Research Article
Research Article
Geographic distribution of the rare and endangered Telmatobufo venustus (Philippi, 1899) (Anura, Calyptocephalellidae), with the description of a new locality and comments on the type locality
expand article infoClaudio Correa, José Ignacio Osses, Jesús A. Morales§, Juan Carlos Ortiz
‡ Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile
§ NGO Vida Nativa, Santiago, Chile
Open Access


Telmatobufo venustus was one of the rarest endemic amphibians of Chile until 2020. Prior to that year, this species had been known in four localities, three of them with uncertain location, including the type locality. However, three new precise localities have been reported successively since 2020, all based on a few individuals. In this study, we review the geographic information on the species and, based on literature and other documents, tentatively locate the three localities with uncertain location published before 2020. Furthermore, we describe a new locality near the uncertain southern end of its distribution. Although the number of localities has considerably increased since 2020, the species still has a highly fragmented known distribution, its type locality and southern limit cannot be located with certainty, and it is found in only two state-protected areas. Due to these reasons and because threats to the habitat have been identified in some localities, we suggest keeping the species as Endangered.

Key Words

altitudinal range, Altos de Lircay National Reserve, Nannophryne variegata, tadpoles, southern limit, type series


Calyptocephalella gayi (the Chilean giant frog) and Telmatobufo (four species, Mountain false toads) comprise the family Calyptocephalellidae, one of the most ancient anuran lineages from South America (Feng et al. 2017). This family, endemic to south-central Chile (western side of the Andes), is more related to the Australasian family Myobatrachidae than to any South American lineage, which is consistent with a Gondwanan origin (Correa et al. 2008; Mörs et al. 2020). The family has a rich fossil record, mainly in Argentinean Patagonia, where several extinct species of the genus Calyptocephalella have been described (reviewed by Nicoli et al. 2022), but no fossils of the genus Telmatobufo are known. Due to its old evolutionary age, wider geographical distribution in the past, low number of current species, and high morphological and ecological disparity of the genera that compose it, Calyptocephalellidae can be considered as a relict lineage.

The two genera exhibit different distribution patterns. Calyptocephalella gayi (Duméril & Bibron, 1841) inhabits lentic environments, from the semi-arid zone (28°S) to the temperate forests of southern Chile (41°30'S), covering the entire intermediate Mediterranean zone (Mora et al. 2021). In contrast, the four species of Telmatobufo are distributed exclusively in the temperate forests of south-central Chile (35°30'S–41°S). Telmatobufo ignotus Cuevas, 2010, whose presence has only been confirmed at the type locality and surroundings (~ 36°S), and T. bullocki Schmidt, 1952 (37–38°S) have allopatric distributions in the Coastal Range, while T. venustus (Philippi, 1899) (35°30'S to ~ 38°S) inhabits the foothills of the Andes, and T. australis Formas, 1972 (39°25'S to ~ 41°S) is found in both mountain ranges (Formas et al. 2001).

Telmatobufo venustus is the species of the genus with the largest latitudinal distribution, but with the second fewest records. Since its description as Bufo venustus (Philippi 1899), there were no published records of the species until the year 1982. Formas and Veloso (1982) clarified the taxonomic status and generic assignment of T. venustus with material from a new locality, Alto de Vilches (Altos de Lircay National Reserve). In 1983, a tadpole was found in the locality of Ralco (Díaz et al. 1983), but the species has not been observed there again. Only recently, since 2020, three new localities have been reported (Caro-Lagos and Charrier 2020; Díaz-Páez and Alveal 2021; González-Véliz et al. 2022), one of which slightly extended the range of the species to the north (Caro-Lagos and Charrier 2020) (Table 1).

Table 1.

Localities and areas where Telmatobufo venustus has been recorded. For each locality/area, the number with which it appears on the map in Fig. 1 is indicated in parentheses after the name. Only the source(s) where each locality/area was mentioned for the first time and where relevant information was added later are indicated. For each locality/area, published coordinates, atitude, and some clarifications about their location (Remarks column) are provided.

