Account by German Chavez
This enigmatic poison frog has been known since 1998 when Morales and Velazco described this species from four specimens. The type specimens were found in a wetland 6 km S from Oxapampa a town in central Andes in Peru. The name comes from the latin suffix “plani” (meaning flat land) and “paleae” (meaning grass); in reference to the town name Oxapampa, which in English means “grassy plain”.
A. planipaleae is a medium sized frog, 24.9 – 26.8 mm SVL in males and 29.6 mm SVL in females, skin granular on dorsum and smooth on belly, fingers one and two roughly equal length. This species is easily distinguishable from other Ameerega species by (based in Morales and Velazco 1998; Medina-Muller and Chávez 2008): having a yellow dorsal region of the head; two yellow dorsolateral stripes extending from upper eyelid to groin, occasionally these stripes can be yellow on the anterior region and turning bluish yellow posteriorly; a large red spot on groin; throat, chest, belly, and ventral surface of arms, thighs, tibia and feet bluish turquoise with black reticulation. Some individuals have a red or orange spot on the posterior surface of the tibia, this spot can be present on both tibias or sometimes on just one. Sexual dimorphism described by Morales and Velazco (1998) consists of females having a black throat, however, field observations show females with a throat of the same color of the whole ventral region. This may be explained because the description was based on only a few specimens.
Ameerega planipaleae is a diurnal frog and lives in streams or wetlands inside secondary montane forests between 2000 – 2100 meters of elevation. Trees in these habitats are between 12 and 15 meters high, with clear evidence of high relative humidity by bearing lichens, fungus and many epiphytic plants such as bromeliads and orchids. Some species of Heliconia spp and ferns are presents too, and the ground is covered by leaf litter. The only other diurnal frog in this area are juveniles of Rhinella leptoscelis. Although data on the ecology of A. planipaleae is scarce, researchers have seen several individuals sleep under the leaf litter in the areas around streams. Diet consist probably of terrestrial insects from the order Hymenoptera. Other amphibian species registered from this region include Hyalinobatrachium carlesvilai, Hypsiboas aguilari, Pristimantis albertus, Pristimantis bipunctatus, Pristimantis bromeliaceus, Pristimantis lucasi, Pristimantis saggitulus, and Pristimantis stictogaster.
This species is currently listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red list. The habitat of A.planipaleae is severely fragmented, mostly through cultivation of granadilla and chili peppers, as well as selective logging of trees such as Cedrella spp and Juglans spp. Many re-forestation plans involve the plantation of Pinus spp and Eucalyptus spp in the deforested areas, however, this kind of reforestation does not restore natural conditions inside the forest, as neither of these trees are native to Peru. Furthermore, the use of agrochemicals poured in streams, and introduction of exotic species like Rainbow trout create an adverse environment for the conservation of frog populations in the area, including A.planipaleae. Despite these threats, it is still possible to hear males calling during warm afternoons in the forests near Oxapampa.
This fieldwork possible was made possible through support from Instituto del Bien Comun (IBC), who have funded the work of Germán Chávez. Alex Samar gave his help in the field, and Federico Rizopatrón, César Laura, and Guido Casimiro helped with logistics.