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This species of frog is endemic (only found) in the mountain slopes of the Central Cordilleran rainforests of west-central Panama.
These terrestrial frogs are found in two types of habitat wet and dry tropical montane forests, with breeding and development occurring in forest streams.
What Does It Eat?
In the wild: Insects and a variety of small invertebrates.
At the zoo: Crickets and fruit flies.
What Eats It?
Snakes prey on adult frogs.
Panamanian golden frogs are solitary except during breeding. Males are territorial and do not allow adults other than gravid females to approach their territory.
Like all frogs, Panamanian golden frogs undergo a metamorphosis starting out as eggs that hatch into tadpoles that live in the water breathing oxygen through gills. The tadpoles slowly change into adult frogs growing legs, absorbing the tail, losing the gills and developing lungs enabling them to breathe oxygen in the air. Breeding occurs from November through January. Males establish territories – perching on rocks and defending territories using semaphores or hand signals to warn other males away. They also vocalize although it is hard to hear due to the water sounds in their habitat. Once the male attracts a receptive female, mating occurs. The female releases a single string of cream-colored fertilized eggs that attach to a boulder or bedrock. The average clutch size is 370 eggs. The tadpoles hatch from the eggs in seven to 11 days. The tadpoles are black or greenish to blend into their surroundings. They have a large sucker on the belly that helps them adhere to objects on the bottom of the stream so they don’t float away with the current. The tadpoles gradually change into juvenile frogs with vivid green and black markings providing camouflage against the moss and rocks in their habitat. They acquire their golden color once they reach the adult size. Lifespan is unknown in the wild but they have lived in captivity up to 5 years.
The bright colors of these frogs serve as a warning to potential predators not to eat them. Toxic compounds are secreted by glands in the frog’s skin providing them with a powerful means of defense. The Panamanian golden frog produces a toxin called zetekitoxin which is capable of paralyzing or even killing potential predators. The toxins in the skin of these frogs are found in high concentrations in the prey they eat. In captivity, poison frogs lose their toxic properties due to the lack of toxic substances in the food they eat.
Male golden frogs defend their territory by semaphoring – a form of hand and foot raising to signal rival frogs to stay away. The frogs can vocalize but noise of waterfalls and flowing water in their habitat makes hand signals a more effective form of communication.
Just Walking Around
Instead of hopping or leaping like most frogs, Panamanian golden frogs move around with a distinctive ambling walk.
IUCN Status – Critically Endangered.
Panamanian golden frogs are listed as critically endangered but may now be extinct in the wild. The rapid decline of this species is due mainly to the fungus chytridiomycosis. Loss of habitat due to logging and agriculture and capture of frogs for the illegal pet trade have also affected their survival. Captive breeding programs may help insure the survival of this unique species as well as other endangered frog species until populations can safely be reestablished in the wild.