Size: 17-24 mm. The skin is relatively smooth, and the "usual" coloration includes a bright red back, some small black spots, black to dark blue hind legs, and a red belly, which occasionally is red and blue, and can vary toward tan and white in some Panamanian localities.
Unusual color variations occur on the small islands off the coast of Panama (in the Bocas del Toro archipelago), including these color combinations: blue above and below, without spots; green above and below with small spots; green above and white below, with small spots; red above and white below, with small spots; and olive green above and yellow below, with black flecks. In each population there is generally only a single color morph, but on the Island of Bastimentos there are different colors in one population. Males have a tan-grayish vocal pouch under the throat, visible when they call to defend their territory. When removed from their territory, they lose the vocal pouch coloration fairly rapidly (Summers et al. 1997).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama
Oophaga pumilio is found in the rainforests of the Caribbean coast of Central America, from Nicaragua to Panama, between sea level and 960 m
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
More males call during the rainy season and female do not ovulate during the drier period. The male call is described as a low buzz or ticking note call, and is used to attract females and as a territorial advertisement call
(Walls 1994). There are 4 different calls
(Zimmermann 1990). The call most heard is used for territorial defense in the morning, between 8 and 10 am. Males defend territories, approximately 3 m apart from other males
The female approaches the male to initiate breeding. It is the role of the male to tend to the terrestrial clutch of eggs (3-17 eggs), and to keep them moist by periodically emptying their bladders on the eggs (hydric brooding) until they hatch (after 5-15 days). Males may protect more than one clutch at a time. The female then carries the individual tadpoles (1-2) to separate, water filled leaf axils of bromeliads or other plants. If two tadpoles are brought to one bromeliad only one will survive. The female lays unfertilized eggs in with the tadpoles to serve as a food source, and she is thus able to maintain as many as six tadpoles through metamorphosis
(Duellman and Trueb 1986). Tadpoles are obligately oophagous and must receive an egg meal within 3 days of being placed in a bromeliad water pool in order to survive. They metamorphosize when they reach approximately 11 mm long
(Walls 1994). Males have been observed eating the eggs or carrying the tadpoles of unattended clutches to bromeliad water pools where they will die since the female will not be able to feed them
(Duellman and Trueb 1986).
Metamorphosis is complete in 6-8 weeks.
Adults of this species primarily consume ants.
These frogs are brightly colored and toxic, and the bright coloration has multiple functions. First, it functions in defense: the coloration warns predators that these frogs are not palatable (aposematic coloration). Second, it functions in mate choice: female strawberry poison dart frogs have been shown to preferentially choose males based on brightness and color. Now a third role has been shown in a recent Evolution paper: male-male competition (Crothers et al. 2011). Brighter males defend their territory more strongly, preferentially approaching brighter intruders rather than dull-colored ones, initiating confrontation more quickly, and directing more calls to brighter rivals. This may be particularly relevant in highly polymorphic populations of O. pumilio such as those of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. In species where males provide some parental care (hydric brooding of the egg clutch, in the case of O. pumilio), sexually selected traits such as male color brightness are predicted to function as indicators of individual condition/quality.
Trends and Threats
It is generally common throughout its range. Habitat loss and overcollection for the pet trade are problems for some populaions. Tourism (e.g., www.redfrogbeachclub.com) also affects some populations. It is found within several protected areas, including the Finca La Selva Biological Reserve (Costa Rica) and Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park (Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama), and may occur within other protected areas, particularly in Costa Rica. Export data from 1991-1996 showed that the majority of specimens (>95%) came from Nicaragua, which has established a CITES 2001 export quota of 3,450 specimens for O. pumilio (Solís et al. 2008).
Relation to Humans
This frog can be found in gardens. The species is often smuggled for the pet trade.
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)
A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).
In 2011, the genus Dendrobates was subdivided into seven genera, including the new genus Oophaga by Brown et al (2011).
Crothers, L., Gering, E., and Cummings, M. (2011). ''Aposematic signal variation predicts male-male interactions in a polymorphic poison frog.'' Evolution, 65, 599-605.
Brown J.L., Twomey E., Amézquita A., De Souza M.B., Caldwell J.P., Lötters S., Von May R., Melo-Sampaio P.R., Mejía-Vargas D., Perez-Peña P., Pepper M., Poelman E.H., Sanchez-Rodriguez M., and Summers K. (2011). ''A taxonomic revision of the Neotropical poison frog genus Ranitomeya (Amphibia: Dendrobatidae).'' Zootaxa, 3083, 1-120.
Donnelly, M. A. (1989). ''Reproductive phenology and age structure of Dendrobates pumilio in northeastern Costa Rica.'' Journal of Herpetology, 23, 362-367.
Donnelly, M. A. (1991). ''Feeding patterns of the Strawberry Poison Frog Dendrobates pumilio (Anura: Dendrobatidae).'' Copeia, 23, 723-730.
Duellman, W. E., and Trueb, L. (1986). Biology of Amphibians. McGraw-Hill, New York.
Graves, B. M. (1999). ''Diel activity patterns of the sympatric poison dart frogs, Dendrobates auratus and D. pumilio, in Costa Rica.'' Journal of Herpetology, 33(3), 375-381.
Liebermann, S. and Dock, C. F. (1982). ''Analysis of the leaf litter arthropod fauna of a lowland tropical evergreen forest site.'' Revista de Biología Tropical, 30, 27-34.
McVey, M. E., Robert, Z. G., Perry, D., and MacDougal, J. (1981). ''Territoriality and homing behavior in the poison-dart frog (Dendrobates pumilio).'' Copeia, 1981(1), 1-8.
Pröhl, G. (1995). Territorial- und Paarungsverhalten von Dendrobates pumilio. Diplomarbeit (Master's thesis). Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, Germany.
Savage, J. M. (2002). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica. University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.
Solís, F., Ibáñez, R., Jaramillo, C., Chaves, G., Savage, J., Köhler, G., and Cox, N. 2008. Oophaga pumilio. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 25 June 2011.
Summers, K., Bermingham, E., Weigt, L., McCafferty, S. and Dahlstrom, L. (1997). ''Phenotypic and genetic divergence in three species of dart-poison frogs with contrasting parental behaviour.'' Journal of Heredity, 88, 8-13.
Summers, K., Cronin, T. W., and Kennedy, T. (2003). ''Variation in spectral reflectance among populations of Dendrobates pumilio, the strawberry poison frog, in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Panama.'' Journal of Biogeography, 30, 35-53.
Walls, J. G. (1994). Jewels of the Rainforest: Poison Frogs of the Family Dendrobatidae. J.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey.
Zimmermann, E. (1990). ''Behavioral signals and reproduction modes in the neotropical frog family Dendrobatidae.'' Biology and Physiology of Amphibians. W. Hanke, eds., Fischer, Stuttgart.
Written by Franziska Sandmeier (franturtle AT yahoo.com), UC Berkeley
First submitted 2001-03-21
Edited by Kellie Whittaker, Brent Nguyen (2016-06-29)
Feedback or comments about this page.
Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on
amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2016. Berkeley, California:
(Accessed: Jul 29, 2016).
AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.