Atelopus varius


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Atelopus varius
Species Authority: (Lichtenstein & Martens, 1856)
Common Name(s):
English Harlequin Frog, Painted Frog, Clown Frog, Veragoa Stubfoot Toad
Spanish Rana Arlequin
Atelopus bibronii Boulenger, 1894
Atelopus loomisi Taylor, 1955
Atelopus varius subspecies ambulatorius Taylor, 1952
Atelopus varius subspecies bibroni Cochran and Goin, 1970
Atelopus varius subspecies loomisi Taylor, 1952
Atelopus varius variety maculatus Peters, 1873
Atelopus varius subspecies maculatus Dunn, 1931
Atelopus varius subspecies varius (Lichtenstein & Martens, 1856)
Hylaemorphus bibronii Schmidt, 1857
Hylaemorphus dumerilii Schmidt, 1857
Hylaemorphus pluto Schmidt, 1858
Hylaemorphus plutonius Jan, 1857
Phrynidium bibronii (Schmidt, 1857)
Phrynidium varium Lichtenstein & Martens, 1856
Phrynidium varium variety adspersum Lichtenstein & Martens, 1856
Phrynidium varium variety maculatum Lichtenstein & Martens, 1856
Phryniscus bibronii (Schmidt, 1857)
Phryniscus dumerilii Brocchi, 1882
Phryniscus varius (Lichtenstein & Martens, 1856)
Taxonomic Notes: Molecular data and morphological, ecological, and demographic analyses suggest that the Panamanian golden frogs and their kin (the Atelopus varius-zeteki clade) are comprised of five distinct forms (Zippel et al., 2006). Additional analyses identify phenotypic
and genetic differentiation consistent with proposed Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs), and support the status of Atelopus varius and Atelopus zeteki as separate species (Richards and Knowles, 2007).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2ace ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2008-10-21
Assessor(s): Pounds, J., Puschendorf, R., Bolaños, F., Chaves, G., Crump, M., Solís, F., Ibáñez, R., Savage, J., Jaramillo, C., Fuenmayor, Q. & Lips, K.
Reviewer(s): Stuart, S.N., Chanson, J.S., Cox, N.A. & Young, B.E.
Listed as Critically Endangered because of a drastic population decline, estimated to be more than 80% over the last three generations, inferred from the apparent disappearance of most of the population, probably due to chytridiomycosis.
2004 Critically Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species is known from both Atlantic and Pacific versants of the cordilleras of Costa Rica and western Panama, up to 2,000m asl. It is also present on outlying ridges and hills down to 16m asl at a few lowland sites. The species is absent from the lowlands of the Pacific north-west (Savage 2002). Records from Colombia are in error. Recent declines have reduced the Costa Rican range to only one known locality, Fila Chonta, 10km north-west of the city of Quepos.
Costa Rica; Panama
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Over 100 populations of this species were known from Costa Rica where it was often quite common. Drastic declines began in Monteverde in 1988 and the species was thought to have been extirpated in Costa Rica by 1996. However, after nearly eight years during which the species was thought to be extinct, a remnant population was discovered near Quepos, on the Pacific coastal range, in 2003, and was surveyed again in 2005 when more individuals were found. In Panama, some populations have declined, but others persist. For example, Lips (1999) reported a mass mortality in Fortuna, Provincia de Chiriquí, which affected this species in December 1996-January 1997. This site was visited again in February 1998, but the species was not found (Ibáñez 1999). It has been recorded in Panama as recently as November 2002, but it is believed to still be in serious decline.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: It is a terrestrial species of humid lowland and montane forest; specimens recorded at lowland rainforest localities were all found along high-gradient, rocky streams, in hilly areas (Savage 2002). It is associated with small fast-flowing streams and is often found along the banks and sitting out on rocks in streams; at night they sleep in crevices or low vegetation. They forrmely occurred in large concentrations during the dry season, from December to May (Savage 2002). Eggs are laid in water and are probably attached to rocks.
Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threat is likely to be chytridiomycosis, which has led to catastrophic population declines in many other montane species of Atelopus. Museum specimens of this species have been found to have chytrid fungi. One specimen collected in 2003 from the only known site at which the species survives in Costa Rica tested positive for chytrid infection, and the disease was also confirmed in individuals in 1986, 1990, 1992 and 1997. Other threats to the species include habitat loss due to the destruction of natural forests, and predation by introduced trout. The only known site in Costa Rica is under serious threat of a landslide that could potentially destroy the entire stream section where they are presently found. It was collected by the thousands in the 1970s and shipped to Germany as part of the international pet trade.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is present in three protected areas in Panama, and was previously found in a number of Costa Rican protected areas. Ex-situ conservation measures are now needed to ensure the future survival of this species, and a captive-breeding program has been initiated.

