Brown Mantella
Physical description
Binomial nameMantella betsileo
HabitatTropical rainforest
Lifespan7 years
Average Size2.8 cm (1.1 in)
Average weight1.3 grams
Conservational Status
IUCN status3.1
Scientific classification
SpeciesM. betsileo
Distribution of speciesEastern Madagascar

The brown Mantella, Mantella betsileo, is a species of large Mantella native to northeastern Madagascar. It is one of the less colourful species, although unlike the related Haraldmeier's Mantella it is toxic. Mantella betsileo are kept as pets, though they are not as common in captivity as other Mantellas.


The brown Mantella is one of the less-toxic of the Mantellas. Its skin secretes pumiliotoxin C, the least toxic of the pumiliotoxin types found in other mantellas and in South American poison dart frogs. The brown Mantella only contains a small amount of pumiliotoxin and as such it is not as brilliantly coloured as other mantellas, although it may attempt to startle predators by "flashing" them with the stripes on its flanks. This usually causes predators to hesitate long enough to allow the frog to get a head start and escape. If trapped, the brown Mantella uses its poison for self-defense. When wild specimens are touched, painful muscle cramps and temporary local paralysis occurs. Eating a brown Mantella causes more serious symptoms, and most predators learn to avoid them after experiencing their toxins.

Pumiliotoxin is deadly in high concentrations. Pumiliotoxin is weaker than allopumiliotoxin and especially batrachotoxin, with a lethal dose of 2 mg (M. betsileo carries about half of a milligram). There are three different types of this toxin A, B and C. Toxins A and B are significantly more toxic than C. Pumiliotoxins affect the body because they interfere with muscle contraction in the heart and skeletal muscle. The toxin works by affecting the calcium channels. Some of the symptoms of pumiliotoxins are partial paralysis, having difficulty moving, being hyperactive and in some cases it can result in death.

Description Edit


Wild specimen on the forest floor.

Mantella betsileo is a fairly large species of Mantella. Males range fron 2 to 2.25 centimetres long, whereas females may reach 2.5 to 2.8 centimetres long. It is a fairly slender Mantella. The spine is sometimes visible beneath the skin, giving the frog the appearence of being underweight, a feature that it shares with Mantella ebenaui.

The flanks of M. betsileo are black or deep brown, and the legs are normally dark grayish-brown but may be black in some specimens. The flanks also bear two white stripes that are used to confuse predators and warn them of the Mantellas' toxicity. The dorsum may be wood brown, chocolate brown, or earthy brown depending on locality and the belly is black with white spots.

The brown Mantella is primarily terrestrial, rarely leaving the ground. However, occasionally it may climb onto low-growing plants to catch food, and males may do so to call to females.



Captive female specimen.

The brown Mantella has a similar reproductive cycle to most other Mantellas. At the beginning of the rainy season, gatherings of M. betsileo gather around suitable breeding sites. As the rain starts falling, males begin to call to females with a sound that has been described as like pebbles clicking together. Males will grapple with one another to clear small breeding spaces, and females wander among the males. Larger and more powerful males are more popular among females, and females may also grapple to mate with a single male. Once a pair has joined, the male leads the female to a vertical surface such as a tree trunk or a boulder. The female lays her eggs on the vertical surface, and the male then fertilizes them. They are then guarded by the male, who will protect the eggs and moisten them with his own urine. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles form a tight ball around the waist of their father, who carries them to a puddle on the forest floor and guards them until their development is complete. The froglets are then led by the male to an existing group.

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