AmphibiaWeb - Atelopus podocarpus


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Atelopus podocarpus Coloma, Duellman, Almendáriz, Ron, Terán-Valdez & Guayasamin, 2010
Podocarpus Stubfoot Toad
family: Bufonidae
genus: Atelopus
Species Description: Coloma LA, Duellman WE, Almendariz-S A, Ron SR, Taran-Valdez A, Guaysamin JM. 2010. Five new, extinct (?) species of Atelopus (Anura: Bufonidae) from Andean Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Zootaxa 2574:1-54.
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Critically Endangered (CR)
National Status None
Regional Status None
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


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Atelopus podocarpus are a rare toad with adult females having snout-to-vent length ranges of 39.5 mm to 52.9 mm and adult males having ranges of 34.4 mm to 40.9 mm. The head length and width are similar, with an upper jaw that is longer than the lower jaw and slightly raised nostrils at the end of a triangular snout. There is no external tympanum. The dorsum is smooth, with a gradient of warts towards the lateral sides and limbs. The hind limbs are slightly longer than forelimbs. The hands do not have webbing, but the feet do (Coloma et al. 2010).

Atelopus podocarpus is morphologically similar A. petersi in that they have comparable body lengths and coloration. However, the red spots on the bumps of the lateral areas in A. podocarpus differentiate it from A. petersi, which has white dots grouped on small bumps that are less numerous than on A. podocarpus. Atelopus bomolochos and A. pachydermus are two other similar species, but both can be distinguished by the colors on their dorsum. Atelopus bomolochosis distinguished by their yellowish brown tone and A. pachydermus by their darker green and occasional yellow tones. Atelopus peruensis can be differentiated by their smaller proportions, a shorter rostrum and white spots on the lateral areas (Coloma et al. 2010).

In life, the eyes are a shiny dark brown, the dorsum is mat black and has reddish-orange dots on small bumps along the lateral areas. Large spots of light green congregate ventrally, there can be one big spot or several smaller ones, these spots extend from the gular region to the cloaca. The ventral portion of the lower jaw can have a black spot on the center, but not always, the rest of the jaw as well as the ventral portion of all the limbs have a cream tone. The tips of the fingers are cream with orange accents. When preserved, the eyes become clouded with a grayish blue tone. The black dorsum changes to a black with grayish blue accents. The bright red on the lateral sections, the green on the ventral areas and the tips of the fingers change to a cream tone that is lighter than the cream of the live frog (Coloma et al. 2010).

Adult females are larger than males. There is abundant variation on ventral colors and patterns in adult frogs. The large green spot can extend from the bottom jaw to the cloaca or be reduced to spots that do not connect. The black spot on the lower jaw can range from covering most of the jaw to being absent, it can also divide the lower jaw’s cream color from the larger cream and green color spot of the body. The cream color can completely cover the lower jaw and ventral portions of the limbs, it can also be fractioned or completely absent (Coloma et al. 2010).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Ecuador, Peru

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Historically, A. podocarpus were found from the southern Cordillera Oriental in Ecuador to the Cordillera de Huancabamba in Peru in high-altitude ecosystems, called paramo or sub-paramo, that can range from 2700 - 3400 m. The parallel mountain ranges are part of the Andes of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru (Coloma et al. 2010). It was found in places where the average annual rainfall and temperature are between 1000 - 2000 mm and 7 - 18 °C, respectively (Cañadas-Cruz 1983). However, A. podocarpus has not been observed in Peru since July 20, 1980 (Coloma et al. 2010) and was thought to be extinct between 1994 and 2016. It was found again in 2016 in very low population densities at Yacuri National Park in Ecuador. Another individual was found in 2020 located along the same stream it was found in 2016 (Jervis et al. 2020).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Little is known about the species’ ecology because the species has become rare due to disease. However, field notes from 1968 and 1975 state that individuals were found under stones and rocks either in dirt banks or in scrubs with thick layers of moss, lichens, and other low-growing ground vegetation (Coloma et al. 2010).

