Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Creature Feature: Lake Titicaca Frog.

Some things in life are just funny.  For example, Lake Titicaca? That just sounds dirty. We know it's a Quecha word, but it sounds sexy, dirty, or both depending on what other languages you happen to speak. It doesn't help that some pretty darn weird creatures live there, too.

Source: Weirdimals.

This is a Lake Titicaca water frog (Telmatobeus culeus). It is entirely aquatic, spending all of its life in a relatively isolated lake. It lives only in Lake Titicaca and looks just as silly as one would expect of something living in such a hilariously-named lake. Its scientific name translates to "aquatic scrotum." Apt, scientists.

The Titicaca frog has a reason for looking like a nutsack. Lake Titicaca is 4,000 feet above the ground, making oxygen a bit hard to come by. The folded skin is effectively one giant gill for the frog. That doesn't mean we land-dwellers cannot make fun of it. At least it has a cute face. Seriously, take away the folded skin and this frog doesn't look half bad. 

Why are you laughing at me? You can't even stay underwater for an hour!

The Lake Titicaca water frog is also a pretty big frog. The famous diver Jacques Cousteau once went diving in Lake Titicaca, finding thousands of fairly large, wrinkly frogs. They used to get up to 50cm long - that's roughly 20 inches, or "almost as long as two footlong sandwiches." It's not even the largest aquatic frog, but that's still impressive. 

Also, we eat this guy. Surprise, surprise, people eat frogs, but this particular frog is sometimes juiced into a Peruvian aphrodisiac. The frog is skinned alive, then put in a blender with some honey and roots. I realize it looks like a scrotum, but...fine, that's more logical rationale than some aphrodisiacs. You win this round, Peru, but it's still not cool to hunt frogs just to put junk in your trunk.

Aphrodisiacs aside, the Lake Titicaca frog faces a number of other environmental threats. Trout were introduced to Lake Titicaca's ecosystem, upsetting the who ecosystem therein, but specifically eating this frog's tadpoles. Tribal people occasionally catch the frogs and put them in jars in hopes that the heavens with take pity on the scrotum frog and allow it to return to the water by making the jar overflow. If the gods somehow bring this frog back from being critically endangered, thank the Denver Zoo and whatever otherworldly entities made the Nazca lines.

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