AmphibiaWeb - Epipedobates tricolor


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Epipedobates tricolor (Boulenger, 1899)
Phantasmal Poison Frog, Phantasmal Poison-arrow Frog
family: Dendrobatidae
subfamily: Colostethinae
genus: Epipedobates
Epipedobates tricolor
© 2017 David C. Cannatella (1 of 1)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Vulnerable (VU)
CITES Appendix II
National Status None
Regional Status None
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


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Diagnosis: Epipedobates tricolor differs from members of the femoralis group by having green bones and a different striping pattern. It differs from E. anthonyi by its larger size (Silvertone 1976).

 E. tricolor has a snout-vent length of approximately 22.6 mm (Hermans et al. 2002; Silverstone 1976). The skin is smooth all over the body. The projecting snout is truncate. The nostril is closer to the snout than the eye. The canthus rostralis is angular and the loreal region is vertical. A distinct tympanum is present (Boulenger 1899). The second finger is shorter than the first. Toes are basally webbed (Silverstone 1976).

Coloration: The ground color is usually dark red to brown. Three yellow-white stripes are present on the dorsum (Forsman and Hag 2006). The venter has black or brown marbling (Silverstone 1976). Hind limbs have bright red spots (Duellman and Wild 1993).

Variation: Individuals can be identified by their stripe patterns which vary (Hermans et al. 2002).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Ecuador

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View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
amphibiandisease logo View Bd and Bsal data (2 records).
E. tricolor is native to Ecuador and is found in seven locations on the Andean slopes of the Bolivar province in central Ecuador, at an elevation of 1,000 to 1,769 m (Stuart et al. 2008).

It inhabits leaf litter on the forest floor and in wetlands (Forsman and Hag 2006; Stuart et al. 2008).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
E. tricolor is diurnal (Hermans et al. 2002). Calling consists of both calls and chirps and takes place on the ground or on perches. Calls recorded occurred mostly during the morning. Those made on the perch were stronger and louder than those made on the ground (Forsman and Hag 2006; Hermans et al. 2002). The duration and quality are signs of dominant males. However, these behaviors may change during the mating season (Forsman and Hag 2006).

Male to male aggression is present in the species. Both males become erect, with front legs facing outward. The males will clutch one another, while standing up straight. They then circle each other until one can gain the upper hand and force the other to the ground, by laying on him (Hermans et al. 2002).

This species is oviparous. The clutch size is about 10 eggs. Males care for eggs in leaf litter, then carry tadpoles on their backs to be deposited in water (Forsman and Hag 2006).

Its diet consists of small insects (Forsman and Hag 2006).

Trends and Threats
The population is declining in the northern portion of its range, where some populations have disappeared. Major threats include the pollution of water, the loss of habitat, and overharvest for medicinal purposes (Stuart et al. 2008).

Relation to Humans
This species is collected for medicinal purposes (Stuart et al. 2008).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Long-distance pesticides, toxins, and pollutants
Predators (natural or introduced)
Introduced competitors
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)

The species was originally described by Boulenger (1899).

E. tricolor and E. anthonyi were recently separated from one another (Stuart et al. 2008).

E. tricolor produces a toxin that includes epibatidine, which is an alkaloid (Gomez-Sanchez et al. 2007).


Boulenger, G. A. (1899). ''Descriptions of new reptiles and batrachians collected by Mr. P. O. Simons in the Andes of Ecuador.'' Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 7(4), 454-457.

Duellman, W. E., and Wild, E. R. (1993). ''Anuran amphibians from the Cordillera De Huancabamba, Northern Peru: systematics, ecology, and biogeography.'' Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, The University of Kansas, 157, 1-28.

Forsman, A., and Hagman, M. (2006). ''Calling is an honest indicator of paternal genetic quality in poison frogs.'' Evolution, 60, 2148-2157.

Gomez-Sanchez, E., Soriano, E., and Marco-Contelles, J. (2007). ''Synthesis of 7-Azabicyclo[2.2.1]heptane and 2-Oxa-4-azabicyclo[3.3.1]non-3-ene Derivatives by Base-Promoted Heterocyclization of Alkyl N-(cis(trans)-3,trans(cis)-4-Dibromocyclohex-1-yl)carbamates and N-(cis(trans)-3,trans(cis)-4-Dibromocyclohex-1-yl)-2,2,2-trifluoroacetamides.'' Journal of Organic Chemsitry, 72, 8656-8670.

Hermans, K., Pinxten, R., and Eens, M. (2002). ''Territorial and vocal behavior in a captive dart-poison Frog, Epipedobates tricolor Boulenger, 1899 (Anura: Dendrobatidae).'' Belgian Journal of Zoology, 132, 105-109.

Silverstone, P.A. (1976). ''A revision of the poison arrow frogs of the genus Phyllobates Bibron in Sagra (Family Dendrobatidae).'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Bulletin, 27, 1-53.

Stuart, S., Hoffmann, M., Chanson, J., Cox, N., Berridge, R., Ramani, P., Young, B. (eds) (2008). Threatened Amphibians of the World. Lynx Edicions, IUCN, and Conservation International, Barcelona, Spain; Gland, Switzerland; and Arlington, Virginia, USA.

Originally submitted by: Amanda Baker (first posted 2010-10-14)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker, Mingna (Vicky) Zhuang (2012-04-05)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2012 Epipedobates tricolor: Phantasmal Poison Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jun 13, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 13 Jun 2024.

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