The Peninsula de Paria in extreme northeastern Venezuela is an extension of a chain of high coastal mountains (elevations ~2800m) that span much of northern Venezuela and extends into the adjacent islands of Trinidad. The fauna of Tobago is also related to the Peninsula de Paria but from a different history. This region has been variously called the Cordillera de la Costa or the Coastal Range and the eastern continental extension has received minimal attention from herpetologists. Donoso-Barros (1965) reported survey results from Cerro Azul and described Mannophryne riveroi (Donoso-Barros, 1965a), the first endemic frog from the area, followed by Gonatodes ceciliae in 1966, the first endemic lizard - which is now also recognized from Trinidad. Stephen Edwards explored Cerro Azul and recognized a distinctive frog described many years later as Mannophryne venezuelensis by Manzanilla et al. (2007). Two centrolenid frogs, Celsiella vozmedianoi (Ayarzagüena & Señaris, 1997) and Vitreorana castroviejoi (Ayarzagüena & Señaris, 1997), were discovered on Cerro Humo. Rivas et al. (1999) described the microteiid Anadia pariaensis, Mijares-Urrutia et al. (2000) described the gymnophthalmid lizard Euspondylus monsfumus, and Barrio-Amorós et al. (2006) named Allobates caribe, all from the same area. Other herpetologists visited the Península de Paria and made important collections (e.g., Stefan Gorzula in 1978, Jose Ayarzagüena in 1996) but no additional species have been described from their material. With the completion of more extensive collections by several Venezuelan and international research teams, additional species and observations on poorly known species were recently published (e.g., Anadia pariaensis—Rivas et al. 2012; Strabomantis biporcatus—Barrio-Amorós & Kaiser 2008; Mannophryne riveroi—Barrio-Amorós et al. 2010a; Riama rhodogaster—Rivas et al. 2005; Taeniophallus nebularis Schargel et al. 2005).
In a recent paper Kaiser et al, (2015) reported on fieldwork in the cloud forest of Venezuela’s remote Península de Paria in 2001 resulted in the collection of several specimens that could unquestionably be classified as members of the genus Pristimantis. Subsequent analysis of comparative material in museum collections brought the total number of specimens to 44, and these collectively represent five new species. Two of these species, P. geminus and P. nubisilva have phenotypes remarkably similar to the Trinidadian P. urichi, supporting a prediction that Pristimantis from easternmost Venezuela may have given rise to Trinidadian forms. Pristimantis hoogmoedi is easily identified by its large size and red eyes. Two of the species, P. longicorpus and P. pariagnomus, are very distinct morphologically but are known only from the holotypes. The former is characterized by an elongate body form supported by relatively short limbs, whereas the latter has very distinctive hand morphology and is likely the smallest Venezuelan frog. All five species can be readily distinguished by their osteology, such as by the extent of the sphenethmoid and features on the roof of the mouth, as well as by the shape and rearrangement of mesopodial elements. The unexpectedly high diversity of Pristimantis in this region, along with high endemism of amphibians and reptiles in general, underscores the position of the Península de Paria as a center for frog biodiversity in Venezuela. The authors conclude that the similarity of these Paria species to Pristimantis from Trinidad, Tobago and the central Cordillera de la Costa represents a tangible piece of evidence for the close biogeographic link of the anuran fauna of these landmasses.
The Trinidad and Tobago herpetofauna is more diverse than previously thought. By previously I mean post-Kenny (1969-1979), post-Murphy (1997), post-Boos (2001). Each of those works were a snapshot of what we knew at the time but knowledge changes.
Species recently described or ones that have been resurrected from obscurity on Trinidad and Tobago are numerous, and include the following. Frogs: The Orinoco Basin Dendropsophus goughi (Boulenger) was formerly the widespread D. minuta. Scarthyla vigilans was recently reported from Trinidad by Smith et al. (2011). While it may have been a recent colonization, it is also possible it was simply over looked because it so closely resembles the widespread Scinax ruber. Leptodactylus insularis was formerly L. bolivianus (Heyer and Heyer, 2013). Changes in lizards. The skink Mabuya falconensis is now Marisora aurulae Hedges & Conn, 2012, a species with a very small distribution on several islands and known from few specimens. And the skink, once thought to be the widespread Mabuya bistriata is now Copeoglossum aurae Hedges & Conn, 2012, with a very restricted distribution. The Trinidad zandolie which was once thought to be the widespread Ameiva ameiva is now the Caribbean Costal Range endemic Ameiva atrigularis (Ugueto et al. 2011). The once widespread Plica plica is now the Caribbean Costal Range endemic Plica caribeana (Murphy and Jowers, 2013). As for snakes the endemic Leptophis haileyi was added to the fauna of Tobago by Murphy et al. Dipsas variegata was added to the Trinidad fauna by Murphy and Rutherford (2014). Teddy Angarita-Sierra (2014) added the snake Ninia franciscoi, which has only been collected at Simla, in the Arima Valley, but may also be present in the Caribbean Coastal Range.
