By Katie Beth Halloran
These frogs are one of the few amphibians with their own national holiday: National Panamanian Golden Frog Day. There’s even a parade. The frogs are so popular not only because they are supposedly lucky, but because of their cheerful coloration and mannerisms. The frogs are bright yellow and have two different whistling calls. They lack a typical eardrum, and expand their linguistic capabilities through sign language, by waving their forelimbs. They wave to defend territory, they wave to attract a mate, they wave to say hello to their neighbors. Both males and females wave. The waving is linked to their walking pattern, and is thought to be an evolved embellishment of a normal frog walk.
The frog might look sunny, but are close cousins of poison dart frogs, and secrete highly toxic compounds. The golden frog’s poisons are so unique and dangerous that it was recently placed in a separate taxonomic group. Froglings don’t secrete the toxins which guard the adults, and must hide to protect themselves.
The young aren’t guarded by their parents, and large numbers die before they reach adulthood. The parents lay their eggs in dark underwater crevasses to protect them from harmful UV light. When the tadpoles hatch, they eat algae off the surfaces of rocks using their beaks. They also use their strong mouths to cling to rocks in areas with a fast current.
Despite their ferocious gesticulating and deadly poisons, this frog is critically endangered due to rain forest development and the chytrid fungus. Researchers are looking into how pollution might be weakening the frog’s immune response to this fungus, and the Panama golden frog is being conserved in captive breeding programs such as EVACC until immunity can be bred into its population.
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