Scientists have found a new transparent amphibian in the Ecuadorian forest
A new species of frog has been discovered in the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador. The amphibian, named Hyalinobatrachium yaku, is a glass frog – members of this family (Centrolenidae) have transparent abdominal skin on their undersides, leaving their internal organs visible. H. yaku is just 2 centimetres (0.8 inches) in length, and has been found in only three locations in the lowlands.
The new species, described last month after expeditions and DNA analysis, closely resembles its close relatives, probably because they live in similar conditions. Identifying species has been made harder by the fact that preserved specimens lose the colours that allow them to be recognised when alive, so records of living appearance, call, location and behaviour must be used by scientists on expeditions.
H. yaku differs from the others in its dark green dorsal spots, characteristically long call and unusual mating behaviour. The males call from underneath leaves and later protect and care for egg clutches deposited on the underside of a leaf. These eggs hang over the stream, and hatching tadpoles drop into the water below. Yaku means water in Kichwa, a language of indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Amazon, as water is vital for the reproduction of glassfrogs.
This reliance on clean water for their life cycle makes H. yaku and all its relatives vulnerable to threats from human activity. Pollution from mining and oil could affect its ability to breed, but its conservation status is not yet known. Given that frogs were found at three locations at some distance from each other, the scientists think that the species may have a wider distribution, perhaps reaching into neighbouring Peru.
In the last decade, 100-200 new amphibian species have been identified every year, but this tiny, transparent frog is still pretty special.
(Photo credit: Guayasamin et al. Original report can be found at: http://zookeys.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=12108)