What is the Golden Toad?

Nicole Long

The golden toad, known scientifically as Bufo periglenes, is native to Costa Rica. The species occupied the forests of Northern Costa Rica and are believed to be extinct. They are known for their distinct color, reliance on visual cues, and their links to other amphibians.

The golden toad occupied the forests of Northern Costa Rica and are believed to be extinct.
The golden toad occupied the forests of Northern Costa Rica and are believed to be extinct.

Males and female golden toads have distinctive markings. Although the name golden may suggest a yellow color, male toads have an orange coloring. Female golden toads are black with golden and red markings. When young, males and females have similar colorings and look almost identical.

The golden toad occupied part of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica. This area is typically wet and tropical. Golden toads would take advantage of this rainy habitat to reproduce.

Like other toads, the golden toad relied on pools of water to help with reproduction. They typically bred between April and June, which coincided with the rainy period in the forest area. Mating would result in approximately 200 to 400 eggs. The eggs would remain in the pool until metamorphose, which takes approximately five weeks.

Male golden toads far outnumbered the females. In fact, there were at one time eight times as many males, making for an interesting mating season. Males would compete for females to mate with, and often would interrupt the mating of others.

Golden toads used visual cues more often than other toads. Other toads use vocal recognition to mate and communicate. Golden toads, on the other hand, seemed to prefer visual recognition except in the case of a using a vocal call during the mating process.

Scientists study various other aspects of the golden toad. This includes the similarities between the golden toad and other amphibian species. Species such as the Bufo hodridgei share similar behaviors and ecological preferences with the golden toad. Both species often hide underground except during breeding season. This provided scientists with little room for observation of typical behaviors beyond mating season.

Over the course of time, the species referred to as the golden toad is believed to have become extinct. Scientists recorded a decrease in the number of golden toads during a 1987 drought in the forest preserve. This left only 29 observable golden toads remaining out of an original 30,000. Since 1991, scientists have been unable to locate any golden toads. Golden toads are prone to hiding underground, so the possibility still exists that some of the population survived.

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