Tungara Frog Engystomops pustulosus Photo by Jenn Sinasac A common and well-studied frog in Panama, the Tungara Frog is best known by its unusual call “tun” followed often by “gara”, heard frequently from small forest puddles, pools, ditches and standing water bodies during the rainy season. They are medium-sized frogs; males and females are 3.3 cm and 3.6 cm in length, respectively. They are toad-like in appearance; the body, head, limbs, and even the eardrums are covered in warts. They also have a large poison gland on each side of the neck like the toads (Bufonidae). The vocal sac of the male is very large compared to the size of the body. The Tungara Frog is a member of the Leptodactylidae family, the “foam frogs”. They produce a foam nest to lay their eggs along the edges of temporary and permanent puddles on the forest floor, where the tadpoles will then develop in the rain pools. Tungara Frogs have a patchy distribution from Mexico through Central America and into northern South America, and are very common in Panama. Give-away: Tungara frogs have an unusual predator—the Fringe-lipped Bat (Trachops cirrhosus), which are attracted to the frogs by their loud call! Read an interesting article about this here.
Tungara Frog Engystomops pustulosus Photo by Jenn Sinasac A common and well-studied frog in Panama, the Tungara Frog is best known by its unusual call “tun” followed often by “gara”, heard frequently from
Yellow-headed Gecko Gonatodes albogularis Photo by Jenn Sinasac The attractive Yellow-headed Gecko is a diurnal, forest dwelling species of dwarf gecko native to the warm regions of Central and South America. It is small, only a mere 7-9 cm long. The Yellow-headed Gecko exhibits strong sexual dimorphism; the males have yellowish heads with brilliant blue facial markings, blue-gray bodies and a black tail with a white tip. Females are generally a mottled gray-brown overall. Yellow-headed Geckos feed on terrestrial insects and small arthropods on the forest floor. They live in tropical dry and humid primary and secondary forests and open areas, are often found around stone walls and retreat to crevices and holes for cover from potential predators. They nest at the bases of trees, in buttress roots. The female lays 1 egg, burying it in a dry area to incubate, and has several clutches per year. They can be seen around the base of the Canopy Tower, and are rather common at the Canopy Camp. Fun Fact: Yellow-headed Geckos do not have suction lamellae on their toes like many other geckos, so they cannot stick to smooth, vertical surfaces. However, they have thin, rough skin on their toes, and can run very fast!
Yellow-headed Gecko Gonatodes albogularis Photo by Jenn Sinasac The attractive Yellow-headed Gecko is a diurnal, forest dwelling species of dwarf gecko native to the warm regions of Central and South America. It is
Red-eyed Tree Frog Agalychnis callidryas One of the most iconic critters of tropical rainforests, just about everyone recognizes the Red-eyed Tree Frog – those bulging scarlet eyes can’t be missed! Common in the tropical rainforests of Central America, this ever-popular frog has a bright green body with blue-and-yellow-striped flanks, vibrant orange toe webbing with sticky pads on the end of each toe, and bright red eyes with vertical black pupils. Its pale underside has thin, soft skin, while its back is thicker and rougher. Medium-sized for a tree frog, at 7 cm it is about the size of a teacup, and like other tree frogs, females are larger than males. The Red-eyed Tree Frog is arboreal and nocturnal, and spends its days sleeping in the canopy of the rainforest, where it is seldom encountered during the day. It will often tuck itself away into the leaves of tank bromeliads. At night, especially during the breeding season, it descends to the ground to hunt and breed, and can be found in riverine and pond habitats. It is an excellent jumper with its long, thin but powerful legs, earning it the nickname “monkey frog.” Red-eyed