Good news on the frogs (sort of)…

Oophaga pumilio, the strawberry poison dart frog, right here at La Selva!
Oophaga pumilio, the strawberry poison dart frog, right here at La Selva!

The good news is that there are frogs everywhere at La Selva, although the bad news is that these species are resistant to the chytrid fungus that I mentioned in an earlier post. Some species have special protein fragments (called peptides) in their skin, others have different adaptations for dealing with the threat.

Strawberry dart frogs are very common in certain areas of the station, and their calls fill the air. Of course, when I try to approach them, they stop singing, but fortunately, they haven’t stopped for everyone:

The dart frog in the video belongs to the same species as the ones I photographed, which is called Oophaga (or Dendrobatespumilio. The reason for two different genus names is that the older name Dendrobates (which means “tree climber”) used to apply to nearly all poison dart frogs, but this particular species was recently switched to the genus Oophaga (which means “egg eater”). The term “egg eater” refers to the mother’s habit of feeding her tadpoles unfertilized eggs, which the young ones need for survival. Most species of dart frog are excellent parents, as can be seen in the video here:

Even more interesting is the variety of colors in Oophaga pumilio, from the red body and blue legs that is common in Costa Rica and Nicaragua to a wide assortment on the islands of northwestern Panama.

Image credit: Siddiqi et. al.
Image credit: Siddiqi et al.

And here’s a video with some more color varieties:

This one at La Selva also had an unusual coloration.
This one at La Selva also had an unusual coloration.

While I’m at it, I might as well show Oophaga pumilio frogs chasing each other around:

These weren’t the only frogs that I found on my slippery walk; I also encountered another of my favorites, Dendrobates auratus.

The green and black poison dart frog.
The green and black poison dart frog.
Which also showed some variety in pattern.
Which also showed some variety in pattern.

These frogs make popular pets for people who really know how to take care of them, and I even had a group of them myself. Of course, in order to come down here to Central America and see these animals in the wild, I needed to give my dart frogs away to a good home, since they really need daily care. In the wild, however, these guys are fine on their own.

Take this one as an example (and hear the cicadas in the background):

This one was practically right next to the green and black dart frog; just a lot harder to see!
This one was practically right next to the green and black dart frog; it’s just a lot harder to see!
This one REALLY blended in--I only noticed it when it jumped!
This one REALLY blended in–I only noticed it when it jumped!
This was the tiniest frog I've ever seen; it couldn't have been bigger than a housefly.
This was the tiniest frog I’ve ever seen; it couldn’t have been bigger than a housefly.

As you can see, there were also frogs that weren’t as brightly colored, and there are brown toads hopping around at night.

What are you two doing there?
What are you two doing there?

There were also tadpoles in a pond near the entrance bridge, which I hope means promise for the future.

So it seems that certain species of frog have survived the chytrid onslaught, but they’ll still be in terrible danger if they lose their natural habitat. Poison dart frogs can’t live in cattle pastures!

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