Animal of the Month
May 2018

Name: Panamanian Golden Frog

Class: Amphibian
Order: Anura
Family: Bufondiae
Genus: Atelopus
Species: Atelopus varius zeteki

Size: 2 inches long.
Weight: N/A.

Characteristics: Small, short legs, black and golden eyes, webbed feet.
Color: Golden yellow. Some individuals have black spots.
Preferred Habitat:Mountain streams
Range: Central Cordilleran rainforests, west-central Panama.
Diet: Insects and other small vertebrates.
Lifespan: Unknown in wild, up to 5 years in captivity.


The national symbol of the Republic of Panama, the Panamanian Golden Frog is said to bring good luck to anyone who sees it. These frogs are endemic to the Cordilleran mountains in Panama, living near mountain streams and slopes. They eat a variety of small insects and vertebrates.

The Panamanian Golden Frog is a special member of the amphibian family. When competing for territory, the males communicate through semaphoring-a form of hand and feet waving! This is due to the fact that the loud waterfalls they live near make vocalizing difficult. Unlike other frogs, Panamanian Golden Frogs walk rather than hop. They may be pretty, but don't touch them-they're poisonous! Like many Central and South American frogs, the Panamanian Golden Frog's bright colors are a warning to predators. They possess glands that produce zetekitoxin, a toxin that is capable of paralyzing or even killing would-be predators. Part of the toxin's production is owed to it being present in the Golden Frog's food. You are what you eat, and the Golden Frog takes in the poison of its prey. However, when fed controlled insects in captivity, the frogs lose their defensive poison.

As with most frogs they go through a life cycle of eggs, tadpoles and finally adults. Breeding occurs from November-January. Males will carve out their territory through vocalizing and semaphoring. After mating, females will deposit one string of about 370 cream-colored eggs onto a rock. Tadpoles hatch in 7-10 days and are black or greenish to better blend into their surroundings. The tadpoles also are equipped with a sucker to hold onto the river bottom. As time passes they will lose their gills and tail and their color will become green and blue. When they are adults they gain their signature golden color. While their lifespan in the wild is unknown, they can live for five years in captivity.

The Panamanian Golden Frog is in terrible trouble. Their numbers have plummeted due to habitat destruction and chytrid fungus infection. They are also victims of the illegal pet trade. Please, DO NOT buy a Panamanian Golden Frog or any other animal that was taken directly from the rainforest! It is unethical to make a pet out of such an endangered species. Panamanian Golden Frogs are listed as critically endangered, but they may in fact be extinct in the wild. The Denver Zoo claims that they could be the rarest animals on Earth. Fortunately there is hope. A coalition of zoos has launched captive breeding programs to ensure that this beautiful species has a future.

If you want to learn more and join the effort to safeguard these wondrous frogs, check out these awesome websites:

ICUN-Panamanian Golden Frog Page

Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project-a project of Amphibian Ark
http://www.Amphibian Ark Project


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