Admirable Red-Belly Toad
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The genus Melanophryniscus Gallardo, 1961 comprises 26 species distributed in South America. Most species have restricted ranges and are considered to be threatened at regional or global levels. Melanophryniscus admirabilis Di-Bernardo, Maneyro & Grillo, 2006 is a microendemic species known only from its type locality. It occurs exclusively along 700 meters of the Forqueta River, in a forested environment with steep slopes in the southern Brazilian Atlantic Forest, in the Municipality of Arvorezinha, State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Its explosive reproduction takes place in small and shallow puddles on exposed rocks of the river margins and when individuals are not reproducing, they probably inhabit the contiguous riparian forest, where they are rarely seen. Due to its restricted range (ca. 0.035 km2), the ongoing loss of habitat quality, and because it was severely threatened by the possible construction of a hydroelectric power plant (HPP), the species is listed as “Critically Endangered” in The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, besides the national and regional Red Lists.
Melanophryniscus admirabilis was only recently discovered and described and, to date, only one population is known. In October 2010 the Laboratório de Herpetologia da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) initiated a series of applied studies aiming to evaluate the potential threats to M. admirabilis and to assess its conservation status. We have searched for other populations in the nearby areas, totaling about seven km of forested river environments, including upstream and downstream portions within the Forqueta River. We also analyzed databases from numerous environmental studies conducted over past years in other rivers in the region, especially in the same river basin. However, despite our extensive search, we were not able to find new populations or similar locations suitable for the occurrence of the species. Funding from the Boticário Group Foundation for Nature Protection was essential in this stage.
We also carried out additional research (and we are still studying some important topics) on the natural history, genetics and ecology of M. admirabilis, such as diet, reproductive biology, next-generation population genetics (RADSeq) and estimation of population size (by both mark-and-recapture and genetic methods). Since the toad is a globally threatened species, we have always attempted to use less invasive methods for individual recognition (photo-identification) and DNA sampling (buccal swab).
This text was originally published in FrogLog. To read the full version, please access: FONTE, L. F. M. ; ABADIE, M. ; MENDES, T. ; ZANK, C. ; BORGES-MARTINS, M. . The Times they are a-Changing: How a Multi-Institutional Effort Stopped the Construction of a Hydroelectric Power Plant that Threatened a Critically Endangered Red-Belly Toad in Southern Brazil. FrogLog, v. 112, p. 18-21, 2014.