Four Lizards New to Science Discovered in The Highlands of Panama
The first live endemic anoles ever discovered in this region were found in a single day during a biological research expedition at 6000 feet in the Serranía de Tabasara of the Panamian Highlands.
As recently described in Herpetologia by Dr. Gunther Köhler and his research colleagues, all of the anoles found in the cloud forest of the Serrania de Tabasara mountain chain top at 6000 feet above sea level are almost certainly endemic to this area, considering their isolated geographical habitat. This makes them the first endemic reptiles ever discovered in the Serrania de Tabasara, which is a very poorly explored region, biologically speaking.
Anolis Gruuo. © Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
Discovering all four in a single day was quite spectacular. Koehler and his fellows joined the research expedition several months ago, and were quite delighted for the amazing once in a life time experience: ‘During previous expeditions, we had found new species, one at a time – but four species within 24 hours, that was incredible!’ said the herpetologist from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany.
Panama is known for its great climatic and topographical diversity, which in spite of its relatively small size of 77082 sq kilometres (3.7 times the size of Wales) ,includes one of the most diverse and abundant herpeto-fauna of any Central American country. Thirty-one species of the genus Anolis are known to occur in Panama, eleven of which are restricted to the highlands of lower Central America. Even against this background the scientists were initially surprised to encounter four undescribed species within a 24 h period.
Anolis Pseudokemptoni. © Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
Four New Species
Nevertheless, comparisons showed that these lizards represent four undescribed species. As there is Anolis gruuo, Anolis pseudokemptoni, Anolis pseudopachypus and Anolis datzorum.
As most of the Serrania de Tabasara has not been fully researched yet, the scientists expect a fair number of species unknown to science to be found in this large mountain range. Köhler points out: ‘The region supports a very diverse herpeto-fauna and appears to be poorly known in respect of herpetology.’ Thus it is likely that the herpeto-fauna of Serrania de Tabasara will contain a high percentage of endemic species.
Anolis Pseudo Pachypus. © Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt a. M., Germany
Human Pressure on the Environment
In spite of its great ecological value, there is a lot of human population pressure on the natural habitat in this region of the Panamanian highlands. The Pacific slope is characterized by heavy human intervention resulting in about 90 % of its surface having been converted into farm land, pasture and secondary forest. The Atlantic slope still supports large areas of primary cloud forest interrupted by a growing number of agricultural patches. But further deforestation could also impact the habitat of the anoles, so the area is recommended as a high priority area for conservation.