Pristimantis gaigei (Dunn, 1931)



One of the most variable species within the genus in Central America and northern Colombia. In fact, I feel that a phylogeographical study should proceed to determine if everything that is considered gaigei today is really equal to the sensu stricto.

The species was described by Dunn in 1931 with a type locality in "Fort Randolph, Panama Canal Zone", Panama, so this morph from central Panama should be typical. In Costa Rica, the species is one of the most colorful of the genus and is apparently an almost perfect mime of the poisonous dendrobatid Phyllobates vittatus. The curious thing is that in its distribution area, there is no such species, but another of the same genus, P. lugubris, which is slightly similar. Why would a non-toxic species want to resemble another that does not exist in its area and not one that does occur? Perhaps in past times if they were sympatric?

In Panama, the farther southeast you find it, the less obvious the dorsolateral bands will be, since there are no Phyllobates in that area. And in Colombia, where there is no model for mimicry either, P. gaigei does not have any type of stripes.

Etymology: Gaige + L. –i, suffix indicating the genitive of masculine names and nouns. Although the author makes no definite mention, in the description he names Mrs. (Mrs.) Gaige (Helen Beulah Thompson Gaige), an American herpetologist. If the species were dedicated to her, the specific epithet would be gaigeae. In fact, Taylor (1952) unjustifiably corrected the name to gaigeae. Additionally, there is the possibility that the species was dedicated to her husband, Frederick McMahon Gaige, an American entomologist.