“Casquito de Vallarta” (Kinosternon vogti) is the name proposed for the new species of terrestrial turtle discovered by researchers from the University Center of the Coast (CUCosta) in Puerto Vallarta, together with a team of Mexican scientists.
The discovery has already been disseminated in specialized publications. According to the researcher Germán Cupul, up to now only 20 specimens have been found. This species is in danger of extinction as urban growth deteriorates its habitat; thus, management will be sought to be protected by federal legislation.
The “Casquito de Vallarta” measures only nine centimeters; the females are short-tailed, the males long-tailed and have a yellow spot on the tip of the nose.
The body, which barely goes beyond the palm of a hand, abandons its inert state. It recognizes its habitat in a stream in Puerto Vallarta, where it begins to walk among the leaf litter, the shade of the trees and the intense sunlight of May.
“Casquito de Vallarta” is part of a micro-endemic species, unique in the world and one of the most threatened by urban growth in this tourist destination.
For 21 years there was not a discovery for the Jalisco Coast. On May 18, the information was published in the scientific journal Chelonian conservation and biology .
However, the outlook is not flattering for “casquito de Vallarta”, since the researchers of the University Center of the Coast (CUCosta) of UdeG, in more than 25 years of work in the region, have only seen 20 copies, and urban growth is predicted to be deteriorating its habitat.
The academician of the campus and one of the discoverers, Dr. Fabio Germán Cupul Magaña, explains that they have found the turtle in modified environments, which together with the low number of species since of the nine specimens collected, only two are females, it is at risk of extinction.
The inhabitant of Vallarta, Ignacio Chávez, has had to see the port grow “with its good and bad habits”. He likes camping, fishing, hunting, and knows several types of turtles, although he does not remember having seen the species just described. Considers that it may have been affected by the city’s growth and pollution.
A few years ago “everything was very clean: the sea, the rivers and everything was fun for us”, but after the growth of Vallarta, rivers and ponds have been contaminated, says Chávez.
Against this background, the UdeG researcher suggests that a program of conservation of the species is urgently needed, explorations in the area to find more populations and a reproduction work, which will begin in the UJAT, and is expected to be carried out in the CUC.
The above is vital given that the impact that would cause its extinction is unknown. “That is still more risky; we do not know what other species are related to them, they can disappear or be harmed,” he emphasizes, adding that the species can be an icon of conservation in this area of Jalisco.
The discovery was triggered by the restlessness of residents, who informed UdeG researchers that there was a different turtle. This was 25 years ago, when the university students carried out biological inventories in the area and it was not until a few years ago that they set out to evaluate and validate that it was a new species.
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The newly discovered turtle was named scientifically as Kinosternon Vogti, in honor of the American herpetologist Richard Vogt, who for more than 40 years has worked with turtles from the United States, Mexico and Central America.
The identification work was headed by the researcher of the UJAT, Dr. Marco Antonio López Luna, together with Cupul Magaña and others.
What distinguishes “casquito de Vallarta” from other turtles, according to Cupul Magaña, is that “the largest specimens that we have found in the area do not exceed 10 centimeters, while the other species that are here double that size. In addition, the carapace is much wider than high,” he said.