A red frog faces tough odds in Ecuador

Source: Latin American Science

A few years ago, during a field expedition into the cold Andean highlands of the Cajas Massif in southern Ecuador, my brother Juan Carlos and other researchers from the Universidad del Azuay discovered a stunning red frog. The species turned out to be unique to this high mountain ecosystem and its coloring unprecedented – its closest kin, which are usually smaller, generally exhibit camouflaging or “cryptic” brown colors. The frog is also exceedingly rare. Despite several trips to this massif, Juan Carlos and his team could only find this frog in a single locality.

El Cajas Massif is a partially explored and poorly known region that in 2013 was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. That’s about the time Juan Carlos and his team of young herpetologists began organizing expeditions to the massif to a patchy habitat between 3,000 and 4,000 meters.

In 2014, this rare red rain-frog was captured. When the physical and genetic analyses were completed, it was determined that the frog belonged to the Pristimantis group, a Greek name apparently meaning “Arboreal Frogs from the Sierra.” In English, they are named “rain-frogs.” One particularity of the rain-frog is that they do not have a larval stage – meaning they are never tadpoles. When new rain-frogs come into this world they are just teeny-tiny versions of their parents. This is an advantage – it can survive independent of a body of water.