Poison Dart Frogs

Children's Zoo


In the Zoo
1-2 inches
1-2 inches
1-2 pounds
2 years
2 years

Geographic Range

D. auratus: Costa Rica to western Colombia and introduced into Hawaii. D. tinctorius: Amazonia, Especially the three Guyanas. P.vittatus: Pacific eastern Costa Rica.D. azureus: Sipaliwini savanna in southern Suriname and far northern Brazil.  D. galactonotus: Southern Amazon Basin in Brazil.

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
D.auratus D.leucomelas D.tinctorius P. vittatus
Dendrobates- Phyllobates

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
14- 18 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
4-7 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
10-20 years


Over consumption of Central and South American Rainforest habitat.


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 point and are brown and black. 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. D. azureus: 1.1-1.8 inches. Its legs are commonly an azure-blue, the belly darker blue, and the back sky-blue. D. galactonotus: 4 cm long. Black base color with yellow, orange, or red back. There are populations that are entirely white-mint colored and a koi blue variant with a grey-blue back.

Species Specifics

The Three-Toed Box Turtle has a tan or olive carapace with darker seams and some vague markings. They also have orange, red and yellow spots on their head and forelimbs.The defining characteristic of this turtle is its toes. It has three toes on its back feet, thus why its known as the Three Toed Box Turtle. Hybrid Three Toed Box Turtles who have been interbred with Common Box Turtles sometimes have four toes instead of three. Sexual Dimorphism: males are larger. Males are slightly larger on average, the posterior lobe of their plastron is concave, and the claws on their hind legs are short, thick and curved. Males also have thicker and longer tails. Females' rear claws are longer, straighter and more slender, and the posterior lobe of their plastron is flat or slightly convex. There are four subspecies of Terrapene carolina in the United States. Terrapene carolina bauri (Florida Box Turtle) lives on the peninsula of Florida. Terrapene c. major (Gulf Coast Box Turtle) ranges from the panhandle of Florida westward along the Gulf cost to eastern Texas. Terrapene c. triunguis (Three-toed Box Turtle) lives in the Mississippi River Valley from northern Missouri southward across southeastern Kansas and eastern Oklahoma into southcentral Texas; and southeastward across western Tennessee and Georgia to the coastal lowlands.

Physical Characteristics

These frogs are known to produce toxic chemicals in their skin, making them 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


Habitats: Found mostly in the Eastern United States, Box Turtles occur as far north as Michigan and Maine, South to Florida, and as far West as Texas and Kansas. Found rarely above 1,000 feet in elevation, preferring low land habitats where water collects. Commonly associated with deciduous forests having high leaf litter and moisture these turtles are often located near rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and other bodies of fresh water, however, they are not good swimmers.


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 poisonous skin secretions. This means they lose 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 there would be drastic changes in the food web.

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 aggressive in defense of a calling/breeding territory.

Social Behavior

These frogs remain close to some type of water source such as a stream. They are very active during the daytime (diurnal) and move 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 a 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, but averages 2-20 eggs.



Least Concern


Due to a widespread, consistent and persistent decline of the species, the ICUN considers the Box Turtle to be a Vulnerable Species. The decline is associated with anthropogenic causes, or manmade causes centering on urbanization. Agricultural use of pesticides within a shared water shed has negatively impacted young turtle survivability due to malformed eggs. Introduction of synanthopic predator species, (species who live near and benefit mutually from human settlement and urban habitats) such as ravens, coyotes and raccoons, are increasing in numbers as humans continue to urbanize.

Current Threats

Over consumption of Central and South American Rainforest habitat.

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. https://www.oaklandzoo.org/conservation

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How You Can Help

Please be aware of the pets you choose to buy. Never get a pet that has been taken from the wild and never return a pet to the wild. Be aware of pesticide applications so as to not poison native animals that benefit your ecosystem. Finally, be conscious of your trash and waste so as to not attract unwanted animals such as ravens.

Fascinating Facts

Most poison dart frogs aren't toxic.

Poison frogs are commonly called poison arrow and poison dart frogs due to native indigenous tribes reportedly rubbing their arrow tips on the frogs' backs before hunting.

Some poison dart frogs can be lethal to the touch.

Of all the Gerrhosaururidae lizards (Plated lizards) they are the most armored.





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