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  • Writer's pictureAri E. Puentes

Biodiversity at Sabana Field Research Station

It's no surprise to me that the Sabana Field Research Station (SFRS) is teeming with biodiversity, but throughout my four-month internship I have been continually impressed by the incredible wildlife here. I’ve tried to document everything I’ve seen to make a record of the different species. I’ve contributed my observations to a community science platform called iNaturalist so they can be publicly available. This blog post will be a synthesis of all my findings so that anyone can see and appreciate how special El Yunque National Forest and the Sabana Field Research Station are. Since a lot of work has already been done on the description of plants (census of trees, seedlings, and herbaceous plants), I will leave that to the experts and focus on other things.

First are the lizards! Almost all of the lizards we see at SFRS belong to the genus Anolis. These are the little ones we see hanging out on tree trunks, cinder blocks, fences... and pretty much everywhere. When they feel threatened, they do push-ups, and the males show their dewlap (patch of colorful skin under the chin). Many of these commonly seen lizards are endemic to Puerto Rico. There are probably around 9 endemic species of Anolis here in Puerto Rico, many of which are seen daily at SFRS. Here are some examples:

Figure 1. Anoles of Sabana Field Research Station A. Anolis evermanni, Emerald Anole (endemic) B. Anolis cristatellus, Crested Anole (native) C. Anolis krugi, Upland Grass Anole (endemic) D. Anolis gundlachi, Yellow-Chinned Anole (endemic)

While we’re talking about reptiles, I have to mention the Puerto Rican Ameiva (Ameiva exsul) and the Puerto Rican Racer (Borikenophis portoricensis), which are two other endemic species that are commonly seen around the station.

Next is everyone's favorite, the coquíes. These little frogs are super famous and often represent Puerto Rico. Every night at SFRS you can hear at least 4 different species calling, although only one species says the iconic “ko-kee”. Coquíes are very difficult to identify to species, but they all belong to the genus Eleutherodactylus. They're especially cool because they don't have an aquatic life stage (tadpole) like most frogs, so when they hatch from their eggs, they're little froglets! Here's a look at some of the diversity within the genus:

Figure 2. Coquíes of Sabana Field Research Station. A-D. All are different species in the genus Eleutherodactylus and all are endemic to Puerto Rico.

Like the anoles, it's hard to walk a couple steps in the woods without seeing a snail (seriously, we have to be careful!). Aside from the number of snails, there are many different shapes, sizes and habitats. There are more than 30 species of snails that live in El Yunque, here are some of them:

Figure 3. Snails of Sabana Field Research Station A. Parthena acutangula, Yellow Land Snail (endemic) B. Zophos sp. C. Neopupina crocea (endemic) D. Vagavarix portoricensis (endemic)

Now to the insects! When people think of a tropical rainforest, usually the first insect that comes to mind is mosquitoes. It is true that there are mosquitoes, but there are many other interesting insects to appreciate. The size of insects can vary from extremely small to quite large and there is a lot of diversity among them. Here are examples from 4 different orders of insects:

Figure 4. Insects of Sabana Field Research Station A. A cricket (possibly Orocharis elyunquensis) that was camouflaging on a tree branch B. Petrusa epilepsis C. Ignelater luminosus, Cucubano D. Heterochroma berylloides

And finally, fungi! I may be a little biased because I study fungi, but fungi have been the underdog of ecological research for so long that I felt the need to highlight twice as many species. The fungi of El Yunque are very important for decomposition, soil health, nutrient cycling, and feeding the snails, among other things. Many of the fungi at SFRS are extremely small, so you really have to look for them. But I'd say it's worth it once you see all the different colors and shapes that they can take.

Figure 5. Fungi of Sabana Field Research Station A. Tricholomopsis aurea B. Favolus brasiliensis C. Gloiocephala sp. D. Macrotyphula sp. E. Cheilymenia sp. F. Moelleriella sp. G. Trechispora sp. H. Geastrum sp.

