Amphibians such as frogs, toads and salamanders are vital to the ecosystem of the tropics and Ecuador in particular, is an amphibian hotspot!
Reappers in Amphibian Paradise
Most frog species in the country are small and nocturnal, but we have over 600 species, being the 4th country in the world that holds more amphibian species (after Brazil, Colombia and Peru.) And even though Ecuador is 4th in number of species, it is actually the country with the most abundance of amphibians per area in the world!
This fact isn’t widely recognized despite of the astounding discoveries that keep demonstrating us just how biodiverse the Ecuadorian cloud forest really is when it comes to amphibians. For instance, the Chocó region, one of the most biodiverse areas in Ecuadorian territories was witness to an amazing discovery just last year. By the end of 2018, biologists studying the area had found a frog species that was thought to be extinct.
The horned frog (scientific name: Gastrotheca cornuta) hadn’t been seen for at least a decade, until it reappeared in the Ecuadorian surroundings of the Cotacachi-Cayapas reserve in 2018. According to the biologists who were exploring the cloud forest at night, they recall hearing a noise coming from a frog they couldn’t quite identify. They turned on their flashlights and explored the nearby grounds and trees until they saw a horned frog…. And then two and three and eventually 5! This was great news, not only because the species was believed to be extinct but because the numbers indicated there could be a stable population of horned frogs living inside the reserve.
If you’ve never seen a horned frog, these are some of its characteristics:
-eyebrows that look like horns above its eyes
-eggs develop in a pouch on their bodies (more specifically, their backs)
-when eggs hatch they are already froglets (they don’t hatch as tadpoles like other frogs but skip this stage!)
The threats that the horned marsupial frog and many other frog species face include forest destruction/habitat tampering, pollution from fumigation, and the spread of infectious diseases. As visitors and as locals, we have a responsibility to protect the environment of these animals and be respectful when visiting reserves and forests.
The reappearance of the horned frog gives us hope that Ecuador continues to be an amphibians paradise- but we have to make sure we allow it to be!
Info: PUCE Anfibios del Ecuador- National Geographic UK (Jennifer S. Holland)