Herpetofauna of the Tepuis: and introduction
The herpetofauna of South America is incredibly diverse, representing one third of global amphibian biodiversity and one fifth of reptile biodiversity (McDiarmid and Donnelly). Herpetofaunal biodiversity is extremely high in the Guiana Shield (GS), which contains 295 reptile species in total. 50% of the total reptile species are snakes, followed by lizards, turtles, amphisbaenians, and crocodylians. The amphibian biodiversity equally impressive with 269 species, 54% of which are endemic to the GS dominated by Anurans at 94% (253 species) of the total amphibian biodiversity. The majority of the shield endemics occur in the Guiana highlands, both in amphibians and reptiles159 species of reptiles and amphibians exist in the Pantepui biogeographical province, 61% of which are amphibians and 39% reptiles. Roughly 28% of the total herpetofauna of the Guiana Shield is present on the tepui summits, with the majority being endemic to a single tepui (68%, 109 species), 13 with shared endemism (endemic to multiple summits), and 9 on multiple massifs. Endemism could be calculated at 82.4% if species endemic to multiple summits are included in the analysis of herpetofaunal distribution. The strongly positive trend for the discovery of new species of reptiles and amphibians indicates that both the G.S.and particularly the Guiana highlands and Pantepui contain species species of reptiles and amphibians which are yet to be formally described; between 1970 and 2000 nearly 140 new species were discovered in the Pantepui. Little is known about their range and climate envelopes, however the high rate of endemism implies that many tepui endemics are not able to survive outside their summit environments. While the species may be officially described, determining their ecological roles, climate tolerances, and spatial relationships is critical if conservation steps are to be taken to mitigate their extinction risks as global climate change alters the tepui environments. Biokryptos is developing new methods to catalogue tepui herpetofauna, including eDNA collection and camera traps designed for cold blooded animals. .