The Titicaca water frog (Telmatobius culeus) is the world's largest aquatic frog, found only in Lake Titicaca between Bolivia and Peru in South America. Often weighing up to two pounds, the species is famous for its extremely loose skin that balloons around it as it swims. The video above shows the frog in action.
The Titicaca water frog's loose skin is actually an incredible adaptation that allows it to "breathe" underwater. Though it has lungs, they are small and rarely used. Instead, its many blood vessels and high red blood cell count allow it to absorb oxygen from the water. The skin's looseness is adaptive because it increases the available surface area.
Another strange fact about the Titicaca water frog is that it is critically endangered due to human overconsumption: it has been listed on the IUCN Red List. These frogs are often collected and sold at markets near Lake Titicaca and blended into a drink that people believe can cure disease. This is a good example of how local beliefs and practices are important factors to take into consideration when planning species conservation.
Though the Titicaca water frog has benefited from the protection of a conservation area, more conservation work with the local community is needed to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
Wondering why a species can become endangered? Learn about the work that goes into saving an endangered species and what happens when a species is lost. Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations shares the story of a scientist who has traveled throughout the world to study and defend endangered species.
The Titicaca water frog isn't the only amphibious species in trouble. Learn more about The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs, read about the mystery of the disappearing frogs, and conduct your own investigations.
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