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#Natureology Species of the Day – Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii)

January 3, 2013

frogDarwin’s frog was discovered by Charles Darwin in the thick, gloomy forests of southern-central Chile, It is one of only two frogs in the world where the young undergo part of their development in the parent’s mouth.

Darwin’s frog possesses a distinctive appearance and an unusual biology . The head of this species has a triangular appearance due to the presence of a pronounced, fleshy proboscis that projects from the tip of the snout. The colouration of the warty upperparts is variable, with individuals exhibiting various shades of brown, green or a mixture of the two. Mainly active during the day, Darwin’s frog frequently basks in sunlight, while camouflaged amongst the leaf litter. This species mainly feeds upon insects and other small invertebrates.

Darwin’s frog occupies the austral forest of southern-central Chile and Argentina. Historically, it was distributed in Chile from Concepción Province to Palena Province. In Argentina, it is known from Neuquén and Río Negro provinces.Generally found on land , Darwin’s frog inhabits moist leaf-litter, often along the banks of slow moving streams and within boggy areas, in cool, temperate forests.

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Darwin’s frog has undergone a worrying decline throughout its range, with some populations in Chile disappearing entirely . While in some areas, particularly in the northern part of this species’ range, the decline can be attributed to deforestation and replacement of native trees with exotic pine or eucalyptus species, in other regions, which are more remote or protected, the cause is unknown . It may, however, be linked to global changes in climate and increased ultraviolet radiation, which are believed to be contributing to the ongoing worldwide decline in amphibians.

Darwin’s frog is located in several protected areas throughout its range, which are helping to preserve its dwindling habitat. Nevertheless, there is a need for improved maintenance of existing sites, as well as expansion of the protected area network, especially in the more heavily exploited northern parts of this species’ range. In order to understand the causes of the unexplained decline of Darwin’s frog in apparently suitable areas of habitat, population monitoring of this species is required. In Chile, it is listed as “Endangered” (En Peligro de Extinción).  Conservation strategy for this imperilled species must be developed in order to save it from extinction with has probably claimed the closely related  Chile Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma rufum).

 

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