Species Spotlight: Panamanian Golden Frog

The Panamanian golden frog—Panama’s national animal—has long been revered as a symbol of good luck in its home country.

Published January 31, 2019

This species is instantly recognizable by its bright yellow hue and solid black spots. Females can grow up to 2.5 inches long and are typically a bit larger than males, which usually only reach about 2 inches.

Panamanian golden frog

Despite what its name suggests, the Panamanian golden frog is actually a type of toad. Panamanian golden frogs are part of the family Bufonidae, or the “true toads.” A key characteristic that sets toads apart from frogs is that they lay their eggs in long strings, rather than large masses.

Panamanian golden frogs feed on insects and other small invertebrates. They’re the most toxic species of their genus and their bright yellow color warns predators of their toxicity. These amphibians are native to forests and along streams in the mountains of western-central Panama.

During breeding season, males use non-verbal communication, including waving, to attract mates. Mating takes place near streams, and after mating, the female lays her eggs in the shallow water of the stream and attaches the eggs to rocks or pebbles so they don’t float away. During this time, the male fertilizes the eggs. After a little over a week, the tadpoles hatch and spend the next six or seven months growing and eating algae off the rocks in the stream.

The Panamanian golden frog is currently critically endangered and believed by some to be completely extinct in its natural habitat. Deforestation and an infectious fungal disease called chytridiomycosis have been the main contributors to these toads’ extreme population decline.

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