Milan Vesely and Abel Batista scientifically described Panama’s seventh harlequin frog species in the journal Zoological Research in April 2021. This beautiful harlequin frog species has been in biological collections for some time, the first museum specimen was first collected by Henri Pittier at Puerto Obaldlia in 1911, but has previously been assumed to be related to other sister species that it closely resembles. Historically collected formalin-preserved specimens were unsuitable for genetic analyses and so the frog remained undescribed.
Vesely and Batista conducted expeditions to the Darien to collect new specimens and this allowed them to conduct genetic analysis showing that this species is most closely related to Atelopus certus and Atelopus glyphus, but is genetically distinct enough to warrant recognition as a species. It also has a slightly different call and morphological characteristics that are also described in the paper.
They named the frog Atelopus fronterizo to refer to borderland inhabitants and the Panamanian border security force who protect the Darien mountain range in NE Panama on the border where this frog is found. Like other harlequin frog species in Panama, even though they live in well-protected habitat, they are Likely Critically Endangered due to the threat of the amphibian chytrid fungus that has caused the declines of other Atelopus species in Panama.