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Concept: Ecuador


The Inca Empire is claimed to have driven massive population movements in western South America, and to have spread Quechua, the most widely-spoken language family of the indigenous Americas. A test-case is the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru, reported as a focal point of Inca population displacements. Chachapoyas also spans the environmental, cultural and demographic divides between Amazonia and the Andes, and stands along the lowest-altitude corridor from the rainforest to the Pacific coast. Following a sampling strategy informed by linguistic data, we collected 119 samples, analysed for full mtDNA genomes and Y-chromosome STRs. We report a high indigenous component, which stands apart from the network of intense genetic exchange in the core central zone of Andean civilization, and is also distinct from neighbouring populations. This unique genetic profile challenges the routine assumption of large-scale population relocations by the Incas. Furthermore, speakers of Chachapoyas Quechua are found to share no particular genetic similarity or gene-flow with Quechua speakers elsewhere, suggesting that here the language spread primarily by cultural diffusion, not migration. Our results demonstrate how population genetics, when fully guided by the archaeological, historical and linguistic records, can inform multiple disciplines within anthropology.

Concepts: South America, Bolivia, Andes, Ecuador, Peru, Inca Empire, Quechua, Inca


Geographic barriers and elevational gradients have long been recognized as important in species diversification. Here, we illustrate an example where both mechanisms have shaped the genetic structure of the Neotropical rainfrog, Pristimantis ornatissimus, which has also resulted in speciation. This species was thought to be a single evolutionary lineage distributed throughout the Ecuadorian Chocó and the adjacent foothills of the Andes. Based on recent sampling of P. ornatissimus sensu lato, we provide molecular and morphological evidence that support the validity of a new species, which we name Pristimantis ecuadorensis sp. nov. The sister species are elevational replacements of each other; the distribution of Pristimantis ornatissimus sensu stricto is limited to the Ecuadorian Chocó ecoregion (< 1100 m), whereas the new species has only been found at Andean localities between 1450-1480 m. Given the results of the Multiple Matrix Regression with Randomization analysis, the genetic difference between P. ecuadorensis and P. ornatissimus is not explained by geographic distance nor environment, although environmental variables at a finer scale need to be tested. Therefore this speciation event might be the byproduct of stochastic historic extinction of connected populations or biogeographic events caused by barriers to dispersal such as rivers. Within P. ornatissimus sensu stricto, morphological patterns and genetic structure seem to be related to geographic isolation (e.g., rivers). Finally, we provide an updated phylogeny for the genus, including the new species, as well as other Ecuadorian Pristimantis.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Species, Speciation, Extinction, Andes, Biogeography, Ecuador


Examination of three frozen bodies, a 13-y-old girl and a girl and boy aged 4 to 5 y, separately entombed near the Andean summit of Volcán Llullaillaco, Argentina, sheds new light on human sacrifice as a central part of the Imperial Inca capacocha rite, described by chroniclers writing after the Spanish conquest. The high-resolution diachronic data presented here, obtained directly from scalp hair, implies escalating coca and alcohol ingestion in the lead-up to death. These data, combined with archaeological and radiological evidence, deepen our understanding of the circumstances and context of final placement on the mountain top. We argue that the individuals were treated differently according to their age, status, and ritual role. Finally, we relate our findings to questions of consent, coercion, and/or compliance, and the controversial issues of ideological justification and strategies of social control and political legitimation pursued by the expansionist Inca state before European contact.

Concepts: Bolivia, Argentina, Andes, Ecuador, Peru, Spanish Empire, Human sacrifice, Child sacrifice


The homology of three somatic systems in Schizomida is studied yielding the following results: (1) proposal of homology and chaetotaxy of abdominal setae in Surazomus; (2) revision of the cheliceral chaetotaxy in Schizomida, with suggestion of new homology scheme between Hubbardiidae and Protoschizomidae, description of a new group of setae in Hubbardiinae (G7), and division of setae group 5 in two subgroups, G5A and G5B; (3) proposal of segmental homology between trimerous and tetramerous female flagellum in Hubbardiinae with association of segment III of tri-segmented species to segments III + IV of tetra-segmented species. Considerations about the dorsal microsetae on the male flagellum are made. The genus Surazomus in Ecuador is revised. The sympatric species Surazomus palenque sp. nov. and S. kitu sp. nov. (Ecuador, Pichincha) are described and illustrated. The female of S. cuenca (Rowland and Reddell, 1979) is described, with two new distributional records for the species. Surazomus cumbalensis (Kraus, 1957) is recorded for the first time from Ecuador (Pichincha).

