Endemic Ecuadorian glassfrog Cochranella mache is
Critically Endangered because of habitat loss
Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia,Jesse Delia,Mario H. Y
and H. Mauricio Ortega-Andrade
Abstract Amphibians are one of the most threatened ani-
mal groups. In the Family Centrolenidae c. 50% of the spe-
cies are declining and threatened with extinction. One of
these is the glassfrog Cochranella mache, endemic to
seasonal evergreen forests of the West Ecuadorian region
and restricted to highly fragmented forest of ,100 km
the Cordillera Mache-Chindul, north-western coastal Ec-
uador, at 100–640 m. We surveyed this region to elucidate
the distribution and conservation status of C. mache. We
located it in three new localities and also found a museum
specimen from a further new locality. We recommend that
the species should be categorized as Critically Endangered
because of the continuous and progressive destruction of its
increasingly fragmented habitat. Recent surveys of glassfrog
species sympatric with C. mache showed low relative
abundances compared to surveys in the 1970s and 1980s.
Because of the relationship between forest and local climate
we suggest that gradual declines of lowland glassfrog pop-
ulations may be caused by local climate changes produced
by forest destruction. In situ conservation is required to
halt and mitigate these impacts. Further research on the
effects of habitat loss, fragmentation, and associated climate
changes on Neotropical amphibians is required.
Keywords Amphibian decline, Centrolenidae, climate
change, Cochranella mache, Critically Endangered, Ecua-
dor, habitat degradation
This paper contains supplementary material that can be
found online at http://journals.cambridge.org
Nearly one-third of amphibian species worldwide are
threatened and many are already extinct (Stuart et al.,
2004). A large proportion of these threatened amphibians
inhabit tropical America, where habitat degradation and
loss, infectious diseases and climate change are the major
threats (Stuart et al., 2004; Lips et al., 2005). While most
attention has focused on the interactions between disease
and climate change because of a link with dramatic declines
(Lips et al., 2006; Pounds et al., 2006; Lawrence, 2008), little
research and few conservation efforts have focused on the
effects of habitat change on tropical amphibians (Becker
et al., 2007; Gardner et al., 2007). About 50% of the glass-
frog species (family Centrolenidae) are declining and 40%
are threatened (Bustamante et al., 2005; IUCN, 2008).
Diseases and global warming have been linked to some of
these declines (Pounds et al., 1999; Lips et al., 2006) but the
causes of most remain poorly understood (IUCN, 2008).
Cochranella mache is a recently described glassfrog en-
demic to Ecuador, categorized as Endangered on the IUCN
Red List based on the limited information available from
its original description (Guayasamin & Bonaccorso, 2004;
IUCN, 2008). To provide further information on the spe-
cies we undertook visual encounter surveys and standard-
ized visual transect sampling ($25 person-hours per site)
across 14 localities in western Ecuador over 2004–2007 (Ap-
pendix 1) and examined museum collections (Appendix 2).
The species was previously known only from its type-
locality, Bilsa (Site 6; Table1, Fig. 1; Guayasamin & Bonaccorso,
2004; Cisneros-Heredia & McDiarmid, 2007). We found
C. mache in three new localities and a museum specimen
from one additional locality (Site 15): one male at Monte
Saino (Site 5) after c. 96 person-hours of searching, one
female at Canande
´(Site 4) after c. 40 person-hours, and a
male near Quininde
´(Site 7) after c. 25 person-hours (Table 1).
At Bilsa a male was found previously after 85 person-hours
(G. Vigle, pers. comm.) and two males after 40 person-hours
(Guayasamin & Bonaccorso, 2004) but we did not record
any individuals in 40 person-hours of searching in the same
location in December 2006.
C. mache is known to deposit egg clutches on the top
of leaves over well-oxygenated streams and its tadpoles
fall into the water and burrow in debris (Guayasamin &
Bonaccorso, 2004; Cisneros-Heredia & McDiarmid, 2007;
Cisneros-Heredia et al., 2008) but otherwise little is known
* (Corresponding author) Universidad San
Francisco de Quito, Colegio de Ciencias Biolo
´gicas & Ambiertales, Campus
´, Edif. Darwin, of. DW-010A, Diego de Robles y Via
Casilla 17–1200–841, Quito, Ecuador. E-mail diegofrancisco.cisneros@
Prescott College, Department of Ecological Research, Prescott,
and H. M
Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales, Divisio
´n de Herpetologı
´a, Quito, Ecuador.