Locality/area Source(s) Published coordinates Altitude (m) Remarks
Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue (the four red segments of Germain’s reconstructed routes, Fig. 2B) Philippi (1899, 1902) Not provided 914–1219 (originally, 3000–4000 feet above sea level, Philippi 1899) One of the two localities, together with Cordillera de Chillán, from where the specimens used to describe the species came from
Cordillera de Chillán (9) Philippi (1899) Not provided 914–1219 (originally, 3000–4000 feet above sea level); ~ 1200 m (Formas and Veloso 1982; Formas et al. 2001) One of the two localities, together with Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue, from where the specimens used to describe the species came from; omitted by Philippi (1902); type locality according to Formas and Veloso (1982) and Formas et al. (2001); it could correspond to the vicinity of Recinto (this study, see Results)
Alto de Vilches (= Altos de Vilches, Vilches Alto, Río Lircay, Altos de Lircay National Reserve) Formas and Veloso (1982) Not provided in Formas and Veloso (1982); 35°28'S, 71°11'W (Formas and Cuevas 2000; Nuñez and Formas 2000; Cuevas and Formas 2001); 35°32'S, 70°50'W (Araya and Cisternas 2008); 35°35'41"S, 71°04'27"W (Núñez and Gálvez 2015) 1280 (Formas and Veloso 1982); 900 (Cuevas and Formas 2001) Coordinates of Formas and Cuevas (2000), Nuñez and Formas (2000) and Cuevas and Formas (2001) fall outside of the Altos de Lircay National Reserve; coordinates of Araya and Cisternas (2008) do not match their map, in which six exact points of presence within or around the Río Lircay National Reserve are shown (detailed below); coordinates of Núñez and Gálvez (2015) are only referential
Arroyo Puente del Tronco (inside the Altos de Lircay National Reserve) (2) Araya and Cisternas (2008) Not provided, but the site is shown on a map 1638 Located here approximately at 35°35'33"S, 71°00'04"W
Chorro de Checo (inside the Altos de Lircay National Reserve) (3) Araya and Cisternas (2008) Not provided, but the site is shown on a map 1554 Located here approximately at 35°35'40"S, 71°00'49"W
Arroyo Nido de Carpinteros (inside the Altos de Lircay National Reserve) (4) Araya and Cisternas (2008) Not provided, but the site is shown on a map 1543 Located here approximately at 35°35'53"S, 71°01'35"W
Río Lircay Camino Viejo (inside the Altos de Lircay National Reserve) (5) Araya and Cisternas (2008) Not provided, but the site is shown on a map 1346 Located here approximately at 35°35'44"S, 71°02'13"W
Estero Piedras Tacitas (near the Altos de Lircay National Reserve) (6) Araya and Cisternas (2008) Not provided, but the site is shown on a map 1164 Located here approximately at 35°36'33"S, 71°04'17"W
Pantano (near the Altos de Lircay National Reserve) (7) Araya and Cisternas (2008) Not provided, but the site is shown on a map 1435 Located here approximately at 35°37'06"S, 71°04'21"W
Ralco (12, two points) Díaz et al. (1983) 37°59'S, 71°24'W; 37°53'28"S, 71°38'03"W (Núñez and Gálvez 2015) Not provided The tadpole was collected “in the Bío-Bío River”, but the coordinates of Díaz et al. (1983) fall around 8 km east of this river; Fenolio et al. (2011) affirm that the locality was flooded by a dam; the referential coordinates of Núñez and Gálvez (2015) fall in the Biobío River, but ~ 22 km northwest of the point of Díaz et al. (1983); in the vicinity of the “Ralco River” according to González-Véliz et al. (2022)
Radal Siete Tazas National Park (1) Caro-Lagos and Charrier (2020) 35.498174°S, 70.929807°W 1524 On a tributary of the Claro River (Caro-Lagos and Charrier 2020)
Altos de Malalcura, Cajón de las Pulgas (10) Díaz-Páez and Alveal (2021) 37°23'06"S, 71°29'45"W 1062 On a tributary of the Malalcura River
ca. San Fabián de Alico (8) González-Véliz et al. (2022) 36.740589°S, 71.376011°W 1228 Coordinates fall in Quebrada Los Baños, 25 km southeast of the town San Fabián de Alico
Estero Pichipangue (Fig. 2A), Pitrilon sector (11) This study 37.8983°S, 71.5085°W 1150 Tributary of the Pangue River, which flows into the right bank of the Biobío River

