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Concept: Peru


In 1985, a frozen mummy was found in Cerro Aconcagua (Argentina). Archaeological studies identified the mummy as a seven-year-old Inca sacrifice victim who lived >500 years ago, at the time of the expansion of the Inca Empire towards the southern cone. The sequence of its entire mitogenome was obtained. After querying a large worldwide database of mitogenomes (>28,000) we found that the Inca haplotype belonged to a branch of haplogroup C1b (C1bi) that has not yet been identified in modern Native Americans. The expansion of C1b into the Americas, as estimated using 203 C1b mitogenomes, dates to the initial Paleoindian settlements (~18.3 thousand years ago [kya]); however, its internal variation differs between Mesoamerica and South America. By querying large databases of control region haplotypes (>150,000), we found only a few C1bi members in Peru and Bolivia (e.g. Aymaras), including one haplotype retrieved from ancient DNA of an individual belonging to the Wari Empire (Peruvian Andes). Overall, the results suggest that the profile of the mummy represents a very rare sub-clade that arose 14.3 (5-23.6) kya and could have been more frequent in the past. A Peruvian Inca origin for present-day C1bi haplotypes would satisfy both the genetic and paleo-anthropological findings.

Concepts: South America, Americas, Argentina, Latin America, Chile, Andes, Peru, Inca Empire


Developing countries are increasingly decentralizing forest governance by granting indigenous groups and other local communities formal legal title to land. However, the effects of titling on forest cover are unclear. Rigorous analyses of titling campaigns are rare, and related theoretical and empirical research suggests that they could either stem or spur forest damage. We analyze such a campaign in the Peruvian Amazon, where more than 1,200 indigenous communities comprising some 11 million ha have been titled since the mid-1970s. We use community-level longitudinal data derived from high-resolution satellite images to estimate the effect of titling between 2002 and 2005 on contemporaneous forest clearing and disturbance. Our results indicate that titling reduces clearing by more than three-quarters and forest disturbance by roughly two-thirds in a 2-y window spanning the year title is awarded and the year afterward. These results suggest that awarding formal land titles to local communities can advance forest conservation.

Concepts: South America, United Nations, Bolivia, Amazon Basin, Indigenous peoples, Title, Peru, Amazon Rainforest


Madre de Dios is located in the southeastern Amazonian region of Peru. Rodents have been estimated to be the reservoirs for up to 50 % of emerging zoonotic pathogens, including a host of viruses, bacteria, and parasites. As part of a larger study involving both human and animal research, this study serves to obtain a broader understanding of the key challenges and concerns related to health and rodent-borne illnesses from the perspective of the people living in these communities.

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Bacteria, Microbiology, Amazon River, Brazil, Peru, Madre de Dios Region


We describe a new species of small strabomantid frog (genusPsychrophrynella) from a humid montane forest in the Peruvian Department of Puno. Specimens were collected at 2,225 m a.s.l. in the leaf litter of primary montane forest near Thiuni, along the Macusani-San Gabán road, in the province of Carabaya. The new species is assigned toPsychrophrynellaon the basis of morphological similarity, including presence of a tubercle on the inner edge of the tarsus, and call composed of multiple notes. We also include genetic distances for 16S rRNA partial sequences between the new species and other strabomantid frogs. The species with lowest genetic distances arePsychrophrynella chirihampatuandPsychrophrynella usurpator. Psychrophrynella glaucasp. n. is readily distinguished from the three other species ofPsychrophrynella(Psychrophrynella bagrecito,P. chirihampatu, andP. usurpator) by its small size, and by having belly and ventral surfaces of legs reddish-brown or red, and chest and throat brown to dark brown with a profusion of bluish-gray flecks. The new species is only known from its type locality. With the discovery ofP. glauca, the geographic distribution ofPsychrophrynellais extended to the Department of Puno, where it was no longer represented after the description of the genusMicrokayla. Furthermore, the Cordillera de Carabaya is the only mountain range known to be home to four of the seven genera of Holoadeninae (Bryophryne,Microkayla,Noblella, andPsychrophrynella), suggesting an intriguing evolutionary history for this group in southern Peru.

Concepts: Evolution, Forest, Montane, Amphibian, Frog, Peru


State-controlled protected areas (PAs) have dominated conservation strategies globally, yet their performance relative to other governance regimes is rarely assessed comprehensively. Furthermore, performance indicators of forest PAs are typically restricted to deforestation, although the extent of forest degradation is greater. We address these shortfalls through an empirical impact evaluation of state PAs, Indigenous Territories (ITs), and civil society and private Conservation Concessions (CCs) on deforestation and degradation throughout the Peruvian Amazon. We integrated remote-sensing data with environmental and socio-economic datasets, and used propensity-score matching to assess: (i) how deforestation and degradation varied across governance regimes between 2006-2011; (ii) their proximate drivers; and (iii) whether state PAs, CCs and ITs avoided deforestation and degradation compared with logging and mining concessions, and the unprotected landscape. CCs, state PAs, and ITs all avoided deforestation and degradation compared to analogous areas in the unprotected landscape. CCs and ITs were on average more effective in this respect than state PAs, showing that local governance can be equally or more effective than centralized state regimes. However, there were no consistent differences between conservation governance regimes when matched to logging and mining concessions. Future impact assessments would therefore benefit from further disentangling governance regimes across unprotected land.

