Frog of the Week

Lake Titicaca Water Frog (Telmatobius culeus)

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Photo from Denver Zoo
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Common Name: Lake Titicaca Water Frog or Titicaca Scrotum Water Frog
Scientific Name: Telmatobius culeus
Family: Telmatobiidae
Location: Bolivia and Peru
Size: 3 – 5.4 inches (74.82 mm – 137.95 mm)

The Lake Titicaca Water Frog is only found in Lake Titicaca, the the largest lake in South America, which is on the border of Bolivia and Peru. The Lake Titicaca frog is an aquatic species of frog, preferring the lay on the bottom of the lake. It is one of the largest fully aquatic species of frog. It doesn’t need to come to the surface to breath because the water in the lake is oxygen rich and the skin folds on it’s body. The skin folds increase its surface area, allowing more oxygen to pass through. It can come up for air if the water isn’t oxygen rich but the frog’s lungs have adapted to be smaller. Another adaptation the frog has is that it can releases a secretion, that’s gross, when threatened.

Breeding for the frog happens year long near the shore. The males of the species will call underwater to attract the females. Females can lay up to 500 eggs during a breeding event. The males will guard the nest of eggs until they hatch.

photo by Petr Hamerník

The Lake Titicaca Water Frog is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The frog faces many different threats. Humans like to eat the frog because they believe it is an aphrodisiac.  Pollution in the lake has lead to huge, think thousands, of die offs. Also humans introduced non-native trouts to lake for fishing, and these trouts like to eat the tadpoles. The future doesn’t look bright for these frogs unless drastic changes happen. Many zoos are working on captive breeding programs to help repopulate the lake with them including the Denver Zoo, Prague Zoo, and the Chester Zoo.

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