Sunday, 25 May 2014

A new species of Toad from the montane forests of Central Peru.

Toads of the Rhinella margaritifera species group are found in leaf litter on the floors of South American humid rainforests. They are well camouflaged, resembling fallen leaves in colouration, and often possessing a variety of crests and protrusions that help to break up their body outline. Many species are also highly variable, making it hard for a predator (or a herpetologist) to develop a species recognition pattern that might aid in hunting. This makes the taxonomy of the group particularly hard to unravel, and there are thought to be numerous cryptic species within the group.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 17 January 2014, Jiří Moravec of the Department of Zoology at the National Museum in Prague, Edgar Lehr of the Department of Biology at Illinois Wesleyan University, Juan Carlos Cusi and Jesús Córdova of the Departamento de Herpetología at the Museo de Historia Natural at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos and Václav Gvoždík also of the Department of Zoology at the National Museum in Prague, describe a new species of Toad in the Rhinella margaritifera species group, from montane forests of Central Peru.

The new species is named Rhinella yunga, meaning ‘warm valley’ in Quecha; a term widely used for montane rainforests in the eastern Andes of Peru and Bolivia. Rhinella yunga is a 57.5-65.5 mm ‘dead-leaf’ patterned Toad (the females being on average slightly larger than the males), with cephalic (skull) crests and a lateral row of tubercles (warts).

Specimens of Rhinella yunga. (A) Adult male in water, about 5 km west of Oxapampa, and (B) adult female from the area of Rio Huatziroki. Jiří Moravec in Moravec et al. (2014).


Rhinella yunga was found in the Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park in Oxapampa Province, the left bank of the Rio Huancabamba about 5 km west of Oxapampa, the Quebrada Yanachaga Valley, and from the Rio Huatziroki area in the buffer zone of the Pui Pui Protected Forest (a buffer zone around a protected forest is an are where some forms of agriculture etc. are allowed, but there are restrictions in place to protect the environment). This covered elevations of roughly 1800-2230 m above sea-level, and about 60 km northwest to southeast along a buffer zone between transitional montane forest (found roughly 1000-2000 m above sea-level) and montane cloud forest (found roughly 2000-3400 m above sea-level), though it is likely that the Toad is more widely distributed in the montane forests of Central Peru.

Schematic map of central and southern Peru showing known distribution of Rhinella yunga. (1) Quebrada San Alberto (1950 m above sea-level) in the Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park. (2) Quebrada Yanachaga valley at the settlement Prosoya (about 1800 m above sea-level). (3) Rio Huancabamba (about 5 km W of Oxapampa, and about 1885 m above sea-level). (4) Rio Huatziroki (1915–2230 m above sea-level) lying in the buffer zone of the Pui Pui Protected Forest about 60 km straight southeast of Quebrada San Alberto. Edgar Lehr in Moravec et al. (2014).

Habitat of Rhinella yunga, (A) a road margin at Quebrada San Alberto, and (B) closed cloud forest in the area of Rio Huatziroki (about 2200 m above sea level). Jiří Moravec in Moravec et al. (2014).

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