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Acrylic on illustration board 6" x 7"
In the tropical rainforests of Panama and northern South America, five species of bizarre little frogs haunt the understory. Up to two inches in length, their lack of size is more than made up for by a fierce countenance and attitude. Their big, armored heads are triangular and bear several large thorns. A pair of “tusks,” which are actually bone spurs, stud the lower jaw. These are used for defense and to subdue prey, which tends to be large in relation to the frog. Long considered members of the typical treefrog family, Hylidae, today the casque-headed frogs (Hemiphractus spp.) are believed to have diverged from other frog taxa some time back, and are generally given their own family. Living on or near the forest floor, they usually mate on dry land. After fertilizing the eggs, the male places them on the female's back, where they adhere to a specialized patch of skin. Undergoing metamorphosis while still in the eggs, the young emerge as tiny, fully-formed frogs. The northernmost member of this genus, H. fasciatus, is found in Colombia, Panama, and probably Costa Rica as well. Like many frog species, the Northern Casque-headed Frog has undergone a stark decline in numbers over the past two decades.