Glass Frog Project

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Glass frogs belong to the family Centrolenidae, which is endemic to the Neotropics.  They have a distribution that ranges from southern Mexico, through Central America into the northern half of South America.  Nearly 150 species are known to make up the diversity of the family.  The majority of the species are found in South America, especially along the Andean regions of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.  In Central America 14 species are known to exists, but likely several more make it into the Darién of Extreme eastern Panamá, but thus far have eluded herpetologists.

Glass frogs are nocturnal and inhabit tropical and subtropical humid forest regions.  They are associated with riparian habitats where they reproduce by laying their eggs attached to the vegetation and other structures overhanging streams and rivers.

More than half of the species in the family have been described only in the last 25 years, and many of them are of conservational concern due to their restricted ranges. We know very little regarding the detailed biology of these tiny frogs, and much less concerning their conservation.  Progress regarding the biological understanding and conservation needs of these beautiful and ecologically important amphibians has been slow.

Costa Rica is home to 13 species of glass frogs.  Despite the common conception of Costa Rica being heavily studied in regards to its herpetofauna many of the countries’ frog species are surrounded in mystery, especially when it concerns their current distributions and status.  Too often we make extrapolations from collection data that may be more than 50 years old.  Costa Rica has undergone dramatic changes in its land use over the last half century.  For this it is important to start fresh and make a serious effort to understand the current distributions, abundances, and taxonomic status of the glass frog species from within the republic of Costa Rica.

 The C.R.A.R.C. initiated a project known as the Glass Frog Research and Conservation Project to help fulfill the need of a focused attempt in gathering as much information possible on the alpha-level taxonomy, natural history, and current distribution and status of Costa Rica’s glass frogs.  This is the first in-depth project of its kind focused on truly getting a better understanding of glass frogs and their current status and distributions.


The Glass Frog Research and Conservation Project is based out of Costa Rica at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center (C.R.A.R.C.).  The initial phase calls for two focused areas of study: a nation wide census to obtain a current understanding of the distribution and ecological status of the species within the republic and a taxonomic revision to clarify any systematic uncertainties of the species within Costa Rica.

The secondary phase will implement the results obtained by the initial phase to look into the necessity for any possible in situ or ex situ projects to fulfill any conservation needs of particular species or geographically distinct populations or phenotypes.


Our glass frog census work is allowing us to generate important updates data on the status, distribution, and abundance of the species present within the republic.  Additionally we are gathering vital information pertaining to ech species specific ecological preferences from each site we study.  This phase of the project was initiated in April of 2011, and involves conducting a detailed studies of populations throughout the humid forest regions of Costa Rica from sea level to 2000 m.a.s.l.  Thus far our work has allowed us to gather data on different glass frogs species at more than 200 sites throughout Costa Rica.  Many more sites remain to be studied before this phase of the project is finished.


Many of Costa Rica’s centrolenid species present a high-level of variation in their phenotypic characteristics, especially in geographically distinct regions.   Further studies are needed on the subject to obtain taxonomic clarity regarding Costa Rica’s centrolenids.  The taxonomic revision will be accomplished by a detailed integrative review of specimens and data collected throughout Costa Rica.  We will be looking at phenotypic characteristics, advertisement calls, and genetic distances.

By understanding the taxonomic distinctions of Costa Rican centrolenids we will be better able to focus on their specific ecological and conservation needs.

If you are interested in helping support our efforts with the Glass Frog Research and Conservation Project please consider making a donation through the donate button below, any and all donations are very greatly appreciated!!!!

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