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The Zoo has one dyeing poison frog on exhibit. The frog was captive hatched and arrived at the Zoo on April 7, 2005.
The dyeing poison dart frogs in our enclosure are always hopping about. You have to look closely, as they like living near the water but are not found in the water.
Reptile and Amphibian House
The dyeing poison dart frog is a beautifully marked frog, with a pastel yellow head with two dorso-ventral stripes running the length of its body. The dorso-ventral lines may be connected by yellow bands encircling 2 or 3 patches of blue spots on the back of the frog. The black or deep blue arms and legs may be mottled with bright yellow or black spots. Like in other poison frogs, the bright colors serve as a warning to would-be predators. The skin of poison frogs is covered with toxic alkaloid poisons that can paralyze or even kill a naïve predator.
Many population of the dyeing poison dart frog Dendrobates tinctorius inhabit isolated patches of moist forests among drier savannahs and mountains. Some of these populations are becoming reproductively isolated, meaning that there is no exchange of animals, or reproduction, between populations. With time, each group could become its own, isolated species. Most scientists consider the blue poison dart frog, D. azureus, to be a distinct species that evolved from an isolated population of D. tinctorius. Some, however, do not recognize D. azureus as its own species, and include it as an extreme variety of the dyeing poison dart frog.
Poison dart frogs tend to be long-lived. Their bright color and toxic secretions protect them from predators. Captive individuals have been known to live for over 12 years.
These frogs are diurnal, and active during the morning and early evening hours, hopping about the forest floor in search of food and mates. Poison dart frogs in general are safe from predators because their bright, bold colors serve as a warning signal to birds and other animals that might eat them. The colors warn about potent toxins in the skin that will kill almost any animal that eats it.
Poison dart frogs in general have an interesting reproductive system, where one or both parents take care of the eggs and tadpoles. In the case of the dyeing poison dart frog, however, the system is somewhat different. A calling male attracts a female to mate; if interested, she will approach the male and he will guide her, through a series of courtship motions, to suitable egg-laying sites in his territory. After egg deposit, the female leaves and the male guards the egg. Once they hatch, the male will carry the tadpoles to a large pool. Sometimes dozens of tadpoles from many males may be placed in one large water hole. The tadpoles, which can be very aggressive, reach transformation size in about ten weeks and feed on almost anything, including other tadpoles.
Males usually reach a length of 40 to 50 mm, females can be much larger measuring up to 60 mm.
Males can weigh up to about 3.8 grams. Females, which are larger, may weigh as much as 6.5 grams.
Poison frogs in the wild accumulate poison in their skin from their food. The toxic compound in the frog’s skin are lipophilic alkaloids and although the frogs consume a variety of insects and arthropods in the wild the toxic compounds primarily come from the ants in their diet. At the Zoo the frogs are offered a variety of invertebrates including, fruit flies, crickets and small worms. Because the captive diet does not include invertebrates with toxic compounds the frogs loose the poison from their skin.
Inhabit isolated wet forest fragments in an almost circular area of a 350 km radius encompassing the countries of Guyana, Suriname and French Guyana.
Conservation at a Glance
Learn more about the amphibian conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo.
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