Overview

Brief Summary

The Phyllobates genus, commonly known as dart poison frogs, includes five species of anurans uniquely classified because of the batrachotoxin they possess: P. aurotaenia, P. bicolor, P. lugubris, P. terribilis, and P. vittatus. Around 3-5 million years ago, dart poison frogs crossed over the Panamanian bridge from Africa and then distributed into Central and South America (Widmer, Lötters, & Jungfer, 2000). They are well spaced through the forest on humid lowlands to prevent crowding, which results in male – male aggression (Grant et al., 2006). Adult males measure 45mm from snout to vent and females measure 47mm (Grant et al., 2006). In captivity, the frogs can live up to five years (Myers, Daly, & Malkin, 1978). Their long life span is due to their toxins warding off most predators, though their reproductive potential is low (Myers et al., 1978). After the females lay the eggs, the males fertilize them and carry the larvae on their backs to water, exhibiting male parental care (Summers, 2000). Females use coloration of the males as a visual cue for selecting mates because the brighter the colors, usually the more toxic the frog (Hagman & Forsman, 2003; Summers & Clough, 2001). The Phyllobates defense is batrachotoxin, a strong cardiotoxin (Alto, 2011). Recent experiments have concluded batrachotoxin is assembled from the alkaloids from frog’s diet of arthropods and insects (Alto, 2011). The serous skin secretions of batrachotoxin have a bitter, peppery taste that discourages predators from feeding on the frogs and they quickly learn to associate the bright coloration of the frogs with their toxins (Alto, 2011). The frogs are lethal to humans because of the high amounts of toxins they possess and because there is no effective antidote (Myers et al., 1978). One of the few predators of the Phyllobates is the snake Leimadophis epinephelus, which has an unusually high tolerance for a variety of anuran skin secretions that contain toxins (Myers et al., 1978). The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species lists P. vittatus and P. terribilis as endangered species because of the deforestation of the Costa Rican forests for agricultural land, the water pollution as a result of gold mining, illegal crops, pesticide spraying, the collection of the adult frogs for trade, and human settlement (Bolívar, 2004; Solís, 2004). P. bicolor and P. aurotaenia are near endangered levels because of habitat loss, but P. lugubris is the least threatened because it is more tolerant of changing habitat (Bolívar, 2004; Bolívar, 2004; Solís, 2004).

Alto, E. (2011). Effects of Dietary Specialization on Chemical Defense of Poison Dart Frogs. Eukaryon, 7, 84–86.

Bolívar W., T. Grant, S. Lötters, F. Castro. 2004. Phyllobates aurotaenia. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bolívar W., S. Lötters. 2004. Phyllobates bicolor. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Bolívar W., S. Lötters. 2004. Phyllobates terribilis. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Grant, T., Frost, D., Caldwell, J. P., Gagliardo, R., Haddad, C. F. B., Kok, P. J. R., Means, D. B., et al. (2006). Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives (Amphibia: Athesphatanura: Dendrobatidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 299, 311–363.

Hagman, M., & Forsman, A. (2003). Correlated Evolution of Conspicuous Coloration and Body Size in Poison Frogs (Dendrobatidae). Evolution, 57(12), 2904–2910.

Myers, C. W., Daly, J. W., & Malkin, B. (1978). A dangerously toxic new frog (Phyllobates) used by Emberá Indians of Western Colombia, with discussion of blowgun fabrication and dart poisoning. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 161, 311-363.

Solís F., R. Ibáñez, G. Chaves, J. Savage, C. Jaramillo, Q. Fuenmayor, B. Young, F. Bolaños. 2004. Phyllobates lugubris. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Solís F., R. Ibáñez, G. Chaves, J. Savage, C. Jaramillo, Q. Fuenmayor, B. Young, F. Bolaños. 2004. Phyllobates vittatus. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Summers, K. (2000). Mating and Aggressive Behaviour in Dendrobatid Frogs from Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica: A Comparative Study. Behaviour, 137, 7– 24.

Summers, K., & Clough, M. E. (2001). The evolution of coloration and toxicity in the poison frog family (Dendrobatidae). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98(11), 6227–32.

Widmer, a, Lötters, S., & Jungfer, K. H. (2000). A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the neotropical dart-poison frog genus Phyllobates (Amphibia: Dendrobatidae). Die Naturwissenschaften, 87(12), 559–62.

