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Myrmecophila thomsoniana

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
PLANTAE TRACHEOPHYTA LILIOPSIDA ORCHIDALES ORCHIDACEAE

Scientific Name: Myrmecophila thomsoniana
Species Authority: (Rchb.f.) Rolfe
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Banana Orchid
Synonym(s):
Schomburgkia thomsoniana Rchb.f.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A3bc ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2014-01-16
Assessor(s): Burton, F.J. & Roberts, A.
Reviewer(s): Rankou, H.
Justification:
This species is assessed as Endangered based on the projected human population growth trend (Pedley 2007) and its inevitable impact on the suitable habitat of this species. In the future, within three generations for this species, it is estimated that habitat loss will be in the range of 48% to 77%. Using the precautionary principle, we therefore classify this species as Endangered based on a projected reduction which is very likely to exceed 50%. The protection of this species habitat is essential to guarantee its future.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This is the Cayman Islands' national flower and is a species unique to and present on all three of the Cayman Islands (Proctor 2012), Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 1,467 km2 based on the minimum convex polygon encompassing the land area of all three islands but excluding the heavily developed West Bay peninsular where there are no recorded occurrences of this species. The area of occupancy (AOO) of 276 km2 was calculated based on the total land area of the three islands excluding the unoccupied area referred to above as mapped by Burton (2008). The variety thomsoniana occurs on Grand Cayman, and var. minor on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
Countries:
Native:
Cayman Islands
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The estimated generation length for this species is between 20 and 30 years. The population was calculated to be 1,234,000 mature individuals in the year 2000 (Burton 2008). This estimate was based on observed population density in multiple sample sites in suitable habitats throughout the Cayman Islands combined with land cover mapping that defined the areas of remaining habitat, as mapped by Burton (2008). Reconstruction of historic deforestation rates suggests that the past population of this species three generations ago was of the order of 1.6 million individuals. Due to current deforestation rate, visually estimated to be of the order of 3 km2 over the last decade, we estimate the 2013 population to be approximately 1.2 million individuals. Deforestation rates are believed to have been exponential in proportion with recorded human population growth (Pedley 2007). Human population is currently doubling every 12 years, implying that the future population of this species in 60 to 90 years time will be of the order of 300,000 to 600,000.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The sister Isles' variety differs most obviously from the Grand Cayman form in having yellow, rather than cream flowers. Flowers normally appear in April to June. As the pseudobulb grows ahead, the trailing structure dies behind, slowly migrating along the tree trunk or branch. Banana Orchids have inherited hollow pseudobulbs with entrances, and extra-floral nectaries on the flower stalks from ancestors on the Central American mainland. There they are occupied by stinging ants which protect the orchid, and in turn gain food and shelter. In the Cayman Islands the pseudobulbs are only occasionally occupied by ants, and small Anolis lizards are the most frequent visitors to the nectaries. Banana Orchids are common throughout dry forest and shrubland habitats on all three islands.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is sometimes collected and used as an ornamental flower for local gardens.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In the past, commercial collection for international trade was a threat to this species, especially on Cayman Brac. Such trade is now illegal as a result of the implementation of CITES and has ceased. Accelerating habitat loss is now the major threat, as a result of on going housing and tourism facilities development.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Protection of suitable habitat on all three islands is the most pressing conservation action needed for this species. Trade in this species is regulated by CITES Appendix II. This species is included in the Cayman Islands National Biodiversity Action Plan 2009 (Cottam et al. 2009).

Citation: Burton, F.J. & Roberts, A. 2014. Myrmecophila thomsoniana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 December 2014.
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