Golden Frogs at REGUA

Livia Dias de Sousa is undertaking her Doctorate at the North State University of Rio de Janeiro monitoring the release of the Black-fronted Piping Guans.

Her study also includes a close analysis of the population of Heart of Palm, Euterpe edulis, a palm that grows throughout the Atlantic Rainforest at different altitudes. The REGUA ranger Rildo has worked with Livia before and was anxious to take her to the top of the green trail, an area where one would expect to see large population of this palm.

Whilst walking they came across Spix’s Saddleback Toad, a very small toad just the width of ones thumb.   Livia was able to get some cracking photos which she shared with us. These golden toads are of the Brachycephalidae family and named “Saddleback toads”.   They are endemic to South-east Brazil’s Atlantic forest and the colour is to warn predators of its toxicity.

Brachycephalus ephippium Spix's Saddleback Toad
Spix’s Saddleback Toad (© Livia dias de Souza)

The first Brachycephalus specimen was collected and identified in 1824 by the German naturalist Johann Baptiste von Spix, coincidentally the same person that named the Black-fronted Piping Guan.    With recent field work on the mist covered Atlantic Rainforest mountains, another seven species have been discovered.

Interestingly these toads have only three toes on each foot, and two fingers on each hand.  Saddleback Toads are active during the day, and live in the leaf litter on forest floors. The eggs undergo direct development, hatching into miniature toads, without a tadpole stage. The eggs are laid on the ground, and covered in soil to protect them from the heat and predators.
Brachycephalus are found only on cloud forested mountaintops so our forested valleys need to be conserved for populations to move. The disturbance and later fragmentation of these forests isolates populations and this is felt to be the worst threat to the species.

We hope that with the restoration and protection of the land within REGUA other guests will get a chance to see these rare amphibians.

Nicholas Locke