The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Dendrobates auratus
Dendrobates auratus
(Green and Black Poison Dart Frog)
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Dendrobates auratus (Girard, 1855)

Common name: Green and Black Poison Dart Frog

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Dendrobates auratus is a small, dark dendrobatid (poison frog), lacking webbing on its feet, with a SVL (snout-vent length) of 25-42 mm (1-1.7 in) (Silverstone, 1975; Zimmermann, 1986; Norman, 1998).  Color varies considerably and is usually a black or dark brown, with blotches, spots or bands of color, variable in size and exhibiting varying shades of green, tan, gold, yellow, blue, or blue-white (Silverstone, 1975; Savage and Villa R., 1986; Mattison, 1987a; Walls, 1994; Pröhl, 1997).  Most Hawaiian specimens tend to be patterned green or green-gold, but some are blue-white (Walls, 1994; McKeown, 1996).  The male's call is a slurred, high, musical "cheez-cheez-cheez" (Silverstone, 1975; Norman, 1998).  Adults of this species have been illustrated by numerous authors (Cochran and Goin, 1970; Silverstone, 1975; McKeown, 1978, 1996; Wells, 1978; Zimmerman[n], 1979; Frieberg and Walls, 1984; Mattison, 1987a; Walls, 1994; Lamar, 1997; Pröhl, 1997; Renjifo, [1997]; Norman, 1998; Vivarium Staff, 1998; Pough et al., 2001).  Additionally, the tadpoles of D. auratus have been illustrated by Silverstone (1975), McKeown (1978, 1996), and Walls (1994); the poison skin glands have been illustrated by Myers and Daly (1983).  There are no frogs similar to D. auratus established in Hawaii, but see the accounts titled "Dendrobates leucomelas Steindachner, 1864" and "Dendrobates sp. Wagler, 1830" on this website.

Size: snout-vent length of 25-42 mm

Native Range: The green and black dart-poison frog is indigenous to the Central American countries of Costa Rica, Panama, southern Nicaragua, and northern Colombia (Silverstone, 1975; Frost, 1985; Savage and Villa R., 1986; Walls, 1994; Pröhl, 1997; Renjifo, [1997]; Norman, 1998; Campbell, 1999; Duellman, 1999).
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Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Dendrobates auratus are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Hawaii193220172Maui; Oahu

Table last updated 3/29/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.

Means of Introduction: The green and black dart-poison frog was intentionally introduced to the upper Manoa Valley on Oahu, in 1932, for mosquito control (McKeown, 1978, 1996; Vivarium Staff, 1998).  The means of introduction on Maui is not known.

Status: These dart-poison frogs are established in Oahu (Oliver and Shaw, 1953; McKeown, 1978, 1996; Smith and Kohler, 1978; Frost, 1985; Walls, 1994, 1998), but are not listed in Frost (2000) or Crother et al. (2001).  Until recently there have been no known dendrobatids on Maui, Hawaii (McKeown, 1996), but this latest discovery seems to indicate they are established (Duerr and Hirayama, 2002).

Impact of Introduction: Unknown; however, their primarily insectivorous diet could impact native endemic species, if this has not happened already.  Hawaii has no indigenous frogs (McKeown, 1996).

Remarks: The green and black dart-poison frog has been the subject of a variety of taxonomic studies and summaries (Silverstone, 1975; Myers and Daly, 1983; Frost, 1985; Zimmermann and Zimmermann, 1988; Caldwell, 1996; Summers et al., 1999).  Dendrobates auratus is primarily a nonaquatic, diurnal frog; active during the day in vegetated, moist habitats (McKeown, 1996).  In their native range, D. auratus eats primarily ants (myrmecophagy) and mites (Caldwell, 1996).  The alkaloid toxin in their poison skin glands apparently is derived from the ants that are ingested (Caldwell, 1996).  Males are polygynous during the breeding season; however, the females compete for and guard their mates from other females (Summers, 1989, 1990; Crump, 1995), and may even destroy the eggs of competitors (Summers, 1989).  Females lay terrestrial eggs in a moist, sheltered area; the eggs are fertilized then protected by the father (Wells, 1978, 1981; Zimmerman[n], 1979; Weygoldt, 1987; Summers, 1990; Walls, 1994; Crump, 1995; McKeown, 1996; Pröhl, 1997; Summers et al., 1999).  When the tadpoles hatch the father transports them on his back to small pools of water (Eaton, 1941; Wells, 1978, 1981; Weygoldt, 1987; Zimmermann and Zimmermann, 1988; Summers, 1990; Crump, 1995); in Hawaii, these could be pools formed in rainwater-filled debris or depressions in lava rock (McKeown, 1996).  The tadpoles are omnivorous (McKeown, 1996).  In Hawaii, the introduced Gold Dust Day Gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) has been observed to consume these tadpoles (Chan et al. 2007).  Dendrobates auratus is a popular species; kept and bred by hobbyists worldwide (Zimmerman[n], 1979; Mattison, 1987a, b; Zimmermann, 1986; Walls, 1994; Davies and Davies, 1997).  The Hawaiian populations on Oahu may be the principle source of stock for the commercial pet trade (Walls, 1994, 1998).  Efforts to strictly legislate and eradicate nonindigenous herpetofauna in Hawaii have been met with some strident, self-serving resistance from individuals associated with the pet trade and amateur herpetoculture (McKeown, 1998; Vivarium Staff, 1998; Walls, 1998).  Rundquist (1978) regards such "beneficial" introductions as a major source of "exotic animal pollution"; a more accurate description of this ecological problem.