Now, for the nerds and anyone else who’s curious, I'll put my species lists of everything I've seen in SFRS. These are just some of the ones I found and identified; obviously, this is a gross underrepresentation of the actual number of species present.

Sabana Field Research Station Species List 

Reptiles: 8 species

  • Borikenophis portoricensis

  • Anolis gundlachi

  • Anolis cristatellus

  • Anolis krugi

  • Anolis evermanni

  • Ameiva exsul

  • Anolis pulchellus

  • Anolis stratulus


Amphibians: >5 species, all in the genus Eleutherodactylus

Birds: 23 species

  • Coereba flaveola

  • Coccyzus vielloti

  • Zenaida asiatica

  • Zenaida aurita

  • Zenaida macroura

  • Margarops fuscatus

  • Turdus plumbeus

  • Todus mexicanus

  • Agelaius xanthomus

  • Eupsittula canicularis

  • Patagioenas squamosa

  • Tyrannus dominicensis

  • Tyrannus caudifasciatus

  • Melanerpes potoricensis

  • Buteo jamaicensis

  • Eulampis holosericeus

  • Molothrus bonariensis

  • Anthracothorax aurulentus

  • Riccordia maugaeus

  • Mimus polyglottos

  • Myiarchus antillarum

  • Icterus portoricensis

  • Spermestes cucullata

Snails/Slugs: 11 species

  • Neopupina crocea

  • Neopupina curta

  • Parthena acutangula

  • Caracolus caracolla      

  • Caracolus marginella

  • Granodomus lima

  • Zohpos sp.

  • Vagavarix portoricensis

  • Nenia tridens

  • Veronicella cubensis

  • Gaeotis flavolineata

Arthropods/Arachnids: 9 species

  • Caribena laeta

  • Heteropoda venatoria

  • Leucauge regnyi

  • Leucauge argyra

  • Micrathena militaris

  • Gasteracantha cancriformis

  • Tityus obtusus

  • Anadenobolus arboreus

  • Scolopendra subspinipes

Mammals: 3 species

  • Herpestes auropunctatus

  • Canis familiaris

  • Felis catus

Insects: 26 species (much more)

  • Heterochroma berylloides

  • Epimecis hortaria

  • Xylophanes chiron

  • Ignelater luminosus

  • Grallipeza scurra

  • Heuretes picticornis

  • Eulepte sp.

  • Lymire edwardsii

  • Bacteria yersiniana

  • Petrusa epilepsis

  • Pepsis ruficornis

  • Wasmannia auropunctata

  • Heterophotinus vittatus

  • Clogmia albipunctata

  • Samea ecclesialis

  • Diaprepes maugei

  • Hortensia similis

  • Icerya purchasi

  • Cariblatta luttea

  • Flatormensis sp.

  • Sphenophorus australis

  • Apis mellífera

  • Microcentrum incarnatum

  • Argyresthia sp.

  • Stegasta sp.

  • Condylostylus sp.


Fungi: 26 (much more)

  • Auricularia cornea

  • Xylaria axifera

  • Gibellula sp.

  • Moelleriella sp.

  • Entoloma sp.

  • Macrotyphula sp.

  • Geastrum sp.

  • Cyathus sp.

  • Crepidotus sp.

  • Coenogonium sp.

  • Tetrapyrgos sp.

  • Gloiocephala sp.

  • Pseudofavolus sp.

  • Phillipsia domingensis

  • Pleurotus djamor

  • Crustodontia chrysocreas

  • Cheilymenia sp.

  • Favolus brasiliensis

  • Marasmius crinis-equi

  • Gymnopus johnstonii

  • Tricholomopsis aurea

  • Trechispora sp.  

  • Mycena sect. Calodontes

  • Mycena sp.

  • Collybiopsis subpruinosa

  • Marasmius sp.


Total: ~111 species in four months!


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