Harlequin Toad

(Atelopus spumarius barbotini)




Facts about this animal

25 – 40 mm. The body is depressed; the head is narrow, and the snout is pointed. The tympanum is absent; the skin on the dorsum is finely spiculate, nearly smooth, like that on the venter. The digits are short with rounded tips. Usually the dorsum has irregular, longitudinal black marks separated by pale green areas in which small black spots are present. The venter is pale yellow with black markings. The palms, soles and proximal ventral surfaces of the thighs are bright orange. The iris is pale greenish-gold. However their coloration can also be black with colourful line and belly. The colour can range from thin yellow line in the Guianas, to red-purple for the A. spumarius var. barbotini see pictures on this page), clear blue for Peru and wide banded yellow and green for the Ecuador. When disturbed by a potential predator, the frog often arches its back while rocking on its belly with the bright orange palms and soles turned upward. This frog is active by day. Prey includes insects and and any other small creatures it can catch.

Taxonomy: Actually, the spumarius in the Western part (Peru, Ecuador) might be a complex of species as no molecular work has been done yet and they are not that well known. Indeed, the taxonomy of this species/subspecies is rather unclear: Cocroft et al. (1990) and Lötters et al. (2002) suggested that Atelopus spumarius might be a complex of more than one species. Lescure and Marty (2001) recognize two subspecies: A.s. barbotini Lescure 1981; and A.s. hoogmoedi Lescure 1973 without arguments and in contrast to their earlier opinion. Lötters et al. (2002) suggested that A. spumarius occurs in the upper Amazon Basin only (Peru, Colombia, Brazil); populations from south Peru, Ecuador and central Brazil might refer to undescribed taxa within A. spumarius sensu lato. Populations from the Guianas and eastern Amazonia might be treated as A. hoogmoedi complex (maybe within A. spumarius sensu lato). Atelopus spumarius hoogmoedi is a synonym of A. spumarius under Lescure and Gasc (1986). This form is understood by Lescure and Gasc (1986) to be more or less A. spumarius sensu lato. But A. spumarius hoogmoedi is not conspecific with A. spumarius sensu stricto (S. Lötters pers comm.)

BRICE P. NOONAN, PHILIPPE GAUCHER (2005) Phylogeography and demography of Guianan harlequin toads (Atelopus): We investigated the genetic structure of populations of Guianan harlequin toads (genus Atelopus) and their evolutionary affinities to extra-Guianan congeners. Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 (ND2) gene sequences produced well-supported clades largely corresponding to the four recognized taxa in the Guianas (Atelopus spumarius hoogmoedi, Atelopus spumarius barbotini, Atelopus franciscus, and Atelopus flavescens). Our findings suggest that the Guianan A. spumarius represent distinct evolutionary lineages that merit distinction from Amazonian conspecifics,

Did you know?
That there is a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis, affecting amphibian populations, this fungus capable of causing sporadic deaths in some amphibian populations and 100% mortality in others?


Name (Scientific) Atelopus spumarius barbotini
Name (English) Harlequin Toad
Name (French) Atélope Du Père Barbotin
Name (German) Harlekinfrosch
Name (Spanish) Atelopus spumarius
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Thomas Ziegler



Range Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Peru; Suriname (see map for Atelopus spumarius on the left)
Habitat It lives on the floor of terra firma tropical rain forest and in the leaf litter near running streams in the Amazonian lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador and eastern Peru, to Amazonas, Para, Amapa (Brazil), and the Guianas (but see taxonomic notes). It has an altitudinal range of sea level to 600m asl.
Wild population It is locally abundant. It is unlikely to be declining in most of its range, but in Ecuador it is thought to have declined significantly and there are no records since November 1994. Threats to this species include forest conversion, logging and clear cutting, especially in eastern Amazonia. It occurs below the altitude at which chytridiomycosis is normally a problem, but declines have nevertheless taken place in Ecuador and probably also Peru, and it is possible the animals from Iquitos in Peru died of this disease. The population trend is decreasing (Red List IUCN 2012)
Zoo population Non reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Harlequin Toad


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 45 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Thomas Ziegler

Why do zoos keep this animal

Zoos and aquariums currently focus on keeping golden frogs (Atelopus zeteki) or painted frogs (A. varius and flavescens) rather than Harlequin frogs. This may change however depending of the developments in the wild.