This species' geographic range is the Atlantic versant, humid lowlands and premontane slopes in central northern Nicaragua from 0-960 m asl (Sunyer and Köhler 2010), south through the lowlands of Costa Rica and northwestern Panama (including many islands in Bocas del Toro), from 1-495 m asl (Savage 2002).
Habitat and Ecology
This is a diurnal and mostly terrestrial frog of humid lowland and premontane forest, cacao plantations, and abandoned forest clearings. The species has been detected in forest-palmito, forest-pasture, palmito, and pasture at one site in Costa Rica (Kurz et al. 2014).
Males appear to be fiercely territorial; individual territories have been estimated at 2.5 m2 (Donnelly 1989). Observations concerning mating behaviour suggest that some O. pumilio are at times polygynous (McVey et al. 1981, Donnelly 1989, Zimmermann and Zimmermann 1994). Females lay a clutch of three to nine eggs in moist leaf-litter; clutch sizes in captive specimens of six to sixteen eggs have been recorded (Limerick 1980, Silverstone 1975). There appears to be no information on the number of clutches laid annually. O. pumilio eggs hatch approximately seven days after oviposition, adults then carry the developed tadpoles from the forest floor to water filled bromeliads (Limerick 1980). O. pumilio tadpoles have a very specialized oophagous diet, feeding solely on food eggs supplied by the female (Heselhaus 1992, McVey et al. 1981, Zimmermann and Zimmermann 1994). There is little available information on wild larval development; Heselhaus (1992) reports that captive tadpoles fed an artificial diet "grow slowly, taking four to six months, a third longer than with natural feeding, to reach metamorphosis". Sexual maturity is reached at a minimum size of 19 mm (approximately 10 months).
There are few data on longevity; Donnelly (1989) concluded that the population at Finca La Selva, Costa Rica was mostly comprised of ‘long-lived’ adults; Zimmermann and Zimmermann (1994) gave longevity of 4 years for captive O. pumilio.
This is a common species throughout its range. The species exhibits significant colour and pattern polymorphism especially among populations in the Bocas del Toro archipelago of Panama (Summers et al. 1997). Populations in forest habitat at La Selva, Costa Rica, seemed to have experienced a decline but populations are increasing in nearby cacao growth areas (Whitfield et al. 2007). More recently, the species was common at La Selva (Folt and Reider 2013) and surrounding secondary forests (Hilje and Mitchell Aide 2012). Elsewhere in Costa Rica the species appears to be increasing due to the increase of garden-like habitats where the species is most abundant; it is abundant at Guayacan (Kubicki, 2008) and no declines have been noted at Braulio Carrillo National Park, Costa Rica (Puschendorf et al. 2006). Sub-populations are suspected to occur in Braulio Carrillo National Park, Corcovado National Park, and Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica. The species is common but decreasing on Mancarroncito Island, Nicaragua (Barquero et al. 2010), and in southeastern Nicaragua this species is abundant (Sunyer et al. 2009).
Habitat loss (from urbanization, agriculture and logging) and over-collection for the pet trade are the principal threats to this species. It is believed that the species is currently being unsustainably collected, and because of the apparently low fecundity of this species, the possibility exists that over-harvesting might lead to localized population declines. Distinct island forms are particularly susceptible to both over-collection, and the development of islands for tourism purposes. The great majority of reported trade over the period 1991 to 1996 was in live animals, presumably by the herpetological pet market. The largest overall exporter of O. pumilio between 1991 and 1996 was Nicaragua (>95% of exports); the USA consistently accounted for over 80% of recorded live O. pumilio imports from Nicaragua during this period, and the species makes up 7% of all CITES amphibian trade (Carpenter et al. 2014). Chytrid fungus was not detected in Bastimentos populations in Panama (Richards et al. 2008), but it has been found on museum specimens of this species, as well as in captive collections in Europe (Spitzen-van der Sluijs 2011). In Costa Rica, individuals have been found to be infected with ranavirus, and chytrid fungus, as well as co-infected with both pathogens (Whitfield et al. 2013). A lowland population in Costa Rica was found to have high prevalence (16/40) of chytrid fungus, though there seems to be seasonal variation in Bd presence within populations (Whitfield et al. 2013). The current impact of this pathogen on O. pumilio is not known. At La Selva, observed declines seem to be driven by climate-driven reductions in quantity of standing leaf litter (Whitfield et al. 2007).
This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES and is found in several protected areas within its range. A well-studied population of O. pumilio is present in the Finca La Selva Biological Reserve, northeastern Costa Rica (Donnelly 1989, Limerick 1980, McVey 1981, Pröhl 1997). Within Panama the species is present in a number of protected areas including Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park within the Bocas del Toro archipelago (Summers et al. 1997). In Nicaragua, it is known to occur in the Reserva de la Biosfera del Sureste de Nicaragua which includes the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Los Guatuzos, and Reservas Naturales Cerro Kilambé and Cerro Musún, and Reserva Natural Privada Las Brumas (Galindo-Uribe et al. 2014). Nicaragua has also established a CITES 2001 export quota of 3,450 specimens for this species.
Red List Status
Least Concern (LC)
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification and presumed large population.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2015. Oophaga pumilio. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T55196A3025630. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T55196A3025630.en