1997 North Vietnam Pilot Survey
A brief preliminary study of the herpetofauna of northern Vietnam was carried out in 1997. Pilot survey team members were Dr. Darrel R. Frost and Dr. Christopher J. Raxworthy from the American Museum of Natural History, New York.
Limited collecting was carried out over the course of four weeks in late July and August, 1997, at five widely-spaced localities in northern Vietnam: Tam Dao, Vinh Phu Province; Ba Be National Park, Bac Thai Province; Mt. Fan Si Pan/Sa Pa, Lao Cai and Lai Chu Provinces; Yen Bai, Yen Bai Province; and Hanoi.
The majority of specimens obtained during the 1997 pilot study were hand collected during day and nighttime visual encounter surveys.
A total of 58 species were collected, photographed, and sampled for tissues during the 1997 pilot survey: 22 species and 4 families of amphibians and 36 species and 9 families of reptiles. Specimens were fixed in formalin and then preserved in alcohol. Half of the specimens have been repatriated to the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources in Hanoi; the other half are currently housed in the collections of the Department of Herpetology at the AMNH.
Given that sampling was limited at all the work sites, an interesting and diverse group of specimens (notably amphibians) was collected at Tam Dao National Park and Mt. Fan Si Pan. Tam Dao National Park is located approximately 85 kilometers northwest of Hanoi. Snake diversity at this site is extremely high, and the Tam Dao mountains contain a number of endemic species, including the salamander Paramesotriton deloustali (seen but not collected). The 1997 survey collected three amphibians endemic to Vietnam at Tam Dao: the Asian toad species Theloderma corticale, the frog species Rana maosonensis, and the tree frog species Leptolalax sungi (a paratype of which is currently housed in the IEBR Zoological Museum).
Mt. Fan Si Pan, located close to the Chinese border, is the highest mountain in Vietnam. Surveyed extensively by the French in the 1940s, it shelters distinct assemblages of species across elevations with strong biotic affinities to northern Vietnam and southern China. One notable result from this survey is a new country record for the earless toad Bufo cryptotympanicus, previously known only from southern China (Liu, et al., 2000). The research team also found an as yet unidentified Paa sp. at Mt. Fan Si Pan. Only six species of this large, edible frog are known from Vietnam, including a Sa Pa endemic. Additionally, three Amolops spp. and two Rana livida complex specimens were collected from these two work sites.
The 1997 pilot survey sampled broadly in the central and northwestern provinces of northern Vietnam. Approximately 14% (3/22) of the amphibians collected were endemic or restricted-range species. Noteworthy findings include the high diversity of amphibian species (including a number of endemics) collected during relatively brief periods spent at Tam Dao National Park and Mt. Fan Si Pan. Taxa collected include a new country record (Bufo cryptotympanicus) and what are thought to be four previously undescribed species. A megophyrid specimen collected at Tam Dao has been designated a paratype for the newly described species Sung's Asian Toad Leptolalax sungi (Lathrop, et al., 1998) and is currently housed at the Institute for Ecology and Biological Resources in Hanoi.
Drawing specific species diversity and conservation conclusions was beyond the scope of this pilot expedition. In general, however, the taxa collected are found throughout the Himalayas and Southeast Asia. The presence of north Vietnamese endemics (Leptolalax sungi and Rana maosonensis) and species indicative of the northeast montane regions of northern Burma, southern China and northern Vietnam (Rhyncophus nuchalis and Rhacophorus verrucosus) indicate both Sino-Himalayan affinities and rich local species diversity. The IUCN-listing of the six turtle species identified during the survey reflects their heavy regional exploitation.
Literature Cited - North Vietnam Pilot Survey 1997
Lathrop, A., R.W. Murphy, N. Orlov, and Cuc Thu Ho. 1998. Two new species of Leptolalax (Anura: Megophryidae) from northern Vietnam. Amphibia-Reptilia, 19:253-267.
Liu, W., A. Lathrop, J. Fu, D. Yang, and R.W. Murphy. 2000. Phylogeny of East Asian bufonids inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences (Anura: Amphibia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 14:423-435.
For a list of species identifications, localities collected, and conservation status from the pilot 1997 amphibian and reptile inventory in northern Vietnam, please go to the 1997 Herpetofauna Inventory.
Literature Cited - Amphibians and Reptiles Recorded During the 1997 CBC-AMNH/IEBR Pilot Survey
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