So if I made a list of the number of species that need name changes or descriptions (because they are undescribed) I am confident the list would contain twelve species. If I estimate the number of actual changes that are probably needed the number goes to at least twenty, about a quarter of the herpetofauna.
With these changes widespread species become less widespread, there are more endemic and near endemic species and the fauna becomes more specialized and more diverse. In short it becomes a more valuable resource in terms of culture, conservation, aesthetics, and science.
These changes don’t happen for free. They are funded by private and public money. If you are interested in supporting this research contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We need funding for several projects.
Ayarzagüena, J. & C. Señaris (1996). Dos nuevas especies de Cochranella (Anura; Centrolenidae) para Venezuela. Publicaciones de la Asociación de Amigos de Doñana 8: 1–16.
Barrio-Amorós, C.L., G. Rivas & H. Kaiser (2006). New species of Colostethus (Anura, Dendrobatidae) from the Península de Paria, Venezuela. Journal of Herpetology 40: 371–377; http://dx.doi.org/10.1670/0022-1511(2006)40[371:NSOCAD]2.0.CO;2.
Barrio-Amorós, C.L. & H. Kaiser (2008). Distribution of Strabomantis biporcatus (Terrarana: Strabomantidae) in northern Venezuela, with comments on its phenotypic variation. Salamandra 44: 248–254.
Boos HEA. 2001. The Snakes of Trinidad and Tobago. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. 270 pp.
Donoso-Barros, R. (1965a). Nuevos reptiles y anfibios de Venezuela. Noticiario Mensual, Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Santiago, Chile 102: 2–3.
Donoso-Barros, R. (1965b). A new dendrobatidae [sic] frog, Prostherapis riveroi from Venezuela. Caribbean Journal of Science 4: 485–489.
Donoso-Barros, R. (1966). Dos nuevos Gonatodes de Venezuela. Publicación Ocasional del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Santiago de Chile 11: 1–32.
Edwards, S.R. (1974). Taxonomic notes on South American dendrobatid frogs of the genus Colostethus. Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 30: 1–14.
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Kaiser, H., C.L. Barrio-Amorós, G.A. Rivas, C. Steinlein & M. Schmid (2015). Five new species of Pristimantis (Anura: Strabomantidae) from the coastal cloud forest of the Península de Paria, Venezuela. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(4): 7047–7088; http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o4197.7047-88.
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Murphy, J. C., & Jowers, M. J. 2013. Treerunners, cryptic lizards of the Plica plica group (Squamata, Sauria, Tropiduridae) of northern South America. ZooKeys, (355), 49.
Murphy, J. C., Charles, S. P., Lehtinen, R. M., & Koeller, K. L. (2013). A molecular and morphological characterization of Oliver’s parrot snake, Leptophis coeruleodorsus (Squamata: Serpentes: Colubridae) with the description of a new species from Tobago. Zootaxa, 3718(6), 561-574.
Murphy, J. C. and M Rutherford. 2014. The first report of the snail-eating snake Dipsas variegata (Duméril, Bibron and Duméril) on Trinidad, its relationship to Dipsas trinitatis Parker (Squamata, Dipsadidae), and a discussion of microcephalic and macrocephalic ecomorphs in Dipsas. Herpetology Notes, 7, 757-760.
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Rivas, G.A., P.M. Sales Nunes, J.R. Dixon, W.E. Schargel, J.R. Caicedo, T.R. Barros, E.G. Camargo & C.L. Barrio-Amorós (2012). Taxonomy, hemipenial morphology, and natural history of two poorly known species of Anadia (Gymnophthalmidae) from northern South America. Journal of Herpetology 46(1): 33–40; http://dx.doi.org/10.1670/10-139.
Schargel, W.E., G. Rivas Fuenmayor & C.W. Myers (2005). An enigmatic new snake from cloud forest of the Península de Paria, Venezuela (Colubridae: Genus Taeniophallus ?). American Museum Novitates 3484: 1–24; http://dx.doi.org/10.1206/0003-0082(2005)484[0001:AENSFC]2.0.CO;2.
Smith, Joanna, J. Roger Downie, Rebecca F. Dye, Victoria Ogilvy, Daniel Thornham, Michael G. Rutherford, Stevland P. Charles, and John C. Murphy. "Amphibia: Anura: Hylidae Scarthyla vigilans (Solano 1971): Range Extension and New Country Record for Trinidad, WI With Notes on Tadpoles, Habitat, Behaviour and Biogeographical Significance." Check List 7, no. 5 (2011): 574-577.
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