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Cabinet of Curiosities: Lake Titicaca water frog

November 28, 2013
Illustration by P. Roetter, Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology

Illustration by P. Roetter, Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology

One of the largest completely aquatic frogs in the world, the Lake Titicaca water frog grows to the size of a salad plate in its home over 3,800 metres above sea level and avoids the harshest elements of a high-altitude life by spending all its time under the water. Rejoicing in the Latin name of Telmatobius culeus – “aquatic scrotum,” the frog has a bizarre set of adaptations to deal with its lifestyle.

People have been fascinated with the frog since ancient times, when it was believed to have the power to call rain, with more recent admirers including the Victorian explorers who christened it and Jacques Cousteau. But the frog is now suffering from its popularity – it suffers from over-collection (though the reason might surprise you!) as well as pollution and loss of habitat, invasive predators, and fishing of its favorite prey, the ipsi, may also be playing a role, while the chytrid fungus remains a looming threat. The population has fallen by about 80% in fifteen years. Plans to save the critically endangered frog include captive breeding programs in Peru, Bolivia and abroad, and potentially large-scale frog farming.

To find out more about this amazing animal – recently ranked as one of the ugliest creatures on the planet – check out it and the other weird and wonderful species in the BioFresh Cabinet of Freshwater Curiosities!

ARKive video – Lake Titicaca frog

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