The glass frog, or Centrolenidae, family of amphibians is exceptional for many reasons. These frogs get their name from their bellies, which are transparent and reveal their internal organs. Some members of the family even have green bones and, according to Amphibiaweb.org, the pigment in these frogs’ skin reflects at the same wavelength of infrared radiation as plants.
Though Mother Nature may not have built glass frogs themselves to be fragile, humans have ensured that a precarious existence. In Ecuador, nearly half of the habitats suitable for these beautiful animals have been deforested (Cisneros-Heredia, 2008). For example, at Yanayacu Biological Station, only three individuals of Buckley’s Giant Glass Frog (Centrolene buckleyi) were found after an intensive three-year inventory effort by Itapoa Tropical Rainforest Reserve colleague Juan Manuel Guayasamin. Elsewhere in Ecuador, where species were once abundant (for example, Pilaló, Cashca Totoras and Zamorahaico), they are now nearly or completely absent (Bustamante et al., 2005; J.M. Guayasamin, pers. comm. 2008). In addition to rapid habitat loss, climate change, trout and an amphibian fungal disease called chytridiomycosis have wreaked havoc on glass frog populations.
Ecuador is one of the most important countries in the world for research and conservation of amphibians because of its exceptional diversity and high levels of endemism. Nearly 527 species of amphibians have been described, between 200 and 250 species are awaiting descriptions and 41 percent of Ecuador’s amphibians are found nowhere else in the world. Ecuador’s amphibians make up about 7.4 percent of the world’s diversity. Despite this high diversity, amphibians have been affected by numerous threats, resulting in the possible extinction of at least 15 species and drastic declines of no less than 155 species. This figure may actually even be underestimated because for about 153 species, the data are insufficient to accurately determine their status.
The extant populations of these species are facing deforestation through their entire range. Given the threats these species face, in situ management is an urgently needed proactive solution to save the extant populations from extinction. Previous efforts to monitor breeding of glass frogs have been relatively minor and unsuccessful. Thus, the project’s objectives and activities are directed at:
- Finding additional founder breeding locations
- Adequately equipping the in situ locations (fauna monitoring, planting, if necessary, water quality testing in streams)
- Continually documenting each of the project’s steps and findings
- Increasing and monitoring reproduction
- Recording data that will help us better understand the overall breeding behaviors of these species
Nicarague Giant Glass Frog (Espadarana prosoblepon), White-spotted Cochran Frog (Sachatamia albomaculata), Limon Giant Glass Frog (Sachatamia ilex), Mache Glass Frog (Cochranella mache), Spiny Cochran Frog (Teratohyla spinosa)