles (not the other way around). They’re among the longest-lived vertebrates, with life spans documented up to around 170 years. Their population underwent a great decline from when they were first found in the 16th century. At that time their population numbered around 250,000 individuals. By the 1970s, only 3,000 existed. Today, there’s around 25,000, but the species is classified as vulnerable. Besides the Galapagos, giant tortoises only exist on the archipelago of Aldabra in the Indian Ocean.

When Lenin Moreno ran in the 2017 presidential election in Ecuador, he promised to continue the left-wing policies of his left-wing predecessor Rafael Correa. Correa, eg, had strengthened conservation policies for the Galapagos islands. However, once elected, Moreno became a stooge of the Donald Trump administration in the USA. Moreno annulled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s Ecuadorean citizenship and asylum in the London embassy of Ecuador to pave the way for persecution of Assange by Trump in the USA.

Now, it looks like Moreno is handing over the Galapagos islands to the Trump regime.

This 13 June 2019 video says about itself:

U.S. surveillance planes will operate from the Galapagos as the United States are funding an extension of the San Cristobal Island airport in the Ecuadorean archipelago.

Ecuadorians protest against arrest of Julian Assange


Ecuadorians protest against Assange arrest

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 13 April 2019

ASSANGE ECUADOR PROTESTS

ECUADORIANS have taken to the streets in the capital Quito against the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the country’s embassy in London.

The arrest came after Quito suddenly revoked his seven-year asylum and handed him over to British authorities. Police were invited into the embassy by Ecuador’s ambassador on Thursday, dragging Assange out of the building, where he had been holed up for years in fear of extradition to the US.

Protesters gathered outside Ecuador’s foreign ministry building on Thursday, chanting against President Lenin Moreno and calling for Assange’s release. ”As Ecuadorian citizens we support Julian Assange, a man who has given his life to the truth, a man who has sacrificed himself and his family to tell the truth to the world. It was a source of pride that he was Ecuadorian’, said a protester.

Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa, after he took refuge in the country’s embassy in 2012. President Moreno, however, revoked the asylum and allowed police to arrest him. Moreno on Thursday called Assange a ‘spoiled brat’ and ‘miserable hacker’, saying that his country ‘will be more careful in giving asylum to people who are really worth it’.

Shortly after the arrest, Correa took to Twitter and slammed his successor for ‘betraying’ a higher order. ‘Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget,’ said Correa.

Correa also described Moreno’s decision as a ‘scoundrelly, cowardly and heinous’ act which is the ‘fruit of servility, vileness and vengeance’.

‘The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget. — Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) April 11, 2019’

‘From now on worldwide the scoundrel and betrayal can be summarized in two words: Lenin Moreno,’ said Correa. Ecuador’s Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said authorities had also arrested a ‘collaborator’ of Assange in Quito’s airport as he prepared to board a flight for Japan. Citing a senior Ecuadorian official, the Washington Times identified the person as Ola Bini, a Swedish software developer, who was living in Quito.

British veterans urge government to ‘respect the rights of journalists and whistleblowers’. Veterans For Peace says it is opposed to the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States: here.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor of WikiLeaks, right, and barrister Jennifer Robinson speak to the media outside Westminster magistrates court where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was appearing in London

Australian journalists’ union condemns Assange’s extradition to the United States: here.

New treefrog species discovery in Ecuadorian Andes


Variation in life of Hyloscirtus hillisi sp. n. from Reserva Biológica El Quimi. A QCAZ 68649 (adult female, holotype, SVL = 65.78 mm) B QCAZ 68646 (subadult female, SVL = 48.55 mm) C not collected

From ScienceDaily:

Extraordinary treefrog discovered in the Andes of Ecuador

January 3, 2019

Summary: A dazzling new species of treefrog was discovered at a remote tabletop mountain in the Ecuadorian Andes. The new species has an extraordinary characteristic, the presence of claw-like appendages at the base of the thumbs.

A new treefrog species was discovered during a two-week expedition to a remote tabletop mountain at Cordillera del Cóndor, a largely unexplored range in the eastern Andes.

“To reach the tabletop, we walked two days along a steep terrain. Then, between sweat and exhaustion, we arrived to the tabletop where we found a dwarf forest. The rivers had blackwater and the frogs were sitting along them, on branches of brown shrubs similar in color to the frogs’ own. The frogs were difficult to find, because they blended with their background,” Alex Achig, one of the field biologists who discovered the new species comments on the hardships of the expedition.

Curiously, the frog has an extraordinary, enlarged claw-like structure located at the base of the thumb. Its function is unknown, but it could be that it is used either as a defence against predators or as a weapon in fights between competing males.

Having conducted analyses of genetic and morphologic data, scientists Santiago R. Ron, Marcel Caminer, Andrea Varela, and Diego Almeida from the Catholic University of Ecuador concluded that the frog represented a previously unknown species. It was recently described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

The species name, Hyloscirtus hillisi, honors Dr. David Hillis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, who discovered three closely related frog species in the same genus in the 1980s, while conducting a series of field trips to the Andes of southern Ecuador. Throughout his career, Dr. Hillis has made significant contributions to the knowledge of Andean amphibians and reptiles.

Despite being newly described, Hyloscirtus hillisi is already at risk of extinction. It has a small distribution range near a large-scale mining operation carried out by a Chinese company. Habitat destruction in the region has been recently documented by the NGO Amazon Conservation.