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Two New Carnivorous Plant Species Discovered in Ecuadorian Andes


Photograph of Pinguicula ombrophila sp. nov. Credit: Álvaro J. Pérez
Photograph of Pinguicula ombrophila sp. nov. Credit: Álvaro J. Pérez

A team of botanists from Ecuador, Germany, and the United States has made a significant discovery in the Andes of Ecuador. The team has identified two new species of carnivorous plants belonging to the butterwort family, Pinguicula. The two species, Pinguicula jimburensis and Pinguicula ombrophila, have been described for the first time in a scientific article published in PhytoKeys.


Carnivorous Plants and their Competitive Advantage


Carnivorous plants have a unique way of compensating for nutrient deficiency in their growing substrate. They use small insects as a source of nutrients, which gives them a competitive advantage over other plants. These plants thrive in habitats that are typically challenging for other plant species. The tropical high Andes provide several such habitats, including rocky slopes and marshlands, covered in constant rain and clouds.



Photograph of Pinguicula jimburensis sp. nov. Credit: Kabir Montesinos
Photograph of Pinguicula jimburensis sp. nov. Credit: Kabir Montesinos

Discovering Two New Carnivorous Plant Species in Ecuador


The two new species, Pinguicula jimburensis and Pinguicula ombrophila, were discovered in the high Andes of southern Ecuador. Pinguicula jimburensis was found on the shore of a highland lagoon at 3400m, while Pinguicula ombrophila was discovered on a nearly vertical rock face at 2900m. The habitats of these new species lie within the Amotape-Huancabamba zone, which is known for its exceptional biodiversity.


Narrow Endemism and Vulnerability


Both Pinguicula jimburensis and Pinguicula ombrophila are only known to exist in a single location. There are only a few dozen plant individuals in each case, with only one population of Pinguicula ombrophila with about 15 mature individuals. This narrow endemism is typical of the Amotape-Huancabamba zone, and there are many more new plant and animal species awaiting discovery.


Impacts of Urban Sprawl and Climate Change


The discovery of the two new species is both encouraging and worrying at the same time. The assessment of Neotropical biodiversity is far from complete, and new taxa are continuously discovered and described, particularly from remote areas that become accessible in the course of the unlimited urban sprawl. The destruction of habitats due to urban sprawl poses a massive threat to biodiversity in general and the specialized organisms that depend on their fragile microhabitats in particular. Furthermore, human-induced climate change is increasingly affecting ecosystems regardless of location, especially those that rely on regular precipitation, such as mountain wetlands.


Journal Information: Álvaro J. Pérez et al, Contributions to Ecuadorian butterworts (Lentibulariaceae, Pinguicula): two new species and a re-evaluation of Pinguicula calyptrata, PhytoKeys (2023). DOI: 10.3897/phytokeys.222.98139
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