The Lake Titicaca Water Frog is covered by a number of skin folds which helps them to exchange gas across their skin helping with breathing. These skin folds mean they can breathe underwater.
They are the largest species of entirely aquatic frog.
Their body is colored a combination of olive green, dark green or black across the back. Their underside is colored white or pearl.
The Lake Titicaca water frog has a rounded face and large googly eyes. These feature a round black pupil.
Lake Titicaca water frogs have short and un-forked tongues.
These frogs will measure between 7.4 and 13.8cm (2.9-5.4in) long with an average weight of 250g (8.8oz).
These frogs have a slow metabolism meaning they do not need to eat often. They are carnivores feeding on a range of insects, snails, fish and worms. Research has shown that amphipods and snails are the most commonly consumed food items.
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This species is confined to Lake Titicaca and some neighboring water courses. This lake is located on the border between Peru and Bolivia.
This species is entirely aquatic and spends its life under the water. They are mostly seen in muddy or sandy areas near rocks and vegetation.
The lake is thermally stable which is useful for ectothermic animals such as frogs.
Breeding can take place year round but mating has only been observed from May to November.
Their clutch size is highly variable from 100 to 900 eggs. These are deposited as groups of 20-50 on aquatic plants. Eggs are fertilized externally. Breeding occurs in shallow water along the shore of the lake.
Their larva will metamorphose in four months. Younger animals tend to live in shallower waters until they undergo this metamorphosis.
Sexual maturity is reached around five years old.
Lake Titicaca water frogs are solitary and only come together to mate.
This species is primarily nocturnal emerging at night to hunt.
Most of their time is spent underwater and they only come to the surface if oxygen saturation is low. To help push more water across their skin folds to help respiration they will perform a motion which looks like a "push-up."
Predators and Threats
No information exists on the natural predators of the Lake Titicaca water frog.
Introduced species such as the trout feed on the larvae.
Their two-toned coloration helps to camouflage this species both from above and below. If captured they will secrete a sticky, milky substance from their body. This has an offensive taste helping to stop predators eating them.
In Peru these frogs are captured for use in frog juice which is a traditional tonic that is most often used as an aphrodisiac though it has at times been claimed as a cure for many diseases. They are also used for food and sold in to the pet trade.
Another major threat has been pollution. Mass die offs have become an almost yearly occurrence as a result of garbage flowing in to the river.
They have been threatened through the presence of fungus. This is especially detrimental as they exchange gas through their skin.
It is thought that over the last 15 years the number of Lake Titicaca water frogs has decreased by over 80%.
This frog has earned the unfortunate nickname of "scrotum frog" which comes from the folds of skin across their body.
Top and Bottom
By ColoradoNative44 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71951381
Middle One and Two
By Petr Hamerník – Zoo Praha, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78840227
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. 2020. Telmatobius culeus (errata version published in 2020). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T57334A178948447. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T57334A178948447.en. Downloaded on 18 February 2021.
Animals. 2021. How poachers of this rare frog became its protectors. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/former-peruvian-frog-poachers-help-protect-lake-titicaca-scrotum-frog> [Accessed 18 February 2021].
Batko, K. 2014. "Telmatobius culeus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 18, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Telmatobius_culeus/
Zoo Atlanta. 2021. The amazing Lake Titicaca water frog – Zoo Atlanta. [online] Available at: <https://zooatlanta.org/the-amazing-lake-titicaca-water-frog/> [Accessed 18 February 2021].
Global Wildlife Conservation. 2021. Hope In The Face Of 10,000 Deaths – Global Wildlife Conservation. [online] Available at: <https://www.globalwildlife.org/blog/hope-in-the-face-of-10000-deaths/> [Accessed 18 February 2021]. AmphibiaWeb 2019 Telmatobius culeus: Titicaca Water Frog <http://amphibiaweb.org/species/2695> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Feb 18, 2021.