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Comprehensive Description

Description

Phyllobates aurotaenia adults reach a maximum snout-vent length of 32 mm in males and 35 mm in females. The skin is slightly granular on the dorsum and smooth on the ventrum and limbs. The first finger is longer than the second, with all finger discs being narrow to moderately expanded. Toes are webless. Both maxillary and premaxillary teeth are present. Testes are unpigmented (Silverstone 1976).

This species has a black ground color, with two thin golden, orange, or green dorsolateral stripes extending from the base of the thigh and meeting at the snout (Silverstone 1976; Myers et al. 1978). The dorsal surfaces of the limbs are covered in gold, orange, blue, or green dots, and the ventral surface is black with blue or green dots (Silverstone 1976). Dotting is relatively sparse on the venter and more concentrated on the limbs (Silverstone 1976). The stripes are green or light yellow, and the ventral dots are always blue on individuals from Serranía de Baudó (Silverstone 1976). On individuals from the upper San Juan drainage, the stripes are yellow, light or dark yellow-orange, or light brownish gold (Silverstone 1976). There is a second form; some individuals, from above the Playa de Oro on the upper Rio San Juan, are larger and have broader dorsolateral stripes that are sometimes blended together by an orangish dorsal suffusion into one yellow-orange or red-orange stripe (Silverstone 1976; Myers et al. 1978).

Phyllobates aurotaenia juveniles are black with golden dorsolateral stripes, like P. terribilis juveniles. However, young P. aurotaenia have blue or green ventral spotting, which is not present in P. terribilis (Myers et al. 1978).

Tadpoles of all Phyllobates species, including P. aurotaenia, have an emarginate, "normal" oral disc (meaning the oral disc is not umbelliform). The larval vent tube is dextral (Grant et al. 2006).

There are two forms of Phyllobates aurotaenia, a narrow-striped, slightly smaller form, and a broad-striped, slightly larger form, which do not always occur in the same place (Silverstone 1976). In the western Atrato drainage, the broad-striped form is absent and the narrow-striped form occurs up to at least 500 m (Silverstone 1976). In the Playa de Oro, it is not clear whether the narrow-striped form occurs at lower elevation than the broad-striped form; the two forms may simply be separated by a deep ravine (Quebrada Bochoramá) and not by elevation (Silverstone 1976).

Myers et al. (1978) speculates that there may be a cline between P. aurotaenia and P. bicolor, or hybridization, in the upper San Juan drainage. The largest specimens, which have the broad, fused dorsal stripes, come from above Playa de Oro on the upper Rio San Juan; these individuals more closely resemble P. bicolor in both coloration and size (Silverstone 1976; Myers et al. 1978). Phyllobates bicolor has a uniformly colored orange (red-orange, orange, or yellow-orange) dorsum lacking stripes. Phyllobates bicolor is also slightly larger (38.2 mm average size) than the broad-striped form of P. aurotaenia (32.1 mm average size), which is in turn larger than the narrow-striped form (26.3 mm average size).

Silverstone (1976) comments that the narrow-striped form more closely resembles P. lugubris and P. vittatus, but is separated from them by a distributional gap in Panama.

  • Grant, T., Frost, D. R., Caldwell, J. P., Gagliardo, R., Haddad, C. F. B., Kok, P. J. R., Means, D. B., Noonan, B. P., Schargel, W. E., and Wheeler, W. C. (2006). ''Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives (Amphibia: Athesphatanura: Dendrobatidae).'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (299), 1-262.
  • Myers, C. W., Daly, J. W., and Malkin, B. (1978). ''A dangerously toxic new frog (Phyllobates) used by Emberá Indians of Western Colombia, with discussion of blowgun fabrication and dart poisoning.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 161, 307-366.
  • Silverstone, P.A. (1976). ''A revision of the poison arrow frogs of the genus Phyllobates Bibron in Sagra (Family Dendrobatidae).'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Bulletin, 27, 1-53.
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Distribution

Distribution and Habitat

Phyllobates aurotaenia is found in the Chocó region of Colombia in the Atrato and San Juan drainages (Silverstone 1976). It lives in low-elevation inland rainforest at an altitude of 60 to 520 meters, west of the Cordillera Occidental (Silverstone 1976; Myers et al. 1978).

