This species is known only from the region and surrounding areas between Volcán Galeras eastward to Laguna de la Cocha (also known as Laguna del Encano) in the Pasto Massif of the Andean Cordillera, in Department of Nariño and the upper portion of the Valle de Sibundoy, Department of Putumayo, southern Colombia (Coloma et al. 2010). Its elevational range varies between 2,800–3,280 m asl (Coloma et al. 2010). The last known individual was collected in Municipio Consacá in the surroundings of Volcán Galeras (Coloma et al. 2010).
Habitat and Ecology
It occurs within páramo or subpáramo habitats, which comprise tropical montane vegetation above the treeline (Coloma et al. 2010). Individuals appear to have been found in grassy irrigation ditches, under loose black rocks and within bunched grasses and woody bamboo (P.A. Burrowes field notes, 25 February 1984, in Coloma et al. 2010). Adults have also been found under rocks within a rocky stream bed. Reproduction is year-round by larval development, where eggs are laid in clear, non-contaminated waters in mountain creeks. No tadpoles were ever observed near human habitations in urban areas (Gómez Castillo 1982, 1993), suggesting that this species may not have tolerance to habitat alteration.
Formerly abundant in the 1980s, no live individual has been found since 1989 (Coloma et al. 2010). Unconfirmed visual records were made in 1994 and 2002 by local people (Mueses-Cisneros 2005 in Coloma et al. 2010), but no new records have been reported, in spite of intensive search efforts in historical localities since the mid-1990s (Cepeda-Quilindo and Rueda-Almonacid 2005) up until 2004 (Mueses-Cisneros 2005 in Coloma et al. 2010).
Given the past dramatic population decline, and given similar patterns with congeners elsewhere in the tropical Andes, climate change and pathogens (such as Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) are suspected as possible threat factors (Coloma et al. 2010), although both of these need to be verified for this species and area. It may also be possible that land use change could be a threat, as recent satellite images suggest that the area is now substantially modified for agricultural activities. Emission of volcanic ash from Volcán Galeras in 1993 may also have contributed to the decline (Mueses-Cisneros and Perdomo-Castillo 2011).
Conservation ActionsIt is not known to occur in any protected areas.
Surveys are required to determine whether it is still present at past known localities as well as in suitable habitat elsewhere. Further research is needed to determine whether chytrid fungus is present in its historical range and the possible impacts of climate change.
Red List Status
Critically Endangered (CR)
Listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) given that, after it experienced a precipitous population decline in the 1980s, no live individuals have been reported since 1989, despite intensive and ongoing searches in suitable habitat in historical localities, suggesting that if this species is still extant the pool of remaining mature individuals is likely fewer than 50.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2017. Atelopus ardila. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T18435521A56601916. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T18435521A56601916.en