Manu national park breaks the record for reptilian and amphibian biodiversity

Manu National Park in Peru has recently broken world biodiversity records. A new survey published by biologists from the University of California, Southern Illinois University and Illinois Wesleyan University has revealed that the National Park in Peru is now the world’s leading biodiversity location for reptiles and amphibians.

The park recorded a greater biodiversity than any other protected area (including the previous leader YasunÌ National Park in Ecuador) after counting a recording-breaking 287 species of snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and salamanders within the borders of the preserve.

The record was achieved after the discovery of some creatures previously unknown to science such as a new species of stream lizard from the genus Potamites. These aquatic animals are able to survive at low temperatures in high-elevation streams which is considered an unusual trait in lizards.

Another newly-discovered specie is one of the smallest known amphibians in the world; the Nobleís Pygmy frog (Noblella pygmaea) is so tiny it can fit on a fingertip.

Rudolf von May, a post-doctoral researcher in UC Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and the coauthor of the study, said, “For reptiles and amphibians, Manu and its buffer zone now stands out as the most diverse protected area anywhere.”

Manu National park, which was established in 1973, is a landscape which ranges from lowland Amazonian rainforests to high-altitude cloud forests along the eastern slope of the Andes. As well as the 287 reptiles and amphibians, the park is also the home to a huge variety of bird life; there are over 1,000 species of birds, making up 10 percent of the worldís bird species. The preserve also habitats more than 1,200 species of butterflies.

Since its creation 41 years ago, the Peruvian Park has been recognized as globally irreplaceable and as a result was recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve in 1977 and a World Heritage Site in 1987.

However, there is reason to believe that not all is well in the park; chytrid fungus has contributed to a decline in the number of frogs there. Furthermore, deforestation, gold mining as well as oil and gas drilling are all major threats to the buffer zone surrounding the site.

Whilst this is a concern, the research team predicts that additional species will be identified in the upcoming years as a result of increased use of DNA analysis, study of frog calls and other techniques.

Alex Eddan

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