*Also at: King’s College London, Department of Geography, London, UK and
Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales, Divisio
´n de Herpetologı
Received 16 November 2007. Revision requested 12 January 2008.
Accepted 7April 2008.
ª2009 Fauna & Flora International,
, 44(1), 114–117 doi:10.1017/S0030605309990640
of its biology. All known records are from riverine areas in
primary and old secondary forests. It has not been found in
recent secondary forest, small isolated forest patches, or
agricultural/suburban areas. All known localities (Table 1)
are restricted to the Cordillera Mache-Chindul and sur-
rounding areas in the Province of Esmeraldas. This is an
isolated mountain range in the northernmost portion of
Cordillera de la Costa, the mountain chain that runs
parallel and independently from the Andes along the
Paciﬁc coast of Ecuador. The species is restricted to
altitudes of 100–640 m. All records are from seasonal
evergreen forests, a moist forest formation endemic to the
West Ecuadorian region (the biogeographical area between
the humid non-seasonal Choco
´and xeric highly-seasonal
Tumbesian regions; Cisneros-Heredia, 2006,2007). The
northernmost record is consistent with the distribution
patterns of most endemic species of the West Ecuadorian
region (Cisneros-Heredia, 2006,2007). Based on the
distribution of seasonal evergreen forests along the Cordil-
lera Mache-Chindul, C. mache’s range may extend to the
south, reaching the Mache-Chebe-Tabiaza Rivers, the
southernmost limit of the Cordillera.
Deforestation in western Ecuador is extensive (Dodson &
Gentry, 1991) and ,100 km
of primary or old secondary
forests remain on the Cordillera (18–20% of the original
forested area). The remnant forests are highly fragmented,
with the largest single block ,16–18 km
, and deforestation
rates are c. 3–5% per year (Dodson & Gentry, 1991; Mudd,
1991; Paredes & Tapuyo, 1998; Conservation International,
2001; Kvist et al., 2004; and remote-sensing analyses by
DFC-H based on Hansen et al., 2006 and Mulligan, 2007).
Although the range of C. mache is partially within the
Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve, most conservation
measurements are ineffective because of institutional and
funding restrictions and a lack of law enforcement. Some of
the larger fragments are preserved by private organizations
but many remain unprotected. Habitat degradation is
mainly caused by unsustainable timber extraction, uncon-
trolled expansion of the agricultural frontier, and replace-
ment by non-native plantations.
The categorization of C. mache as Endangered (IUCN,
2008) underestimates its threatened status. Our data suggest
that, inferred from the destruction of its habitat, C. mache
has suffered a large reduction in its range since the mid 1990s.
The current known range is small and even if it extends
across the entire Cordillera Mache-Chindul it will be ,100 km
We recommend that C. mache be categorized as Critically
Endangered based on criteria A2c, B1ab(i,ii,iii,iv) (IUCN,
2001) as its range is extensively fragmented and continued
declines of its extent, habitat quality and number of localities
and subpopulations are inferred.
While many lowland glassfrogs are conspicuous mem-
bers of riverine communities, C. mache is scarce even in
well-preserved areas. It may be naturally rare or not easily
detected because of sampling bias (common survey meth-
ods fail to record canopy specialists, D.F. Cisneros-Heredia,
FIG. 1 Ecuador, showing the 14 localities surveyed for Cochra-
nella mache in western Ecuador (Appendix 1) and the four
where the species was found (shaded squares; Table 1): 4,
´; 5, Monte Saino, Punta Galeras area; 6, Reserva
Bilsa (type locality); 7, Quininde
´. Site 15, Rı
´o La Carolina, is the
location of a museum specimen.
TABLE 1Details of all known records of Cochranella mache (see numbered sites in Fig. 1). All are in the Province of Esmeraldas, Ecuador.