The description of Telmatobufo venustus (Philippi 1899) was based on specimens from two localities: Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue and Cordillera de Chillán, whose exact locations are currently unknown. Formas et al. (2001) reviewed the geographic distribution of the species and indicated that the type locality is Cordillera de Chillán, but they do not mention Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue. This locality potentially corresponds to the southern limit of its distribution and has been omitted from almost all sources of geographic information of the species, except for IUCN (2022). The two locations reported later, Alto de Vilches (Formas and Veloso 1982) and Ralco (Díaz et al. 1983), were described with low precision (sexagesimal coordinates up to minutes). In both cases, the coordinates do not agree with the named sites where the specimens were supposedly collected. Later, Araya and Cisternas (2008) provided a satellite map with points within and around the Altos de Lircay National Reserve, but no coordinates. Regarding Ralco, Fenolio et al. (2011) indicated that the place was flooded due to the construction of a dam. Only the localities reported since 2020 have been published with precise coordinates.

Telmatobufo venustus has always been considered rare. Philippi (1899, 1902) had already mentioned its rareness in Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue. Until 1998 (i.e., 99 years after its description), adults had not been collected again (Fenolio et al. 2011). They were observed that year in the Altos de Lircay National Reserve (Formas and Cuevas 2000). The most recent reports have been based on a few individuals, while only the Altos de Lircay National Reserve seems to host a stable population (Fenolio et al. 2011). In addition to its low abundance, the species appears to have a highly fragmented distribution. It is known from fewer than 10 areas, spaced over 300 km. The low number of known localities and the fragmentation of its distribution justify its classification as Endangered by the IUCN (2022) and the Chilean state categorization system, the Reglamento de Clasificación de Especies Silvestres (RCE).

Here we review the geographic information of T. venustus in the literature and online databases (Global Biodiversity Information Facility, GBIF,; iNaturalist, to map all the points of presence described to date. We address the problem of locating the type locality, which is linked to the fact that no holotype was designed by Philippi (1899). We also propose possible locations for three historical localities reported until 1983, including the type locality and the point that would define the southern limit of the species, and clarify the altitudinal limits of the species. Finally, we describe a new population near the southern limit and the population of Ralco, where the species has not been seen for more than 40 years.

Materials and methods

This review is based on all publications with information on T. venustus, including journal articles, books, book chapters, guides and online sources. Some of these sources contain dot maps (Formas et al. 2001; Caro-Lagos and Charrier 2020; Díaz-Páez and Alveal 2021; González-Véliz et al. 2022), surface maps (Charrier 2019; IUCN 2022) or less precise or incomplete information on the geographic range and/or altitudinal limits (e.g. Formas 1995; Veloso 2006; Rabanal and Nuñez 2008; Stuart et al. 2008; Lobos et al. 2013). Presence points were downloaded from GBIF and iNaturalist; both sites were accessed on March 30, 2023. In addition to the coordinates and altitude, for each point some clarifications on its location were added (Table 1, column Remarks).


A map with all the localities collected was made in ArcMap v10.8, using satellite imagery as a base. We used the exact coordinates provided in each publication, except in the case of the localities of the Altos de Lircay National Reserve and surroundings (Araya and Cisternas 2008), which were extracted directly from their satellite map. The two original localities, Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue and Cordillera de Chillán (Philippi 1899, 1902), where the species has not been recorded again, were published without coordinates. Therefore, we resorted to literature and other documents from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to pin down their location more precisely. One of these sources (Germain 1894) was used to trace the possible route of the trip where that author supposedly collected one of the type specimens. Areas within the altitudinal limits specified in the description of the species, between 914 and 1219 meters (3000–4000 feet), were mapped using ArcMap to restrict the location of possible collection places for this specimen. Moreover, a layer was added with the areas protected by the Sistema Nacional de Áreas Silvestres Protegidas del Estado of Chile (SNASPE) to determine which localities are state protected. Finally, a similar map was produced for the GBIF and iNaturalist points.

New locality

The new locality of T. venustus was discovered by chance by one of the authors (J.I. Osses). The coordinates and altitude were recorded in situ with a cell phone and verified on Google Earth. The size of the adult individuals (snout-vent length, SVL) was estimated with the lid of a camera (diameter 52 mm) placed next to them. None of the observed individuals was captured.


