If you walk in the forest on Bastimentos Island in the wet season, you will hear a loud chirping sound,, as if you are walking among thousands of crickets. However this noise is coming not from crickets, but from small frogs.
These tiny frogs, only 2 or 3 centimeters long, are a vibrant red colour, sometimes with and sometimes without black spots. These frogs are members of a large family of poison frogs found only in Central and South America, called dendrobatids.
Most poison frogs are very brightly colored and this appears to be a warning to predators that the frogs carry potent toxins. These toxins have been researched by biochemists to determine whether they might have practical uses for human medicine. One toxin, derived from a poison frog called Epipedobates tricolor, has been used for a a pain killing drug that it is two hundred times more powerful than morphine.
The red frogs are the males, who are trying to attract a mate. Females produce nutrient rich eggs which they laid in the leaf litter on the forest floor. When they hatch into tadpoles their mother carries them to plants which have small pools in their leafs.She will return to each pool over the next several months to feed her tadpoles by laying an infertile egg for them to eat.
Bastimentos is the home of the "red" frogs, but other islands have the same little frogs, but in a variety of other colours. They are the same little frogs with the same insect-like chirp, but the spectrum of colours works out something like this
The reason for this variation in colour and pattern is not understood. But whatever caused this marked divergence in colours was fast: on a geological time scale - Bocas del Toro Archipelago has only been here for around 5,000 to 10,000 years, very short in evolutionary terms. Scientists are now currently trying to work out the answer to this one.
Frogs in Panama
Bocas del Toro Ecosystems