Tree Frogs are insectivorous, preying on a wide variety of insects. They use their long, sticky tongue to grab their prey. Despite its seemingly daunting coloration, the Red-eyed Tree Frog is not poisonous; rather, it relies on those bright colors and especially its big red eyes to startle potential predators, a trait called startle coloration. During the day, it folds in its legs and arms snugly up to its body and covers its brightly colored flanks and toe webbing, enabling it to blend in nicely with a green leaf. It extends its third eyelid, called a nictitating membrane, over its red eyes – this way it
Red-eyed Tree Frog Agalychnis callidryas One of the most iconic critters of tropical rainforests, just about everyone recognizes the Red-eyed Tree Frog – those bulging scarlet eyes can’t be missed! Common in
Canopy Lizard Polychrus gutturosus Photo by Domiciano Alveo The Canopy Lizard is a diurnal, arboreal lizard of the lowlands and foothills of Central America and northwestern South America. It can be best identified by its medium size (body length 8-17 cm), extremely long, round tail up to 3x the length of its body, bright green coloration and a distinct spot or stripe behind the eye. It sometimes shows transverse striping on its body and tail. It is variable in its color (Polychrus = many colors), and has the ability to change from bright green to dull brown depending on mood or conditions. The Canopy Lizard lives up to heights of 40 m in the forest canopy. It makes slow and deliberate movements to climb and maneuver in trees and will often stay in one (sometimes awkward or bizarre) position for extended periods of time. It is capable of rapid movements if threatened. If disturbed, it will open its mouth and extend its dewlap wide. Canopy Lizards are insectivorous, but will also eat leaves, fruits, seeds and flowers. The Canopy Lizard is rarely seen, but possibly overlooked. Occasionally we spot this interesting lizard basking in the treetops from the Canopy Tower, and the photo below was taken closer to ground level at Canopy Camp Darien. Forest Iguana, Berthold’s Bush Anole, and Canopy Lizard are just some of the common names for this charming lizard—we think the choice is obvious which name we prefer! Photo by Nando Quiroz
Canopy Lizard Polychrus gutturosus Photo by Domiciano Alveo The Canopy Lizard is a diurnal, arboreal lizard of the lowlands and foothills of Central America and northwestern South America. It can be best identified
Black Ctenosaur Ctenosaura similis Photo by Jenn Sinasac Also known as Black Spiny-tailed Lizard or Black Iguana, the Black Ctenosaur (pronounced “tina-sore”) is a large diurnal lizard of Central America. This lizard is distinguished from Green Iguanas by its gray or tan color with 4-12 dark dorsal bands. It has a crest of long comb-like spikes extending from the back of its head down its spine, and distinct keeled scales on its tail. In fact, the name “ctenosaur” is Greek for “comb lizard.” Juvenile black iguanas are green and darken with age. Adult males grow to be 1.5 meters in length and can weigh up to 2 kg. Black Ctenosaurs live in rocky areas with trees to climb, crevices to hide in and open areas to bask. They are great climbers and retreat to shady trees in between basking periods, and dig burrows for shade and to avoid predation. They are primarily herbivorous; they eat flowers, leaves, stems and fruits, but occasionally eggs and small animals. Males are territorial and defend their perches, burrows and rocks by head bobbing and inflating their throat pouch to ward off intruding males; they also do this very same behavior to attract females! Black Ctenosaurs can be found in humid lowlands from Mexico south to central Panama, and occasionally are seen basking on sunny afternoons and feeding on fallen fruits near the Canopy Tower. Speed Demons: Ctenosaura similis holds the record as the world’s fastest lizard, and has been recorded at 34.9 km/h (21.7 mph), equivalent to that of a world-class sprinter!