Concepts: Evaluation, Assessment, Rainforest, Amazon Basin, Peru, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, Amazon Rainforest, Peruvian Amazon


Gold mining has rapidly increased in western Amazonia, but the rates and ecological impacts of mining remain poorly known and potentially underestimated. We combined field surveys, airborne mapping, and high-resolution satellite imaging to assess road- and river-based gold mining in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon from 1999 to 2012. In this period, the geographic extent of gold mining increased 400%. The average annual rate of forest loss as a result of gold mining tripled in 2008 following the global economic recession, closely associated with increased gold prices. Small clandestine operations now comprise more than half of all gold mining activities throughout the region. These rates of gold mining are far higher than previous estimates that were based on traditional satellite mapping techniques. Our results prove that gold mining is growing more rapidly than previously thought, and that high-resolution monitoring approaches are required to accurately quantify human impacts on tropical forests.

Concepts: Amazon River, Tropical rainforest, Amazon Basin, Recession, Peru, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, Madre de Dios Region, Peruvian Amazon


High-elevation environments above 2500 metres above sea level (m.a.s.l.) were among the planet’s last frontiers of human colonization. Research on the speed and tempo of this colonization process is active and holds implications for understanding rates of genetic, physiological and cultural adaptation in our species. Permanent occupation of high-elevation environments in the Andes Mountains of South America tentatively began with hunter-gatherers around 9 ka according to current archaeological estimates, though the timing is currently debated. Recent observations on the archaeological site of Soro Mik'aya Patjxa (8.0-6.5 ka), located at 3800 m.a.s.l. in the Andean Altiplano, offer an opportunity to independently test hypotheses for early permanent use of the region. This study observes low oxygen (δ(18)O) and high carbon (δ(13)C) isotope values in human bone, long travel distances to low-elevation zones, variable age and sex structure in the human population and an absence of non-local lithic materials. These independent lines of evidence converge to support a model of permanent occupation of high elevations and refute logistical and seasonal use models. The results constitute the strongest empirical support to date for permanent human occupation of the Andean highlands by hunter-gatherers before 7 ka.

Concepts: Scientific method, South America, Bolivia, Andes, Peru, Altiplano, Lake Titicaca, Aconcagua


The Inca Empire is claimed to have driven massive population movements in western South America, and to have spread Quechua, the most widely-spoken language family of the indigenous Americas. A test-case is the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru, reported as a focal point of Inca population displacements. Chachapoyas also spans the environmental, cultural and demographic divides between Amazonia and the Andes, and stands along the lowest-altitude corridor from the rainforest to the Pacific coast. Following a sampling strategy informed by linguistic data, we collected 119 samples, analysed for full mtDNA genomes and Y-chromosome STRs. We report a high indigenous component, which stands apart from the network of intense genetic exchange in the core central zone of Andean civilization, and is also distinct from neighbouring populations. This unique genetic profile challenges the routine assumption of large-scale population relocations by the Incas. Furthermore, speakers of Chachapoyas Quechua are found to share no particular genetic similarity or gene-flow with Quechua speakers elsewhere, suggesting that here the language spread primarily by cultural diffusion, not migration. Our results demonstrate how population genetics, when fully guided by the archaeological, historical and linguistic records, can inform multiple disciplines within anthropology.

Concepts: South America, Bolivia, Andes, Ecuador, Peru, Inca Empire, Quechua, Inca


We mapped the inferred long-distance migrations of four species of Amazonian goliath catfishes (Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii, B. platynemum, B. juruense and B. vaillantii) based on the presence of individuals with mature gonads and conducted statistical analysis of the expected long-distance downstream migrations of their larvae and juveniles. By linking the distribution of larval, juvenile and mature adult size classes across the Amazon, the results showed: (i) that the main spawning regions of these goliath catfish species are in the western Amazon; (ii) at least three species-B. rousseauxii, B. platynemum, and B. juruense-spawn partially or mainly as far upstream as the Andes; (iii) the main spawning area of B. rousseauxii is in or near the Andes; and (iv) the life history migration distances of B. rousseauxii are the longest strictly freshwater fish migrations in the world. These results provide an empirical baseline for tagging experiments, life histories extrapolated from otolith microchemistry interpretations and other methods to establish goliath catfish migratory routes, their seasonal timing and possible return (homing) to western headwater tributaries where they were born.

Concepts: Fish, Human migration, Amazon River, South America, Amazon Basin, Andes, Catfish, Peru


Genetic data in studies of systematics of Amazonian amphibians frequently reveal that purportedly widespread single species in reality comprise species complexes. This means that real species richness may be significantly higher than current estimates. Here we combine genetic, morphological, and bioacoustic data to assess the phylogenetic relationships and species boundaries of two Amazonian species of the Dendropsophus leucophyllatus species group: D. leucophyllatus and D. triangulum. Our results uncovered the existence of five confirmed and four unconfirmed candidate species. Among the confirmed candidate species, three have available names: Dendropsophus leucophyllatus, Dendropsophus triangulum, and Dendropsophus reticulatus, this last being removed from the synonymy of D. triangulum. A neotype of D. leucophyllatus is designated. We describe the remaining two confirmed candidate species, one from Bolivia and another from Peru. All confirmed candidate species are morphologically distinct and have much smaller geographic ranges than those previously reported for D. leucophyllatus and D. triangulum sensu lato. Dendropsophus leucophyllatus sensu stricto occurs in the Guianan region. Dendropsophus reticulatus comb. nov. corresponds to populations in the Amazon basin of Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru previously referred to as D. triangulum. Dendropsophus triangulum sensu stricto is the most widely distributed species; it occurs in Amazonian Ecuador, Peru and Brazil, reaching the state of Pará. We provide accounts for all described species including an assessment of their conservation status.

Concepts: Species, Amazon River, Brazil, South America, Amazon Basin, Andes, Peru, Amazon Rainforest