Site no, location (altitude, m),
distance to type locality Date Sex Museum reference no.*
4, Reserva Canande
´(270), c. 60 km ENE 24 June 2005 F DHMECN 3560
5, Monte Saino, Punta Galeras
area (100), c. 50 km NNW
21 Oct. 2004 M DHMECN 2611
6, Reserva Bilsa (510), type locality 3 July 2000 M KU 291176, QCAZ 22412–13
8 Jan. 2003
7, 3 km NW Quininde (150), c. 25 km E 23 Mar. 2005 M DFCH-USFQ LQ23 (photograph)
´o La Carolina (650), c. 140 km NE Nov. 2005 QCAZ 27747
*See Appendix 2
Critically Endangered Ecuadorian glassfrog 115
ª2009 Fauna & Flora International,
, 44(1), 114–117
pers. obs.), or it may have been affected by gradual pop-
ulation declines such as those reported by Whitﬁeld et al.
(2007). Lack of long-term data hinders drawing further
conclusions but data available for two glassfrogs sympatric
with C. mache,Centrolene prosoblepon and Hyalinoba-
trachium ﬂeischmanni, suggest that lowland glassfrog
populations in western Ecuador may have suffered gradual
population declines in the past 3decades. C. prosoblepon
and H. ﬂeischmanni were the most abundant glassfrogs in
surveys by KU and USNM (see Appendix 2for museum
abbreviations) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and also
in surveys by us, DHMECN and QCAZ in the 2000s.
Combined relative abundances in the earlier surveys were
0.4–2.0per person-hour in three localities, whereas they
were 0.1–0.4per person-hour in recent surveys in the same
localities (Bustamante et al., 2005; R.W. McDiarmid &
K. Miyata, unpubl. data; Cisneros-Heredia et al., unpubl.
data; DHMECN, unpubl. data; QCAZ, unpubl. data).
Deforestation in lowland areas has been found to modify
micro- and meso-scale climate through changes in albedo,
evapotranspiration, roughness, cloudiness, rainfall and sea-
sonality patterns (Lawton et al., 2001; Durieux et al., 2003;
Ray et al., 2006; Pielke et al., 2007). As .70% of forests
across western Ecuador have been felled (Dodson & Gentry,
1991; Sierra, 1999; Kvist, 2004) this may have induced
changes in local climate patterns of nearby well-preserved
areas and thus affected amphibians. Further studies are re-
quired to test this hypothesis. However, most areas with rich
amphibian diversity are undergoing high rates of habitat
degradation (Gallant et al., 2007), the effects of which may
be as deleterious as the extirpations caused by disease and
global warming. In situ conservation actions are urgently
needed and should include reinforcement of existing pro-
tected areas, establishment of new ones, and development
of mitigation strategies, including habitat restoration and
creation of incentives to foster conservation. Future research
on the distribution, habitat preferences, population ecology,
home ranges and dispersal capacity of glassfrogs is required,
along with knowledge of the impacts of edge effects, habitat
modiﬁcation, and micro- and meso-scale climate changes.
Researchers at DHMECN have begun these studies for West
We are grateful to Jocotoco and Jatun Sacha foundations,
to the curators of museum collections cited in Appendix 2;
to R.W. McDiarmid, C. Tomoff, M. Altamirano, J.M.
Guayasamin, G. Vigle, F. Sornoza, D. Ro
¨dder, and an
anonymous reviewer for their useful comments and data,
and to F. Armas, C. Aulestia, J. Arellano, J. Bermingham, R.
Cabrera, Ma.E. Heredia, L. Heredia, M. Larrea, F. Narva
A. Ortiz and C. Tobar for assistance. Financial support was
provided by Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales,
Jocotoco Foundation, Iniciativa de Especies Amenazadas
´z Crespo’, Prescott College Student Union,
Russell E. Train Education for Nature Program/WWF and
Conservation International. Ministerio del Ambiente de
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The appendices for this article are available online at http://
DIEGO F. CISNEROS-HEREDIA studies the systematics, biogeogra-
phy and conservation of Ecuadorian biodiversity, particularly am-
phibians and reptiles, and is a member of the IUCN Amphibian
Specialist Group. JESSE DELIA has conducted herpetological surveys
in Ecuador since 2004, studying the ecology and reproductive biology of
riparian amphibians. MARIO H. YA
˜OZ studies the taxon-
omy, biogeography and conservation of amphibians and reptiles in
Ecuador and is a member of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group.
H. MAURICIO ORTEGA-ANDRADE has conducted herpetological
surveys across Ecuador, with an emphasis on threatened species.
Critically Endangered Ecuadorian glassfrog 117
ª2009 Fauna & Flora International,
, 44(1), 114–117