Black Ctenosaur Ctenosaura similis Photo by Jenn Sinasac Also known as Black Spiny-tailed Lizard or Black Iguana, the Black Ctenosaur (pronounced “tina-sore”) is a large diurnal lizard of Central America. This lizard is
Smoky Jungle Frog Leptodactylus savagei Photo by Jenn Sinasac One of our largest amphibians, the Smoky Jungle Frog, also known as Savage’s Thin-toed Frog and Central American Bullfrog, is a fascinating creature! Growing up to 18 cm in length, this large frog has brown to bronzy coloration on its back with reddish-brown spots, has brownish thighs often with reddish spots, a black stripe on the tympanum (ear), and brown spots along its upper lip. It is nocturnal and terrestrial in its habits. Smoky Jungle Frogs are astounding jumpers and can evade capture and predation very quickly with long, fast jumps. Generally, they are easy to approach, and if grabbed by a predator or curious herpetologist, they emit a loud, high-pitched scream that stuns the predator, allowing their release. Built like a tank, the Smoky Jungle Frog is a force to be reckoned with! It eats just about anything—birds, chicks, snakes, frogs, invertebrates, and is the only frog known to eat scorpions! Even the tadpoles are carnivorous, and feed on eggs and other tadpoles, even of their own species! They, however, can also survive on a vegetarian diet. The tadpoles are tough—they are resistant to dehydration, and lab experiments show that they can last for up to 156 hours without water! Breeding males are recognized by their largely swollen arms. Male Smoky Jungle frogs call at night near ponds or small streams within or near forest during the rainy season. They give loud and ominous “whoop” calls to attract females and maintain their territories. When breeding, a male uses the spines on its thumbs to help grasp the female during amplexus. He also has a pair of small spines on his chest used in territorial conflicts. During breeding, the couple mixes water, air, sperm, eggs and secretions to create a foam nest
Smoky Jungle Frog Leptodactylus savagei Photo by Jenn Sinasac One of our largest amphibians, the Smoky Jungle Frog, also known as Savage’s Thin-toed Frog and Central American Bullfrog, is a fascinating creature! Growing
Fleischmann's Glass Frog Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni Photo by Jenn Sinasac Glass frogs are appropriately named for the transparent skin on their belly, making their organs visible. Fleischmann’s Glass Frog, also known as the Northern Glass Frog, is a small, delicate frog, 2-3.2 cm in length, with light green skin with yellow spots and fine black flecks. It has a short, rounded snout and gold irises with horizontal, elliptical pupils, and its eyes point forward. It has small suction pads on its toes. In addition to its distinctive upper side, it can be best identified by its underside, in which a white sheet of guanine covers its heart, upper liver and also wraps around its digestive system. Different species of glass frogs have different organs visible. Fleischmann’s Glass Frog is found in the humid lowland, montane and subtropical forests from Mexico to northwestern South America. It is one of the most widespread species of glass frogs. It can be found in shrubs and trees along forest streams; it requires good vegetation growth, and is found in primary and secondary growth forest. It is nocturnal and arboreal. During the day these frogs hide on the underside of leaves. At night, they emerge to feed and males search for mates. They eat flies, spiders and other small invertebrates. Male Fleischmann's Glass Frogs are very territorial, and spend most of the year calling for females during a long mating season, from early March to late November. The males give a “wheet” call. Older and more dominant individuals have louder calls. If its territory is invaded, the owner will give a “mew” call in addition to its standard “wheet” call. If the intruder persists, they will engage in physical combat until one is pinned down. When a female approaches the male’s territory, the male gives both
Fleischmann’s Glass Frog Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni Photo by Jenn Sinasac Glass frogs are appropriately named for the transparent skin on their belly, making their organs visible. Fleischmann’s Glass Frog, also known as the Northern
Veined Tree Frog Trachycephalus venulosus Photo by Jenn Sinasac This large tree frog has many interesting adaptations and is known by many different names! From its abilities to defend itself to its parachuting ability, this is one interesting amphibian! The Veined Tree Frog, a true tree frog in the family Hylidae, is characterized by its large size, with a snout-to-vent length of up to 11+ cm! It has a robust body with thick glandular skin on its dorsum. It is generally gray to tan on its dorsum, but can be yellowish or even reddish. Many individuals have an extensive dark dorsal patch and distinct banding on the legs. Its ventral surface is creamy white to pale brown, with a slightly darker throat. Its eyes are medium-sized and have a gold iris with black flecks. It has a distinct, rather large tympanum. Its fingers are short and robust with large discs, and are only moderately