Dendrobates tinctorius
Dyeing Poison Frog
family: Dendrobatidae
subfamily: Dendrobatinae

© 2007 Danté B Fenolio (1 of 96)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
CITES Appendix II
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None



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There are two morphs, one that was formerly known as Dendrobates azureus, and the previously recognized Dendrobates tinctorius. DNA analysis has shown that these forms are conspecific. Following is a description for the morph that was formerly known as Dendrobates azureus: this morph has bright blue-black arms and legs, paler, almost sky-blue and nearly unmarked sides, and a head and back covered with both large and small round spots. The underside is pale blue with round black spots, especially on the breast, and sometimes with a darker midbelly stripe. The oval tympanum is about a third of the eye diameter. Males have noticeably larger finger discs than females.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
Its range is restricted to the southernmost portion of Surinam, in relict "forest islands" of the Sipaliwini Savannah.

The forests are humid, always have rocky streams of running water, and are relatively cool, with temperatures dropping up to 22-27 degrees C at night. Dendrobates tinctorius is found under cover, such as rocks and moss, near streams. It usually stays on the ground, but is also found at heights up to 5 m in trees.

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Mating behavior starts with the male calling from his position in tree leaves or on the ground. The female is attracted by his calls and strokes the male's snout and back in a typical poison frog courtship sequence. The male then leads the female to his chosen spot, where a clutch of 2-6 eggs are laid, and attended to, in most cases, by the male, but also sometimes by the female. The eggs hatch within 14 to 18 days, and the tadpoles are carried to water pools within bromeliad or other plant leaf axils or crevices by both the female and the male.

This account was adapted from an account for the species previously known as Dendrobates azureus.

This species was featured as News of the Week on 16 July 2018:

The startlingly bright colors and intricate patterns of Neotropical poison frogs are icons of warning coloration. Barnet et al. (2018) show in a recent paper that at least in Dendrobates tinctorius, the bright color patterns may simultaneously scream "Here I am!" to nearby would-be predators, yet be relatively undetectable to predators farther away. They measured the frog’s complex patterns of yellow and blue on a black background as perceived by different types of potential predators (reptiles, birds, mammals). Using a machine learning algorithm, they assessed the ability of different visual systems to discriminate D. tinctorius from a leaf litter background at different distances. Close up, discrimination by each visual system was highly accurate, but far away, discrimination declined dramatically. In the field, they used model frogs with different color patterns to show that cryptic (brown and black) models had fewer predation attempts against a natural leaf-litter background, whereas background did not affect the attack rates on purely aposematic (bright yellow) models. The tinctorius color pattern also had lower attack rates against the natural background, indicating an element of protective camouflage. Experiments with human "predators" trying to find frogs on a computer screen showed the tinctorius color pattern was just as aposematic as the bright yellow morph close-up, but from a distance was just as hard to see as cryptic coloration. They conclude a kind of perceptual averaging occurs, in which the different colors of the intricate pattern blend together at a distance, making the frogs virtually invisible in their natural background (Written by Kyle Summers).

This species was featured as News of the Week on 15 July 2019:

The larvae-toting parental care of many species of the Family Dendrobatidae is known to be an effective way to ensure tadpoles have food and protection while they develop. A study by Pašukonis, Loretto and Rojas (2019) asked further about the role of this parental shuttling in dispersal. With tiny radio transmitters, they tracked two poison frog species (Ameerega trivittata and Dendrobates tinctorius) and found that they moved their offsprings farther and to many more water sources than expected, with little regard to suitable, nearby pools. Examining the spatial patterns of the far-ranging fathers, the authors speculate on the adaptive benefits of ensuring the dispersal of their offspring to reduce competition and possible inbreeding against the increased costs and risks associated with long-distance travel. Their study highlights the parental role in offspring dispersal and the spatial acuity of these poison frogs (Written by Michelle Koo.)


Walls, J. G. (1994). Jewels of the Rainforest: Poison Frogs of the Family Dendrobatidae. J.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey.

Wollenberg, K. C., Veith, M., Noonan, B. P., and Lotters, S. (2006). ''Polymorphism versus species richness—systematics of large Dendrobates from the Eastern Guiana Shield (Amphibia: Dendrobatidae).'' Copeia, 2006(4), 623-629.

Written by Franziska Sandmeier (franturtle AT, UC Berkeley
First submitted 2006-12-29
Edited by Kellie Whittaker; updated by Ann T. Chang (2019-07-22)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2019 Dendrobates tinctorius: Dyeing Poison Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Oct 18, 2019.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2019. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 18 Oct 2019.

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