References: (click for full references)

Caldwell, J. P. 1996. The evolution of myrmecophagy and its correlates in poison frogs (Family Dendrobatidae). Journal of Zoology (London) 240(1):75-101.

Campbell, J. A. 1999. Distribution patterns of amphibians in Middle America. Pp. 111-210. In: W. E. Duellman (editor). Patterns of Distribution of Amphibians. A Global Perspective. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 633 pp.

Chan, B. K., A. L. Peterson and C. G. Farmer. 2007. Dendrobates auratus (Green and Black Poison Dart Frog) Larval Predation. Herpetological Review 38(3): 321-322.

Cochran, D. M., and C. J. Goin. 1970. The New Field Book of Reptiles and Amphibians. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York. 359 pp. + 16 plates.

Crother, B. I., J. Boundy, K. de Quieroz, and D. [R.] Frost. 2001. Scientific and Standard English Names of Amphibians and Reptiles of North America North of Mexico: Errata. Herpetological Review 32(3):152-153.

Crump, M. L. 1995. Parental care. Pp. 518-567. In: H. Heatwole (editor). Amphibian Biology. Vol. 2. Social Behaviour. Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton, Australia. 710 pp.

Davies, R., and V. Davies. 1997. The Reptile & Amphibian Problem Solver. [North American Edition.] Tetra Press, Blacksburg, Virginia. 208 pp.

Duellman, W. E. 1999. Distribution patterns of amphibians in South America. Pp. 255-328. In: W. E. Duellman (editor). Patterns of Distribution of Amphibians. A Global Perspective. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 633 pp.

Duerr, B., and G. Hirayama. 2002. Hunting news: Maui poison dart frogs. Hawaii Fishing News 28(5):14.

Eaton, T. H., Jr. 1941. Notes on the life history of Dendrobates auratus. Copeia 1941(2):93-95.

Freiberg, M., and J. G. Walls. 1984. The World of Venomous Animals. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey. 191 pp.

Frost, D. R. (editor). 1985. Amphibian Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographical Reference. Allen Press, Inc. and The Association of Systematics Collections. Lawrence, Kansas. 732 pp.

Frost, D. [R.] (compiler). 2000. Anura­—frogs. Pp. 6-17. In: B. I. Crother (chair), and Committee on Standard English and Scientific Names (editors). Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Herpetological Circular (29):i-iii, 1-82.

Lamar, W. W. 1997. The World's Most Spectacular Reptiles & Amphibians. World Publications, Tampa. 208 pp.

Masuoka, B. 2002. Veiled chameleons could threaten native birds. The Honolulu Advertiser [online] 2002(April 1), Available on URL: http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2002/Apr/01/br/br03p.html.

Mattison, C. 1987a. Frogs & Toads of the World. Facts on File, Inc, New York. 191 pp.

Mattison, C. 1987b. The Care of Reptiles and Amphibians in Captivity. Revised Edition. Blandford Press, London. 317 pp.

McCoid, M. J., and C. Kleberg. 1995. Non-native reptiles and amphibians. Pp. 433-437. In: E. T. LaRoe, G. S. Farris, C. E. Puckett, P. D. Doran, and M. J. Mac (editors). Our Living Resources: A Report to the Nation on the Distribution, Abundance, and Health of U. S. Ecosystems. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Service, Washington, D. C. 530 pp.

