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Strawberry poison dart frog
Strawberry poison dart frog
Physical description
Binomial nameOophaga pumilio
HabitatTropical rainforest
Lifespan7-15+ years
Average Size1.2-2.5 cm (0.5-1.0 in)
Average weight1.5-2.25 grams
DietInsectivorous
Conservational Status
StatusLeast concern
IUCN status3.1
Scientific classification
PhylumChordata
ClassAmphibia
OrderAnura
FamilyDendrobatidae
GenusOophaga
SpeciesO. pumilio
Distribution
Distribution of speciesNicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama

The strawberry poison dart frog, Oophaga pumilio, is a species of poison dart frog. It is native to southern Central America from Nicaragua to Panama and is one of the northernmost species of poison dart frogs along with Dendrobates auratus and the closely related Oophaga granulifera. It is also one of the most charismatic amphibians and is beloved by the Costa Rican people, appearing on postage stamps, envelopes, magazines and paintings. It is one of the smallest poison dart frogs.

PoisonEdit

The strawberry poison dart frog produces pumiliotoxin, a potent nerve poison manufactured and stored in subcutaneous membranes and secreted through a modified layer of epidermis. Oophaga punctilio, while not the most toxic poison dart frog, is still a highly toxic animal. The very small amount of poison the frog possesses is still enough to make a human ill. Like most poison dart frogs, however, O. punctilio will only release its poison if it feels that it is threatened, and wild specimens can be handled if the human holding it is calm and relaxed. The strawberry poison dart frog, as with all poison dart frogs, loses its toxicity in captivity due to a change in diet. This has led scientists to believe that punctilio actually takes its poison from the ants it feeds on.

Bluejeans

The "bluejeans" morph, endemic to Costa Rica.

Pumiliotoxin is deadly in high concentrations. Pumiliotoxin is weaker than all pumiliotoxin and especially backscratching, with a lethal dose of 2 mg (O. punctilio carries about half a milligram). There are three different types of this toxin A, B and C. Toxins A and B are significantly more toxic than C. Punctiliousness 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 punctiliousness are partial paralysis, having difficulty moving, being hyperactive and in some cases it can result in death.

Physical descriptionEdit

The strawberry poison dart frog is an extremely tiny amphibian. Some of the island morphs found off of the eastern coast of Central America reach a mere 1.2 cm (0.5 in) long, scarcely larger than many of the thumbnail poison dart frogs (Ranitomeya spp.) found in South America; the morphs found on the mainland, such as the charismatic "Bluejeans" morph are larger, but still among the smallest of the poison dart frogs. The largest morph of O. pumilio, the "Tortuguero" morph, is found only in a single nature preserve in Costa Rica.

Tortugero

Tortugero morph, the largest morph, endemic to a nature preserve of the same name.

The strawberry poison dart frog is one of the most variable of all poison dart frogs. The Solarte or "Nancy" morph is a pure scarlet with slightly orange toes; it is common in Panama and eastern Costa Rica. The Bluejeans morph, perhaps the best-known of the dendrobatidis, is also primarily scarlet, but the limbs are royal blue, navy blue, or blue-gray in color. The largest of the strawberry poison dart frog morphs, the Tortuguero morph, is primarily scarlet, but peppered with black dots and with teal-coloured feet. Other morphs may be fire orange, earthy orange, clay or buff-coloured, yellow, green, metallic or even dark blue. Whatever the coloration, all strawberry poison dart frogs stand out vividly against their environment, flaunting their toxicity.

BehaviorEdit

Cayo nancy dart frog

Solarte or Nancy morph.

The strawberry poison dart frog lives in small groups of interacting individuals. These groups may remain in close proximity to one another for protection, but unlike other poison dart frogs, quarrels between individuals are common. Males will usually have small "territories" in that they will not feel comfortable if another male comes within a certain distance of them. If this small "territory" is entered by another male, the defensive male will usually ward off the intruder by calling.

Groups of strawberry poison dart frogs normally will crop small areas of food while wandering. If disturbed, however, the individuals will all hop into the omnipresent leaf litter and disappear from sight. If surprised in the open, a strawberry poison dart frog will attempt to avoid capture by leaping erratically. If it is seized despite its efforts, a strawberry poison dart frog relies on its toxins for defense.

Reproduction Edit

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O. pumilio calling

A male Solarte or Nancy calling.

When a male O. pumilio is ready to breed, he will position himself at a conspicuous perch and make a loud but pleasing cicada-like call. He will continue to do so for several minutes at a time before resting, perhaps hunting for a brief while, and returning to his calling. When a female approaches, his call will become more emphatic until the female accepts him.

Unlike many frog species, amplexus is absent in O. pumilio, with mating individuals instead exhibiting a distinct vent-to-vent position in which the female lays eggs and the male fertilizes them. After mating, the female will lay an average of three to five eggs on a leaf or bromeliad axil. The male will then ensure that the eggs are kept hydrated by transporting water in his cloaca. After about ten days, the eggs hatch and the female transports the tadpoles on her back to some water-filled location. In captivity, on rare occasions the male is observed transporting the tadpoles, though whether this is intentional, or the tadpoles simply hitch a ride, is unknown. Bromeliad axils are frequently used tadpole deposition sites, but anything suitable can be used, such as knots in trees, small puddles, or human trash such as aluminum cans.

Like all dendrobatid frogs, the strawberry poison dart frog exhibits a high degree of parental care.The strawberry poison frog has dual parental care. The males defend and water the nests, and the females feed the oophagous tadpoles their unfertilized eggs. Although both sexes contribute to parental care, females invest more heavily in terms of energy expenditure, time investment, and loss of potential reproduction. Females provide energetically costly eggs to the tadpoles for 6–8 weeks (until metamorphosis), remain sexually inactive during tadpole rearing, and care for only one clutch of 4–6 tadpoles at a time. The males, on the other hand, contribute the relatively "cheap" (in terms of energy) act of watering and protecting the eggs for a relatively short period (10–12 days), , and can care for multiple nests at one time. The extreme maternal investment in their offspring is believed to be the result of high egg mortality. Only 5–12% of the clutch develops into tadpoles, and so the female's fitness may be best increased by making sure that those few eggs that form tadpoles survive.

In captivityEdit

Oophaga pumilio is a popular frog in captivity, due to its striking colors and unique life cycle. They have been renowned for the almost unfathomable amount of intra and extra populational phenotypic variation. Pumilio is currently the only obligate egg feeder readily available to hobbyists. Imports from Panama over the last few years have allowed several forms to become established in the hobby, and captive bred pumilio, once a rarity are now fairly common. Captive bred pumilio are very hardy once they overcome the 2 month mark. A pair kept with several bromeliads, if well fed and cared for will usually reproduce readily. These frogs are generally bold and make fascinating display animals. The sight of a newly metamorphosed p'umilio froglet emerging from a bromeliad is one of the most rewarding sights in frog husbandry.

Recently, O. pumilio has been exported from Central America again in small numbers from frog farms. Because of this, pumilio have seen a huge increase in numbers in the dart frog community and is regularly available.

Photo galleryEdit

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