Amazonian see-through glass frog is under threat of extinction

A newly discovered glass frog species whose beating heart is visible through its chest is already under threat of extinction, because its habitat is threatened by oil exploitation.

The frog (Hyalinobatrachium yaku) lives in the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador.

“Not all glass frogs have hearts that are visible through the chest. In some, the heart itself is white, so you don’t see the red blood,” said Paul Hamilton, of the American non-profit organisation called the Biodiversity Group. Glass frogs need pristine (pure) streams to breed. “If the stream dries up, or becomes polluted, the frogs can’t survive,” said Hamilton.

Glass frog - Jaime Culebras

glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium yaku)

Identified through a combination of fieldwork in Ecuador and DNA sequencing in the laboratory in 2017, the new species of glass frog has dark green spots on its back and its call and reproductive behaviour mark it out as different from already known frogs.

“Males guard the eggs, which are attached below a tree’s leaves, until they hatch and fall in the water stream below,” said Juan Guayasamin of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. “I work with frogs every day and this is one of the most beautiful species I have ever seen.”

It’s not known why different species have different levels of transparency, but this frog will help scientists understand the evolutionary pattern that led to frogs being like glass.

“Amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate class on the planet,” said Ariadne Angulo of the amphibian specialist group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature. “The group’s species richness has not been fully discovered yet. Since 2005, we have been identifying between 100 and 200 new amphibian species per year.”

She added, “because there are so many undiscovered amphibian species out there, given our current rate of environmental degradation, some may become extinct before we even know them.”

New Scientist magazine, 25 May 2017

Journal reference: ZooKeys, DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.673.12108

Photographer: Jaime Culebras

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