Once thought extinct, bizarre horned frog reappears in Ecuador





The horned marsupial frog (Gastrotheca cornuta) is a nocturnal amphibian that lives high in the canopy of well-preserved tropical rainforests.


Unseen for more than a decade, the enigmatic and endangered horned marsupial frog has reappeared in an Ecuadorian forest, to biologists’ delight.

The frog’s looks are striking: It has horn-like skin flaps above its eyes and irises of gold. But this nocturnal tree-dweller is best known for its bizarre reproduction, which recalls a kangaroo’s. Eggs develop in a pouch on the mother’s back, and they hatch out as fully formed froglets rather than tadpoles. (See “5 Strange Ways Animal Mothers Carry Their Babies.”)

A team of biologists discovered the frog while exploring a remote part of the Chocó region in western Ecuador, just outside the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve. The biologists, from the conservation and ecotour group Tropical Herping, heard frog calls they didn’t recognize, and turned their flashlights on the palm leaves.


The horned marsupial frog had not been seen in Ecuador since 2005—until 2018. Its horn-shaped “eyebrows” and its capacity to carry its eggs in a pouch on its body, skipping the tadpole stage, make it highly unusual. Photograph by Sebastian Di Domenico, Tropical Herping

When they finally spied the noise-maker by its shining eyes and realized it was Gastrotheca cornuta, the horned marsupial frog, “we were so excited we started jumping up and down,” says team member Sebastian Di Domenico. They were able to collect four individuals, including a pregnant female, suggesting a stable population in a rare patch of healthy forest.

Ecuador is a known hotspot for amphibian biodiversity: At least 589 species live within its borders (with new discoveries reported each year), and 45 percent of those are endemic, meaning they’re found nowhere else.

Yet these animals are in danger, because the country has the highest rate of deforestation in South America, losing around two percent per year (closer to three percent in the South), according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Ecuador is now the second largest exporter of palm oil in Latin America, and commercial ventures such as agriculture, roads, oil palm, cacao and banana plantations, and drilling and mining operations are expanding.

“Finding a rare or presumed-extinct frog like G. cornuta is surprising and encouraging,” says Luis Coloma, who directs Centro Jambatu, an amphibian research and conservation organization based in Quito. He notes that at least five other marsupial-frog species of Ecuador “have not been sighted for more than three decades.”

“These are survivors of the relatively new and highly dangerous threats of climate change and pathogens like the deadly chytrid fungus, plus the traditional threats like habitat loss,” he says. But their continued persistence, he adds, is far from assured.



According to a report by the UN’s FAO and the World Bank in 2006, Ecuador’s deforestation rate ranks ninth in the world and the highest in South America. Photograph by Lucas Bustamante, Tropical Herping


Source: National Geographic




Arno Ambrosius
Mariana Almeida
David Dunham
Gustavo López Ospina
Gertjan Storm
Editor: Pieter Jan Brouwer

“Amazon Pink Dolphin” is the official blog of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras. The intention of the blog is to generate debate on environmental issues; the Amazon Rain forest in particular. Contributions and support are done on a voluntary basis and do not imply institutional affiliation. Similarly opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the official position of SVSF.


All Title photographs of ” Amazon Pink Dolphin” are the creation of Kevin Schafer.

















~ by SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras on 12 December, 2018.

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