Lake Titicaca Water Frog

ANIMAL:
Lake Titicaca Water Frog Telmatobius culeus

Type of Animal:
Frog

Habitat:
Lakes, rivers w/ mixed sand-mud/sandy/muddy bottoms & rocks and/or aquatic plants, rivers adjacent to lakes, small lagoons, small ponds near lakes, warm springs

Location(s):
Lake Titicaca in Peru & Bolivia as well as smaller connected lakes/rivers/water bodies

Appearance:
Grayish to brownish to greenish to blackish above & paler below, large frog, sometimes has marbled pattern, permanent loose fibrous glandular skin folds hanging from side/dorsal area/hind legs give baggy appearance, rounded snout, large flat head

Food/Diet:
Amphipods, snails, copepods, water fleas, insects, aquatic insect larvae, tadpoles, smaller individuals of own species, fish, worms

Status in Wild:
Endangered

Conservation:
Breeding in zoos, wildlife breeding centers, & aquariums. Given full protection in 2014 in Peru. Cooperative conservation projects between Peru & Bolivia. Possibility of ecotours where tourists can snorkel in wetsuit & see frogs being considered at Isla De La Luna in Bolivia (important stronghold for this species). 1st fully successful captive breeding occurred at Huachipa Zoo in Lima in 2010. 1st zoo in N Hemisphere to breed species was Denver Zoo, which obtained specimens bred at Huachipa Zoo, successfully breed them in 2017-2018 (2 years after arrival). Since then, Denver offspring transferred to other US institutions as well as England’s Chester Zoo, which helped distribute species across Europe. In 2020, scientists from Bolivia’s Science & Natural History Museums, Peru’s Cayetano Heredia University, Ecuador’s Pontifical Catholic University, Denver Zoo, & NGO NaturalWay teamed together.

Lifestyle:
Solitary or small colonies of 3-7 frogs

Additional Info:

Called:
Male
Female
Young: Tadpole
Group: Colony
 
Weight:
Male: 0.55-0.9 lbs
Female: 0.9-2 lbs
 
Gestation:
1-2 weeks

Life Span:
20 years

Body Length:
Male: 1.6-5 in
Female: 3.5-8 in

Adult frogs prey on young frogs & introduced trout eat tadpoles.
 
Populations slowly increasing & recently downlisted from critically endangered to endangered. Threats include trout predation on tadpoles, water pollution, runoff, mining, poaching for food/medicine/pet trade/skins, agriculture, algal blooms, habitat degradation, & chytrid fungus.
 
This species often consumed as food/drink/medicine. Often poached to make “frog juice” in which raw skinned frogs blended w/ ingredients such as maca root & honey. This drink sold as aphrodisiac believed to treat anemia/tuberculosis/infertility/asthma/fever/osteoporosis.
 
Females lay 80-500 eggs, which hatch into tadpoles a week or 2 later & stay in that stage until becoming froglets at close to a year old & reaching maturity a year after that. These frogs completely aquatic, never leaving water.

Fun Fact(s):
These frogs contender for “ugliest animal” by Ugly Animal Preservation Society-British organization attempting to draw attention to animals that lack charisma.
 
Regarded as a flagship species of Lake Titicaca.
 
These frogs have been seen in water as deep as 400 ft.
 
Often jokingly called “scrotum frog” due to loose baggy skin.

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