Category Archives: Reptiles and Amphibians

The Reptile and Amphibian Team

The longest running study of the Rainforest project, The Reptile and Amphibian Team is proud to say that this year, we will be focusing our efforts on gathering information about Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (abbreviated Bd), more colloquially known as Chytrid Fungus. This fungus is infecting amphibians across every continent, and for most of the affected animals, it results in death. In recent years, it has decimated some of the largest populations of in the world, and is able to infect a higher percentage of species than almost any other disease in recorded history ( In just the past three decades, this epidemic has wiped out entire species and caused an alarming decline in biodiversity, in Costa Rica, Panama, Australia, parts of Europe, South Africa, Japan, and all across the Americas, ( In some cases, this extremely parasitic fungus has spread so rapidly it causes massive devastation to entire ecosystems within just a matter of weeks ( Only a select few species, such as the American Bullfrog have proven resistant, and scientists are working to constantly to better understand the factors that determine how Chytrid fungus can affect some species so much differently than others. We hope our research will help raise awareness about this devastating threat. We have the exciting opportunity to work with the accomplished field biologist, Dr. Twan Leenders, a published author, and assist in the research. We will also be helping him to survey amphibian and reptile species in the reserve for a data base and his next book on Reptiles of Costa Rica.


New Equipment

We are excited to be leaving for the tropical Rainforest in 15 days! Some new equipment arrived for us to use this year. Check it out! Pesola scale: used to weigh amphibians and reptiles. Snake poles: used to catch snakes which are then measured in grams as well magnifying glasses!

2016 Reptile and Amphibian Team

BlueSidedTreeFrog Agalychnis annae.png

Blue-sided tree frog – Agalychnis annae

Chytrid fungus, specifically Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is the one of the worst diseases in history. Chytrid fungus is a deadly skin disease that caused the population in many countries, such as Australia, South America, North America, Central America, New Zealand, Europe, and Africa, to decline. While many Amphibians are killed by chytrid fungus, some have been known to be resistant to chytrid fungus such as the American bullfrog. The goal of the Reptile and Amphibian team is to understand why the disease, chytrid fungus, is wiping out the population. Max Gamblin and Allison Herdje are proud members of the 2016 Reptile and Amphibian team. Allison wanted to join this team because when she was younger, she had a frog, and wants to know why a lot of them are dying so she can save them. Max wanted to join the team because ever since he was little he always liked reptiles and he hopes he can learn more about them and how he can save them from chytrid fungus. Sometimes it is hard to know if an animal has this horrible disease, so Max and Allison will be conducting laboratory testing to see if the animal has it. A chytrid fungus infection is spread through the transmission of a fungus called zoospore. Chytrid fungus is very important because it is capable of infecting most of the 6,000 species of amphibians of the world. The way an amphibian dies from chytrid fungus is when its skin is infected by the fungus, it’s skin hardens. This does not allow the amphibians to drink because they drink through their skin along with important salts into their bodies. This change in electrolyte levels in the animal causes the animal’s heart to stop and cause it to die. Please check back and help us save amphibians and reptiles!



Green Iguana

GlidingTreefrog Agalychnis spurrelli

Gliding tree frog – Agalychnis spurrelli

Thank You Patagonia!

Thanks to you we have great gear!

From early mornings with the bird team to late nights with the Reptiles & Amphibians team, we will be trapping, recording, and doing research in the driest and warmest possible way.

Chytrid Fungus

Chytrid fungus, Phylum Chytridiomycota, are aquatic, algae like fungi that have flagellated zoospores. They usually live in aquatic environments, but some species live on land particularly in the soil or other moist habitats. Chytridiomycota are dependent on water to survive, however, they can be found dwelling within host organisms. They existed roughly 500 million years ago and are, usually, unicellular. Some chytrids are saprobes, or decomposers, while others may be harmful parasites. The chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is what causes the infectious disease to amphibians known as Chytridiomycosis. The fungus is capable of causing sporadic deaths in some amphibian populations and even extinctions of whole species.
There have been many amphibian die-offs around the world. Many of them appear to be caused by a newly discovered fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Bd is a member of group of fungi called chytrids, which are usually found underwater growing on dead plant or animal matter. Bd is the only chytrid fungus known to feed on living vertebrates. It primarily affects the skin of amphibians, causing the disease known as amphibian chytridiomycosis.
Amphibians breathe and take up water through their skin. Chytridiomycosis interferes with these essential processes. Infected frogs may become lethargic, they are often unable to right themselves if turned upside down, and they may jump or swim in circles. They may rest with their legs outstretched, or sit with their rear end raised up. Sometimes their skin appears bloodshot or sloughs off excessively. They may also sit out in the hot sun, when healthy amphibians would seek shelter in shade or water.
In most places, almost as soon as Bd is detected at a new site, the frogs begin dying off. In a period of a few months, frog populations can go from abundant to nearly nonexistent. Most mass die-offs occur soon after frogs transform from tadpoles into frogs, leaving pond or stream shorelines littered with dead frogs. But in some places frogs may be infected even though die-offs are not observed

Reptiles and Amphibians Team of 2014-2015

Chytrid Fungus is a disease that has been destroying populations of amphibians all over the world, specifically North and South America and Australia. The 2014-2015 Reptiles and Amphibians team is Emily Cross and Allie Cohen. We are determined to understand the disease and how it affects Reptiles and Amphibians on all continents.

The purpose of studying these populations is because Reptiles and Amphibians are indicator species, which means that they are an early warning system of environmental health. This is due to their sensitivity to air and water pollutants and changes in the environmental condition.

More to Come!

Reptiles and Amphibians Team 2013- 2014

Mireille Pioppo, Olivia Shelbourn and Jane Fischer

Post #1- November 19th 2013

For the past several weeks, the Reps and Amphs team has been working on our preliminary research for our project. We started to create a database of reptiles and amphibians, commonly found on the Rara Avis reserve. Researching the species in our database will help us get to know the reptiles and amphibians we will come in contact with while in Costa Rica. This is an essential component of our project because in order to be successful, we need to familiarize ourselves with the reptiles and amphibians of Costa Rica. Knowing information such as what type of environment specific species live in will allow us to find, collect and research these animals. In addition, our database will help us determine the species we need to find on our trip so that we can find new research for the Macaulay lab and other important research databases.

Although we’ve researched quite a few species, there are several that we found to be especially interesting. The Ghost Glass Frog stood out in particular to us because of its unique appearance. We discovered that the Ghost Glass Frog lives mainly in shrubs and trees and lays their eggs on low vegetation. In addition to the Ghost Glass Frog, the Brilliant Forest Frog was especially interesting to us. Its smooth skin is spotted blue and green and a brilliant red color appears on the underside of the frog’s limbs in addition to between its webbed toes. While most frogs’ ears are not visible, the Brilliant Forest Frog has ears that are clearly noticeable. This is unique to this species of frog, which certainly sets it apart.

We are currently working to complete our database of the reptiles and amphibians commonly found in Costa Rica. We are learning so much about the wide variety of species and can’t wait to continue working on our project!

Reps and Amphs!!

There are many reptiles and amphibians in Costa Rican rainforest, and they’re an integral part of our world today.  They range from your average tree frog to species yet unknown.  We are studying their habits and the roles they play in their environment.  We are trying to find evidence of the revival of many species after the chytrid fungus decimated the local population of amphibians.  This fungus has been killing off amphibians around the world.  We plan on taking day long hikes through the rainforest in search of these amphibians–and their natural predators, reptiles. We will use the information we collect to assess how populations have responded to chytrid and other environmental changes.

Zach Gati

Kevin Grace
Katrina Swift

2012 Findings