Compilation of localities

We compiled 14 localities of Telmatobufo venustus, including the new one described by us (Table 1). We did not include the locality of Niblinto (Ibarra et al. 1999) in Table 1, cited as an imprecise record by González-Véliz et al. (2022). The original source does not specify if it is in the National Reserve or in the Nature Sanctuary called Los Huemules del Niblinto, it was mentioned without coordinates, and it is not supported by collected or photographed material. Therefore, we consider that the presence of the species in that area requires confirmation. We mapped only 13 localities (Fig. 1), since Alto de Vilches (Formas and Veloso 1982) was replaced with more precise sites subsequently reported within and around the reserve (Araya and Cisternas 2008). Five of the mapped locations are within state-protected areas (SNASPE): one in the Radal Siete Tazas National Park, which constitutes the northern end of the distribution of the species, and four in the Altos de Lircay National Reserve (Fig. 1). Eighteen points were downloaded from iNaturalist and nine from GBIF (Suppl. material 1), but six of the latter (the only ones with coordinates) come from iNaturalist and have the same associated coordinates. Most of the iNaturalist points fall in low-lying anthropized areas, along roads or in difficult-to-access mountainous areas, but all around the Altos de Lircay National Reserve (Suppl. material 2). Therefore, we assume that the observations were made in that reserve, but the coordinates have been obscured by default (with an accuracy of ~ 28.7 km) because it is a threatened species (taxon geoprivacy). Thus, we do not include these points in the collection of localities (Table 1, Fig. 1) because we consider them redundant with the published geographic information of the species.

Figure 1. 

Geographic distribution of Telmatobufo venustus. Orange circles: literature localities; yellow octagram: possible location of Cordillera de Chillán according to this study; red diamond: new locality described here; blue circles: possible locations of Ralco. The insets to the right show enlargements of the northern (A) and southern (B) ends of its distribution. Inset B shows the possible routes (greenish solid and yellow dashed lines) that Philibert Germain followed, from west to east, on his journey inside the Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue in 1893 (see details in Results). The red segments of the solid and dashed lines represent the sectors of Germain’s routes that lie between 914 and 1219 meters (gray areas of inset B). The semi-transparent green areas represent the areas protected by the state of Chile (SNASPE). The thin white lines within Chile correspond to the boundaries of the administrative regions (named with white letters).

Type locality and type series

Formas and Veloso (1982) were the first to indicate that the type locality of T. venustus is Cordillera de Chillán (Andean foothills, east of the city of Chillán), which has been included in some maps despite being an indeterminate place (Formas et al. 2001; Díaz-Páez and Alveal 2021). The mention of Cordillera de Chillán as the type locality is based on a specimen from the collection of the Museo de Zoología de Concepción (MUZUC or MZUC 205051) labeled as the holotype (as it appears in the photograph of the same source), and recognized as such in subsequent publications (e.g. Formas 1995; Formas et al. 2001). The problem with this type locality is that Philippi (1899) described the species from four specimens from Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue and Cordillera de Chillán, without defining a holotype, and the only remaining specimen of the type series (MZUC 205051) apparently has a wrong collection number and is currently missing. The only specimen from the Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue had already been lost at the time of the description (Philippi 1899). In the 1970s, only one of the three specimens from Cordillera de Chillán could be in the collection of the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural of Santiago (MNHN). Apparently, this specimen is one of the two that existed in the MNHN collection at the beginning of the 20th century, whose localities of origin were Chillán and El Recinto (Quijada 1914). This specimen appears photographed in Donoso-Barros (1972) and is the same one identified as MZUC 205051 by Formas and Veloso (1982). There is no published information on the specimen MZUC 205051 before 1982, so we speculate that it was entered into the collection and identified as the holotype by Roberto Donoso Barros in the early 70’s, but without a nomenclatural act formally published in the peer-reviewed literature. Furthermore, since Philippi (1899) did not select a specimen from the type series as the holotype, this only remaining syntype should have been designated as the lectotype (International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, ICZN 1999), thereby also automatically defining the type locality (Cordillera de Chillán). Unfortunately, we could neither find any specimen accurately identifiable as T. venustus in the MZUC collection nor a record with the number 205051, since the number of the collection does not reach 50,000 specimens yet. The apparent loss of the only remaining specimen of the type series and confusion about its collection number prevent us from amending its typification (designating it the lectotype), and from recognizing the currently accepted type locality of the species. Consequently, following the rules of the ICZN (1999), in the absence of a holotype or lectotype, the type locality of T. venustus corresponds to the two localities of origin of the type series: Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue and Cordillera de Chillán.

