Field Expedition Highlights from Ecuador: March 2008

By Carl J. Franklin


Once again assisting Dr. Eric N. Smith in his quest for tropical coral snakes I had the opportunity to enjoy a visit to Ecuador.  I was also fortunate to be accompanied by Jeffrey Streicher who is currently working in Eric's lab towards his PhD.   In addition to the good fortune of two great travel companions we teamed with Mario Muņoz curator of herpetology at Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales (MECN) and several eager students.


Bromeliads were an interesting find at such a seemingly dry location.  However, it is likely that moisture from the clouds provided sufficient daily watering for these moisture loving plants.

As we continued on towards the Pacific coast we dropped in altitude.  The temperatures rose along with the humidity and herpetological diversity.  This plain cat eyed snake (Imantodes inornatus) was one of many animals found crossing the road.

We were rewarded at a roadside waterfall when we heard then found the emerald glass frog (Centrolene prosoblepon).  Pictured here is a male.

This is a male Masked tree frog (Smilisca phaeota) as found calling in a roadside ditch.



The real highlight on our drive to San Lorenzo happened when Eric (who was driving the truck ahead of us!) spotted this handsome bushmaster (Lachesis acrochorda) starting to crawl across the highway.

Shortly after our arrival to the coastal town of San Lorenzo more herpetological discoveries were made.  Including this glass-tailed snake (Urotheca sp).

This photograph depicts the impact of clearing a tropical forest.  These areas have been cleared for agricultural use.

Despite the habitat alterations our group was rather successful at finding several interesting specimens.

This specimen of the Regal coral snake (Micrurus ancoralis) was found during the day as it crawled through the adventitious roots of a tree.  later on we discovered that the coral snake had recently consumed a caecilian.

Near the location of the coral snake, a specimen of La bonita caecilian (Caecilia orientalis) was discovered under a log. 


Vailant's frog (Rana vaillanti) was also seen near aquatic margins.



This white-lipped mud turtle (Kinosternon leucostomum) was found patrolling the bottom of a small pool in a field.

Although normally encountered in leaf litter this species of ground snake (Atractus sp.) was found crossing the highway during a night drive.

No trip to Ecuador would be adequate without enjoying generous bowls of ceviche!

The seafood was wonderful.  Here is a delightful medley of coconut shrimp and rice.

Daytime searches revealed this short-nosed parrot snake (Oxybelis brevirostris).  Although only a juvenile, this snake is a keen predator of frogs and lizards.

Emerald glass frogs (Centrolene prosoblepon) were detected at night by locating males as they called for females amid leaves hanging above streams.

The forest along the Pacific coast also provided the groupa chance encounter with an interesting and unusual non-venomous snake (Synophis bicolor)

As we continued collecting specimens in San Lorenzo we came upon the beautiful Tunda Loma lodge.  Unfortunately we had already established our base of operations at a hotel in San Lorenzo and by the time we found the lodge it wasn't time efficient to change locations.  However, I would encourage anyone visiting the Choco of Ecuador to consider staying here.  The prices were reasonable, staff was friendly and helpful and the opportunity for encountering wildlife in the nearby rainforest was great.  

Although this photo provides little justice, equatorial sunsets rank among the most spectacular in the world.

In the early hours of night, many lizards including this wood lizard (Enyalioides hetrerolepis ).

However, the subtle camouflaged tones change as does the attitude of this lizard when disturbed!

Recently disturbed portions of the rainforest provided ideal refuge for some tree frogs such as this Scinax rubra.

Despites its diminutive size the brilliant coloration of this orange dart frog (Oophagus sylvaticus) revealed its location under the subdued lighting of an old forest.

At home virtually anywhere in tropical Latin America the marine toad (Bufo marinus) advertises his availability by vocalizing thus advertising his presence and availability to any female within ear-shot.

This female gladiator frog (Hypsiboas rosenbergi) made an appearance in a disturbed section of secondary forest following a rain shower.

As our flashlights penetrated the night they also captured the attention of several interesting varieties of beetles.

This turnip tailed gecko (Thecadactylus rapicauda)

Possibly one of the world's most photogenic frogs Hypsiboas picturata was present in old growth secondary forest.

Not all of our fascinating discoveries were of the herpetological type.  Here is a spectacular female leaf mimicking mantis.





If we we're not supposed to eat animals then why are they made out of meat?


With the bushmaster safely contained in a tube the workshop participants gained an opportunity for a close observation and opportunity to touch a snake that is almost legendary throughout its range.