This species is known from humid lowlands and marginally in the premontane zone of the Atlantic versant from extreme southeastern Nicaragua, through Costa Rica to central Panama (including islands in the Bocas del Toro Province), and a single specimen from just west of the Panama Canal, from 10-601 m asl (Savage, 2002).
Habitat and Ecology
It is a terrestrial, diurnal species of humid lowland forest; it may be present in secondary growth and plantations. Adults are often found in the rocky sections of forest streams. The species was not detected in secondary or old growth forests in northeastern Costa Rica in 2010 (Hilje and Mitchell Aide 2012). Eggs are deposited in dry leaf-litter; the males transport hatching tadpoles to forest streams to complete metamorphosis.
This species is only seen occasionally in Costa Rica (Kubicki 2008) although it is very abundant and the population is thought to be stable (G. Chaves pers. comm. 2015). It is uncommon in northern Costa Rica, though it has been detected in La Selva (Reider et al. 2013). It is more common in the south and is regularly encountered at several sites in the Caribbean lowland forests of Panama. In southeastern Nicaragua this species is relatively rare (Sunyer et al. 2009).
General habitat loss occurs by the destruction of natural forests (due to urbanization, agriculture and logging) and water pollution. In Costa Rica, there is some illegal collection of this species for the international pet trade, however this is at a low level and probably does not constitute a major threat (Federico Bolaños pers. comm. 2007). Museum specimens of this species have been found to have the amphibian chytrid fungus but the current impact of this pathogen on wild populations is unclear.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2015. Phyllobates lugubris. In: IUCN 2014