Panamanian Golden Frog
Panamanian golden frogs are native to the Cordillera Mountains in Panama, in wet rainforests or dry cloud forests. Wet rainforest golden frogs live near streams, often in vegetation near to the ground, and while dry cloud forest golden frogs don’t necessarily live near water, they still stay close to the ground. Wet rainforest golden frogs are also bigger. Panamanian golden frogs are active during the day. Golden frogs perform a behavior unique to only a few frogs: hand waving. Hand waving, or semaphore, is only found in frog species that live near rivers, where most sounds are drowned out. Males hand wave to protect their territory, and to attract females. They also stomp and hop around. Females will aggressively wave at males to test whether they back off. If not, she will mate with him. He will stay with her, riding on her back, until she finds a suitable place to lay her eggs: a shallow pool in the shade with rocks or pebbles. She then lays 30-80 eggs and the male fertilizes them. Panamanian golden frogs don’t care for their young. Tadpoles, once they hatch out 9 days later, spend the first 6 months of their life where they hatched, eating algae. Then they leave the water. At this time they are brown and camouflaged, but as they grow they change to yellow and create toxins in their skin. This bright yellow attracts predators, but is also aposematic, serving as a warning that they are poisonous; their skin contains enough toxins to kill 1,200 mice. Panamanian golden frogs chirp and trill, despite the fact that they do not have external ears. Instead, they may hear through their lungs, which vibrate when hit by sound waves. Panamanian golden frogs eat insects and other small invertebrates.
The natural predators of the Panamanian golden frog are birds, snakes, and fish, but the most lethal killer came much more recently. The chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd) fungus may have killed off all wild populations of Panamanian golden frogs, as well as many isolated captive populations. Even before the chytrid fungus, the golden frog was threatened by many problems including over-collection for captivity and habitat loss. Golden frogs are collected for zoos, hotels, and the pet trade. Their habitat has been lost and degraded because of logging, agricultural development, pollution, and climate change. Because of this the Panamanian golden frog is listed as critically endangered, although it is likely extinct in the wild. The Panamanian golden frog is one of 2,000 known amphibian species that are endangered because of habitat loss, disease, and various other factors. This is now called the Global Amphibian Crisis.
Image courtesy of the Maryland Zoo
Panamanian golden frogs are actually the national animal of Panama! They are in many myths and folklore, and all over t-shirts, trinkets and signs. Sadly, if trends continue, the Panamanian golden frog may soon be extinct. Panamanian golden frogs are also indicator species, meaning they are very sensitive to changes in their environment and serve as a kind of warning.
Thankfully, before the chytrid fungus appeared, many captive breeding programs were started in the 1990s in response to previous threats. In the Maryland Zoo, Panamanian golden frogs were first bred in captivity successfully, and zoos continue to help keep the frogs’ population alive. You can help by donating to conservation programs and organizations dedicated to keeping the golden frog alive. Also, tell people about this amazing frog!
Panamanian golden frog. (2020, May 28). Retrieved October 09, 2020, from https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/panamanian-golden-frog
Panamanian Golden Frog. (n.d.). Retrieved October 09, 2020, from https://zooatlanta.org/animal/panamanian-golden-frog/
(2018, June 12). Panamanian Golden Frog. Retrieved October 09, 2020, from https://www.marylandzoo.org/animal/panamanian-golden-frog/