Dendrobates auratus
Green Poison Frog, Green and Black Dart-poison Frog, Gold Arrow-poison Frog
family: Dendrobatidae
subfamily: Dendrobatinae

© 2007 Twan Leenders (1 of 88)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
CITES Appendix II
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.


bookcover The following account is modified from Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo (©2005 by the Regents of the University of California), used with permission of University of California Press. The book is available from UC Press.

Dendrobates auratus Girard, 1855
Green and Black Dart-poison Frog

Michael J. Lannoo
Priya Nanjappa

1. Historical versus Current Distribution. Native to Central America, green and black dart-poison frogs (Dendrobates auratus) were purposely introduced onto Hawaii by the entomologist David T. Fullway as a part of a larger program by the Territory (at that time) of Hawaii to introduce beneficial animals to assist in controlling non-native insects (McKeown, 1996). According to McKeown (1996), the source of these frogs was from populations on Tobaga or Tobagilla Island off the Pacific Coast of Panama. In Hawaii, green and black dart-poison frogs currently reside only on Oahu, in a few well-vegetated, moist valleys.

2. Historical versus Current Abundance. Because green and black dart-poison frogs were introduced to Hawaii, their U.S. abundance is obviously higher now than before their introduction. However, these frogs have a restricted range and, according to McKeown (1996), are sensitive to habitat destruction.

3. Life History Features.

A. Breeding. Reproduction is complex. Eggs are laid and tended in leaf litter, and males transport hatchlings to water bodies (see “Breeding migrations” below).

i. Breeding migrations. Unknown per se. Males call to attract females, then lead them to oviposition sites in the leaf litter.

ii. Breeding habitat. Leaf litter. Males care for eggs and transport tadpoles to water. Males can and will tend 1 clutch simultaneously (Wells, 1978).

B. Eggs.

i. Egg deposition sites. Leaf litter (Wells, 1978, and references therein).

ii. Clutch size. Wells (1978) reports clutches of 5, 6, and 7 eggs; Dunn (1941) notes 6 eggs. Eggs hatch in 10–13 d (Wells, 1978).

C. Larvae/Metamorphosis. Newly hatched tadpoles are deposited in waterfilled tree cavities, bromeliad tanks, and stagnant pools (Eaton, 1941; McDiarmid and Foster, 1975; Silverstone, 1975; see also Lannoo et al., 1987). Some of these cavities are small and support notably small volumes of water (from 13 ml to about 7,600 ml; Eaton, 1941). Different males will deposit tadpoles in the same tree cavity (Eaton, 1941).

i. Length of larval stage. Eaton (1941) suggests 43 d of larval life (Dunn, 1941, cites 42–60 d), although Eaton (1941) notes that tadpoles vary in their rates of development and therefore, time to metamorphosis is also likely to vary.

ii. Larval requirements. a. Food. Tadpoles are carnivorous, and their diets include protozoans, rotifers, wood fragments, and perhaps diatoms (Eaton, 1941; summarized in Lannoo et al., 1987).

b. Cover. Will hide in the “frass from dead leaves” (Eaton, 1941). iii. Larval polymorphisms. No formal polymorphisms, but as with many cavitydwelling species, tadpole size varies considerably within sibships (Eaton, 1941; Lannoo et al., 1987). Some features of tadpoles may be neotenic (see discussion in Lannoo et al., 1987).

iv. Features of metamorphosis. Metamorphosis in an individual proceeds rapidly, but the timing of metamorphosis within a cohort varies considerably (see Eaton, 1941).

v. Post-metamorphic migrations. Presumably from tanks to terrestrial sites to feed and grow.

D. Juvenile Habitat. Unknown, but probably similar to adults.

E. Adult Habitat. Green and black dartpoison frogs are found on the forest floor as well as in trees. They are diurnal, as are most members of the genus Dendrobates (Dunn, 1941; Eaton, 1941; Wells, 1978), although McKeown (1996) notes that in Hawaii these dart-poison frogs are less active on sunny afternoons. Dunn (1941) notes the greatest activity is on mornings after rain.

F. Home Range Size. Unknown, but Wells (1978) cites an example of a male tending two clutches located about 5 m apart.

G. Territories. During courtship, males are nonterritorial but will occasionally engage in aggressive competitive behavior (Wells, 1978). Summers (1989) notes territorial behavior in males. Females, while not territorial, will use aggression to compete for males (Wells, 1978; Summers, 1989).

H. Aestivation/Avoiding Desiccation. Undescribed.

I. Seasonal Migrations. Undescribed, but other than to disperse from breeding tanks and for males to deposit tadpoles in tanks, probably do not occur.

J. Torpor (Hibernation). Does not occur. K. Interspecific Associations/Exclusions. Have not been described.

L. Age/Size at Reproductive Maturity. Unknown in Hawaii (McKeown, 1996), but in captivity, Dendobates sp. will breed in their first or second year (Heselhaus, 1994; C. LeBlanc, personal communication).

M. Longevity. Unknown in Hawaii (McKeown, 1996) but in general Dendrobates sp. in captivity live 8–10 years, and often longer (Heselhaus, 1994; C. LeBlanc, personal communication). Lifespans in the wild are probably shorter.

N. Feeding Behavior. In general, members of the genus Dendrobates feed during the daytime and are active foragers (Toft, 1995). They exhibit a wide range of total prey/stomach but have narrow feeding niches. Ants form a staple of their diets (Toft, 1981, 1995; McKeown, 1996).

O. Predators. Females will eat the eggs of other females (Wells, 1978; Summers, 1989). Adults will avoid large ants and will flee from small land crabs (Dunn, 1941).

P. Anti-Predator Mechanisms. Dendrobatids contain histrionicotoxins and 3,5 disubstituted indolizidine alkaloid skin toxins.

Q. Diseases. Juvenile captive green and black dart-poison frogs displayed at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., were diagnosed with chytridiomycosis (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis; Longcore et al., 1999; Pessier et al., 1999). There is no evidence of this chytrid fungus affecting wild native or exotic populations.

R. Parasites. Unknown.

4. Conservation.

Green and black dart-poison frogs have been introduced to Oahu, Hawaii, and as such are considered an introduced or invasive species. Steps to eradicate these animals on this island are recommended.

Literature references for Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species, edited by Michael Lannoo, are here.

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