  • Grant, T., Frost, D. R., Caldwell, J. P., Gagliardo, R., Haddad, C. F. B., Kok, P. J. R., Means, D. B., Noonan, B. P., Schargel, W. E., and Wheeler, W. C. (2006). ''Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives (Amphibia: Athesphatanura: Dendrobatidae).'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (299), 1-262.
  • Myers, C. W., Daly, J. W., and Malkin, B. (1978). ''A dangerously toxic new frog (Phyllobates) used by Emberá Indians of Western Colombia, with discussion of blowgun fabrication and dart poisoning.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 161, 307-366.
  • Silverstone, P.A. (1976). ''A revision of the poison arrow frogs of the genus Phyllobates Bibron in Sagra (Family Dendrobatidae).'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Bulletin, 27, 1-53.
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Neurotoxin protects from predators: poison-dart frog
 

Glands in the skin of poison-dart frogs protect from predators via a secreted neurotoxin called batrachotoxin.

   
  "Yet another type of skin gland is the poison gland which is prevalent among amphibians, including the common toad…The most lethal frogs are a few Phyllobates species: named batrachotoxin, their poison is 250 times stronger than strychnine, and acts on the nervous system." (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:80)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Foy, Sally; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:18
Specimens with Sequences:21
Specimens with Barcodes:16
Species:5
Species With Barcodes:5
Public Records:12
Public Species:5
Public BINs:7
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Barcode data

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Conservation

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Phyllobates are usually diurnal species due to the advantage of greater visibility of their color markings, which warn predators that they possess skin toxins (Silverstone 1976). This species secretes skin batrachotoxins when under stress (Silverstone 1976; Myers et al. 1978). However, this species is secretive and can be hard to find even in areas where there are dense populations (Myers et al. 1978).

Calls are usually made from a concealed location under fallen leaves or logs, but occasionally while sitting on fallen leaves (Silverstone 1976). The call has been described as a "loud, bird-like, whirring twitter, consisting of rapidly repeating notes" (Silverstone 1976), with a duration of 4-11 seconds (Silverstone 1976). This call is repeated after intervals lasting from several seconds up to 45 seconds (Silverstone 1976). The dominant frequency is higher than 2000 Hz (Myers et al. 1978).

  • Grant, T., Frost, D. R., Caldwell, J. P., Gagliardo, R., Haddad, C. F. B., Kok, P. J. R., Means, D. B., Noonan, B. P., Schargel, W. E., and Wheeler, W. C. (2006). ''Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives (Amphibia: Athesphatanura: Dendrobatidae).'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (299), 1-262.
  • Myers, C. W., Daly, J. W., and Malkin, B. (1978). ''A dangerously toxic new frog (Phyllobates) used by Emberá Indians of Western Colombia, with discussion of blowgun fabrication and dart poisoning.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 161, 307-366.
  • Silverstone, P.A. (1976). ''A revision of the poison arrow frogs of the genus Phyllobates Bibron in Sagra (Family Dendrobatidae).'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Bulletin, 27, 1-53.
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Threats

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

This species does not occur in any protected areas and is rapidly losing its habitat.

  • Grant, T., Frost, D. R., Caldwell, J. P., Gagliardo, R., Haddad, C. F. B., Kok, P. J. R., Means, D. B., Noonan, B. P., Schargel, W. E., and Wheeler, W. C. (2006). ''Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives (Amphibia: Athesphatanura: Dendrobatidae).'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (299), 1-262.
  • Myers, C. W., Daly, J. W., and Malkin, B. (1978). ''A dangerously toxic new frog (Phyllobates) used by Emberá Indians of Western Colombia, with discussion of blowgun fabrication and dart poisoning.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 161, 307-366.
  • Silverstone, P.A. (1976). ''A revision of the poison arrow frogs of the genus Phyllobates Bibron in Sagra (Family Dendrobatidae).'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Bulletin, 27, 1-53.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Risks

Relation to Humans

Phyllobates aurotaenia is one of only three species of frogs (P. aurotaenia, P. bicolor, P. terribilis) known to be used for poisoning darts (Myers et al. 1978). Various Chocó tribes in western Colombia have used these frogs to poison darts for dart-guns. The frogs primarily secrete the steroidal alkaloids batrachotoxin, homobatrachotoxin, and batrachotoxinin A, which cause depolarization of nerves and muscles, cardiac arrhythmias, and cardiac failure if taken internally and skin numbness when encountered externally. To extract the poison, the Chocó impale P. aurotaenia and P. bicolor lengthwise on sticks, and may also heat the spitted frogs to increase the amount of skin secretions; darts are then rubbed against the skin of the impaled frog. This is in contrast to the treatment of P. terribilis which has much higher levels of skin toxins; for this species, darts are simply rubbed across the back of the live frog (Myers et al. 1978).

