Simpson's article about his visit to Candelaria
One of the most exciting
botanical discoveries in Ecuador has been the discovery
by one of us (Lou Jost) of a completely unexpected local
evolutionary radiation of the orchid genus Teagueia
in the Upper Pastaza Watershed (see
Teagueia species, Teagueia
Explosion, and "Explosive
local radiation of the genus Teagueia (Orchidaceae)
in the Upper Pastaza Watershed of Ecuador"
in the Lyonia online journal). This genus
was thought to have only six species worldwide. In a
tiny 20 km x 20 km area of the Upper Pastaza Watershed,
Lou and his students (Andy Shephard, Scott Grossman,
Pailin Wedell, and Ali Araujo) discovered 28-30 new
species in this genus! DNA analysis performed by Mark
Whitten, Kurt Neubbig, and Lorena Endara of the University
of Florida-Gainesville, Erik Rothacker of Ohio State
University, and Alec Pridgeon of the Royal Botanical
Gardens at Kew have revealed that all these species
belong to a single lineage not very closely related
to the other Teagueia species; in other words,
there was a local explosion of speciation here in the
Upper Pastaza Watershed, far exceeding the more famous
local species radiations of the Galapagos islands. (The
biggest plant radiation on the Galapagos is the Scalesia
radiation discovered by Darwin, which includes 15 species
scattered over all the islands.) Our discovery was recently
highlighted in a Smithsonian exhibition in Washington
D. C. from Jan-April 2009.
Some of the new Cerro Candelaria
single mountain in the Upper Pastaza Watershed, Cerro
Candelaria, has 16 species of Teagueia on it,
including several species not found anywhere else. It
is the most important site for this Teagueia
radiation, and it also contains many other rare new or
recently described species, including the as-yet-undescribed
smallest orchid in the world, a new species of Platystele
discovered by one of us.
The world's smallest
orchid. The black lines on the ruler at the lower edge
of the photo are one millimeter apart.
Candelaria is a vast wilderness with Spectacled Bear,
Mountain Tapir, monkeys, eagles, and an unusually pristine
paramo grassland at its upper end. With the help of the
World Land Trust and its donors, we are building a reserve
to protect this unique area, which borders Sangay National
Park and which extends the protected area into the Upper
A young Black and Chestnut Eagle, Oroaetus isidori. Photo
Luis Recalde (EcoMinga).
The size of this reserve is now about
2600 hectares ranging from 1800 m to 3800 m in elevation.
The initial purchase was made possible by the donatio to World
Land Trust by an environmentally-aware corporate sponsor,
Puro Coffee, a UK fair-trade coffee company that gives 2%
of its proceeds to conservation. Another very large corporate
donation to World Land Trust by PriceWaterhouseCoopers is
permitting us to expand the reserve to include new habitats.
We are very grateful to them.
Cerro Candelaria is
in the second tier of mountains facing the Amazon
basin in the Upper Pastaza Watershed.
The original reserve
begans here, to the left of the large stream,
at about 1800 m elevation. We now own both sides.