AA reader Shawn McCracken writes:
While conducting ground-level herpetofauna surveys at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador’s Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, I was lured to the canopy by the cacophony of what had to be undiscovered species coming from the bromeliad, orchid and epiphyte microhabitats. This led me to think how many possible new species may be living in this new frontier? While birding at the canopy towers I saw the Tropical Thornytail Iguana (Uracentron flaviceps) and Banded Tree Anole (Dactyloa [Anolis] transversalis) scurrying about in some of the adjacent trees, amongst other anoles I could not quite identify, there was no doubt I was headed up. Of all the available microhabitat in the canopy, the big tank bromeliads caught my attention the most – little swamps, everywhere at 20+ meters off the ground. Surely there had to be herpetofauna using these as a resource and refuge in the harsh canopy environment.
Before the next field season, I decided I needed to get up into the canopy and collect some bromeliads to have a look inside. After a self-taught crash course in tree climbing, I returned to Tiputini, but quickly realized I didn’t have a long enough rope or the skills to get to those big bromeliads. Packing plenty of rope and a greater confidence in my climbing abilities, I returned for another field season the next year. This time was a success. Along with my assistants, we collected 40 bromeliads representing three species that we sealed in 55-gallon trash bags and carried back to camp. Once we began dismantling the bromeliads, we realized we had hit a treasure trove of invertebrates and herpetofauna. Now several years later and a total of 240 bromeliads collected, we have a pretty good idea of the herpetofauna utilizing canopy tank bromeliads in northwestern part of Yasuní. In this latest publication, we summarize the herpetofauna of one high canopy tank bromeliad species, which includes the gecko Thecadactylus solimoensis and two anoles, Anolis ortonii and A. transversalis.