Telmatobius culeus (Garman, 1876)
Titicaca Water Frog
© 2008 Maik Dobiey (1 of 14)
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Bolivia, Peru
The elevation of Lake Titicaca is 3,812 m and it reaches a maximum depth of 281 m (Hutchison et al. 1976). Water temperature average is 10°C at both the surface and the bottom; surface waters fluctuate slightly but the annual fluctuation is less than 4°C (Hutchison et al. 1976). The water is saturated with oxygen because of the high winds and wave action (Hutchison et al. 1976).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
This species has the lowest reported metabolic rate (14.1 microliters/gram-hour) under non-hypoxic conditions for any frog, and one of the lowest among all amphibians; only a few salamander genera have lower metabolic rates (Hutchison et al. 1976). This rate is likely to be an overestimate, as it was measured at low altitude in captive frogs and not at the elevation of the natural habitat in Lake Titicaca (Hutchison et al. 1976). An extremely low metabolic rate is likely to be the case for other species in the genus Telmatobius as well (see Ruiz et al. 1983).
Breeding takes place near the shoreline in shallow waters (Stuart et al. 2008). The clutch size is about 500 eggs (Pérez 1996).
Under the stress of being held, T. culeus secretes copious quantities of a sticky, milky secretion; Allen (1922) reports that the skin creases "become filled with it."
Diet includes amphipods, snails, aquatic insects, tadpoles, and fish; stomach contents of one T. culeus were found to include a four-inch-long fish of the genus Orestias (Allen 1922).
Trends and Threats
Relation to Humans
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
This species was featured as News of the Week on 13 February 2017:
Things are looking up for the Titicaca water frog, Telmatobius culeus, also known as the “scrotum frog.” In January 2017, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski announced that the government will build ten water treatment plants around Lake Titicaca, the largest freshwater lake in South America. For decades, the lake has experienced high levels of water contamination resulting from mining activities, agricultural runoff, and raw sewage flowing into the lake—threatening local wildlife and people. Categorized as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, T. culeus is an iconic species because of remarkable adaptations to aquatic life at high elevation. The species was recently included in Appendix I of CITES, the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, in a measure to curtail its illegal collection and trade. News about construction of water treatment plants was equally well received by locals and the conservation community, especially after massive die-offs of the frog were reported from various sites around the lake (Written by Rudy von May).
Allen, W. R. (1922). ''Notes on the Andean Frog, Telmatobius culeus (Garman).'' Copeia, (108), 52-54.
Barrionuevo, J. S., and Ponssa, M. L. (2008). ''Decline of three species of the genus Telmatobius (Anura: Leptodactylidae) from Tucumán Province, Argentina.'' Herpetologica, 64(1), 47-62.
Benavides, E. (2005). ''The Telmatobius species complex in Lake Titicaca: applying phylogeographic and coalescent approaches to evolutionary studies of highly polymorphic Andean frogs.'' Studies on the Andean Frogs of the Genera Telmatobius and Batrachophrynus (Anura: Leptodactylidae). Monografías de Herpetología, 7. E. O. Lavilla and I. De La Riva, eds., Asociación Herpetológica Española, Valencia.
Benavides, E., Ortiz, J. C., and Sites, J. W. (2002). ''Species boundaries among the Telmatobius (Anura: Leptodactylidae) of the Lake Titicaca Basin: allozyme and morphological evidence.'' Herpetologica, 58(1), 31-55.
Garman, S. (1876). ''Exploration of Lake Titicaca.'' Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 3, 273-278.
Hutchison, V. H., Haines, H. B., and Engbretson, G. (1976). ''Aquatic life at high altitude: respiratory adaptations in the Lake Titicaca frog, Telmatobius culeus.'' Respiration Physiology, 27, 115-129.
Macedo, H. (1960). ''Vergleichende Untersuchungen an Arten der Gattung Telmatobius.'' Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Zoologie, 163, 355-396.
Merino-Viteri, A., Coloma, L. A., Almendáriz, A. (2005). ''Los Telmatobius (Leptodactylidae) de los Andes de Ecuador y su disminución poblacional.'' Monografías de Herpetología, 7, 9-37.
Perez Bejar, M. E. (2005). ''Cria en cautividad y uso sostenible de la rana gigante del Lago Titicaca (Telmatobius culeus).'' Monografias de Herpetologia, 7, 261-271.
Pérez, M. B. (1998). Dieta y ciclo gametogénico anual de Telmatobius culeus (Anura, Leptodactylidae) en el Lago Titicaca (Huiñaimarca). Tesis de Licenciatura, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia.
Ruiz, G., Rosenmann, M., and Veloso, A. (1983). ''Respiratory and hematological adaptations to high altitude in Telmatobius frogs from the Chilean Andes.'' Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, 76A(1), 109-113.
Seimon, T. A., Hoernig, G., Sowell, P., Halloy, S., and Seimon, A. (2005). ''Identification of chytridiomycosis in Telmatobius marmoratus at 4,450 m in the Cordillera Vilcanota of southern Peru.'' Studies on the Andean Frogs of the Genera Telmatobius and Batrachophrynus, Monografías de Herpetología, 7. E. O. Lavilla and I. De La Riva, eds., Asociación Herpetológica Española, Valencia.
Seimon, T. A., Seimon, A., Daszak, P., Halloys, S. R. P., Schloegel, L. M., Aguilar, C., Sowell, P., Hyatt, A. D., Konecky, B., and Simmons, J. E. (2007). ''Upward range extension of Andean anurans and chytridiomycosis to extreme elevations in response to tropical deglaciation.'' Global Change Biology, 13, 288-299.
Sinsch, U., Salas, A. W., and Canales, V. (1995). ''Reassessment of central Peruvian Telmatobiinae (genera Batrachophrynus and Telmatobius). I. Morphometry and classification. .'' Alytes, 13, 14-44.
Stuart, S., Hoffmann, M., Chanson, J., Cox, N., Berridge, R., Ramani, P., Young, B. (eds) (2008). Threatened Amphibians of the World. Lynx Edicions, IUCN, and Conservation International, Barcelona, Spain; Gland, Switzerland; and Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Originally submitted by: Deborah Lee (first posted 2010-04-23)
Edited by: Michelle S. Koo, Kellie Whittaker, Ann T. Chang (2019-01-17)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2019 Telmatobius culeus: Titicaca Water Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/2695> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 6, 2022.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 6 Dec 2022.
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