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The Zoo has two blue poison dart frogs on exhibit. They were captive hatched and arrived at the Zoo on April 7, 2005.
The poison dart frogs in our enclosure are always hopping about. You will have to look closely, they like living near the water but are not found in the water.
Reptile and Amphibian House
Some scientists consider the blue poison dart frog to be a distinct population of the more widespread dyeing poison dart frog Dendrobates tinctorius, and do not recognize it as its own species.
The bright blue colors of Dendrobates azureus serves 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. The different tones of blue and the irregular pattern of dark blue and black spots covering the back and head are unique to each individual. The hands and feet of this frog also tell the story of a somewhat arboreal frog; each toe ends in a wide, flattened tip with a suction cup-like pad at each tip. These structures help the frog grip in the slippery surfaces of leaves used environment it inhabits. Another important characteristic that differentiates these group of frogs from other poison frogs its the characteristic hunch-backed posture.
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 most 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 strong enough to kill almost any animal that eats it.
Poison dart frogs have an interesting reproductive system, where one or both parents take care of the eggs and tadpoles. Males call while perched on the lower branches of trees, or from the ground. High quality egg-laying sites might be limited, and females may fight aggressively over the male. Once a female is attracted to his calls, he guides her to suitable egg-laying sites among moist pockets in the leaf-litter. The courtship ritual consists of the female gently stroking the male's snout and dorsal areas with her forelegs. Courtship may also involve chasing and wrestling between the male and female. It is suggested that, in these mock fighting events, the female may assess the potential of the male to defend the eggs.
If pleased, the female will lay a clutch of 2-6 eggs, and either the male or female may take care of them. Care involves maintaining the moisture of the clutch and protecting the eggs against predation. Once the tadpoles hatch, the male entices them to wriggle onto his back and carries them to a nearby stream, where they will develop into miniature frog-lets. Unlike other frogs, blue poison dart frogs do not adopt the typical nuptial embrace known as amplexus.
Males tend to be smaller and measure from 30 to mm while larger females can reach lengths of 45 mm
Smaller males weigh about 3 grams, where larger females may weigh as much as 5 grams.
Poison dart frogs in the wild accumulate poison in their skin from their food. The toxic compounds 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.
Endemic to a small forest fragment within the Sipaliwini Protected Area, in the Gebroeders Mountain range of Suriname.
Conservation at a Glance
Learn more about the amphibian conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo.
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