THE ASTONISHING AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES OF THE ISALO MASSIF, SW MADAGASCAR

The Isalo Massif, in SW Madagascar, is one of the most interesting and far mysterious areas of Madagascar, despite of the fact that – at the same time – it is also one of the most visited sites. Its peculiar landscapes make it really interesting: around 80 km long, it is featured by a a rough physionomy, a quite dry climate and an intricate system of canyons which makes it really appealing. In the last fifteen years we spent quite a lot of time in investigating the herpetofauna living there. In fact, little was almost known about this massif in terms of biodiversity when, together with my team, began to visit the spectacular sandstone mountains there, in search for amphibians and reptiles. While the high temperature and the sub-desertic profile make quite easy to expect the presence of a rich reptile fauna, comparatively less was hypotesised for amphibians. In reality, the canyon system and the presence of water with permanent and temporary streams and rivers created in the last million years a really interesting site where many species differentiate. Recently we published our final results, obtained by collating former studies carried out wwithin and outside the National Park limits between 2004 and 2014. As a total we reported the presence of 24 amphibians and 47 reptiles. For most of them we provided the molecular data sets. So far we found four described endemic amphibian (Gephyromantis azzurrae, Mantella expectata, Mantidactylus noralottae, and Scaphiophryne gottlebei) and one reptile species (Trachylepis nancycoutuae). Of the taxa listed for Isalo, seven amphibians and six reptiles are new candidate species, and among them at least one amphibian (Mantidactylus sp. aff. multiplicatus Ca65 “Isalo”) and three reptiles (Lygodactylus sp. aff. tuberosus Ca02 “Isalo”, Paroedura sp. aff. bastardi Ca02 “Isalo” and P. sp. aff. bastardi Ca03 “Ilakaka”) are currently known only from Isalo. The importance of the study is – among others – to the collaboration among the authors and with Malagasy institutions, and in the use of an integrative approach, using morphology, colouration, ecology data and museum specimens. This stresses once more how the natural history museums and the collections there preserved are crucial tools to unveil biodiversity traits and define conservation actions.

Cocca W, Rosa GM, Andreone F, Aprea G, Eusebio Bergò P, Mattioli F, Mercurio V, Randrianirina JE, Rosado D, Vences M, Crottini A (2018). The herpetofauna (Amphibia, Crocodylia, Squamata, Testudines) of the Isalo Massif, Southwest Madagascar: combining morphological, molecular and museum data. Salamandra, 54 (3): 178-20.

Mantella expectata, the blue-legged mantella, endemic of the Isalo Massif

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