Water frog (Telmatobius peruvianus)

Telmatobius peruvianus resting on rock surface
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Water frog fact file

Water frog description

GenusTelmatobius (1)

The genus Telmatobius comprises around 50 species of aquatic and semi-aquatic frogs, distributed on the slopes of the Andes, from southern Ecuador to Chile and Argentina (2) (3). Most Telmatobius species are rather drab, medium sized frogs, with bulky bodies, stout forearms, and thick, glandular skin (3). The type species for the genus, Telmatobius peruvianus, is described as having a brown to grey back, and well developed nuptial spines on the chest, throat, and thumb (2). The nuptial spines help the male to cling to the female when mating in fast-moving streams, but may also play a role in male to male combat (4).


Water frog biology

Telmatobius species are recognised for their remarkable ability to survive at high altitudes and in cold waters (5). Generally, they tend to be secretive frogs that seek seclusion under rocks and stream banks (3). Many species have weak voices or no voice at all, which is thought possibly to be a response to the ambient noise levels of the streams they inhabit (4).


Water frog range

Telmatobius peruvianus is known from the south-eastern Andes in Peru, and a single site in northern Chile, near to the Peruvian border (1).


Water frog habitat

The semi-aquatic Telmatobius peruvianus is found in streams and small rivers at high elevations (1).


Water frog status

Telmatobius peruvianusis classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Water frog threats

Owing to the impact of human water consumption and pollution, the Chilean population of Telmatobius peruvianus has declined to the extent that it hasn’t been recorded since 1986. Although there is little information on its status in Peru, there are several localized threats to this species including habitat loss due to mining and agriculture, and harvesting of frogs for food and medicine. Furthermore, as a high altitude species, Telmatobius peruvianus may be particularly vulnerable to infection with the devastating chytrid fungus (1).


Water frog conservation

Given the apparent disappearance of the Chilean population of Telmatobius peruvianus, further survey work is needed to determine this species’ true status in the region. Currently, it not known from any protected areas in Peru or Chile, and the habitat it occupies is in desperate need of improved protection. In addition, there is a growing need to closely monitor the species’ population in view of the potential threat of an infectious disease such as chytridiomycosis, which fortunately has not yet been reported in Telmatobius peruvianus (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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Nuptial spines
Modified skin tissue, common in frogs that mate in water (the spines assist the male to grasp the female during mating and may also have a role in male to male combat).
Type species
The original species on which the description of a new genus is based.


  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2009)
  2. Formas, J.R., Benavides, E. and Cuevas, C. (2003) A new species of Telmatobius (Anura: Leptodactylidae) from Río Vilama, northern Chile, and the redescription of T. halli noble. Herpetologica, 59(2): 253 - 270.
  3. Trueb, L. (1979) Leptodactylid frogs of the genus Telmatobius in Ecuador with the description of a new species. Copeia, 1979(4): 714 - 733.
  4. Duellman, W.E. and Trueb, L. (1994) Biology of Amphibians. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  5. Schmidt, K.P. (1954) Notes on frogs of the genus Telmatobius with description of two new Peruvian species. Fieldiana Zoology, 34(26): 277 - 287.

Image credit

Telmatobius peruvianus resting on rock surface  
Telmatobius peruvianus resting on rock surface

© William E. Duellman / Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, University of Kansas

William E. Duellman
Division of Herpetology
Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center
University of Kansas
1345 Jayhawk Blvd.
Kansas 66045
United States of America


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