Concepts: Human, Male, Following, Group, Segment, Quito, Ecuador, Cantons of Ecuador


This paper presents the first ethnobotanical survey conducted among the Achuar (Jivaro), indigenous people living in Amazonian Ecuador and Peru. The aims of this study are: (a) to present and discuss Achuar medicinal plant knowledge in the context of the epidemiology of this population (b) to compare the use of Achuar medicinal plants with the uses reported among the Shuar Jivaro and other Amazonian peoples.

Concepts: Herbalism, Colombia, South America, Indigenous peoples, Ecuador, Peru, Quechua, Mestizo


Alien species, one of the biggest threats to natural ecosystems worldwide, are of particular concern for oceanic archipelagos such as Galápagos. To enable more effective management of alien species, we reviewed, collated and analysed all available records of alien species for Galápagos. We also assembled a comprehensive dataset on pathways to and among the Galápagos Islands, including tourist and resident numbers, tourist vessels, their itineraries and visitation sites, aircraft capacity and occupancy, air and sea cargo and biosecurity interceptions. So far, 1,579 alien terrestrial and marine species have been introduced to Galápagos by humans. Of these, 1,476 have become established. Almost half of these were intentional introductions, mostly of plants. Most unintentional introductions arrived on plants and plant associated material, followed by transport vehicles, and commodities (in particular fruit and vegetables). The number, frequency and geographic origin of pathways for the arrival and dispersal of alien species to and within Galápagos have increased over time, tracking closely the increase in human population (residents and tourists) on the islands. Intentional introductions of alien species should decline as biosecurity is strengthened but there is a danger that unintentional introductions will increase further as tourism on Galápagos expands. This unique world heritage site will only retain its biodiversity values if the pathways for invasion are managed effectively.

Concepts: Human, Plant, Transport, Invasive species, Tourism, World Tourism Organization, Ecuador, World Heritage Site


A main objective of ethnobotany is to document traditional knowledge about plants before it disappears. However, little is known about the coverage of past ethnobotanical studies and thus about how well the existing literature covers the overall traditional knowledge of different human groups. To bridge this gap, we investigated ethnobotanical data-collecting efforts across four countries (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia), three ecoregions (Amazon, Andes, Chocó), and several human groups (including Amerindians, mestizos, and Afro-Americans). We used palms (Arecaceae) as our model group because of their usefulness and pervasiveness in the ethnobotanical literature. We carried out a large number of field interviews (n = 2201) to determine the coverage and quality of palm ethnobotanical data in the existing ethnobotanical literature (n = 255) published over the past 60 years. In our fieldwork in 68 communities, we collected 87,886 use reports and documented 2262 different palm uses and 140 useful palm species. We demonstrate that traditional knowledge on palm uses is vastly under-documented across ecoregions, countries, and human groups. We suggest that the use of standardized data-collecting protocols in wide-ranging ethnobotanical fieldwork is a promising approach for filling critical information gaps. Our work contributes to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and emphasizes the need for signatory nations to the Convention on Biological Diversity to respond to these information gaps. Given our findings, we hope to stimulate the formulation of clear plans to systematically document ethnobotanical knowledge in northwestern South America and elsewhere before it vanishes.

