Poison Dart Frogs

Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo


In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: D.auratus D.leucomelas D.tinctorius P. vittatus
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Dendrobatidae
Genus: Dendrobates- Phyllobates




Length: 1-2 inches 1-2 inches
Maturity: 2 years 2 years

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Carnivorous
Activity Timeframe: Diurnal
Interactivity: Solitary
Sexual Dimorphism: Yes
Gestation: 14- 18 days
Lifespan in the Wild: 4-7 years
Lifespan in Captivity: 10-20 years

Geographic Range

D. auratus: Costa Rica to wetern Colombia and introduced into Hawaii. D. leucomelas: Venezuela and estern Guyana D. tinctorius: Amazonia, Especially the three Guyanas P.vittatus: Pacific eastern Costa Rica


Status in the Wild:
Threats: Over Consumption


Smooth skinned, slender frog. Horizontal pupils in black eyes. Fingers and toes are unwebbed. Mainly terrestrial, but still they have small discs on fingers and toes to climb through vegetation. D. auratus: 1.5 inches in length. Usually velvety green with black spots or bands, but specimens with background colors of blue, turquoise, gold-green or black are seen. Ours were confiscated by USDA. Although native to South America, ours were introduced into Hawaii at some poing and are brown and black. D. leucomelas: 1.5 inches in length. Inky black with a pattern of yellow bands enclosing black spots on head, back and legs. D. tinctorius: Two inches long. Basic color is black with a pattern of golden stripes and the legs and feet are blue with black spots. Also may be white and black, white and blue, or blue and black. The name is probably because Spaniards reportedly thought natives in South America used the skin of the frog to dye the parrot feathers used in their rituals. P. vittatus: 1 inch long. Black with orange stripes. Lower parts are grayish blue speckled with black.

Species Specifics

Physical Characteristics

These frogs are known to produce toxic chemicals in their skin, making htem poisonous to most would-be predators. These frogs have glandular adhesive pads on their toes and fingertips, which help them to adhere to plant surfaces. This allows these frogs to climb and cling.



Tropical forests of Central and South America



As insectivores they mainly prey on ants and termites, from which the frog derives the chemicals necessary to synthesize its poisonous skin secretion. They also consume beetles, flies, mites, spiders, maggots, and caterpillars. In captivity the diet primarily consists of crickets and fruit flies, which do not contain the natural toxins that the frogs absorb and synthesize for poisons skin secretion, which means they loose poisonous properties due to the lack of toxic compounds.

Ecological Web

Frogs play an important role in the rainforest ecosystem as a predator of small arthropods. Without this contribution, no matter how miniscule it may be, drastic changes in the food web could result.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

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.


Males can be very territorial and can be aggressive in defense of a calling/breeding territory.

Social Behavior

These frogs remain close to some type of water source such as a stream. It is very active during the daytime (diurnal) and moves constantly with short leaps. This species is also bold, aggressive, and very territorial, especially the males which are known to fight over territories. However, both sexes are known to defend their territories from frogs of the same species as well as those of other species. Aggressive behavior in D. tinctorius usually consists of calling, chases, and wrestling. Wrestling usually occurs between those of the same sex, but can occur between males and females.

Reproductive Behavior

Both sexes engage in posturing, chasing and bouts of wrestling on the forest floor. Breeding occurs throughout the year. Most poison-dart frogs do not indulge in amplexus. Males may deposit sperm followed by the females laying the eggs or vice versa. Females usually lay small clutches of eggs (2-10) on a leaf or carefully cleared patch of ground. Tadpoles upon hatching wriggle carefully onto the back of an attending parent, where they are attached by a sticky mucus and carried to a small pool. Metamorphosis takes 8 to 12 weeks. Several clutches are laid during the year.


This varies between species, 2-20 eggs



Least Concern


Current Threats

Over Consumption

Our Role

Oakland Zoo believes that each one of us has the power to become stewards of the natural world, decrease our global footprint and inspire others to do the same. Learn about the conservation initiatives we're pursuing at the Zoo, and find out how you can help.

How You Can Help

Fascinating Facts

Most poison dart frogs aren't toxic.

Poison frogs are commonly called poison arrow and poison dart frogs due to native Indian tribes reportedly rubbing their arrow tips on the frogs' backs before hunting. However, only three species have been documented as actually being used for this purpose, including the golden poison frog, the most toxic of all frog species.

Some poison dart frogs can be lethal to the touch.





Oakland Zoo

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9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, CA 94605