AmphibiaWeb - Oophaga vicentei


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Oophaga vicentei (Jungfer, Weygoldt & Juraske, 1996)
Vicente’s Poison Frog
family: Dendrobatidae
subfamily: Dendrobatinae
genus: Oophaga
Species Description: Jungfer K.-H., Weygoldt, P. and Juraske, N. (1996). Dendrobates vicentei, ein neuer Pfeilgiftfrosch aus Zentral-Panama, Herpetofauna, 18(103), 17-26.

© 2007 Dr. Peter Janzen (1 of 10)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Endangered (EN)
CITES Appendix II
National Status None
Regional Status None
Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (1 records).

Oophaga vicentei is a medium-sized Dendrobatid frog that has a snout-vent length ranging from 12 to 24 mm in adults (Jungfer et al. 1996, Barrio-Amorós et al. 2023). The head is about as long as wide and significantly narrower than the body. Their snouts range in shape from horizontally truncated to pointed. The nostrils are indistinct, but are slightly upwardly curved in the lateral view. The canthus rostralis is round and the loreal region is slightly concave. The vertically, elliptical tympanum has an annulus that is partially obscured. The skin is smooth on the dorsum and ventrum except for the dorsal third of the abdomen, the proximal ventral surface of the thighs, and the lateral surface of the sides, which are granular. The hands have a large, round outer metacarpal tubercle and a much smaller, elliptical inner metacarpal tubercle. The relative lengths of the frog’s fingers when pressed together are 3 > 4 > 2 > 1, with the first finger being much smaller than the second. The first finger’s adhesive discs are much smaller in comparison to the discs on fingers 2 - 4, which are wide. The width of the disc on the third finger is 2.0 - 2.5 times wider than the finger compared to the first finger disc, which is narrower than the finger. There is one subarticular tubercle on fingers 1 and 2, and two on fingers 3 and 4. The feet have a large, elliptical outer metatarsal tubercle and a smaller, round inner metatarsal tubercle. The relative lengths of the frog’s toes when pressed together are 4 > 3 > 5 > 2 > 1. The toe discs are smaller than the ones found on fingers 2 - 4. The disc of toe 4 is less than twice as wide as the toe and the disc of the 5th toe is only slightly wider than the toe. There is one subarticular tubercle on toes 1 and 2, two on toes 3 and 5, and three on toe 4 (Jungfer et al. 1996).

Oophaga vicentei can be differentiated from other Oophaga species based upon morphological, behavioral, ecological, and physiological characteristics. Compared to O. speciosus, O. vicentei are smaller and less likely to be red in coloration. Compared to O. granulifera, O. vicentei does not possess strong dorsal and lateral granulation. The greenish or yellowish coloration in O. vicentei and lack of spots distinguishes it from O. arborea, which is dark brown with yellow spots dorsally and ventrally. Morphologically and color wise, O. vicentei and O. pumilio are very similar. However, the arboreal nature of O. vicentei differentiates it from O. pumilio, which can be on the ground (Jungfer et al. 1996). Aside from these differences, O. vicentei can also be differentiated by their calls from other Oophaga histrionicus group members and other Oophaga in Panama. They possess longer call durations (0.17 seconds), have shorter call rates (5.32 calls / 2 seconds), and higher dominant frequencies (5736.9 Hertz) in comparison to O. pumilio and O. arborea. The focal species also has a higher dominant frequency rate than O. granulifera, but a higher call and a shorter call duration (Jungfer et al. 1996, Flores et al. 2019). Lastly, O. auratus are generally larger and less bicolored than O. vicentei (Jungfer et al. 1996).

In life, the coloration of the dorsal body surfaces and limbs of O. vicentei ranges from bluish green, olive green, yellowish green, to yellow and covered in brown and black reticulated or spotted patterns. The ventral surface, starting under the eye and throat, is light green, except for the palms and planters, which are dark brown. Males have brown vocal sacs (Jungfer et al. 1996).

Freshly metamorphosed juveniles show darker black pigmentation, which disappears as they develop. The postocular area is black with large irregular spots located laterally and dorsolaterally (Jungfer et al. 1996).