Per frog, the larger P. terribilis have about 27x the amount of batrachotoxin-homobatrachotoxin as the smaller P. aurotaenia. When normalized for skin weight, P. terribilis has about nine times the amount of batrachotoxin-homobatrachotoxin in the same amount of skin (100 mg) as P. aurotaenia. For batrachotoxinin A, P. terribilis has 4x the amount of toxin per frog as the smaller P. aurotaenia, or 1.3x as much toxin by equivalent skin weight. The third species of frog used for poisoning darts, P. bicolor, seems to be roughly equivalent in toxicity to P. aurotaenia (Myers et al. 1978).

The Chocó name for P. aurotaenia, kökoé, is pronounced "kohng-KWAY" (Silverstone 1976).

  • Grant, T., Frost, D. R., Caldwell, J. P., Gagliardo, R., Haddad, C. F. B., Kok, P. J. R., Means, D. B., Noonan, B. P., Schargel, W. E., and Wheeler, W. C. (2006). ''Phylogenetic systematics of dart-poison frogs and their relatives (Amphibia: Athesphatanura: Dendrobatidae).'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, (299), 1-262.
  • Myers, C. W., Daly, J. W., and Malkin, B. (1978). ''A dangerously toxic new frog (Phyllobates) used by Emberá Indians of Western Colombia, with discussion of blowgun fabrication and dart poisoning.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 161, 307-366.
  • Silverstone, P.A. (1976). ''A revision of the poison arrow frogs of the genus Phyllobates Bibron in Sagra (Family Dendrobatidae).'' Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Bulletin, 27, 1-53.
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Wikipedia

Phyllobates sp. aff. aurotaenia

Phyllobates sp. aff. aurotaenia is a temporary name given to a species of poison dart frog, formerly known as the "red" form of Phyllobates aurotaenia. It is morphologically similar to P. aurotaenia, but genetically it is more closely related to P. terribilis.[1] It can be distinguished from P. aurotaenia by its uniform chocolate brown or navy blue body, and its orange or red, rather than green or yellow, stripes.

Toxicity[edit]

All Phyllobates species are highly toxic, and P. sp. aff. aurotaenia is no exception. Its skin contains batrachotoxins, extremely potent neurotoxic alkaloids. When in contact with the skin, batrachotoxins seep through open wounds and, in some cases, skin pores, and prevent nerves from transmitting impulses, leaving the muscles in an inactive state of contraction. This can lead to heart failure or fibrillation. Some native people use this poison to hunt by coating darts with the frogs' poison. Alkaloid batrachotoxins can be stored by frogs for years after the frog is deprived of the food-based source, and such toxins do not readily deteriorate, even when transferred to another surface. Chickens and dogs have died from contact with a paper towel on which the more toxic P. terribilis had walked.[2][3]

References[edit]

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Phyllobates

Phyllobates is a genus of poison dart frogs native to Central and South America, from Nicaragua to Colombia. Phyllobates contains the most poisonous species of frog, the golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis). They are typical of the poison dart frogs, in that all species are colourful, and have varying degrees of toxicity. Only species of Phyllobates are used by natives of South American tribes as sources of poison for their hunting darts. The most toxic of the many poisonous alkaloids these frogs emit from their skins is batrachotoxin, but a wide number of other toxic compounds are secreted by these frogs.

Taxonomy[edit]

Phyllobates (Ancient Greek for "leaf climber") used to contain many of the species which are now within the Ranitomeya genus.[1] However, it now just contains those six members within the Phyllobates bicolor species group. These are:

P. lugubris species group

P. bicolor species group

All these different species within the genus exhibit a diversity in color. Some examples are, P. terribilis, with color morphs of "mint", "yellow", and "orange". P. vittatus, another example, is always black as a ground color, but can show yellow stripes, orange stripes, red stripes,(stripes of all colors can be seen in two forms, narrow- and wide-banded) and turquoise, green, or blue legs, etc. The bicolor dart frog (Phyllobates bicolor) can range from yellow to orange, from black legs to green legs, to almost a uniform color of any of the aforementioned color morphs. P. aurotaenia specimens are yellow-banded or orange. They are always smaller than P. vittatus, and beyond locality, this is the best way to differentiate between the two in the field or in the hobby.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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