The Lake Oku clawed frog is a small amphibian reaching just 36 mm in length. This diminutive species is one of only two frogs known to be ‘dodecaploid’, meaning they have a staggering 12 sets of chromosomes – humans have just two!
This unique frog is found only in a small crater lake (Lake Oku) in Cameroon, and has a tiny distribution of just 2 km2. Its tiny range, combined with recurring mass mortality events, mean this species is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List.
The reasons for the repeated mass mortality events are still unclear, though tests for Ranavirus and the amphibian fungus Chytrid have been negative or of ‘low prevalence’. The species is still abundant at Lake Oku, but their are several potential threats to the continued existence of the species. Chytridiomycosis is a major threat to amphibians throughout the region, as is the introduction of fish to the lake to meet the protein demands of the local communities. Finally, the degradation of the forest habitat around the lake may lead to degraded water quality through nutrient pollution and siltation.
Fortunately, Lake Oku and its surrounding forest is protected by a government-sanctioned protected area. However, enforcement of the protected area is complex and controversial. Given the real possibility of a rapid extinction of the species, captive conservation populations have been established, with ZSL London Zoo achieving the first captive breeding of the species in 2014.
- Order: Anura
- Family: Pipidae
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 36 mm (?)
This frog is found only in Lake Oku, a 243 hectare lake 2,2000 m A.S.L. on Mount Oku, in northwestern Cameroon.
Habitat and Ecology
Lake Oku is a shallow crater lake encompassed by montane forest. The Lake Oku clawed frog is completely water-dependent and is the primary aquatic vertebrate present in the lake.