In preservative, adult frogs are uniformly dark blue gray, and areas that were dark in life are darker in preservative and darker than the surrounding areas (Jungfer et al. 1996).

There is variation in morphology, coloration, and patterning. The snout shape in the dorsal view ranges from truncated to pointed (Jungfer et al. 1996). Some individuals were observed to be blue and red across their bodies and limbs. Other individuals have been noted to lack a reticulated or spotted pattern (Jungfer et al. 1996, Lötters and Mutschmann 2007).

There is also variation by sex and developmental stage. Sexual dichromatism is present in this species as the throats of male frogs being dark in coloration. This coloration extends well past the clavicle (Jungfer et al. 1996). Freshly metamorphosed individuals also have more black pigmentation in the postocular area and as large, irregular spots in the lateral and dorsolateral areas. Newly metamorphosed individuals also have metallic blue bellies.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Panama


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (1 records).
Oophaga vicentei are found in Central Panama spanning from eastern Ngabe-Buglé comarca at Río Cahuita through Veraguas, Colón, and Coclé Provinces to Río Miguel de la Borda, and south to the towns of Tula and Cero Tute. Their range includes Santa Fe National Park. They are not found in Caribbean lowlands, despite the areas being well surveyed, but they are found at elevations between 4 - 912 m a.s.l. (IUCN 2019).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Oophaga vicentei is a diurnal, arboreal species that can be found on epiphytic trees anywhere from 1.5 to 15 m above the forest floor in primary forests (Jungfer et al. 1996, Lötters and Mutschmann 2007, Flores et al. 2019). Despite O. vicentei being labeled as arboreal, there are field notes of them foraging on the ground or on the lower trunks of trees (Peña et al. 2016, IUCN 2019).

These frogs possess behavioral adaptations to their arboreal lifestyles. A female O. vicentei found on a bromeliad leaf was observed pressing its body onto the leaf while stretching her limbs out in response to all sudden movements from the leaf. This behavior is described as increasing the surface contact the frog had with the leaf, which is suspected to aid her from being blown away by wind (Barrio-Amorós et al. 2023).

Males call from trees, branches, or bromeliads. The calling activity changes with respect to time of day and season. Daily calling activity peaks between 0800 and 1000 hours after which calling decreases. Seasonal calling activity is higher in the dry season (December to April) compared to the rainy season and most often in the mornings of the dry season. Calls were made when females were not present (Jungfer et al. 1996, Flores et al. 2019).

Calls begin and end with irregularly spaced notes, but have a rhythmic section in the middle, and with a range of 12 - 152 notes. Notes last 141 - 287 ms and inter-note intervals are between 203 - 316 ms. Each note has pulses that increase in amplitude until the last 3 - 5 notes, which decrease in amplitude again. The entire call duration ranges from 0.089 - 0.31 seconds. The frequency range of calls was between 2.9 - 8.5 kHz. Calls vary in dominant frequency between populations but are generally between 4.67 - 6.38 kHz while the fundamental frequency is around 2.96 - 4.17 kHz (Jungfer et al. 1996, Flores et al. 2019).

On the broader scale, call-bouts also started with longer intervals between calls before becoming more regular, and with the first 3 - 5 calls being at lower frequencies. Call bouts lasted 4.57 - 51.61 seconds and consisted of 29 - 290 calls with an intercall interval of 5.04 - 717.34 seconds and a repetition rate of 1.03 - 3.40 calls/second (Flores et al. 2019).

In the wild, mating occurs in trees (IUCN 2019). This location can make it difficult to observe the specifics of the mating event, however, it has been observed in captivity.

In captivity, males initiate mating by guiding females to the egg-laying site at the base of a bromeliad leaf. The male goes ahead of the female and starts emitting calls at irregular intervals. Once at the oviposition site, the male performs wiping motions with his hind legs a few times. After this the female also performs the same wiping motions with her hind legs. The female takes a crouching position while slowly rotating herself around in clockwise or counterclockwise fashion, after which the leaf became moist. The female’s behavior was documented as lasting half an hour or longer. During the female’s display, the male stopped his motions and sat still next to her, occasionally performing a few wiping motions. The male then moves towards the female and lays his forelimbs on her back or flank and then climbs on her back, sitting in the opposite direction to her or climbing down and positioning himself with his cloacal opening brushing up against the posterior part of the female’s body. This was followed by the discharge of fluid from the male, which was presumed to be his sperm. After this, the male frog leaves the egg-laying site and begins to call from a nearby bromeliad. The female frog will continue her turning movements, however, she will not perform any further wiping motions. She then lays her clutch (Jungfer et al. 1996).

