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New species of high altitude frogs discovered in Peru – No tadpoles

14/09/2009 14:41:20

Characteristic orange coloration in Bryophryne hanssaueri from Manu National Park, Peru.

High altitude frogs discovered in Peru - Courtesy of A. Catenazzi
September 2009. Researchers from the Illinois Wesleyan University and the University of California, Berkeley have recently described three new species of high-elevation frogs from southern Peru. The frogs belong to the genus Bryophryne, and the three new forms double the number of currently known Bryophryne species from three to six. All three species live in cloud forests on the eastern slopes of the Andes above 3200 m. These high-elevation cloud forests are home to a large number of endemic species.

One of the new species, B. gymnotis, differs from all species of Bryophryne in having a tympanum and in having males that produce advertisement calls. This species inhabits the cloud forests around Abra Malaga, 25 km north of the Inca fortress of Ollyantaytambo.

The second new species, B. hanssaueri, has an orange throat and groin and occurs in the upper Manu National Park. A similar species, B. nubilosus, was recently described from the same area, and does not seem to co-occur with B. hanssaueri, because it inhabits the cloud forest at lower elevations. The discovery of a new species in the upper Manu was a surprise, because high-elevation habitats have been well sampled in Manu over the past decade.

Female of Bryophryne hanssaueri guarding eggs.

Female of Bryophryne hanssaueri guarding eggs.

Surprise discoveries
The third new species, B. zonalis has the throat and chest mottled pale gray and tan, while the belly is black with white flecks. This species is only known from the upper Marcapata valley along the inter-oceanic highway connecting Brazil to Peru. Increasing human disturbance associated with this highway, which is currently being paved, along with proposals to develop hydroelectric facilities are serious threats to biodiversity in the region.

No tadpoles - Eggs hatch into froglets
The three new species are small frogs, up to 24 mm long in females and 19 mm in males. In contrast to most amphibian species, eggs of these frogs are laid in moist, terrestrial microhabitats, such as under mosses or the leaf litter, and embryos do not develop
Froglets hatch directly from terrestrial eggs in species of Bryophryne. This is a newly hatched B. hanssaueri measuring less than 5 mm.

Froglets hatch directly from terrestrial eggs in species of Bryophryne. This is a newly hatched B. hanssaueri measuring less than 5 mm.

into aquatic tadpoles. Instead, minute froglets hatch from the eggs to lead a fully terrestrial life. The mother remain near the eggs to protect them from insect predators and dessication. Clutches contain 18-25 eggs that measure approximately 4-5 mm in diameter. Recently hatched froglets measure approximately 5 mm in snout-vent length.

Dr. Edgar Lehr from the Illinois Wesleyan University and Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi from the University of California at Berkeley are describing the new species in a paper published in the last issue of the South American Journal of Herpetology. The new species was discovered during field work funded by the Amazon Conservation Association, the Rufford Small Grants Foundation, the Chicago Board of Trade Endangered Species Fund and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group.



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