Ranitomeya variabilis

Zimmerman and Zimmerman, 1988

Ranitomeya variabilis

Widely distributed throughout the east-Andean versant of Peru and Ecuador and adjacent lowlands. Extends well into the Amazon basin and has been collected as far west as La Pedrera, Colombia. Occurs from ~150-1400 meters elevation. Previously thought to be restricted to northern San Martin, however, following the results from Brown & Twomey et al. (2011), the range of this species has been greatly expanded and now covers much of the upper Amazon basin.

Natural History
This is a bromeliad-breeding species. These frogs can reach high abundances where bromeliads are common, such as high elevation ridgelines or other epiphyte-laden habitats.

Conservation Status
Most suitable R. variabilis habitat is well conserved. Furthermore, this species has a broad distribution and is often locally abundant throughout its range. Smuggling pressure has been low when compared to other species.

Member of the variabilis group, sister to R. amazonica. This species was long known under two species names: R. variabilis, which was previously restricted in usage to spotted highland frogs, and R. ventrimaculata, which was used for lowland striped frogs. Following the results from Brown & Twomey et al. (2011), the highland and lowland frogs actually belonged to the same species, and due to incorrect usage of ventrimaculata, R. variabilis became the valid name.

Type Locality Map View Larger

Ranitomeya variabilis
Spotted Morph

This morph is known from the highlands of the eastern Andean foothills from southern Ecuador to central Peru. This is the name-bearing morph for the species, originally described from the highlands near Tarapoto, Peru. These frogs can be commonly found inhabiting bromeliads in primary and late-secondary montane forest.

Southern Morph

Although at first glance this morph looks like the nominal variabilis, it is worth mentioning as a distinct morph. First, the dorsum typically lacks the blues found in the nominal variabilis. The legs also tend to be solid blue and with very large black spots. The southern morph is also larger than the nominal morph. Strangely, the evolution of spots in high elevations has occurred more that once in the variabilis group; both in Peru and in Ecuador. The third and fourth pictures show a comparison between the nominal and southern morph. The southern morph is pictured on the bottom and top, respectively.

Striped Morph

This morph was long known as Ranitomeya ventrimaculata. Brown & Twomey et al. (2011) demonstrated that the epithet ventrimaculata was being used incorrectly, and as a result these frogs were placed in synonymy with R. variabilis. This morph is frequently found in bromeliads, being commonly found in understory bromeliads of the genus Guzmania. Dry conditions which favor only canopy bromeliads, or excessively wet conditions which result in temporary flooding, appear to have caused certain population of this morph to be highly arboreal. This morph can be found throughout the lowlands of the upper Amazon and may co-occur with R. amazonica near Iquitos, Peru.