Panamanian Golden Frog

Panamanian Golden Frog


Found in an isolated area of west central Panama.


Inhabit wet rainforest and dry cloud forests. They prefer areas with fast flowing streams.


This frog species has golden yellow to orange body coloration and black spots or bands on the back legs. Female golden frogs are larger than the males. The bright coloration, known as aposematic coloration, is a warning to potential predators to stay away. This frog is extremely toxic and would be fatal if consumed. The diet of the frog is what helps to make it toxic—even to the touch. The more different types of invertebrates it eats, the more toxic it skin secretions will become.
The tadpoles are brown to green in color with darker spots and splotches. This helps them to match the color of the mosses and stones in the stream. The tadpoles have a flattened body and a sucker on their belly to help them to attach to rocks to keep from being washed down stream.

Following metamorphosis—changing from a tadpole to a juvenile frog—these frogs begin to consume the insects and invertebrates that aid them in slowly building up their toxicity. As they become older, their coloration changes from the darker color to the more visible yellow and black coloration.

Panamanian Golden Frog

Golden frogs are active mostly during the morning and early evening. They can be observed at these times hopping about the forest floor near streams looking for food or for mates. Males will vocalize to attract females and to set up territories. Because the rushing water muffles their vocalizations, males are often seen waving their front feet to each other. This behavior is called semaphoring and is thought to be an adaptation to a noisy environment. They have an excellent sense of sight, which helps them to not only see other waving frogs but also easily locate prey.


After attracting a mate to his territory, the male climbs onto her back and holds on tight—a behavior known as amplexus. He might hold on from a few days to as long as several months. When the conditions are right, the female selects a shallow place along the stream and lays a strand of 20-60 eggs that she attaches to the rocks in an area protected from the sun. The male fertilizes the eggs as she lays them. A female lays an average of 370 eggs during the mating season. The tadpoles hatch out about nine days later and are white in color and quickly change to green or brown with darker spots to be better camouflaged. The tadpoles eat algae for the next six to seven months before metamorphasizing into juvenile frogs. When they reach about two years of age, they begin reproducing.

Interesting Facts:

Panamanian golden frogs are known as stub-footed or Harlequin toads, and belong to the true toad family Bufonidae. They are referred to as frogs because their skin is smooth, unlike the bumpy skin of most toads, and their head is longer than it is wide. However, like toads, they tend to walk more then hop or jump. Like all harlequin toads, they produce a water-soluble neurotoxin call zetkitotoxin. Panamanian golden frogs are the most toxic of the group. The skin of a single one-inch frog contains enough toxin to kill 1,200 mice.

The scientific name for this frog means "Zetek\\\\\\\'s stub-footed toad". The name honors James Zetek, who was a pioneer scientist working for the Panama Canal Zone in 1911.


The Panamanian golden frog is disappearing in the wild and some scientists estimate it will be extinct in the wild within five years. This is due to a combination of habitat loss due to deforestation, stream toxification from agricultural chemicals, illegal collection for the pet trade and a fungal (chytridiomycosis) outbreak that is destroying many amphibian species in Central America.

Project Golden Frog (a collaboration involving zoos, universities and government agencies) has been created to hopefully prevent extinction through population and habitat assessment, captive breeding programs and education initiatives.

Did YOU Know?    
This frog is the national animal of the Republic of Panama and is believed to bring good fortune—indicated by its popularity on lottery tickets! It is seen on logos from hotels to restaurants. It was thought that when the frog dies it turns to gold
Panamanian Golden Frog
Class: amphibians
Order: Anura
Family: Bufonidae
Genus: Atelopus
Species: zeteki
Length: Males 1.4 - 1.9 inches, Females up to 2.5 inches
Weight: less than one ounce
Average Lifespan: Up to 12 years
Wild Diet: These frogs feed on flies, crickets, ants, termites, and beetles
Zoo Diet: Fruit flies and crickets
Predators: Unknown

This is an ssp animal

USFWS Status: Endangered
CITES Status: Appendix I
Where at the Zoo? Small Animal Building

Learn more about amphibians or animals from South America!
Or, cross-reference the two!