Bibliography [top]

Crump, M.L. 1986. Homing and site fidelity in a Neotropical frog, Atelopus varius (Bufonidae). Copeia: 1007-1009.

Crump, M.L. and Pounds, J.A. 1989. Temporal variation in the dispersion of a tropical anuran. Copeia: 209-11.

Ibáñez, R. 1999. Report from Panama. FrogLog: 1.

Ibáñez, R., Solís, F., Jaramillo, C. and Rand, S. 2000. An overview of the herpetology of Panama. In: J.D. Johnson, R.G. Webb and O.A. Flores-Villela (eds), Mesoamerican Herpetology: Systematics, Zoogeography and Conservation, pp. 159-170. The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.2). Available at: (Accessed: 29 June 2010).

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

Lips, K.R. 1999. Mass mortality and population declines of anurans at an upland site in western Panama. Conservation Biology: 117-125.

Lips, K.R., Green, D.E. and Papendick, R. 2003. Chytridiomycosis in wild frogs from southern Costa Rica. Journal of Herpetology 37: 215-218.

Lips, K.R., Reeve, J.D. and Witters, L.R. 2003. Ecological traits predicting amphibian population declines in Central America. Conservation Biology: 1078-1088.

Lötters, S. 1996. The Neotropical Toad Genus Atelopus. Checklist - Biology - Distribution. Vences, M. and Glaw, F. Verlags GbR, Köln, Germany.

Pounds, J.A. and Crump, M.L. 1987. Harlequin frogs along a tropical montane stream: aggregation and the risk of predation by frog-eating flies. Biotropica: 306-309.

Pounds, J.A. and Crump, M.L. 1994. Amphibian declines and climate disturbance: The case of the golden toad and the harlequin frog. Conservation Biology: 72-85.

Pounds, J.A., Bustamante, M.R., Coloma, L.A., Consuegra, J.A., Fogden, M.P.L., Foster, P.N., La Marca, E., Masters, K.L., Merino-Viteri, A., Puschendorf, R., Ron, S.R., Sánchez-Azofeifa, G.A., Still, C.J. and Young, B.E. 2006. Widespread amphibian extinctions from epidemic disease driven by global warming. Nature 439: 161-167.

Pounds, J.A., Fogden, M.P.L. and Campbell, J.H. 1999. Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature: 611-615.

Richards, C.L. and Knowles, L.L. 2007. Tests of phenotypic and genetic concordance and their application to the conservation of Panamanian golden frogs (Anura, Bufonidae). Molecular Ecology doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03369.x: 1-15.

Savage, J.M. 1972. The harlequin frogs, genus Atelopus, of Costa Rica, and western Panama. Herpetologica: 77-94.

Savage, J.M. 2002. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica: A Herpetofauna between two Continents, between two Seas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Young, B., Sedaghatkish, G., Roca, E. and Fuenmayor, Q. 1999. El Estatus de la Conservación de la Herpetofauna de Panamá: Resumen del Primer Taller Internacional sobre la Herpetofauna de Panamá. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia.

Zippel, K. 2005. Zoos play a vital role in amphibian conservation. 26 July 2005.

Zippel, K.C., Ibáñez D., R., Lindquist, E.D., Richards, C.L., Jaramillo A., C.A., and Griffith, E.J. 2006. Implicaciones en la conservación de las ranas doradas de Panamá, asociadas con su revisión taxonómica. Herpetotropicos 3(1): 29-39.

Citation: Pounds, J., Puschendorf, R., Bolaños, F., Chaves, G., Crump, M., Solís, F., Ibáñez, R., Savage, J., Jaramillo, C., Fuenmayor, Q. & Lips, K. 2010. Atelopus varius. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 02 September 2015.
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