Blue Poison Dart Frog
Medium-sized frog weighing approximately 3 grams and measuring 3-4.5 cm (1.75 inches) in length. Females are larger than males. They are a vivid sky-blue with black dots and dashes on back, darker blue on limbs and ventral surface. Black spots are unique to the individual. They have horizontal pupils in black eyes. Skin is generally smooth, but more granular appearing on the limbs. Fingers and toes are not webbed. Females have round-tipped toe tips, males are heart-shaped. They have a hunched-back posture.
GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Southernmost Suriname, a country on the north coast of South America. They inhabit the small isolated forest areas surrounded by Savannah. Usually near small streams on moss-covered rocks.
Ants, flies, spiders and caterpillars; rarely other non-insect arthropods.
LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Diurnal. Typically hops about on the ground, preferably on moss-covered rocks near small streams. Sometimes found in trees. Solitary. Both sexes are territorial and aggressive (chasing and wrestling with intruders.) They breed during the rainy season (February to March). The male uses a soft call to attract females who will fight over him. Mating takes place in a secluded area and five to ten eggs are laid. When the guarded eggs hatch in 14-18 days the male, sometimes with the female's help, carries the tadpoles to a little pool of water. Sticky mucous on the skin helps the tadpoles cling to the parent's body. The female will lay unfertilized eggs for the tadpoles to eat. It takes 10-12 weeks for the tadpoles to become froglets. Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years. Life span in 4 to 6 years in the wild, up to 10 years in captivity.
These frogs evolved to be able to roam freely in daytime when they could take advantage of the vast food source of day-active ants. Although they are mainly terrestrial, they still have pads on digits to help them climb through vegetation. Their coloration and spots act as a warning to predators that they are toxic. The bright colors warn the color-vision predators, such as birds. The spots warn mammal predators that see in black and white. Poisonous alkaloids secreted by skin glands are manufactured from chemicals ingested from the ants they eat. ( In captivity they do not have this food supply and lose their toxicity.)
Dendrobatidae are also known as Arrow-poison Frogs. Their toxins have long been used to poison the tips of arrows or darts used in hunting by the native people of Central and South America. Their alkaloids which can cause paralysis and even death are now being studied for possible pharmaceutical use in heart stimulants, muscle relaxants, anesthetics and pain killers.
Several in the Children's Zoo.
STATUS IN WILD:
On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Loss of habitat and the illegal pet trade have lowered numbers. Many zoos and private individuals are conducting captive breeding programs.