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June 26, 2015

Peru's Manu National Park sets new biodiversity record

A male Potamites sp., a newly discovered species of stream-living lizard, in its natural habitat in the cloud forest of Manu National Park in Peru. The species was discovered by Alessandro Catenazzi, an assistant professor of zoology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

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Catenazzi, Rudolf von May, a postdoc from the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and Edgar Lehr, a taxonomist at Illinois Wesleyan University, completed a survey of Manu park and its buffer zone in which they recorded a greater diversity of reptiles and amphibians -- 287 species (155 amphibian and 132 reptile), some new to science -- than any other protected area in the world, including the previous leader in Ecuador.

To assemble the list, the team surveyed multiple elevations and examined hundreds of museum specimens collected at dozens of locations in Manu National Park and its buffer zone. Analysis of DNA sequences and frog calls allowed the team to identify additional species.

The park includes lowland Amazonian rain forest, high-altitude cloud forest and Andean grassland east of Cuzco. In addition to the reptiles and amphibians, the park is also home to more than 1,000 species of birds -- about 10 percent of the world's bird species -- and more than 1,200 species of butterflies. It was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve in 1977 and a World Heritage Site in 1987.

"There is no place like Manu where we can preserve such an exceptionally large amount of biodiversity, as well as the evolutionary processes that contribute to maintain and promote biodiversity," said Catenazzi, a former postdoctoral researcher in UC-Berkeley's Department of Integrative Biology. "It is our responsibility to make sure this biological legacy is passed on to the next generations."

The research was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation (DEB 11-20283 and DBI 11-03087).

To read more about this research, see the UC-Berkeley news story Peru's Manu National Park sets new biodiversity record. (Date of Image: January 2009)

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Credit: Alessandro Catenazzi, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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