AmphibiaWeb - Dendrobates auratus


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Dendrobates auratus (Girard, 1855)
Green and Black Poison Frog, Green Poison Frog, Green and Black Poison-Dart Frog, Gold Arrow-poison Frog
family: Dendrobatidae
subfamily: Dendrobatinae
genus: Dendrobates
Dendrobates auratus
© 2006 Dr. Peter Janzen (1 of 106)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Least Concern (LC)
NatureServe Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
CITES Appendix II
National Status None
Regional Status None
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


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View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
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Dendrobates auratus is the largest poison-dart frog in Costa Rica, with adult females ranging from 27.0-42.0 mm and adult males ranging from 25.0-39.5 mm (Leenders 2001). They can be identified by their calligraphic brilliant green markings on a black background on their dorsal side (Caldwell and Summers 2003). Ventrally, they are marbled or spotted with yellow, blue, or green on dark background (Guyer and Donnelly 2005). Among populations there are variation in both hue (ranging from white to blue-green) and pattern (from thick stripes to dots) (Caldwell and Summers 2003). Dendrobates auratus has a smooth upper surface with a head that is relatively long. The snout truncates to slightly rounded nose (Savage 2002).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Hawaii

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View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
amphibiandisease logo View Bd and Bsal data (20 records).
This species is native to Central America, from the Caribbean slopes of southern Nicaragua to extreme eastern Panama, and on the Pacific slopes from the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica to Colombia (Guyer and Donnelly 2005). It lives in lowlands, primarily rainforest (Caldwell and Summers 2003). It is a shy species, found deep in the forest interior (Leenders 2001).

In 1932, it was introduced to Oahu, Hawaii, as a means for mosquito control, and continues to occur there (McKeown 1978, 1996).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
These frogs forage during the day (Guyer and Donnelly 2005). They move by a series of hops, stopping briefly and hopping again when disturbed. They are excellent climbers with individuals climbing to 45 m above the ground (Savage 2002).

Males are territorial at high population densities but may not be at low populaton densities (Caldwell and Summers 2003). The male call is a high-pitched, insect-like buzz sounding like "cheez-cheez-cheez" (Leenders 2001). The call averages 3.5 kHz in frequency, and can last from two to four seconds followed by a five-second pause (Savage 2002). Males can mate with many females and care for offspring of different females simultaneously (Caldwell and Summers 2003). Females court the males and wrestle other females and chase them from their territories (Savage 2002). This behavior increases male reproductive success but puts survival success of offspring in jeopardy, since females do not defend their territories (Caldwell and Summers 2003). A single male can mate with up to six females (Savage 2002). After being selected by the females, the males then lead the females to the nest site made from leaf litter and the females lay four to six eggs there (Guyer and Donnelly 2005). The male visits the eggs periodically over the incubation period to shed water, remove fungus, and rotate the eggs. After the eggs hatch, the tadpoles crawl up on the male's back (Savage 2002). The male then transports the tadpoles to small pools of water, usually found in tree holes (Caldwell and Summers 2003). If some eggs hatch earlier than others, the tadpoles that are born first may practice cannibalism by eating the smaller tadpoles.

The adults' diets consist mainly of tiny ants and mites but they also prey on beetles, flies, and springtails (Caldwell and Summers 2003). They are known to have a life-span of eight years in captivity but it is much lower in the wild (Leenders 2001).

The tadpoles' diet consist of algae, detritus, protozoans, insect larvae, and each other (Leenders 2001). Tadpoles are moderate-sized and can reach 30 mm (Savage, 2002).

Trends and Threats
This species is not threatened (Caldwell and Summers 2003).

Relation to Humans
This species is popular in the pet trade due to its bright colors and various color morphs (Leenders 2001).

A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).

This species was featured as News of the Week on 15 February 2016:

Birds and mammals are well-known for their behavioral flexibility and learning aptitudes, but these traits are not as well-characterized in amphibians. Liu et al. (2016) investigated these traits in the poison frog Dendrobates auratus, a species with complex reproductive strategies that may favor highly flexible forms of learning. Experiments on serial reversal learning using a two-sided maze with distal visual cues revealed that the frogs could learn to identify the correct exit. Probe trials in which visual cues were switched demonstrated that the frogs relied on these cues. Serial reversals demonstrated that the frogs learned to learn more rapidly across trials, employing rule-based strategies to solve the maze with increasing rapidity, thus demonstrating high levels of behavioral flexibility and learning ability in an amphibian (written by Kyle Summers).