Proposed locations for historical localities

The only specimen of T. venustus from Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue known to date (Philippi 1899) was collected by the entomologist Philibert Germain. At the time, that estate (“hacienda”) covered more than 240,000 hectares (Flores 2013), from near the city of Mulchén to the town of Lonquimay in the south, and eastward to the border with Argentina. We reconstructed the possible route that Germain followed during his exploration of the estate in December 1893 (Germain 1911), which is described in Germain (1894). The trip can be divided into two parts. In the first stage, Germain started from a place called El Cisne, following the right bank of the Renaico River, then, crossed a small mountain range, Pichinitrun (also known as Pichinitro, Pichinitron or Pichi-Nitron), to reach the Vilucura River basin (also known as Vilicura or Villucura), and followed the right bank of this river to reach a place called Lolco. We used the map of the Comisión Chilena de Límites (1908) to plot this part of the journey as there is a road that exactly matches the description of Germain (1894) (Fig. 1B, greenish solid line). The second part of the trip was not described in detail by Germain (1894). He apparently set out from Lolco up the right bank of the river almost to its source (the Headwaters of Lolco), crossed a bare alpine area of the Cordillera de Toluaca (Tolhuaca Range) to reach the basin of the Lonquimay River, and finally followed a tributary of this river (not named) until reaching the Lonquimay “pampa”, where the administrator’s house of this sector of the estate was located. This part of the trip (Fig. 1B, dashed yellow line) was traced partly following current paths (Google Earth); the location of the administrator’s house was located according to the map by Soza (1891). We identified four areas along the reconstructed tracks, one of which could correspond to the southern limit of the range of the species (red segments of the paths in Fig. 1B), considering the elevation range specified (3000–4000 ft) in the species description (Philippi 1899). Regarding the accepted type locality until now, Cordillera de Chillán (Formas and Veloso 1982), González-Véliz et al. (2022) highlighted that the new locality near San Fabián de Alico described by them would be close to it. In fact, the new locality is in the Andean foothills, approximately 66 km east of Chillán, but there is no direct way to get there from this city. Instead, we propose a more precise place for the locality of Cordillera de Chillán, in the vicinity of the town of Recinto, located about 47 km southeast of the city of Chillán, on the road that ends at Termas de Chillán. This is based on a specimen of Bufo venustus that appears in the catalog of amphibians housed in the MNHN at the beginning of the last century published by Quijada (1914), labeled “El Recinto, 1897”. According to Philippi (1899), Germain brought to the Museum the specimens from the Cordillera de Chillán that were used to describe the species in January 1897. Germain described numerous insects in Chile, including some beetles from Termas de Chillán (Germain 1911). Thus, it is possible that he collected the individuals of T. venustus from Cordillera de Chillán at an intermediate point of the way such as Recinto. Finally, we also propose possible locations for the locality of Ralco (Díaz et al. 1983). The only specimen observed there, until now, was collected supposedly in the Biobío River, but this type of river is different from the typical environment where the species is known up to now (Fenolio et al. 2011). In addition, the imprecise coordinates that appear in Díaz et al. (1983) fall about 8 km east of the Biobío River, on the side of a mountain at ~ 1885 m elevation and far from currently recognizable roads. Therefore, we tentatively locate “Ralco” in the upper part of the two tributaries (Malla and Quepuca rivers; points 12 of Fig. 1B) of the Biobío River closest to the coordinates given by Díaz et al. (1983). We also emphasize that there is no additional data or information published about the locality reported by Díaz et al. (1983) to affirm that it was flooded after 1983 as it appears in the literature (Fenolio et al. 2011; Díaz-Páez and Alveal 2021).

