Heralds of the rainy season

Two narrowmouth toads (Chiasmocleis panamensis) in amplexus.

Two narrowmouth toads (Chiasmocleis panamensis) in amplexus.

Last week we visited a marsh near the lake in Gamboa where we had found Tungara frogs (Engystomops pustulosus) calling from earlier in the week. As soon as we got there, we could tell there was something different by the deafening shrill noise rising from the marsh. At least six or seven different species of frogs were calling from various positions in the marsh, including the hourglass treefrog (Dendropsophus ebraccatus), larger Leptodactylus insularum and the colorful yellow male Scinax ruber. We did not discover the source of the ear-deafening shrill noise, though, until someone spotted a narrow-mouthed toad.  A couple minutes later, we found some more, included a pair in amplexus. The Panamanian narrow-mouthed toad (Chiasmocleis panamensis) is a miniscule little frog that is about half the size of the small Tungara frogs. They breed early in the rainy season and lay little eggs that float on the surface. Their tadpoles develop very quickly because they have to grow before the pools dry up. This year it is especially important because the rainy season has been so dry that I am somewhat surprised that Chiasmocleis were present at all. Meanwhile, in the states there are floods and thunderstorms. Such strange weather patterns can easily ruin an entire breeding season for amphibians. I hope that other species will be able to breed in the few rainstorms that we have had, like the Chiasmocleis panamensis did.

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