A photo taken by Jaime Culebras, from ASA partner Photo Wildlife Tours, got the 3rd prize of the prestigious 2021 World Press Photo of the Year award, in the category Nature. The photo is called ‘New Life’ and features the eggs of a Wiley’s Glass Frog (Nymphargus wileyi) hanging on the tip of a leaf in Tropical Andean cloud forest, near the Yanayacu Biological Station in Napo, Ecuador.

Nymphargus wileyi is known only from individuals discovered around the Yanayacu Biological Station, and so is listed as ‘data deficient’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species inhabits primary cloud forests, where individuals can be found on leaves at night. Females deposit eggs in a gelatinous mass towards the tip of the dorsal surface of leaves which hang above streams. A male can fertilize up to four clutches of eggs in a breeding season. The whitish embryos, between 19 and 28 per clutch, will develop for a few days until they are ready to drop into the water and there continue their metamorphosis.

Amphibians are the most threatened vertebrates in the world, with an estimate of 40% being in danger of extinction according to the IUCN. But these results could be much more dramatic, taking into account the gaps in information. Of the more than 8,300 amphibians described in the world, more than 1,200 have not yet been included in the data bases of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Further more, 1,200 of the species which are listed, are classified as Data Deficient, which means that they are species of which very little is known and as such their status is not known. The species included in this category are ignored in conservation strategies. However, many scientists consider that they should be treated as an urgent conservation priority and thus are pushing to develop studies that allow us to know their true status. With that in mind, this beautiful species of glass frog could be on the brink of extinction without our knowing it.

It is endemic to the cloud forest of the Tropical Andes. A bioregion that is considered to be the most biodiverse hotspot in the world, and yet, tragically, more than 70% of its vegetation cover has been lost. Habitat loss is the main threat to the amphibians of the Tropical Andes, and in Ecuador their populations are suffering another serious threat: an abrupt growth of large-scale mining concessions.

These eggs carry with them the hope of increased support for the research and conservation of these unknown animals. Hope of a new birth in the consciousness of society, and renewed support for the conservation of these mysterious and magnificent creatures. Because without them, this planet loses more and more of its color.

By: Jaime Culebras. Photo Wildlife Tours

Photo: Jaime Culebras