A team of US and Ecuadorian scientists has discovered two new species of glass frogs in the tropical Andes of Ecuador . Glass frogs are known for their translucent undersides that reveal their interior.
A treasure trove of biodiversity
Along the western coast of South America, this region is home to tens of thousands of species of plants and animals that only live there and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
“Many of these sites are incredibly remote, which is one of the reasons we were able to discover new species,” explains Becca Brunner, co-author of the study published in the journal PeerJ. “You can walk just a couple of miles over a ridge and find a different community of frogs than where you started.”
New inhabitants of the cloud forest
The frogs were discovered near active mining areas in the Andes and have been named the Mashpi glass frog ( Hyalinobatrachium mashpi ) and the Hyalinobatrachium nouns glass frog .
Both creatures coexist at approximately the same altitude, in very similar humidity and temperature conditions. DNA analysis of both new species similarly confirmed that they are distinct species, with a substantial difference in their genetic makeup. Both animals look quite alike, though, with transparent bellies revealing their red hearts, white livers, digestive systems, and, in the case of females, green eggs . Both measure between 1.9 and 2.1 centimeters from the snout to the cloaca and their backs are lime green dotted with black dots arranged around yellow spots.
Most of the individuals were found on the underside of leaves, where the females lay their eggs and where both the male and female stay to care for them.
are already threatened
The researchers who have described the recently identified species of glass frogs have sounded the alarm about the delicate conservation situation of these amphibians, as they are found near the mining deposits in the Andes in Ecuador. Hence, they have recommended that both species be included in the list of endangered species in accordance with the guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature , the organization that maintains the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a catalog that tracks the conservation status of animals and plants.
“The problem is not finding new species, the real challenge is having the time and resources to describe them,” says biologist Juan M. Guayasamin from the University of San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador.
The frogs live in forested regions that have suffered from agriculture-related deforestation in recent decades. The humid and temperature conditions that make the Andean cloud forests a true paradise also for farmers. Frogs rely on skin respiration to breathe underwater, a process in which gas exchange occurs through the skin, rather than the lungs or gills, leaving them highly vulnerable to pollution related to Water.
“The few patches that remain are now under pressure from mining activities, which are highly polluting and are opposed by numerous local communities,” Guayasamín explains.
“If a mining company comes in and destroys the few streams where we know these frogs exist, it probably means the extinction of the species,” concludes study co-author Becca Brunner.
Referencia: Juan M. Guayasamin et al, Two new glassfrogs (Centrolenidae: Hyalinobatrachium) from Ecuador, with comments on the endangered biodiversity of the Andes, PeerJ (2022). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.13109