rainforest animals

Fascinating Facts
About The Strawberry Poison Dart Frog
(Oophaga Pumilio, also Dendrobates Pumilio)

The strawberry poison dart frog is an amazingly beautiful little creature
that normally reaches only 17 – 24 mm in length (ref. 1) - it is really tiny!
strawberry poison dart frog
Strawberry Poison Frog
© Steffen Foerster

It gained its name thanks to – you guessed– its colour.

In its most common form (which is also called a “blue jeans” morph (ref. 2)) – the head and body of the poison dart frog are strawberry-red or orange-red with blue or black lower parts (ref. 3).

Other morphs of this frog exhibit such colour schemes as either red, yellow or white with black spots on the back and legs (these morphs are called bastimentos), and green as well as blue-green legs and yellow bellies (Chiriqui Grande/Chiriqui River morphs). (Ref. 4)

Just as in case with other poison dart frogs, skin colouration is the strawberry poison dart frog’s protection mechanism that indicates the frog’s toxicity and averts predators from potential attacks.

This frogs inhabits rainforests of several Central American countries (Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama (ref. 5)) and Puerto Rico (ref. 6), with a high concentration in Costa Rica (ref. 7).

Male Territoriality

Male representatives of this amphibian species usually protect their own territory.

One source of information - Nature Conservancy - gives a very interesting example of how strawberry poison frog males can fight for their territory:

"Males are territorial and when provoked will jump on top of an interloping male, wrestling for up to 20 minutes. While wrestling, both frogs stand on their hind legs and try to push one another to the ground with their front legs. Once one is pinned, the victor, usually the inhabitant of the territory, allows the other to leave." (Ref. 8)

Reproduction Behaviour

Another fascinating fact about these frogs is that it is the female that approaches the male to initiate breeding. (Ref. 9)

After mating the female lays up to 5 eggs on a leaf or bromeliad axil. (Ref. 10) It is then the responsibility of the male to tend to the clutch of eggs and keep them moist by emptying their bladders on the eggs (!) until they hatch (after 5 - 15 days). (Ref. 11)

After hatching, the female will carry tadpoles from the forest floor to very small pools of water that form in the axils of bromeliad leaves. These "miniature nurseries" are free of predators and are therefore a good place for tadpole's survival. (Ref. 12)

As tadpoles are cannibalistic, they will be placed them in different locations. The only nutrition that tadpoles will accept at this stage is unfertilised eggs, which the female will be bringing to them every few days. (Ref. 13)

In order to survive, tadpoles must get an egg meal within 3 days after being placed in a bromeliad water pool. (Ref. 14)

They will metamorphose into young froglets within about 6 - 8 weeks after hatching. (Ref. 15)

Is the strawberry poison dart frog an endangered species?

Currently, the strawberry poison frog is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (Ref. 16)

The rationale for that is that it has a "wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category." (Ref. 17)

In other words, it means that this species, though under a certain degree of pressure, is not immediately threatened with a rapid decline or even extinction, like some other species of frogs.

Still, according to the IUCN the main current threats to this species are the habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade. That is why there is a strong need for their sustainable harvesting. Tourism poses an additional threat to distinct island forms of these frogs and needs to be addressed as well. (Ref. 18)

Not surprisingly, the IUCN also highlights the need to conduct more research into the life of these frogs, specifically in the areas of threats they are facing as well as conservation measures. (Ref. 19)

Written by:            Irina Gray of Tropical-Rainforest-Animals.com

Publication Date:     September 2007


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