Searching for “fitzies”

Fitzinger's Robber Frog (Craugastor fitzingeri), a common species that has suddenly become elusive for our laboratory

Fitzinger’s Robber Frog (Craugastor fitzingeri), a common species that has suddenly become elusive for our laboratory

A tiny leaf-litter frog, Craugastor fitzingeri is the last species on our list of frogs to collect for infection experiments. They are very common around Gamboa – some people say that they have easily seen 15 or 20 frogs in an area within a relatively short span of time. And yet, somehow they seem to have disappeared, for our lab at least. Last week we spent several fruitless nights searching the trails around Gamboa for these little guys. I heard their trilling calls several times from the forest, but could not find them when I walked where they were calling from. Craugastor fitzingeri can be distinguished from their “cousin” species, Craugastor crassidigitus, by the presence of a white line on their throat and a mottled pattern on their outer thighs.

Last Friday we found three fitzingeri right around one tree near the experimental pond in Gamboa. Thinking we finally had them, we quickly bagged the frogs and then looked around for more. Unfortunately, those were evidently the only three fitzingeri there (and we need 24 total)! Craugastor fitzingeri is a terrestrial species that can be found near streambeds and in the forest. They lay terrestrial eggs, however, and so have no need of a permanent water body. That may be one reason why they have been so difficult to locate in numbers. Other potential reasons could be the phase of the moon, or the season – it is virtually impossible to tell why we can no longer find the frogs that we need. I also did not see or hear very many other frogs last week, either, possibly because it is still so dry. This rainy season is not what I expected the rainy season to be like at all – we have had relatively little rain, with mostly just very small rainstorms lasting about 10 minutes maybe 5 or 6 times a week. I was expecting daily torrential downpours… although I lost my umbrella, so in a way I am also thankful that it has not been so rainy. Hopefully next week the “fitzies” will be out, although looking for them has not been entirely unproductive. We did find another salamander, a small leaf litter snake and I caught a baby spectacled caiman, all in one spectacular night!

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