High levels of cryptic species diversity uncovered in Amazonian frogs
W. Chris Funk1,*, Marcel Caminer2 and Santiago R. Ron2
1Department of Biology, Colorado State University, 1878 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
2Museo de Zoología, Escuela de Biología, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Avenue 12 de Octubre 1076 y Roca, Apartado, 17-01-2184 Quito, Ecuador
*Author for correspondence (firstname.lastname@example.org).
One of the greatest challenges for biodiversity conservation is the poor understanding of species diversity. Molecular methods have dramatically improved our ability to uncover cryptic species, but the magnitude of cryptic diversity remains unknown, particularly in diverse tropical regions such as the Amazon Basin. Uncovering cryptic diversity in amphibians is particularly pressing because amphibians are going extinct globally at an alarming rate. Here, we use an integrative analysis of two independent Amazonian frog clades, Engystomops toadlets and Hypsiboastreefrogs, to test whether species richness is underestimated and, if so, by how much. We sampled intensively in six countries with a focus in Ecuador (Engystomops: 252 individuals from 36 localities; Hypsiboas: 208 individuals from 65 localities) and combined mitochondrial DNA, nuclear DNA, morphological, and bioacoustic data to detect cryptic species. We found that in both clades, species richness was severely underestimated, with more undescribed species than described species. In Engystomops, the two currently recognized species are actually five to seven species (a 150–250% increase in species richness); in Hypsiboas, two recognized species represent six to nine species (a 200–350% increase). Our results suggest that Amazonian frog biodiversity is much more severely underestimated than previously thought.
biodiversity, cryptic species, Amazon Basin, amphibians, conservation
Received August 5, 2011.
Accepted November 7, 2011.
This journal is © 2011 The Royal Society