I like to know who my readers are, and when “Lou” sent me that picture yesterday of a caecelian trying to nom an earthworm, and added that he helped run EcoMinga, a string of biodiversity refuges in Ecuador, I looked him up. It turns out that Lou Jost is something of a biological polymath, and well worth introducing to you. Check out his website; he not only manages EcoMinga, but is an accomplished painter, photographer, research scientist, and orchid collector and identifier. In fact, he discovered the world’s smallest orchid, a so-far-unnamed species in the genus Platystele, in 2009. It’s so small that you could place twelve flowers along a one-inch line. As the Independent reports:
Lou Jost, an American botanist, found the tiny orchid by accident when he was inspecting a plant collected from the Cerro Candelaria reserve in the eastern Andes, which was created by Ecuador’s EcoMinga Foundation in partnership with the World Land Trust in Britain.
The plant is just 2.1 mm wide, and instantly supercedes the species Platystele jungermannioides as the world’s smallest orchid. The petals are so thin that they are just one cell thick and transparent.
The flower is just one of 60 new orchids and 10 other plant species that Dr Jost has discovered in the past decade. “I found it among the roots of another plant that I had collected, another small orchid which I took back to grow in my greenhouse to get it to flower,” he said of his latest discovery. “A few months later I saw that down among the roots was a tiny little plant that I realised was more interesting than the bigger orchid.
Here’s a photo by Jost: note that the orchid is against a ruler, and the lines are 1 mm apart.
Here’s a view of the previous contender, Platystele jungermannoides, now the world’s second-smallest orchid (from Orchids Wiki):
And here are two of Lou’s paintings (you can see more here; some are for sale). Here’s an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis):
and a crimson-rumped toucanet (Aulacorhynchus haematopygus):
Jost notes (and this is new to me) that these frogs can change their color:
These frogs can change color, and their appearance depends on the time of day and their mood. The frog above was photographed at night, and shows its lime green night colors. The frog [below] is the same species, photographed during the day. I was lucky enough to find it clinging to a leaf along a trail.
Here’s Jost (left) presenting David Attenborough with a photograph (and the naming rights) to a new species of tree that Jost discovered on his reserve:
Anyway, if you’re a reader who studies cool animals or plants, or even average ones, feel free to send along your best photos. I can’t guarantee putting up all of them, but it would be nice to see each other’s research organisms. Anyway, kudos to Lou for helping save the rain forest and for documenting its denizens.