Cohesive, transparent egg clutches range from 1 - 12 eggs. The eggs themselves are about 3 mm in diameter with a light grey vegetal pole and a dark grey animal. The embryo is initially about 1.6 mm in diameter (Higgins and Ibáñez 2022). Once the female has laid her clutch, she will also leave the egg-laying site (Jungfer et al. 1996).

Oophaga vicentei displays asymmetrical biparental care. Egg development lasts 13 to 15 days. During this period, males will moisten the eggs at least twice a day as the eggs develop (Jungfer et al. 1996). When hatched, the female relocates her tadpoles on her sacral area one at a time to deposit them in water-filled leaf axils at bromeliads, at heights of 1.5 m. To deposit the tadpoles she crawls backwards into the water in bromeliads up to her armpits and waits for the tadpoles to release from her back. After depositing the tadpoles, she will visit her brood every two to eight days to feed the tadpole two to six nutritive unfertilized eggs (Jungfer et al. 1996; Lötters and Mutschmann 2007 - See “Larva” section for tadpole response). To do so she enters the water of the bromeliad backwards until her head is completely submerged and lays the eggs. During this time, females do not mate or produce anymore fertilized eggs (Jungfer et al. 1996).

In terrariums females have been noted to consume clutches laid by other females (Jungfer et al. 1996).

The stomach contents of adult male O. vicentei consisted mostly of arthropods with ants, flies and oribatid mites being common, while isopods and spiders were less common. Stomach contents did not vary significantly across the three sites tested. The ant and mite species found in the stomach contents are also known to possess defensive alkaloids. More specifically, ants from the genus Solenopsis and Tapinoma known as a source of pumiliotoxin alkaloids and the alkaloid actinidine respectively. While pumiliotoxin alkaloids are known to contribute to the defense mechanism of poisonous frogs, the role of actinidine as a potential defensive alkaloid needs to be further investigated (Flores et al. 2019).

Flores et al. (2017) reported that a female frog changed her colors from green to yellow on both the dorsum and ventrum while having her stomach contents flushed. This color change was maintained for 6 - 7 hours before reverting back to the original green. While color changing has been reported for other frog species, this was the first record of it occurring in an adult dendrobates. Because color is important to mate choice, this could have implications for mating. Further investigations are needed to comprehend the physiological mechanisms that cause the color change (Flores et al. 2017).

At Gosner stage 25, tadpole body lengths are between 1.8 - 4.5 mm and total lengths are between 7.0 - 13.0 mm. Single individuals at stage 33 and 41 measured 6.5 and 7.0 mm in body length, respectively, and 16.0 and 19.8 mm in total length, respectively. The body is egg-shape with the tapering at the anterior end. The tadpole has anterolaterally oriented, dorsal eyes, dorsal, round nares that are not projected, and an anteroventrally positioned, round oral disc. The oral disc is not indented and has enlarged, but scarce, papillae that can be found on the anterolateral, lateral, and posterior margins of the oral disc. The labial tooth row formula is 1[1]/0, however, posterior tooth rows may appear in later development or may have been lost due to decomposition in the specimens used for the description. The anterior labial teeth are large, but also scarce. The jaw sheaths are thick and serrated, and the upper jaw is U-shaped. The spiracle is sinistral and the vent tube is medial (Higgins and Ibáñez 2022).

Oophaga vicentei tadpoles are obligate egg feeders that appear morphologically like tadpoles from other species in Oophaga. Their egg-shaped body, reduced tooth row, and enlarged marginal papillae differentiate them from other dendrobatid genera. Like other egg eating species, O. vicentei has reduced oral features, including an antroventrally-positioned mouth, large jaw sheaths, and reduced tooth rows and number. These similarities make O. vicentei indistinguishable from O. arborea, O. granulifera, O. histrionica and O. pumilio tadpoles. At the time of the O. vicentei tadpole description, only one O. speciosa tadpole specimen was known and it lacked an anterior tooth row, which may help differentiate it from O. vicentei (Higgins and Ibáńez 2022).

