Causes of mortality in captive Panamanian golden frogs (Atelopus zeteki) at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, 2001-2013

Ronan Eustace, Allison Wack, Lisa Mangus, Ellen Bronson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is home to the largest captive assurance population of the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki). With the ongoing extinction that is occurring worldwide in amphibians, the need for amphibian captive assurance populations is growing, and few mortality reviews on amphibian species exist. Necropsy and histopathologic examination of animals that die in captivity can help identify population-level disease problems, direct research needs in amphibian medicine and husbandry, and improve the success of captive breeding programs. This study reviews postmortem findings from 406 frogs, greater than 1 yr of age, which died in this population from 2001 to 2013. Frogs were categorized by age and sex, and the cause of mortality was determined. Dermatitis associated with filamentous-type fungal organisms was the most common cause of mortality in both age and sex categories and accounted for one-third of frog deaths in this study (36.0%; n = 146 out of 406 frogs). Other major causes of mortality included renal disease, gastrointestinal disease, septicemia, and a previously undescribed myopathy condition associated with a tetany syndrome. Increased mortality of frogs occurred during the breeding season, highlighting the need for further research into methods to minimize mortality during this time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-334
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Atelopus zeteki
  • Captive assurance population
  • Dermatomycosis
  • Mortality
  • Panamanian golden frog
  • Renal disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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