The Ecuadoran glassfrog whose heart can be seen beating

New species is already under threat from oil exploration in Amazon, warn scientists

Ecuadoran and US researchers have discovered a new species of glassfrog in the Amazon jungle. The amphibian, which has been named Hyalinobatrachium yaku, differs from other glassfrogs due to the dark green spots it has on its head and body, as well as having a longer and louder song and transparent skin, through which its heart can be seen beating.

The newly discovered species of glassfrog is so transparent its heart can be seen beating.
The newly discovered species of glassfrog is so transparent its heart can be seen beating.Jaime Culebras
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La rana de cristal que muestra su corazón

In a study published in the US scientific journal ZooKeys, researchers at Ecuador’s Quito University explain that the ventral pleats of the Hyalinobatrachium species are transparent, meaning that its organs are visible, but not all glassfrogs have hearts that can be seen through their chests. In some, the organ appears white, but in the yaku the blood can be seen as red.

Another peculiarity of the amphibian is its reproductive behavior: males look after the eggs until they hatch and fall into running water. The researchers warn that the newly discovered species is already at risk of extinction due to oil exploration and production in the area. “Water, in the form of streams, is fundamental for the reproductive biology of all glassfrogs. Water pollution, mainly through oil and mining activities, represents one of the biggest threats for Amazonian amphibians, as well as for numerous other water-dependent species,” they write in the ZooKeys article.

Water pollution represents one of the biggest threats for Amazonian amphibians

Road-building is also a threat to the frogs. The research team says that a road close to the area of San José de Payamino, around 100 kilometers west of Quito, close to the Sumaco Galeras National Park, has impacted on H.yaku populations, noting that no communities were found within a kilometer of the highway.

“Glassfrogs presumably require continuous tracts of forest to interact with nearby populations, and roads potentially act as barriers to dispersal for transient individuals, such as those documented at San José de Payamino,” notes the article in ZooKeys, which concludes with a call to the Ecuadoran authorities to take measures to protect the habitat the species lives in.

English version by Nick Lyne.


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