In a hidden creek in Antioquia they found a unique species of crab in the world

In a hidden creek in Antioquia they found a unique species of crab in the world
In a hidden creek in Antioquia they found a unique species of crab in the world

06:00 PM

Several countries in Europe and Asia invest tens of millions of euros and dollars a year in the search for new species, a task that can take years and is often unsuccessful due to their climatic conditions, their geological characteristics or the degree of ecosystem deterioration due to human intervention. This context serves to understand the dimension of what has happened in recent days after announcing, in just over a week, that Antioquia has two new species discovered: a very rare beetle found in the jungles of Carepa by students from the University of Antioquia and a freshwater crab protected by a small water source between the mountains of Ituango.

The discovery of the little crab, the Hypolobocera ituangoensis –as he has just been baptized– was the result of the obsession of the biologist Moisés Elías Alexándar Taborda, an expert from the Corantioquia Ecosystems team and one of the few carcinologists in the department.

Moses was never taken away the fascination with studying “weird bugs” that was born to him since he was a second semester biology student at the Universidad del Atlántico. In 2018, while participating in the socialization processes of the Piragua program, which in the last five years became in the social network for community monitoring of the largest water resource in the country, Moisés observed a sample of a freshwater crab that he had never seen before, which was saying a lot because since his time as a student he had decided to get to know the country’s crustaceans in depth and had also acquired a great level of detail about these animals because Before being a biologist, he was a technical draftsman and had a sufficiently trained eye to suspect when he was faced with something new.

With that strange little crab on his head, Moisés ran to knock on the door of Professor Martha Rocha Campos, national specialist on freshwater crabs at the Institute of Natural Sciences of the National University. With it, he managed to determine in 2020 that it was indeed a new crab that lives in the Zenú indigenous community, in El Bagre, Bajo Cauca, Antioquia, which they called Phallangothelphusa

zenuorum, in homage to that reservation that has been given the task of preserving it.

The discovery only fueled the avidity of the biologist who began to immerse himself in the mighty river of information and knowledge that emerged from the communities that were part of the Piragua program. That empirical knowledge in which he was sure there were fundamental data about new discoveries. So it was. He found a small sample that only had two pieces of information and the rest was unknown. It said: “Quebrada La Honda, Ituango, 2016.”

With that single clue, he spent months in Ituango until he got to know the community of the La Georgía village in depth. They were the ones who They presented him with a small ravine that they take care of their treasures like the greatest. Moisés told them what he was looking for: a crab that he had only seen in a sample but of which he had indications that could be an exceptional inhabitant of this planet. Searching for him became the goal of all the inhabitants of the village. And they did it, after months of investigations they found the elusive crab that can be held with two fingers.

But finding it was just the starting point. As happens every time one is on the path to determining whether one is dealing with a new species, several months of exhaustive tracking of publications from various countries awaited the biologist and researcher Martha Rocha; reviewing illustrations and photographs, comparing records of species at an impressive level of detail, since sometimes the difference between one species and another is so imperceptible that it is necessary to carry out sophisticated DNA tests.

In this case, the extensive review of the information yielded the expected result: the Hypolobocera ituangoensis is a new species of freshwater crab discovered in the world and, most likely, It is endemic to this area of ​​Antioquia. The small Ituanguino crab was presented to the scientific society on May 20 in the publication of the magazine Zootaxa.

According to the biologist, in addition to the contribution to science and the enrichment of Colombian biodiversity, the discovery of this new species is crucial to demonstrate the importance of communities in the conservation of ecosystems and water resources, and also as guardians of knowledge. without which science surely would not have been able to reach this new milestone.

For Corantioquia, the news is transcendental because it helps show that in areas such as the North and Bajo Cauca, besieged for decades by the armed conflict and the devastation of its natural wealth Due to the multiple forms of extractivism, nature shows signs of rebellion thanks to impressive conservation efforts by small communities. The presence of these crustaceans has a specific importance and is that They are indicators of good water quality and ecological conservation.

The UN said it a decade ago: local communities, whether indigenous or peasants, are essential to stop the loss of biodiversity and climate change. The goal now is to take what is being successful in these communities to another scale.

The family increases

Both the crab and the rare beetle found by Ude A students in the Tulenapa reserve in Carepa, called Pseudocerocoma tulenapa, They now integrate the enormous biological diversity that Antioquia has with more than 20,800 species of fauna and flora observed of the almost 80,000 that Colombia currently has and which places it as one of the 17 megadiverse countries on the planet. As an illustration, in the department’s jurisdiction there are more species of fauna and flora than most countries in Northwest Europe or the Persian Gulf have.

Antioquia has 49% of the butterfly species existing in Colombia, 30% of the plants52% of the birds, 51% of the mammals and approximately 31% of the country’s amphibians.

Researcher Andrés Felipe Castillo suggests that in addition to the rich biodiversity that Antioquia has, the scientific contribution of the department has also been vast. The Colombian Biodiversity Information System accounts for this. Of the almost 28 million observations of fauna and flora species that have enriched this information system, Antioquia has contributed almost 4 million records.

According to Castillo, several areas of Antioquia are among the almost 50 areas that became “hot spots” of new species discoveries after the signing of the Peace Agreement, areas that were restricted for decades and that after the agreement in 2016 began to receive successful scientific missions.

But despite these hopeful findings, the expert points out that we cannot lose sight of the fact that the department is suffering accelerated ecological degradation with the increasingly serious fragmentation of biological corridors that are essential for the survival of hundreds of species. One of these cases is what occurs between the valleys of San Nicolás and Aburrá. The concentration of biological diversity in this corridor has been so high that one of the great scientific missions, the Bio Expedition, allocated part of its efforts to Eastern Antioquia a few years ago. But with urban expansion, deforestation and other factors, the species – as well as the researchers who are searching for them – have it increasingly difficult.

New species found

The Tulenapa beetle and the Ituango crab join other incredible recent finds. At the beginning of this year, a new species of flora was identified in eastern Antioquia: the magnolia (Magnolia unicarmensis), a new tree considered a botanical treasure found by explorers Andrés Montoya and Cornelio Bota, both from Eastern Antioquia, passionate scientists in the municipalities of La Unión and El Carmen de Viboral, Eastern Antioquia. The new magnolia, according to Bota, is important as an umbrella species, it is also very interesting for future evolutionary and ecological studies, because it belongs to one of the most ancestral lineages of flowering plants.

Also this year, in the month of March, researchers Boris Villanueva and Álvaro Cogollo shared with the scientific community a new species of tree of the genus composer, called Compsoneura choibo, in homage to the spider monkey that is its faithful inhabitant in the jungles of Magdalena Medio. The new tree is located in Magdalena Medio and Bajo Cauca, in highly deforested areas and in areas where there is no environmental protection figure, so one of the research fronts is to determine what resilience characteristics they have against these adverse circumstances.

Botanist Álvaro Cogollo himself discovered a fruit in mid-2022 in the Serranía de Abibe, in Mutatá, which the researcher described as a “promise for the food future” of humanity.

The little crab called Hypolobocera ituangoensis Possibly it is only found in this area of ​​Antioquia. PHOTO: COURTESY

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