This species was featured as News of the Week on 3 June 2019:

Amphibian genomes can be extraordinarily large, making it difficult to connect the genotype to the phenotype using large-scale genome-sequencing methods. One approach to this challenge is to take a transcriptomic approach, focusing on differential gene expression across different phenotypes in specific tissues. Stuckert et al. (2019) take this approach to investigate differential gene expression across distinct color pattern morphs in the green and black poison frog (Dendrobates auratus). These morphs vary in both background color (brown to black) and foreground (green to blue). They sequenced transcripts from skin tissue taken from tadpoles just reaching metamorphosis, an active period for pigment deposition and skin color development. A number of candidate color pattern genes were found to be differentially expressed between morphs, including genes involved in melanin production and melanosome development in basal skin layers (e.g. the tyrosinase-related protein 1, which catalyzes several key steps in melanogenesis, and affects dark coloration in a variety of vertebrates), genes involved in the development of iridophores (middle layer organelles containing reflective structures associated with blue-green coloration), and genes involved in yellow, orange and red pigment production in xanthophores (e.g. genes in pteridine pigment production pathways). These results will begin to provide insights into the genetic underpinnings of color variation in the brightly colored Neotropical poison frogs (Written by Kyle Summers).

This species was featured as News of the Week on 13 September 2021:

Can poison frogs count? Khatiwada and Burmeister (2021) address this question in the Green and Black poison frog (Dendrobates auratus). The study of counting in non-human animals has a long history, mainly focused on birds and mammals with research on amphibians being relatively rare. In this study, they used a foraging task (hunting flies) to see if the poison frog could distinguish between different numbers of flies. The frogs did well comparing small quantities (1 to 2 or 1 to 3), but beyond that did not show significant discrimination abilities. The frogs did not show any ability (or motivation) to discriminate large quantities, even with highly skewed ratios, showing they did not follow an approximate number system mediated by Weber’s law. Surprisingly, their numeracy with respect to large numbers was inferior to those of plethodontid salamanders and tree frogs from previous studies. The authors suggest that the context might affect motivation, and that these frogs might show more advanced capabilities in the context of parental care (transporting and depositing tadpoles) as opposed to foraging. Hence, further research is warranted. (Written by Kyle Summers)

This species was featured as News of the Week on 4 September 2023:

Many poison dart frog species (Dendrobatidae) conduct toe-tapping behavior, the quick up-and-down movement of the hind legs´ middle toes. Observational reports suggest interactions with prey animals and/or conspecifics triggering this behavior. Schulte and König (2023) systematically tested the influence of big and small prey animals (crickets and fruit flies), as well as conspecific playback calls on toe-tapping behavior in the green-and-black poison frog (Dendrobates auratus). The experiments revealed that playback calls had no influence on the toe-tapping frequencies. Though, both prey species triggered toe-tapping in the frogs, no matter if the prey animals were small or big. Furthermore, the toe-tapping behavior was positively correlated to feeding events. Juvenile frogs, however, were excluded from the analyses. Even though they also showed toe-tapping behaviors, they tapped much less frequently than adult frogs. (Written by Lisa Schulte)


Caldwell, J. P., and Summers, K. D. (2003). ''Green poison frog, Dendrobates auratus.'' Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Volume 6, Amphibians. 2nd edition. M. Hutchins, W. E. Duellman, and N. Schlager, eds., Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Guyer, C., and Donnelly, M. A. (2005). Amphibians and Reptiles of La Selva, Costa Rica and the Caribbean Slope: A Comprehensive Guide. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Leenders, T. (2001). A Guide to Amphibians And Reptiles of Costa Rica. Zona Tropical, Miami.

McKeown, S. (1978). Hawaiian reptiles and amphibians. Oriental Publishing Co., Honolulu.

McKeown, S. (1996). A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands. Diamond Head Publishing, Los Osos, California.

Savage, J. M. (2002). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica:a herpetofauna between two continents, between two seas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, USA and London.

Originally submitted by: Peera Chantasirivisal (first posted 2005-10-18)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker, Ann T. Chang, Michelle S. Koo (2023-09-10)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2023 Dendrobates auratus: Green and Black Poison Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 21, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 21 Jul 2024.

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