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Sunday Species Snapshot: Panamanian Golden Frog

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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panamanian golden frogThese tiny, brightly colored amphibians pack a potent neurotoxin on their skin. That toxin protected them from predators, but it won’t save them from extinction. They haven’t been seen in the wild in seven years.

Species name: Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki). This is actually a misnomer. These “frogs” are actually toads!

Where found: The mountain ranges and streams of central Panama. Well, that’s where they used to be found…

IUCN Red List status: Officially they are still listed as critically endangered, but populations of this species have crashed so dramatically that they may actually be functionally extinct, if not already extinct, in the wild. The last documented frog in the wild was seen in 2007.

Major threat: Long protected under Panamanian law, the golden frogs have faced numerous threats ranging from deforestation to water pollution to the pet trade. But it was the arrival of the amphibian-killing disease chytridiomycosis in 2004 which effectively (and quite quickly) wiped out this species.

Previous Extinction Countdown articles about this species:

Notable conservation programs: The Panamanian golden frog may be gone in the wild, but zoos around the world have stepped up efforts to breed and save them in captivity. These include Níspero Zoo in Panama, as well as Zoo Atlanta, Maryland Zoo, San Diego Zoo and quite a few others. These activities coordinate via Project Golden Frog and the Amphibian Rescue & Conservation Project.

Multimedia: This great video profiles the breeding program at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo:

And this video, shot at Maryland Zoo, shows the Panamanian golden frog’s distinctive waving behavior:

Photo: Panamanian golden frogs at Miller Park Zoo by Heather Paul via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

Previous Sunday Snapshots:

John R. Platt About the Author: Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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