Incredible New Species Discovered in Ecuador

gecko on pencil photo
Photo via Paul Hamilton / RAEI

One look at a newly discovered species of gecko, small enough at its full-grown size to rest comfortably on the eraser of a pencil, and it's difficult not to be mesmerized by the seemingly boundless forms of biological diversity--while simultaneously reminded of its fragility. For the last seven years, the Ecuadorian Biodiversity Project has scoured the Amazon to observe and record the rainforest's unique wildlife, and to draw attention to the imperiled ecosystem in which they live. So far, the organization has catalogued almost 6,000 species, taking roughly 25,000 photographs. Recently, 30 new species of reptiles and amphibians have been discovered, though sadly they could all become extinct due to the various factors that have long threatened the region.The organisms were found in the mountains of Cerro Pata de Pájaro, in Ecuador a few minutes from the Pacific Ocean. The project to record and study the diverse wildlife in this area is not without a sense of urgency; like many places in the Amazon, all the biodiversity is threatened by livestock, crops, hunting, and the consequences of climate change.

see-through frog photo
An isolated toad, their internal organs are visible through their chest.

These coastal forests in Ecuador, once named as part of the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena 'biodiversity hotspot', having been disappearing at an alarming rate. Currently, the ecosystem is less than 10 percent intact and represent only 2 percent of the original forest growth.

snail eating snake photo
A species of snake which was previously unidentified. A similar species is found more than 900 km away in Panama.

According to an article released by the project:

The lack of knowledge about the reptiles and amphibians in western Ecuador is alarming, considering the importance of these taxa in conservation. Amphibians in particular are excellent indicator species, and may inform us of a broad range of ecological problems, from environmental toxins to global warming.

lungless salamander photo
This salamander species doesn't use lungs, instead it absorbs oxygen through its skin.
Indeed, the coastal forests of all of Latin America are in peril. Once comprising at least 60% of the forested tropics, only a few percent remain. One of the biggest challenges in tropical biodiversity conservation today is to explore and protect those neotropical coastal forests in most peril of disappearing, the remaining dry forest fragments.

rare iguana photo
Iguanas were amongst the newly discovered species, but run the risk of becoming extinct.

There's no telling what the future holds for this imperiled region in Ecuador or for the diversity of organisms that call it home, but the Ecuadorian Biodiversity Project is hoping to aid in its conservation by raising awareness of the species that could be lost. Because, really, who wants to live in a world where tiny geckos and see-through frogs are a thing of the past?

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