Breeding season: At one site in Panama, Karraker et al. (2006) found egg masses in December, during the transition from wet to dry season in Panama (Karraker et al 2006). Thus, this population appears to breed explosively, beginning in late November and ending in January (Karraker et al 2006). In other populations, breeding may occur year-round (Richards-Zawacki pers. comm.). Egg: Cream-colored eggs are attached to rocky substrate in streams (Karraker et al 2006, includes a photograph). Clutch size ranges from about 200-600 eggs (Karraker et al 2006). Tadpole: Tadpole bodies are dark brown to black with flecks of gold (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998). The ventral surface is grey or colorless (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998). Tadpoles have flattened bodies and a large ventral sucking disc for adhering to rocks in fast-moving streams (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998). An excellent description and illustration of the tadpole can be found in Lindquist and Hetherington (1998). Tadpoles are typically found motionless on rocks or gravelly substrate in shallow stream pools (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998). Metamorph juvenile: Metamorphs are a shade of green similar to the moss covering stream side rocks (in El Cope) to bright yellow (in Campana), all with dark markings (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998). The dark markings sometimes contained brick red warts (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998). The ventral surface varies from white to yellow (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998). Metamorphs have been observed in April at one site (Karraker et al 2006), but may be found year-round at other localities (Richards-Zawacki pers. comm.).
Habitat: Lowland rainforest [from sea level] to 1315 m. Ecology: Ranvestel et al (2004) showed that the abundance and diversity of basal resources (i.e. algae and sediment) and other primary consumers changed when tadpoles, including those of A. zeteki, were excluded from stream reaches. Thus, the loss of tadpoles from stream ecosystems is expected to lead to significant changes in stream characteristics, food web dynamics, and energy flow (Ranvestal et al 2004, Whiles et al 2006). Behavior and communication: Atelopus zeteki uses thermoregulation to reduce chances of infection with chytrid fungus (Richards-Zawacki 2009). Adults were able to modify their behavior to elevate their body temperatures above normal and above levels generally tolerated by the fungus (Richards-Zawacki 2009). As in many species of Atelopus, A. zeteki does not have a middle ear. However, they do respond to playbacks of calls, which suggests that are able to hear (Lindquist and Hetherington 1996). Lindquist et al (1998) found that the body wall/lungs may serve as a route of sound transfer in these frogs. Male Panamanian Golden frogs wave their hands and feet at other males. These actions, combined with calling, are signals of aggression and territorial defense. The significance of hand and foot waving, along with calling, as a multimodal signal has been studied in detail by Criswell (2008). Lindquist et al (2007) explored the nocturnal movements of juveniles and adults by tracking them with flourescent dye. They found that adults move more and to higher resting spots than juveniles. Karyotype: 2N = 22 (Ramos et al 2002) Evolotion: The status of Atelopus zeteki as a species separate from Atelopus varius has been questioned, but recent molecular work suggests that they are in fact distinct lineages (Richards and Knowles 2007). Type locality: El Valle Physiology: The skin of Atelopus zeteki contains tetrodotoxin as well as the unique zetekitoxin (Kim et al 1975). This compound makes this species the most toxic of all the Atelopus (Kim et al. 1977, Pavelka et al. 1977). Juvenile A. zeteki are less conspicuously colored than adults, possibly because they have not yet developed the toxins in their skin (Lindquist and Hetherington 1998).