In life, tadpole coloration ranges from dark gray to black in coloration with dark speckling across the body and tail. The margins of the tail are translucent (Higgins and Ibáñez 2022).

In preservative, tadpoles are uniformly gray with the margins of the tail being translucent. The gut is visible in the abdominal area (Higgins and Ibáñez 2022).

The reduced oral features in O. vicentei tadpoles are suspected to adaptations to feeding on eggs as the reduction is conserved across many species in the genus (Higgins and Ibáñez 2022).

Tadpoles hatch in the egg clutches and lay stretched out in the jelly layer before their mother provides transportation to bromeliads. At the bromeliad, tadpoles release from their mother after she fully submerges them in water. When the female returns, the tadpoles respond by excitedly swimming at the surface when she is still 3 - 5 cm from the water. As she lays the nutritive eggs, the larvae will respond by vigorously swimming around her and bumping into her (Lötters and Mutschmann 2007). Tadpoles have been documented as vibrating at the water surface when a conspecific female approaches the pool (Lötters and Mutschmann 2007). Metamorphosis occurs 52 to 62 days after hatching as fully developed juveniles are seen leaving the leaf axils (Jungfer et al. 1996).

Trends and Threats
The species is listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List and O. vicentei’s current population trend is decreasing. Threats to this species include habitat loss, exploitation by the pet trade, and diseases, such as chytridiomycosis. The habitat loss and degradation is due to conversion or degradation for agricultural development, cattle ranching, human housing, logging, and mining. Three populations in the species’ 3530 km2 extent of occurrence are in particular danger to habitat loss or degradation and a population near El Valle de Antón is thought to have been extirpated, likely from chytridiomycosis and habitat modification. The species has an Appendix II listing under CITES (IUCN 2019).

Oophaga vicentei populations occur within two protected areas in Panama: Santa Fé National Park and General de División Omar Torrijos Herrera National Park, and there is an ex situ population for the species that was established by the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (IUCN 2019).

Relation to Humans
This species is found in the pet trade and prized for being “highly attractive” and variable in several color morphs (IUCN 2019).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)


The species was originally described by Jungfer et al. (1996) as Dendrobates vicentei and considered part of the Dendrobates histrionicus complex. Those species has since been moved to the Oophaga genus following a revised taxonomy of Dendrobatidae proposed by Grant et al. (2006), which utilized genotypic (five mitochondrial and six nuclear loci) and phenotypic evidence. Along with O. vicentei the following species were also placed into the Oophaga genus: O. arborea, O. granulifera, O. histrionica, O. lehmanni, O. occultator, O. pumilio, O. speciosa, and O. sylvatica.

A publication by Hauswaldt et al. (2011) brought O. vicentei’s status as a species under question as two O. vicentei samples they used as an outgroup for their population study of O. pumilio clustered with northern populations of O. pumilio. However, a large-scale family phylogenetic study by Grant et al. (2017) confirmed O. vicentei’s status. This later study used parsimony optimality criterion to analyze 15 mitochondrial and nuclear loci and up to 189 morphological, behavioral, or chemical characters for 564 specimens of dendrobatidis. Their results found that O. vicentei is sister to clade composed of O. speciosa and O. pumilio (Grant et al. 2017).

The origin of the genus name, "Oophaga", comes from the Greek words, "oon" and "phagein", meaning "egg" and "eat", respectively (Ortiz et al. 2018).

This species epithet, “vicentei”, is in honor of Vicente Agusto Fernandez who was a collaborator with the authors who had perished in an accident (Jungfer et al. 1996).