Altitudinal range

There is no current consensus in the literature about the altitudinal limits of T. venustus. For example, Formas et al. (2001) defined the range between 600 and 1280 m, while an earlier source (Formas 1995) specified higher limits (1500–1700 m), which appear in most of the subsequent publications and sources of information about the species (e.g. Díaz-Páez and Ortiz 2003; Rabanal and Nuñez 2008; Stuart et al. 2008; Fenolio et al. 2011; Díaz-Páez and Alveal 2021), and even in the species summary information file of the Ministry of the Environment of Chile ( Considering the records with precise altitudes collected here (Table 1), the highest point is Arroyo puente del tronco, at 1638 m, inside the Altos de Lircay National Reserve (Araya and Cisternas 2008). Regarding the lower limit, we discard that of Formas et al. (2001) (600 m) because there is no reliable precedent that allows to locate any population at that altitude. On the other hand, Cuevas and Formas (2001) reported the presence of T. venustus at the type locality of Alsodes hugoi Cuevas & Formas, 2001, Altos de Lircay National Reserve, at 900 m, specifically on the banks of the Lircay River. In the extreme northwest of the Reserve, there are sectors on the south bank of the Lircay River at around 900 m, which could be the area where the type series of A. hugoi was collected. Furthermore, this limit would be close to the originally minimum altitude (3000 ft = 914 m) reported by Philippi (1899). Therefore, we define the altitudinal limits of T. venustus as between ~ 900 and 1638 m.

New locality

The new locality, Estero Pichipangue (Fig. 2A), corresponds to a melt stream with crystalline waters located on the northwest slope of the Callaqui volcano and that flows into the Pangue river, which in turn flows into the Biobío River, in a sector called Pitrilon (southeast of the Biobío Region). On February 16, 2022, eight T. venustus adults (Fig. 2B) were observed at night on the banks of Estero Pichipangue, at an approximate height of 1150 m. The individuals were easily recognized as members of the genus Telmatobufo by the presence of parotid glands, the numerous and prominent glands on the back, highly developed interdigital webbing on the hindlegs and the vertical pupil, and at the species level by their orange-reddish spots on a dark background. An average SVL of 65 mm was estimated for the eight observed adults (range, ~ 60–70 mm). The stream where the adults were observed presents a gentle slope, with a maximum depth of 30 cm, and a rocky and sandy bottom. Inside the stream, three T. venustus larvae were observed clinging to the bottom rocks (Fig. 2C). The tadpoles were identified as Telmatobufo by their dorsoventrally flattened bodies, the presence of a suctorial oral disk, and by its thick tail, particularly at the base (Díaz et al. 1983; Fenolio et al. 2011). The habitat where the adults and larvae of T. venustus were found corresponds to mountain mixed forest dominated by Nothofagus dombeyi, and, to a lesser extent, by N. alpina; the understory is dominated by Chusquea quila, Fuchsia magellanica and abundant Gunnera tinctoria. About 3.2 km upstream from the site where the T. venustus individuals were observed, close to the tree line, an adult of Nannophryne variegata Günther, 1870 (SVL = ~ 50 mm) was observed on the bank of the stream, among the riparian vegetation (Fig. 2D). This new record of N. variegata is located about 50 km south from the northernmost known point of the species (Cisternas-Medina et al. 2019). The Estero Pichipangue is far from human settlements and shows very few signs of human intervention. No salmonids were observed in the stream, a potential threat to T. venustus larvae and other amphibians (Fenolio et al. 2011), but the area around the stream could be threatened by livestock, since it is used for “veranadas” (summer pastures).

Figure 2. 

Stream and anurans observed at the new locality of Telmatobufo venustus, Estero Pichipangue, Biobío Region, Chile. A. Stream near the site where the adults and larvae of T. venustus were found; B. Adult male of T. venustus from Estero Pichipangue; SVL ~ 6.5 cm; C. Tadpole of T. venustus; D. Adult of Nannophryne variegata.


After 124 years since its description, T. venustus is still only known from a few precise localities and its altitudinal and southern distribution limits cannot be clearly inferred from the literature. In fact, almost half of the known points are within or around the Altos de Lircay National Reserve, the only area where the species can currently be observed with relative ease (Fenolio et al. 2011; C. Correa and J. Morales, personal observations, February 2022). This is partly because it is a protected area with several trails to walk that receives many visitors, mainly in summer. Regarding online databases, GBIF and iNaturalist do not contain additional points that contribute to better define the distribution of the species, since they are all concentrated around the Altos de Lircay National Reserve, and do not have precise coordinates or names. The latter adds more uncertainty to the scarce precise geographic information on the species, which is why we recommend not using the T. venustus records of those databases.