Concepts: United States, Colombia, Brazil, South America, Andes, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Ecuador, Peru


In Ecuador, Tapirus pinchaque is considered to be critically endangered. Although the species has been registered in several localities, its geographic distribution remains unclear, and the effects of climate change and current land uses on this species are largely unknown. We modeled the ecological niche of T. pinchaque using MaxEnt, in order to assess its potential adaptation to present and future climate change scenarios. We evaluated the effects of habitat loss due by current land use, the ecosystem availability and importance of Ecuadorian System of Protected Areas into the models. The model of environmental suitability estimated an extent of occurrence for species of 21,729 km2 in all of Ecuador, mainly occurring along the corridor of the eastern Ecuadorian Andes. A total of 10 Andean ecosystems encompassed ~98% of the area defined by the model, with herbaceous paramo, northeastern Andean montane evergreen forest and northeastern Andes upper montane evergreen forest being the most representative. When considering the effect of habitat loss, a significant reduction in model area (~17%) occurred, and the effect of climate change represented a net reduction up to 37.86%. However, the synergistic effect of both climate change and habitat loss, given current land use practices, could represent a greater risk in the short-term, leading to a net reduction of 19.90 to 44.65% in T. pinchaque’s potential distribution. Even under such a scenarios, several Protected Areas harbor a portion (~36 to 48%) of the potential distribution defined by the models. However, the central and southern populations are highly threatened by habitat loss and climate change. Based on these results and due to the restricted home range of T. pinchaque, its preference for upland forests and paramos, and its small estimated population size in the Andes, we suggest to maintaining its current status as Critically Endangered in Ecuador.

Concepts: Ecosystem, South America, Andes, Quito, Ecuador, Quechua, Tapir, Mountain Tapir


The evolution and occurrence of fossil sea turtles at the Pacific margin of South America is poorly known and restricted to Neogene (Miocene/Pliocene) findings from the Pisco Formation, Peru. Here we report and describe the first record of Oligocene (late Oligocene, ∼24 Ma) Pan-Cheloniidae sea turtle remains of South America. The fossil material corresponds to a single, isolated and well-preserved costal bone found at the Montañita/Olón locality, Santa Elena Province, Ecuador. Comparisons with other Oligocene and extant representatives allow us to confirm that belongs to a sea turtle characterized by: lack of lateral ossification, allowing the dorsal exposure of the distal end of ribs; dorsal surface of bone sculptured, changing from dense vermiculation at the vertebral scute region to anastomosing pattern of grooves at the most lateral portion of the costal. This fossil finding shows the high potential that the Ecuadorian Oligocene outcrops have in order to explore the evolution and paleobiogeography distribution of sea turtles by the time that the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans were connected via the Panama basin.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Turtle, Pacific Ocean, Brazil, South America, Marine debris, Ecuador, Peru


Neotropical mountain streams are important contributors of biological diversity. Two species of the characid genus Rhoadsia differing for an ecologically important morphological trait, body depth, have been described from mountain streams of the western slopes of the Andes in Ecuador. Rhoadsia altipinna is a deeper-bodied species reported from low elevations in southwestern Ecuador and northern Peru, and Rhoadsia minor is a more streamlined species that was described from high elevations (>1200 m) in the Esmeraldas drainage in northwestern Ecuador. Little is known about these species and their validity as distinct species has been questioned. In this study, we examine how their body shape varies along replicated elevational gradients in different drainages of western Ecuador using geometric morphometrics and the fineness ratio. We also use sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase c I gene and the second intron of the S7 nuclear gene to examine whether genetic data are consistent with the existence of two species. We found that body depth varies continuously among populations within drainages as a function of elevation, and that body shape overlaps among drainages, such that low elevation populations of R. minor in the Esmeraldas drainage have similar body depths to higher elevation R. altipinna in southern drainages. Although a common general trend of declining body depth with elevation is clear, the pattern and magnitude of body shape divergence differed among drainages. Sequencing of mitochondrial and nuclear genes failed to meet strict criteria for the recognition of two species (e.g., reciprocal monophyly and deep genetic structure). However, there was a large component of genetic variation for the COI gene that segregated among drainages, indicating significant genetic divergence associated with geographic isolation. Continued research on Rhoadsia in western Ecuador may yield significant insight into adaptation and speciation in Neotropical mountain streams.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Biology, Organism, Species, Ecuador