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Hyalinobatrachium yaku. Top row: adult male, in dorsal and ventral view. Bottom row: also adult male. Photo: courtesy of the researchers/ZooKeys

A new species of transparent frog, also known as “glassfrog,” has been identified by a team of scientists at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador.

Specimens of the new species, Hyalinobatrachium yaku, were found in three different locations throughout Ecuador.

All species in the Hyalinobatrachium genus have varying levels of transparency, offering views of internal organs.

H. yaku distinguishes itself from other transparent frogs with an abundance of dark green spots on its head and most of its body, as well as its unique mating call and behavior. But the most impressive aspect of the amphibian is its transparent pericardium—the membrane surrounding the heart—which allows researchers to clearly observe the organ as it beats.

In addition to the unique coloring of the frog, the research team confirmed that H. yaku was a distinct species by recording and analyzing mating calls, and comparing its genome to other glass frogs. They also found that males are devoted to protecting their mate’s eggs until they are ready to hatch, when they then take the short dive from the underside of leaves to a water source below.

According to researchers, the species’ translucent body can provide information on the evolutionary pattern that led these frogs to becoming “glass-like.”

This latest species contributes to the 100 to 200 new amphibian species that are identified each year. But the team raised concerns that oil production expansion occurring within the region—along with associated effects such as potential water contamination and road development—could threaten the species’ habitat and resources.

"Glassfrogs presumably require continuous tracts of forest to interact with nearby populations, and roads potentially act as barriers to dispersal for transient individuals," said the authors.

H. yaku is described in the journal ZooKeys.

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