The present review allowed us to propose locations for some historical localities and better clarify the altitudinal limits of the species. Specifically, we identified possible places for the two localities that we consider here as the type locality, Hacienda San Ignacio de Pemehue and Cordillera de Chillán. Furthermore, we specified the altitudinal limits, although we emphasize that, with the available information, the lower limit (900 m) cannot be determined with certainty. According to the literature, T. venustus is a rare and secretive species (Stuart et al. 2008; Fenolio et al. 2011). The scarcity of records and the small number of individuals observed in most localities over 120 years support this perception. The low number of known localities is probably due to a lack of exploration, since the four locations described as of 2020, including the one in this study, are found in hard-to-reach areas and generally far from public roads. In fact, there are still relatively large gaps throughout the distribution; for example, more than 120 km between Altos de Lircay National Reserve and the vicinity of San Fabián de Alico; and more than 50 km between Cordillera de Chillán and Altos de Malalcura, and between this last locality and Estero Pichipangue (Fig. 1).

Telmatobufo venustus is listed currently as Endangered by the IUCN (2022; assessment from 2015) and the RCE (Decree of 2011), based on criteria related to geographic distribution (B1 and B2, IUCN; only B2, RCE). The IUCN considers that the species only occurs in two threat-defined locations, Altos de Lircay National Reserve, where the only stable subpopulation would be, and Ralco, and has an area of occupancy (AOO) of 499 km2 and an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 996 km2. Using the geographic information updated here, a precise estimate of the EOO cannot be obtained, as long as the southern distribution limit of T. venustus is not clear, but following the IUCN recommendations (4 km2 per location) and defining nine threat-defined locations, the AOO could be 36 km2. This estimate may vary depending on how many locations are defined for the six points of the Altos de Lircay National Reserve and surroundings (here they were grouped into two, considering their distances, water connectivity and their protection status; see Fig. 1A) and if the populations of historical records are considered extinct or not. However, the value falls below the limit of subcriterion B2 (< 500 km2) to preliminarily ratify the species as Endangered.

To assign a category of threat under criterion B, the species also must meet two or more conditions related to some characteristics of its geographic distribution and the quality of its habitat. The first condition (a), severely fragmented distribution, is maintained despite the sustained increase in known localities since 2020. Fenolio et al. (2011) provided arguments to apply the second condition (b), based on observations in the Altos de Lircay National Reserve: a decrease in the quality of the habitat where the larvae develop due to the presence of rainbow trout and the potential presence of chytrid fungus (not detected for them). After more than a decade, one more threat may be added. Caro-Lagos and Charrier (2020) describe how several streams within the Radal Siete Tazas National Park have been progressively drying up due to the megadrought that has been affecting central Chile for more than a decade (Garreaud et al. 2020), phenomenon that could also be occurring in the Altos de Lircay National Reserve, located only 12 km further south (Fig. 1A). In addition, the megadrought is closely associated with the increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires (González et al. 2018), another threat identified for the species by Veloso (2006) and for T. ignotus (Ortiz & Briones, 2022) in the Coastal Range. Thus, the detected and potential threats to the habitat justify maintaining the Endangered category for the species (under subcriterion B2ab(iii)), despite the recent increase in known populations.


We thank Herman Núñez for providing the information on the specimens deposited in the MNHN and Eileen Fuentes for her assistance with English.


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Supplementary materials

Supplementary material 1 

Some data associated with iNaturalist and GBIF geographic records

Claudio Correa, José Ignacio Osses, Jesús A. Morales, Juan Carlos Ortiz

Data type: csv

This dataset is made available under the Open Database License ( The Open Database License (ODbL) is a license agreement intended to allow users to freely share, modify, and use this Dataset while maintaining this same freedom for others, provided that the original source and author(s) are credited.
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Supplementary material 2 

Geographic records of T. venustus obtained from iNaturalist and GBIF

Claudio Correa, José Ignacio Osses, Jesús A. Morales, Juan Carlos Ortiz

Data type: tif

Explanation note: The yellow circles represent the points from iNaturalist, while the blue squares are the ones that appear on both platforms. Orange circles are the nearby points described in the literature (1–7, Fig. 1A and Table 1)

This dataset is made available under the Open Database License ( The Open Database License (ODbL) is a license agreement intended to allow users to freely share, modify, and use this Dataset while maintaining this same freedom for others, provided that the original source and author(s) are credited.
Download file (13.51 MB)
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