Antelopus carauta is a smallish anuran, like most of its genus; moreover, it lacks a ventral patternation. A. carauta occurs within the middle to upper elevations of the Northwestern Andean montane forests ecoregion (Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2012) within Northwestern Colombia. According to the IUCN, A. carauta This species is known from two localities: the type locality of Parque Nacional Natural Las Orquideas, and from Murri in La Blanquita, both in Antioquia Department, on the western slopes of the Andes Range in northwestern Colombia. (Acosta-Galvis et al. 2004) The estimated elevation bracket of taxon occurrence lies between 1300 and 2000 meters above mean sea level. The latitudinal species range limits are approximately from 6.5 to 6.7 degrees North; longitudinal limits are roughly 75.6 to 76.1 West.
This species common name derives from the stream at which the species was first collected, the Rio Carauta, in northwestern Colombia, a river draining a portion of the Pacific slopes of the northern Andes.
Although detailed surveys for A. carauta have not been developed within the preferred elevational range, it is possible that the species range limits extend beyond the locations where A. carauta has been observed. In any case, the range limits of the species are thought to be highly restricted.
This diurnal anuran is considered terrestrial as well as occurring in freshwater streams in habit, dwelling in the humid montane forests on the Pacific facing slopes of the Andean Range.
Generally all the ancestral stock of genus Atelopus was likely present in South America prior to the Tertiary. Species within genus Atelopus adapted to riparian habitats and probably moved into more montane areas with the Andean uplift in the Cretaceous and Early Tertiary. (McDiarmid. 1968) As Andean uplift occurred, corresponding speciation resulted for the medium to higher altitude niche species members including A. carauta; this higher altitude adaptation likely reflected the floral palette and microclimate more than than the air pressure of the altitude itself.
Trends, Threats and Decline
Although there is no detailed long term population study data for the Rio carauta stubfoot toad, the recent trend in species population is that of precipitous decline, with about eighty percent of the population estimated to be lost in the current decade. There are no confirmed records of this species since 1973, but it is not known with certainty if this absence of observations is indicative of a species decline, or merely a paucity of survey effort. In any case, A. carauta must be regarded as a rare species.
The IUCN has estimated the current rate of species loss by analogy with events in population decline for other Antelopus high altitude anurans in this region of the Andean Range. The principal cause for this dramatic loss in numbers is deemed to be chytridiomycosis. (La Marca et al. 2005) Additional pressures on the species are present due to deforestation and subsequent habitat loss and fragmentation.
Agricultural land conversion is an ongoing threat, and the worldwide human population explosion is placing an ever-growing demand for food crops, illegal drug crops and grazing of domestic livestock; the resultant economic pressure for further agricultural land conversion even at the relatively high altitudes of the species range. Furthermore, agricultural, drug trafficking and human settlement uses compete for surface water resources, further diminishing the availability of breeding waters.
There are also threats posed by collection of anurans in this region for resale as pets, including export activity. There is a lack of data to identify the numbers of this species which may being taken for the pet trade.
To the extent that there are future climate oscillations that could involve precipitation changes, there could be impacts to the species range, by marginal reduction in breeding waters. Thus, any persistent climate warming or precipitation decline could marginally shrink the species range, but such climate arguments are conjectural for this species.
Virtually no taxon specific conservation measures are in place; however, a portion of the species range lies within the nationally protected area Parque Nacional Natural Las Orquideas in Antioquia, within northwest Colombia. Due to the rarity of the species and its status as Critically Endangered, conservation efforts will most likely need to include captive breeding of this anuran. There are no international protection schemes in place specific to the subject taxon.
Rio Carauta stubfoot toad
The Rio Carauta stubfoot toad (Atelopus carauta) is a species of toad in the Bufonidae family endemic to Colombia; this anuran is found only within the northwestern Andean montane forests. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montane forests and rivers. The species is threatened by habitat loss.
- C. Michael Hogan. 2012. Northwestern Andean montane forests. ed. P. Saundry. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
- A. Acosta-Galvis, W. Bolívar, F. Castro & J. Lynch. 2004. Atelopus carauta. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 21 July 2007.
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