This species was featured in News of the Week April 1, 2024:

Many lineages of aposematic organisms exhibit high species diversity and high speciation rates, but what causes these groups to diversify more rapidly remains unknown. Medina et al. (2024) investigated whether species with aposematic anti-predator defenses (e.g. bright coloration in toxic frogs) exhibit higher levels of genetic divergence between populations, which may be a first step in the speciation process, compared to non-aposematic species. Analyzing over 3,800 pairwise values of genetic differentiation from more than 750 populations of over 60 frog species, they uncovered that frog species with warning coloration show greater genetic divergence over small distances (at the scale of single-generation gene flow) compared to those without. This suggests that aposematic coloration may somehow contribute to restricted dispersal, potentially leading to increased opportunities for speciation. (Written by Ian Wang)


Barrio-Amorós, C. L., Quiroz, M., Porras-Ramírez, C., Villanueva-Maldonado, R., Estrada-García, A., and Batista, A. (2023). Amphibians and reptiles encountered during an expedition to Panama. Reptiles and Amphibians, 30(1), e18359. [link]

Flores, E., Batista, A., Rodríguez, V., and Page, R. (2019). Vicente´s poison frog (Oophaga vicentei) in the wild: calling activity, bioacoustics and diet. The Herpetological Bulletin 149, 11–17. [link]

Flores, E., Page, R., Cisneros, I., and Rodríguez, S. (2017). Oophaga vicentei (Vicente´s Poison Frog): Color Change. Herpetological Review 48, 166-167. [link]

Grant, T., Frost, D. R., Caldwell, J. P., Gagliardo, R., Haddad, C. F., Kok, P. J., Means, D. B., Noonan, B. P., Schargel, W. E., and Wheeler, W. C. (2006). Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives (Amphibia: Atheshatanura: Dendrobatidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 299(299), 1–262. [link]

Grant, T., Rada, M., Anganoy-Criollo, M., Batista, A., Dias, P.H., Jeckel, A.M., Machado, D.J., and Rueda-Almonacid, J.V. (2017) Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives revisited (Anura: Dendrobatoidea). South American Journal of Herpetology, 12(s1). [link]

Hauswaldt, J. S., Ludewig, A.-K., Vences, M., and Pröhl, H. (2011). Widespread co-occurrence of divergent mitochondrial haplotype lineages in a Central American species of poison frog (Oophaga pumilio). Journal of Biogeography, 38(4), 711–726. [link]

Higgins, K., and Ibáñez, R. (2022). Description of two dendrobatid tadpoles (Anura: Dendrobatidae: Andinobates and Oophaga) with comments on egg clutches. Zootaxa, 5175(3), 395–400. [link]

IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. (2019). Oophaga vicentei. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T55209A54344862. Accessed in April 2023.

Jungfer K.-H., Weygoldt, P. and Juraske, N. (1996). Dendrobates vicentei, ein neuer Pfeilgiftfrosch aus Zentral-Panama. Herpetofauna 18(103), 17-26. [link]

Lötters, S., and Mutschmann, F. (2007). Poison frogs: biology, species and captive care. Edition Chimaira; Zoo Book Sales, Serpent's Tale [U.S. distributor].

Ortiz, DA, Coloma, LA, Frenkel, C. and Pazmiño-Armijos, G. (2018). Oophaga sylvatica. In: Ron, SR, Merino-Viteri, A. Ortiz, DA (Eds). Amphibians of Ecuador. Version 2019.0. Museum of Zoology, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. [link]

Peña, B., Gracia, V. De and Flores, E.E. (2016). Habitat use: Oophaga vicentei (Vicente´s poison frog). Herpetological Review 47, 114. [link]

Originally submitted by: Jonathan Sedano (2023-09-29)
Description by: Jonathan Sedano, Ann T. Chang (updated 2023-09-29)
Distribution by: Jonathan Sedano, Ann T. Chang (updated 2023-09-29)
Life history by: Jonathan Sedano, Ann T. Chang (updated 2023-09-29)
Larva by: Jonathan Sedano, Ann T. Chang (updated 2023-09-29)
Trends and threats by: Jonathan Sedano, Ann T. Chang (updated 2023-09-29)
Relation to humans by: Jonathan Sedano, Ann T. Chang (updated 2023-09-29)
Comments by: Jonathan Sedano, Ann T. Chang (updated 2023-09-29)

Edited by: Ann T. Chang, Michelle S. Koo (2024-04-01)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2024 Oophaga vicentei: Vicente’s Poison Frog <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Apr 19, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 19 Apr 2024.

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