Friday, March 23, 2012

Creature Feature: Golden Toad.

Picture a toad for a minute. Chances are you just pictured a brown, lumpy little amphibian with warty skin. We are generally socialized that toads are the ugly ones used in witches' brews and that frogs are happy little fellows who sing in swamps.

But that doesn't mean they can't be friends!

Actually, there is no difference at all between a frog and a toad. The differences between the anurans we call frogs and toads are purely cosmetic. Only members of the genus Bufo are treated as "true toads." That's why we have toads that are pretty like the fire-bellied sort found in pet shops, as well as awesomely-colored specimens like this.

Yes, that is a toad. Or, rather, it was. This toad is no more. It has ceased to be. It used to live only in Monte Verde, Costa Rica, and went by the names Golden Toad (Bufo perigienes), Monte Verde toad, and a few other, more obscure names. It lived in exactly one part of one forest preserve.  It presumably ate insects like most other amphibians.

The most outstanding thing about the golden toad was, of course, its coloration. It has been described as being "Day-Glo" golden orange - certainly a treat for any researcher lucky enough to see one. The males had the bright gold, but the females had red and black coloration. Hey, for herpers, it's a relief when things are easy to sex.

Ultimate bachelor party.

Unfortunately, very little is known about this frog, toad, whatever. We have seen them mating and very little else. We think they spent most of their time underground, but have no confirmation. The population was short-lived, first being seen in 1966 and declining sharply over the next twenty or so years.The last of these amphibians was seen in 1989. Deforestation, climate change, and chytrid fungal infection are all cited as causes for the frog's extinction.

We've said it again and again:amphibians are important when it comes to environmental monitoring. Water purity in particular affects them big time. This representative just so happened to be a looker. It's a shame that more of us will not be able to encounter this awesomely-colored amphibian.

At least, that's what we think.

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