We continue Arkive’s Conservation Heroes series with the amazing Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi, an amphibian researcher and Arkive media contributor who recently discovered a new species of water frog with his team in central Peru. Dr. Catenazzi shares how we can halt the spread of chytrid, the role of climate change in its spread, and how he and his team discovered the new frog species.
Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi
And did you know that you, yes you, can take an action right now to support Dr. Catenazzi’s work and the future of amphibians in South America? Dr. Catenazzi has offered several conservation actions on his “Arkive’s Conservation Heroes Wish List” that support the conservation of amphibians. If you find his story truly inspiring (or you simply love amphibians), please click on the wish list button below, or at the end of the interview and pledge to take one action to support amphibian conservation. United as one, we can help promote conservation!
Congratulations on discovering a new frog species in Peru; how exciting! Inquiring minds want to know the story behind the discovery; can you share?
Often times several years can pass between the discovery of a species and the publication of the study based upon the new species. Sometimes as much as 20 years. I discovered this new species, Telmatobius ventriflavum along with coauthor Victor Vargas in October 2012. We were monitoring frog populations in central Peru as part of a monitoring project of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation Education and Sustainability and Peru LNG. We had just finished for the day, and on our way back to the hotel, we stopped along the road at a creek under a bridge. It was an unplanned stop and it was there that we saw T. ventriflavum. It had a striking coloration for a water frog. I was relatively confident that it was a new species. My other hypothesis was that it was the species Telmatobius intermedius that had not been seen for a long time. I went to a museum to view the specimen they had of T. intermedius. The significant differences between T. intermedius and T. ventriflavum were the bigger size, the smooth skin, and the bright orange coloration of the new species’ ventral side. Based on this I had a sensible reason to believe that it was a new species.
Photo of the new water frog species discovered by Dr. Catenazzi and his team
Although the small water frog is only just discovered, chytrid is already present within its habitat. What is the current status of this new species?
As of this time its status is uncertain, since we know T. ventriflavum only from this location. Chytrid was found in the area, but not at high concentrations that could be considered deadly. Concentrations of 10000-100000 zoospores on frog’s skin signify dangerous concentrations, but we did not find that here. There were a couple of zoospores present. Warm temperatures are not good for chytrid and this species was found in an area where daily temperatures can be high. We found a total of 7 adults, one male and six females. We kept one male and two females for further assessment, the rest were released. There were also about 43 tadpoles present, of which we kept a few.
Side view of the new water frog species discovered in Peru by Dr. Catenazzi and his team
Need a refresher on chytrid? Check out Dr. Catenazzi’s first Arkive spotlight in 2010 where he shared more in-depth information on the devastating effects of the chytrid fungus on amphibian populations.
Do you think the spread of chytrid is related to climate change?
Well, it depends on how you define climate change. Some define it purely based on changes in the average temperature and others include the occurrence of extreme weather events. At this time, chytrid is an emergent pathogen. The chytrid strain that affects frogs was only formally described in 1999. We still don’t know much about how it spreads. It could be through a variety of vectors like water, clouds, wind or even getting transported by vehicles. What can be said definitively is that the zoospores require water. To look at how climate change affects chytrid you must look at the local level. There is no doubt that temperature variation will affect the dynamics of disease to some extent. I cannot however, specifically say the degree to which climate change is a factor. Furthermore, chytrid encompasses multiple strains that potentially get spread through the pet trade and the transfer of goods that occurs in the world.
Many of Arkive’s followers are big fans of amphibians. Can you suggest ways that people reading this can support your research, the survival of the small water frog, or help halt the spread of chytrid?
Well, especially if you travel a lot; it is better to have different sets of clothing for each place at which you reside. If you have boots in your home, do not take those boots with you to a different country. Since boots can carry liquid they might help carry the water from different environments. If this is not possible then bleach your boots and clothing to prevent the spread of foreign organisms. Secondly, do not release pets into the wild. Introducing a non-native species to a different environment can cause serious issues. Moreover, in 2013, a chytrid strain that affects only salamanders was formally described. If you have a salamander as a pet get it tested to make sure that it is not infected with or is a carrier of chytrid.
Harlequin frog being swabbed by scientist for chytrid fungus
From reading about Heroes to becoming one yourself
Inspired to take action to support Dr. Catenazzi and the amphibians of the world? Please click on the button below to make a pledge today to take a conservation action – actions that range from sharing Dr. Catenazzi’s story socially to help spread the word further, to donating to nonprofit organizations that support Dr. Catenazzi’s amphibian conservation work such as the Amazon Conservation Association! Every action matters, please consider making a pledge today!