Frog of the Week

Clown Frog (Atelopus varius)

Clown Frog
photo by Brian Gratwicke

Common Name: Clown Frog, Costa Rican Variable Harlequin Toad
Scientific Name: Atelopus varius
Family: Bufonidae – True Toad Family
Location: Costa Rica and Panama
Size: 1.6 inches (41 mm) for males, 2.3 inches (60 mm) for females

The Clown Frog or the Costa Rican Variable Harlequin Toad is a small toad from the family Bufonidae or the True Toad family. The family is found naturally throughout the world besides Australia, where the Cane Toads (Rhinella marinus) have been introduced there. It is from the genus Atelopus, known as the Harlequin Toads / Frogs or Stubfoot Toads. The Harlequin Frogs are one of the most endangered groups of frogs.

The Clown Frog’s bright colors, which is how they get their name, warns predators that they are toxic. They are a diurnal species, active during the day, because no predators will try to eat them. They have no predators besides a species of fly. The fly lays eggs on the frogs. Then, the eggs hatch and the larvae burrows into the frog. Eventually, they eat the frog from the inside out.

photo by Brian Gratwicke

The frogs breed during the wet season from December to May. At this time, the males start calling and defending their breeding territory from other males.

Clown Frog Conservation

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Clown Frog as Critically Endangered. The primary cause of the decline is the spread of Chytrid Fungus, a deadly fungal pathogen. Once infected, the frog’s skin hardens, making it impossible for the frog to breath, resulting in death. Another reason for the decline is habitat loss. Large chunks of the frogs habitat has been destroyed to make room for urban areas. Due to fear of losing the frog, conservationists have taken the species into captivity to save them.

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