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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Golden Toad

Beauty Of Animal | Golden ToadThe golden toad (Bufo periglenes) was a small, shiny, bright true toad that was once abundant in a small region of high-altitude cloud-covered tropical forests, about 30 square kilometers in area, above the city of Monteverde, Costa Rica. For this reason, it is sometimes also called the Monteverde golden toad, or the Monte Verde toad. Other common English names include Alajuela toad and orange toad. They were first described in 1966 by the herpetologist Jay Savage. Since May 15, 1989, not a single B. periglenes is reported to have been seen anywhere in the world, and it is classified by the IUCN as an extinct species. Its sudden extinction is cited as part of the decline in amphibian populations, which may be attributable to a fungal epidemic specific to amphibians or other factors, combined or acting independently.
Very little is known about the behavior of B. periglenes; however, it is believed that they lived underground, as they were not seen for most of the year. In contrast, their presence in the Cloud Forest Preserve was obvious during their mating season, which lasted only a few weeks. For a few weeks in April, after the dry season ended and the forest became wetter, males would gather in large numbers near ground puddles and wait for the females. The males would fight with each other for opportunities to mate until the end of their short mating season, after which the toads retreated to their burrows. Eggs were laid in seasonal water catchments in clutches, the average size of which was 228 eggs. After two months, they hatched into tadpoles.
Males outnumbered females, in some years by as much as ten to one, a situation that often led bachelors to attack amplectant pairs and form what Savage once described as "writhing masses of toad balls." The eggs of the golden toad, black and tan spheres, were deposited in small pools--puddles--often no more than one inch deep. Tadpoles emerged in a matter of days, but required another four or five weeks for metamorphosis. During this period, they were highly dependent on the weather; too much rain and they would be washed down the steep hillsides, too little and their puddles would dry up. Golden toads were always found at an altitude of between forty-nine hundred and fifty-six hundred feet. In 1987, an American ecologist and herpetologist, Martha Crump, was fortunate enough to see the toad's mating rituals. In her book, In Search of the Golden Frog , she described it as "one of the most incredible sights I've ever seen," and said they looked like "statues, dazzling jewels on the forest floor." On April 15, 1987, Crump recorded in her field diary that she counted 133 toads mating in one "kitchen sink-sized pool" that she was observing. Five days later, she witnessed the pools in the area drying, which she attributed to the effects of El Niño-Southern Oscillation, "leaving behind desiccated eggs already covered in mold." The toads attempted to mate again that May. Of the 43,500 eggs that Crump found, only twenty-nine tadpoles survived the drying of the forest's ground

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