Rescues the Mucuchies frog: the mission of a laboratory in Venezuela

The Mucuchies frog, a little known species from a remote area of ​​the Andes, is endangered, but a project in Venezuela aims to save it with an original method: assisted reproduction in the laboratory.

Little is known about the habits of the Mucuchies frog, which are on average two centimeters in length and are characterized by the subtle bright spots that dot its skin. It was first discovered in … 1985 by Enrique La Marca, now the leader of the breeding project, which is part of the program of the Center for the Conservation of Venezuelan Amphibian Species (REVA).

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zippeli aromabaterfrom its scientific name, christened in tribute to the American scientist Kevin Zippel – known for his defense of amphibians – is an endemic species of the Duck Forest, + paramo + biotope, a dry and mountainous environment characteristic of the Mucuchies region (state of Mérida, west).

Sir. La Marca, together with Reinhold Martinez and Janina Puente, is leading a program launched in 2018, which includes field research, “ex situ” reproduction and reintroduction into nature.

“A major problem affecting the last populations of frogs in the region is the excessive extraction of water from the lagoons of the paramo, which depletes the reservoirs (areas of water)”notes Mr La Marca.

“Streams have dried up and the amount of water produced by springs has dropped significantly. All of this has a negative impact on organisms that are directly linked to water,” he said. he adds.

Mr. La Marca points out that the Mucuchies frog “is an integral part of a very complex ecosystem that has existed since this forest appeared”.

“They are predators for insects and invertebrates that are harmful to humans, such as mosquitoes and other disease vectors. They are also a food source for other species”, he adds.

The decline in their populations is a sign of one “disturbance of the forest ecosystem due to human intervention”apologizes to the scientist, who is concerned about the extensive deforestation of the area.

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To avoid their disappearance, the trio of scientists tried to breed them in captivity. A challenge: “We did not know what they ate, how they reproduced, we improvised and learned while we walked”stresses Mr La Marca.

Breeding takes place in disinfected containers, where the habitat of the Mucuchies frog is reconstituted, which lays its eggs on dry leaves.

Place plants like bromeliads, for example stones, dry leaves and a container of water that simulates a stream. The frogs are fed with insects and larvae.

“We managed to reproduce this endangered species in captivity and therefore to implement a repopulation program”says Mr La Marca, for whom the program is a major step forward in the conservation of all endangered amphibians.

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Croaks, a sign of success

“When we managed to breed the Mucuchies frog, it was very exciting because it was the first time that a species from this forest bred in captivity”he explains.

To fertilize the eggs, “both sexes need to be involved. The male climbs and clings to the back of the female to fertilize the eggs deposited by the latter and release the spermatozoa that will fertilize them.”.

The male is responsible for caring for the eggs.

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Because of “high probability of extinction of the species in its natural environment”is the goal to maintain assisted reproduction for as long as possible, due to “most populations disappeared in the whole region fifteen to twenty-five years ago”.

“The release of samples to their natural environment takes place approximately one year after they have completed their metamorphosis from tadpole to lizard seed”specifies Mr La Marca.

Once released, “the biggest challenge is to enable them to survive under the new natural conditions they will encounter”he said.

As a result, “we are proud to note (…) that the quacker is more on the spot, indicating that the frogs are reproducing again, but … in their environment” natural.

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