10,000 endangered 'scrotum frogs' die at Lake Titicaca

Researchers are trying to get to the bottom of this tragic turn of events.

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Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr

A Titicaca frog in an aquarium exhibit at the Denver Zoo March 17, 2016.

Andy Cross, Denver Post via Getty Images

The words may sound silly, but the event is anything but. It looks like pollution is getting so severe in Peru's Lake Titicaca that it's seriously harming an already critically endangered species. Recently, hundreds of Titicaca water frogs (known as "scrotum frogs" for their very baggy skin) have been found floating dead in the waters of Lake Titicaca in Peru, the only place the species can be found in the world.

The frog is entirely aquatic, and its numbers have declined dramatically in the last few years -- 80 percent over three generations of frog, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The species is being collected for food, despite the waters becoming poisoned by pollution. It's also thought that introduced North American trout are eating the frog's eggs and larvae.

This mass death has caused the Peruvian National Forestry and Wildlife Service to launch an investigation. "Based on local residents' statements and samples taken in the days after the incident, it is believed that more than 10,000 frogs were affected over about 30 miles," it said in a statement.

The event was brought to the attention of the National Forestry and Wildlife Service by protest group Committee Against the Pollution of the Coata River, whose members brought 100 dead frogs to capital city Puno on the Titicaca lakeshore.