• Panamanian Golden Frog - Atelopus zeteki

    Atelopus zeteki (Dunn, 1933) - Panamanian Golden Frog, Harlequin Frog
    by Kurt Kunze

    Panamanian Golden Frog, Atelopus zeteki
    (Photo: 2008 John P. Clare - FrogForum.net)

    Family: Bufonidae (True Toads)
    Origin: Western and Central Panama
    Adult Snout-to-Vent Length: Male: 35-48 mm (1.37-1.88 inches); Female: 45-63 mm (1.77-2.48 inches)
    IUCN (Red List) Status: Critically Endangered (CR)

    Meet the Frog Part 3: the Panamanian Golden Frog, Atelopus zeteki

    A diurnal species, the Panamanian Golden Frog (perhaps more correctly referred to as the Panamanian Golden Toad, given its classification within the True Toad group) is a striking yellow or orange color, with spots and/or patches of black, or occasionally no black at all. The color warns predators that this fellow would make a poisonous meal and also serves to let the toads see each other in the wild (more on that later).

    When someone speaks of the Global Amphibian Extinction Crisis in any kind of detail, Atelopus zeteki will undoubtedly receive a mention. This Latin American Bufonid's populations have declined by 80% in the past ten years. The causes of this decline are many, but chief among them is Chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, more commonly known as chytrid. The fungus has spread like wildfire throughout Central America and is now threatening South America. Thanks to this disease and habitat destruction, the Panamanian Golden Toad may already be extinct in the wild. However, there are several ongoing captive breeding efforts in Panama, the United States and elsewhere, with the aim of returning it to the wild at some point in the future.

    Panamanian Golden Frog, Atelopus zeteki
    (Photo: 2009 John P. Clare - FrogForum.net)

    Before the spread of this disease, A. zeteki was a common species in Panama. It could be found in both dry and wet forest, usually in and around fast moving streams. Males of the species could always be found around these streams where they would stake out a territory. Females would venture further away from the streams, but would return to breed in November to January. Interestingly, A. zeteki in wet forest grow much larger than their dry forest counterparts. Males in dry forest only reach 40 mm, while their wet forest counterparts reach 48 mm, and in females it is 55 mm versus 63 mm.
    In typical Bufonid fashion, this species lays it eggs in a string which it attaches to boulders or bedrock in the stream. Tadpoles of this species possess a ventral adhesive disc that covers the anterior part of the belly. This allows them to adhere to rocks and other objects, thus avoiding being swept downstream.

    Like other toads in the genus Atelopus, A. zeteki lacks tympanums (external ear drums), but does possess standard inner ears that are well developed. It has the ability to call but rarely does so. In its habitat of rapid moving streams a call is hard to hear over the sound of rushing water, so males of the species wave their hands and raise their feet. A behavior called semaphoring (think of ground crew guiding planes using flags). The toad's bright color probably aids in this visual communication because the toads are easy to spot when they wish to signal to each other.

    One interesting fact to note is that A. zeteki is the most toxic of all the harlequin toads. It produces a toxin known as zetekitoxin, which easily kills mice. Zetekitoxin is exclusive to this species.

    Lastly, this brightly colored toad is the national animal of Panama, very much like the Bald Eagle in the US. They are considered good fortune and they can be seen adorning lottery tickets. They are also used to promote tourism, restaurants and so on. Losing this species would be a tragedy for not only the world, but more pertinently, for Panama.

    1. Hong, Christin Atelopus zeteki - Panamanian Golden Frog 2007 Museum of Vertebrate Zoology; University of California, Berkeley. http://amphibiaweb.org/.

    Other Resources
    AmphibiaWeb Record: Atelopus zeteki
    If you have more resource links please submit them - please note that we only link family friendly sites.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. BG's Avatar
      BG -
      Quote Originally Posted by John View Post
      Thats a nice looking frog John thanks for sharing
    1. Jimmer's Avatar
      Jimmer -
      Great article.
    1. John's Avatar
      John -
      Please post further comments on the article page itself. Thanks.
    1. jlwardn's Avatar
      jlwardn -
      My wife is from Panama and we had a chance to see thes frogs in El Valle Panama about 7 years ago. It is too bad they had to disappear like this.
    1. tgampper's Avatar
      tgampper -
      The Omaha Zoo has at least 6 of these frogs in a biosecure area. They are great looking frogs and evidently easy to care for in captivity.
    1. dendromad's Avatar
      dendromad -
      We should be receiving 20 of these beautiful frogs at work in the next few months. Can't wait to work with them, been on my wish list to work with for ever!
    1. grendizer's Avatar
      grendizer -
      Hi all
      I need photos of the front of this frog, I mean: chest, belly, etc. I can't find one in a Google search. Thanks.
    1. Bombina Bob's Avatar
      Bombina Bob -
      I have heard that these frogs have been captive bred strictly for zoos and research, may be a possible chance for new populations of these guys in centeral america
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