Today’s IUCN Species of the Day is EDGE amphibian number 15, the Table Mountain ghost frog (Heleophryne rosei).
The family to which the Table Mountain ghost frog belongs represents the most ancient members of the Neobatrachia suborder (the modern frogs and toads) having diverged from their closest ancestors over 160 million years ago.
Found only on Table Mountain in South Africa this species occupies an area that is just 7-8 km sq and lives in forest and fynbos heathland using streams to breed in. Morphological features such as a squat, compressed body and highly webbed feet that make it a strong swimmer means this species well adapted to the rocky mountain streams in which it lives. Tadpoles have sucking mouthparts that allow them to hold onto rock faces when feeding and climbing.
This rare and elusive species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and faces a number of threats such as the spread of non-native vegetation that can block streams, frequent fires, heavy ecotourism, the construction of dams along waterways and the fungal disease chytridiomycosis.
Currently, the whole of the range in which this species is found is protected by the Table Mountain National Park but maintenance of its remaining habitat is essential. This may be possible by collaborating with the local forestry services to manage a buffer zone of native plants around the streams that this species uses. It is also essential that policy continues to mandate that dams permit a continuous flow of downstream water to ensure streams are not lost.
EDGE fellow Werner Conradie has been monitoring the Table Mountain ghost frog to learn more about their life and behaviour with the aim of developing a conservation programme. You can read more about Werner’s work in his blogs.