AmphibiaWeb - Atelopus glyphus


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Atelopus glyphus Dunn, 1931
Pirri Harlequin Frog
family: Bufonidae
genus: Atelopus
Atelopus glyphus
© 2013 Brian Freiermuth (1 of 14)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Critically Endangered (CR)
National Status None
Regional Status None


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Adult males reach up to 36 mm and adult females reach at least 48 mm in snout-vent length. The ground color is uniform brown, or lighter brown with small yellowish white blotches that may have brown centers or a line through them. The venter is yellow (Savage 1972).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Colombia, Panama

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Found in eastern Panama, in the Serranía de Pirre, and Colombia, in the Chocó. Occurs in tropical montane forest at 884-1,500 m above sea level (Ibañez et al. 2004).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
This species is terrestrial. It breeds in forest streams (Ibañez et al. 2004). Although the breeding biology of Atelopus glyphus has not yet been described, other species of Atelopus are known to attach their eggs to the undersides of rocks in swift-moving streams, during the dry season when water is relatively low (Savage 1972). Atelopus eggs are laid in strings (Starrett 1967). Larvae develop as the wet season begins and water flow increases (Savage 1972). All Atelopus tadpoles have large ventral suckers, distinct from the mouth, allowing the tadpoles to cling to stream rocks even in torrents (Starrett 1967).

Trends and Threats
The biggest threat is chytridiomycosis, which is predicted to arrive at the species locality within five years as the chytrid fungus proceeds through Panama (Ibañez et al. 2004). Chytrid has devastated many other species of Atelopus, particularly those associated with montane streams (La Marca et al. 2005).

Habitat loss may also be an issue; it is not known whether this species can survive in disturbed forest. Atelopus glyphus occurs in two protected areas, one in Panama (Parque Nacional Darién, a World Heritage Site) and one in Colombia (Parque Nacional Natural los Katíos) (Ibañez et al. 2004). Although this ensures that some suitable habitat is present, it does not in any way ensure protection from chytrid fungus, which has decimated many species in pristine areas (La Marca et al. 2005).

Relation to Humans
Amphibian Ark has chosen Atelopus glyphus for the first ever Facebook fundraiser to save an endangered species.

The goal is to raise $53,000 by June 2, 2009, for a species-specific rescue facility and costs associated with the first year of operation. The "amphibian pod" rescue facility will be based at the Summit Zoo in Panama City, Panama. It will begin with about 20 wild-caught breeding pairs, eventually reaching up to 500 frogs including captive-bred offspring. Initial breeding efforts at the El Valle del Anton Amphibian Conservation Center in Panama were successful, indicating this species is a good candidate for captive management until wild populations can be re-established.

The rescue facility itself consists of a 40' shipping container, modified to include shelves, tanks, plumbing, an electrical system, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), a water heater, and a repressurization pump and water storage container, as well as a large window for public viewing. The container itself, plus modification, plus shipping to Panama and hooking up to utility lines, costs a total of approximately $41,000. The first year of operating costs will be $12,000.

The concept of using a modified shipping container as an "amphibian pod" rescue facility was pioneered in Australia. The Summit Zoo hopes eventually to use a number of these "amphibian pods" to house more colonies of endangered amphibians from the central region of Panama, where chytrid has had a severe impact.

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Climate change, increased UVB or increased sensitivity to it, etc.

The genus Atelopus appears to be the most threatened clade of amphibians (La Marca et al. 2005). 60 of the 85 described Atelopus species are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. At least 30 species appear to be extinct, having been missing from all known localities for at least 8 years (La Marca et al. 2005). Of the surviving species with sufficient data to evaluate population trends, the majority (42 of 52 species, or 81%) have population sizes that have been reduced by at least half (La Marca et al. 2005). Higher-elevation species (those living at least 1000 m asl) have been hit the worst, with 75% (21 of 28) having disappeared entirely (La Marca et al. 2005).

Chytridiomycosis is thought to be a primary factor in the decline and disappearance of species in this genus (La Marca et al. 2005). Most Atelopus species are restricted to very limited areas (no more than two localities) and occur along mid- to high-elevation streams at 1500-3000 m asl (Lötters 2007). This habitat preference is frequently associated with the co-occurrence of chytridiomycosis (La Marca et al. 2005). Although habitat loss has occurred within the ranges of many Atelopus species, it does not appear to be a major factor in the declines of most Atelopus species; 22 species declined despite occurring in protected areas (La Marca et al. 2005). Many Atelopus species are local endemics, putting them at particular risk of extinction, with at least 26 species known only from a single population inhabiting a narrow altitudinal range (La Marca et al. 2005). Due to their restricted ranges, they are also thought to have limited ability to adapt to warming climatic conditions (Lötters 2007).

Atelopus glyphus was first described by Dunn (1931), as Atelopus varius glyphus.


Dunn, E. R. (1931). ''New frogs from Panama and Costa Rica.'' Occasional Papers of the Boston Society of Natural History, 5, 385-401.

Ibáñez, R., Solís, F., Jaramillo, C., Fuenmayor, Q., Lötters, S, Rueda, J. V., and Acosta-Galvis, A. (2004). Atelopus glyphus. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 09 March 2009.

La Marca, E., Lötters, S., Puschendorf, R., Ibáñez, R., Rueda-Almonacid, J. V., Schulte, R., Marty, C., Castro, F., Manzanilla-Puppo, J., García-Pérez, J. E., Bolaños, F., Chaves, G., Pounds, J. A., Toral, E., and Young, B. E. (2005). ''Catastrophic population declines and extinctions in neotropical harlequin frogs (Bufonidae: Atelopus).'' Biotropica, 37(2), 190-201.

Lötters, S. (2007). ''The fate of the Harlequin Toads — help through a synchronous multi-disciplinary approach and the IUCN ‘Amphibian Conservation Action Plan’.'' Zoosystematics and Evolution, 83( Supplement 1), 69-73.

Savage, J.M. (1972). ''The harlequin frogs, genus Atelopus, of Costa Rica and western Panama.'' Herpetologica, 28(2), 77-94.

Starrett, P. (1967). ''Observations on the life history of frogs of the family Atelopodidae.'' Herpetologica, 23(3), 195-204.

Originally submitted by: Kellie Whittaker (first posted 2009-03-04)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker (2009-03-09)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2009 Atelopus glyphus: Pirri Harlequin Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 13, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 13 Jul 2024.

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