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Scientists discover four species of anole lizards in 24 hours in Panama

In Panama scientists discover four species of anoles in 24 hours

Scientists discover four species of anole lizards in 24 hours in Panama
Jeremy Hance,
January 13, 2008

In January of 2006 a biological expedition uncovered four anole species in a single day. Dr. Gunther Koehler, a member of the expedition, described the discoveries as “a once in a life time experience; during expeditions before, we had found new species, one at a time—but four species within 24 hours, that was incredible!”

Anolis pseudopachypus

Anolis pseudokemptoni

Anolis gruuo

Anolis datzorum

Oedipina fortunensis

Photos by Dr. Koehler

A recent paper in Herpetologica announced and described the species. They were found in the Serrania de Tabasara, Panamanian highlands that top at 6000 feet above sea level, making the new anoles residents of the cloud forest. The paper posits that the anoles are endemic, considering their isolated geographical habitat. This makes them the first endemic reptiles for the Serrania de Tabasara, which the report describes as “poorly explored biologically”.

While little detail is known about the anoles’ populations, Dr. Koehler believes it’s a good possibility the anoles are endangered: “given that these are high elevation species, we can assume that there distribution is restricted to these mountain ranges. With ongoing deforestation these creatures face habitat loss which could eventually lead to their extinctions.” Ninety-percent of the Pacific side of the Serrania de Tabasara is already deforested, while currently the forests on the Atlantic side—where the new species were discovered—remain pristine.

The anoles were not the only discovery made during the four week expedition. The Serrania de Tabasara highlands are apart of the Cordillera Central highlands chain. In the western highlands of Cordillera Central, close to Costa Rica, the expedition found a new species of salamander and two more new anoles. But even this is not the end of discoveries in the Cordillera Central: recently a different expedition in the Costa Rican portion of the highlands unearthed three more salamander species.

Dr. Koehler concludes that the region “supports a very diverse herpetofauna and appears to be poorly known in respect of herpetology”. With a total of ten herpetology species announced in a year’s time from these Central American highlands, one can only wonder about the biodiversity that remains hidden.

Palmer, T.M. et al (2008). Breakdown of an Ant-Plant Mutualism Follows the Loss of Large Herbivores from an African Savanna. Science 11 January 2008

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