McKeown, S. 1978. Hawaiian Reptiles and Amphibians. The Oriental Publishing Company, Honolulu. 80 pp.

McKeown, S. 1996. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians in the Hawaiian Islands. Diamond Head Publishing, Inc., Los Osos, California. 172 pp.

McKeown, S. 1998. Notes on a newly established frog, Eleutherodactylus coqui, in the Hawaiian Islands. Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society 33(2):30-31.

Myers, C. W., and J. W. Daly. 1983. Dart-poison frogs. Scientific American 248(2):120-121, 124-125, 127-133.

Norman, D. 1998. Common Amphibians of Costa Rica. Anfibios Comunes de Costa Rica. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Heredia, Costa Rica. 96 pp. + 18 plates.

Oliver, J. A., and C. E. Shaw. 1953. The amphibians and reptiles of the Hawaiian Islands. Zoologica (New York) 38(5):65-95.

Pough, F. H, R. M. Andrews, J. E. Cadle, M. L. Crump, A. H. Savitzky, and K. D. Wells. 2001 [2000]. Herpetology. Second Edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. 612 pp.

Pröhl, H. 1997. Los Anfibios de Hitoy Cerere Costa Rica. Talamanca, San José, Costa Rica. 66 pp.

Renjifo, J. M. [1997]. Ranas y Sapos de Colombia. Editorial Colina, Medellín [and] Santafé de Bogatá. 130 pp.

Rundquist, E. M. 1978. Rebuttal to Smith and Kohler on introduced species. Herpetological Review 9(4):131-132.

Savage, J. M., and J. Villa R. 1986. Introduction to the herpetofauna of Costa Rica. Introducción a la herptofauna de Costa Rica. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles Contributions to Herpetology (3):i-viii, 1-207.

Silverstone, P. A. 1975. A revision of the poison-arrow frogs of the genus Dendrobates Wagler. Science Bulletin, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (21):i-iii, 1-55, I-II frontispiece.

Smith, H. M., and A. J. Kohler. 1978. A survey of herpetological introductions in the United States and Canada. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 1977 80(1-2):1-24.

Summers, K. 1989. Sexual selection and intra-female competition in the green poison-dart frog, Dendrobates auratus. Animal Behaviour 37(5):797-805.

Summers, K. 1990. Paternal care and the cost of polygyny in the green dart-poison frog. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 27(5):307-313.

Summers, K., L. A. Weigt, P. Boag, and E. Bermingham. 1999. The evolution of female parental care in poison frogs of the genus Dendrobates: Evidence from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Herpetologica 55(2):254-270.

Vivarium Staff. 1998. Hawaii's war on herps. Vivarium 6(6):6, 8, 17, 61.

Walls, J. G. 1994. Jewels of the Rainforest – Poison Frogs of the Family Dendrobatidae. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey. 288 pp.

Walls, J. G. 1998. Say goodbye to Jackson's chameleons? Reptile Hobbyist 4(3):92-93.

Wells, K. D. 1978. Courtship and parental behavior in the Panamanian poison-arrow frog (Dendrobates auratus). Herpetologica 34(2):148-155.

Wells, K. D. 1981. Parental behavior of male and female frogs. Pp. 184-197. In: R. D. Alexander and D. W. Tinkle (editors). Natural Selection and Social Behavior. Recent Research and New Theory. Chiron Press, New York. 532 pp.

Weygoldt, P. 1987. Evolution of parental care in dart poison frogs (Amphibia: Anura: Dendrobatidae). Zeitschrift für Zoologische Systematik und Evolutionsforschung 25(1):51-67.

Zimmerman[n], H. 1979. Tropical Frogs. [English Translation Edition.] T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune, New Jersey. 93 pp.

Zimmermann, E. 1986. Breeding Terrarium Animals. English-language Edition. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey. 384 pp.

Zimmermann, E., and H. Zimmermann. 1988. Etho-Taxonomie und Zoogeographische Artenggruppenbildung bei Pfeilgiftfröschen (Anura: Dendrobatidae). Salamandra 24(2/3):125-160.

Author: Somma, L.A.

Revision Date: 11/6/2003

Citation Information:
Somma, L.A., 2018, Dendrobates auratus (Girard, 1855): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=49, Revision Date: 11/6/2003, Access Date: 4/19/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [4/19/2018].

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