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Panamanian Golden Frog

Atelopus varius zeteki

Status: Endangered, FWS
Listed by FWS: June 14, 1976
Family: Atelopodidae
Description: A small frog.
Habitat: Tropical forest.
Food: Small invertebrates.
Reproduction: Lays externally fertilized eggs in water.
Threats: Habitat loss.
Range: Panama


The Panamanian golden frog, also know as the harlequin frog and the Panama atelopodid, is a strikingly beautiful amphibian, with rounded jet-black splotches over a background color of bright sunshine yellow. Like most colorful frogs, the Panamanian golden frog contains poisonous chemicals in its skin. Its extremely bright coloration is adaptive to warning predators of the dangers of eating the toxic frog (this is known as aposomatic coloration). Its hindlegs are long and muscular and used for leaping. The forelimbs are used to hold the body erect when sitting. It has lived as long as 10 years in captivity.


The Panamanian golden frog is a predator of insects and other small invertebrates. It locates its prey visually. During the breeding season the sexes find each other by homing in on their calls. The eggs are laid in water, and hatch after only about 24 hours as free-living larvae (or tadpoles). After several weeks these metamorphose into small frogs, which live on land.


The Panamanian golden frog lives in moist tropical woodland habitats. It breeds in temporary pools and small ponds.


The Panamanian golden frog occurs only in Panama. The greater species Atelopus varius ranges more widely in Central America.


The Panamanian golden frog has declined due to the loss of most of its natural habitat through logging and conversion into cultivated, pasture, and urbanized land-uses. In some places it has been excessively collected for the pet trade. It may also be suffering from the effects of a pathogenic chytrid fungus, which was discovered in 1998 to be threatening numerous species of frogs in many parts of the world.

Conservation and Recovery

The Panamanian golden frog occurs in El Cope National Park, a protected area. However, most of its surviving habitat is not protected. International trade in the species is prohibited by CITES, but illegal trade still occurs.

Source: Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species, Gale Group. 2001.

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