webbed. Its toes have extensive webbing. Males have a tan nuptial pad on the base of the thumb (but no spines, as in some other species). The Veined Tree Frog is a nocturnal, arboreal, canopy-dwelling species. At night, they perch on branches and vegetation to forage. During the dry season, they can be found in bromeliads, holes in trees, under bark, or in banana or Heliconia sheaths in order to stay moist. In the rainy season, they are usually found near temporary ponds. Veined Tree Frogs breed early in the rainy season, after heavy rains. Breeding takes place in temporary ponds. Males call to females while floating in the pond, a loud, repeated growl. During calling, males inflate their paired vocal sacs on either side of their head. After amplexus, the female lays eggs in a sprawling film on the surface of the water. Their development
Veined Tree Frog Trachycephalus venulosus Photo by Jenn Sinasac This large tree frog has many interesting adaptations and is known by many different names! From its abilities to defend itself to its parachuting
Rosenberg's Gladiator Tree Frog Boana rosenbergi Photo by Jenn Sinasac Rosenberg’s Gladiator Tree Frog is one of Panama’s largest amphibians, 70-90 mm in length! It gets its name “gladiator” from the sharp spikes on its hands and combative behavior during reproduction. Rosenberg’s Gladiator Tree Frog is easily and quickly distinguished from other tree frogs by its large size and a distinct thin black stripe from the snout to the middle of its back. Furthermore, it has a protrusion at the base of its thumb called a prepollex, tipped with a spine, which is most pronounced in males. Overall, Rosenberg’s Gladiator Tree Frog is mottled creamy to tan, brown or reddish brown on its upperside, with a creamy or white underbelly, chest and throat. It has relatively smooth dorsal skin, but granular toward the hind limbs. Like other tree frogs, it has enlarged disks on its fingers and toes, and substantial toe webbing, brownish-yellow to orange in color. Eyes are large, silvery-whitish with a horizontally slit pupil. It has a large round eardrum. Males are usually darker and more distinctly marked than females. Females are larger and more uniformly colored. As their name suggests, these frogs are arboreal, spending their time in the forest canopy, especially during the dry months of the year. When the rains start in May, they descend to the ground to breed. They have a very prolonged breeding season, but main periods of reproduction coincide with the end of the dry season in April and May, and the end of the “veranillo” (“little summer”) in July and August. When the conditions are good, the male searches for nearly dried-up bodies of water. He positions himself on the edge of the pool and scoops out the sediment, forming a bowl-like depression up to 30 cm in diameter. This
Rosenberg’s Gladiator Tree Frog Boana rosenbergi Photo by Jenn Sinasac Rosenberg’s Gladiator Tree Frog is one of Panama’s largest amphibians, 70-90 mm in length! It gets its name “gladiator” from the sharp spikes
Helmeted Basilisk Corytophanes cristatus Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Helmeted Basilisk, also known as the Helmeted Iguana, Casque-headed Lizard and Old Man Lizard, is a small, arboreal lizard found throughout Central America. It has a distinct, specialized head “casque,” well-developed in both sexes, with helmet-shaped raised ridges forming a serrated crest along the back of the head and extending onto the neck and back. At an overall length of 36 cm, its laterally-compressed body is 8-12 cm, with a long tail 2 to 2½ times its body length. It has keeled scales over its entire body, and is typically olive to rich chocolate or reddish-brown in color, with some green. Black lines extend from the eyes to the light colored lip. It has very long toes. With a physical resemblance to African chameleons, it cannot be confused with anything else! Helmeted Basilisks are sit-and-wait predators; they remain motionless on small vertical trunks and branches with their head pointed upward, often for hours at a time, capturing prey infrequently. They allow for close approach, and are often catchable. They feed on slow-moving arthropods, particularly caterpillars and beetle larvae, and occasionally small anoles. They will also hunt on the forest floor. They capture prey infrequently. Helmeted Basilisks have some unique anti-predator behaviors. Their first line of defense is camouflage—they can resemble lichen with spots forming on their skin when resting, and can change color rapidly. They freeze their body, making themselves so rigid as to eliminate all minor movements, a behavior called “cataleptic freezing." If these passive measures fail, they compress their body, erects their crest, expand their gular pouch and bob their head. By doing this, they hope to increase their apparent body size and deter the predator. If all else fails, they will attack and bite ferociously. Breeding occurs throughout
Helmeted Basilisk Corytophanes cristatus Photo by Jenn Sinasac The Helmeted Basilisk, also known as the Helmeted Iguana, Casque-headed Lizard and Old Man Lizard, is a small, arboreal lizard found throughout Central America. It