Trends and Threats
Once abundant in the Ecuadorian and west Peruvian Andes, A. podocarpus declined dramatically in the second half of the 20th century, particularly the 1980s, when the fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, erupted in the neotropics. The decline was so precipitous that there were no confirmed sightings of the species from 1994 to 2016, and A. podocarpus was presumed to be extinct by many until it was found in 2016 in Ecuador’s Yacuri National Park (Jervis et al. 2020). However, sightings remain extremely rare and the current population is presumed to be less than 50 adult individuals and probably still declining. Atelopus podocarpus is listed as “Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List (IUCN 2018).

The biggest factor contributing to the decline of A. podocarpus is infection by the aforementioned fungal pathogen, B. dendrobatidis, which causes chytridiomycosis in many amphibians. Infection with chytridiomycosis typically affects the skin of amphibians, making it thicker and thus less penetrable to nutrients, water and oxygen, which often results in death. Atelopus podocarpus is particularly susceptible to chytridiomycosis because of its high elevation neotropical habitat, as B. dendrobatidis fungus thrives in the cool but wet conditions (Jervis et al. 2020).

Habitat loss and fragmentation also threatens the survival of A. podocarpus. Deforestation and overall habitat destruction to make way for cattle raising, agriculture, and other human activities have removed large swaths of suitable habitat for the species and left the remaining population severely fragmented (Jervis et al. 2020).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing


Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood analyses on mitochondrial fragments of 16S, tRNA-Leu, ND1, and tRNA-Ile mtDNA found that A. podocarpus is sister to an undescribed species nominally called A. condor from the Zamora Chinchipe state of Ecuador. The clade formed by these two species is sister to a clade composed of A. halihelos and an undescribed species nominally called A. sangay. This group has a distribution in the southeastern region of the Andes (Guayasamin et al. 2010).

The species epithet, “podocarpus” refers to the park where the first specimens of A. podocarpus were collected, Parque Nacional Podocarpus, which is located in southern Ecuador. It also refers to a genus of endemic conifers that is found in the park (Coloma et al. 2010).


Cañadas-Cruz, L. (1983). El Mapa Bioclimático y Ecológico del Ecuador. Quito Ministerio de Agricultura (MAG), Programa Nacional de Regionalización Agraria (PRONAREG), Auspicio Banco Central del Ecuador, Quito, Ecuador.

Coloma, L.A., Duellman, W.E., Almendáriz, A., Ron, S.R., Terán-Valdez, A., and Guayasamin, J.M. (2010). ''Five new (extinct?) species of Atelopus (Anura: Bufonidae) from Andean Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.'' Zootaxa, 2574, 1-54.

Guayasamin, J. M., Bonaccorso, E., Duellman, W. E., and Coloma, L. A. (2010). ''Genetic differentiation in the nearly extinct harlequin frogs (Bufonidae: Atelopus), with emphasis on the Andean Atelopus ignescens and A. bomolochos species complexes.'' Zootaxa , 2574, 55-68.

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (2018). “Atelopus podocarpus”. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T18435550A89224918. Accessed in February 2022.

Jervis, P., Karlsdottir, B., Jehle, R., Almeida-Reinoso, D., Almeida-Reinoso, F., Ron, S., Fisher, M.C., Merino-Viteri, A. (2020). "Disease reservoirs threaten the recently rediscovered Podocarpus Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus podocarpus)." Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, 14(2), 157-164. [link]

Originally submitted by: Samantha Ventura, Francisco Basso, Charlie Woidat (2022-08-10)
Description by: Samantha Ventura, Francisco Basso, Charlie Woidat (updated 2022-08-10)
Distribution by: Samantha Ventura, Francisco Basso, Charlie Woidat (updated 2022-08-10)
Life history by: Samantha Ventura, Francisco Basso, Charlie Woidat (updated 2022-08-10)
Trends and threats by: Samantha Ventura, Francisco Basso, Charlie Woidat (updated 2022-08-10)
Comments by: Samantha Ventura, Francisco Basso, Charlie Woidat (updated 2022-08-10)

Edited by: Ann T. Chang (2022-08-10)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2022 Atelopus podocarpus: Podocarpus Stubfoot Toad <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jun 25, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 25 Jun 2024.

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