The horned marsupial frog that hasn’t been seen in over a decade has suddenly reappeared in Ecuador. The nocturnal amphibian – called Gastrotheca cornuta – that lived in the tropical rainforests was last seen in 2005. The frog has a very distinct look with horn-like skin flaps that rest above its eyes like eyebrows. They also have a very unusual reproduction course as the eggs actually develop in a pouch on its body and when they hatch they are completely formed froglets, totally skipping the tadpole stage.
The frog was discovered by a team of biologists who were exploring a remote area of the Chocó region in the western part of Ecuador. When they heard the unrecognizable frog calls, they turned on their flashlights and noticed the shiny eyes of the horned frog. Team member Sebastian Di Domenico said, “We were so excited we started jumping up and down.” At that point, they took four frogs with them, including one female who was pregnant which would indicate that there is a stable amount of frogs in that area.
Ecuador is famous for the large amounts of amphibians that reside there with at least 589 species that they know of, and 45 percent of those aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. Unfortunately, they are very much put in danger by the deforestation in Ecuador. In fact, the country loses approximately two percent of their forests each year.
There are at least five more marsupial-frog species in the country that have not been seen in over three decades, so finding the Gastrotheca cornuta is definitely promising news. Luis Coloma, who directs Centro Jambatu, which is an amphibian research and conservation organization located in Quito, said, “Finding a rare or presumed-extinct frog like G. cornuta is surprising and encouraging.”
Ecuador’s federal reserve system protects at least 20 percent of the land from deforestation and development although logging still happens inside of those boundaries, so some organizations that work in the Chocó region are purchasing land and replanting logged areas. Foundation Jocotoco has bought 53,000 acres thus far which includes the home of the Gastrotheca cornuta.
Martin Schaefer, who is the director of the foundation said, “It’s an effective way to fill in the gaps and create a buffer against development.” Any person can donate to the cause and $200 will buy an acre of land which the foundation will match. Schaefer added, “If we want to save the Chocó and its wildlife, including this rare frog, the time is now.”