Palm Phytotelmata from the Yasuni

Fallen flower bracts of the stilt-root palm, Iriatea deltoidea, impound up to five liters of rainwater in lowland Ecuador, and approximately one third of all falling bracts form an aquatic habitat. Although abundance of water- filled bract habitats varies greatly during the year, some bracts retain water up to four months. Over 450 fallen bracts were surveyed for their insect and anuran inhabitants during the course of two years in a lowland rainforest in eastern Ecuador. Insects from 10 orders and over 24 families were found utilizing bracts in some fashion. Of these, three orders and 10 families contained truly aquatic members. Two species of dendrobatids (Anura) were also found breeding in fallen bracts. Dipterous larvae, especially mosquitoes, were the most common insects. The presence of high numbers of dytiscid beetles makes this habitat unique among tropical phytotelmata. The size, abundance, and longevity of water-filled bract habitats, in conjunction with their rich fauna, suggest they are important phytotelmata habitats in eastern Ecuador, and their discrete nature makes them an ideal system for exploring many aspects of the biology of their inhabitants by Harold Greeney. (www.yanayacu.org)