A species of poison dart frog, the strawberry dart frog (Oophaga pumilio) is brightly colored and poisonous. The Native Americans used the toxic secretions on these frogs, to poison their blow darts. The name dart frog is derived from this practice of the Native Americans.
Strawberry dart frogs are among the most vibrantly colored species of poison dart frogs. There are about 15 to 30 color variations of these frogs, which are named after their bright red coloration. It cannot be said that all of them have a bright red body color. There are various types with different color combinations, but red color is common among them. The most common type of strawberry dart frog, has a red colored body with bluish (purple or black) limbs. This color morph is often referred to as 'blue jeans morph'.
This species of poison dart frog is mainly found in Central America, and their habitat includes humid lowlands, montane forests, and plantations. The bright body color acts as a warning sign for predators. Their skin contains highly toxic compounds, that affect the nerves and muscles of those, who consume these frogs. So, predators spare these frogs, when they notice the bright coloration.
In short, the characteristic features of strawberry dart frogs include bright body colors (especially red) and toxicity. The second finger of the frog is conspicuously longer than the first one. These frogs have finger discs, that are similar to those of tree frogs. Their limbs are very thin, as compared to the plump bodies.
Why are They Poisonous
As in the case of other poison dart frogs, strawberry dart frogs too have steroidal alkaloid toxins in their skin. These highly toxic alkaloids can affect the nerve and muscle activity of those, who are exposed to it. The presence of toxins are part of their defense mechanism. This could be the reason behind the free movement of these frogs during the daytime. However, there are some predators, like the Amazon ground snake, which feed on strawberry dart frogs.
According to some studies, the alkaloids on the skin of poison dart frogs are derived from their diet, which mainly consists of formicine ants, centipedes, and mites. This could be the reason for the low levels of toxicity displayed by captive-bred poison dart frogs. So, strawberry poison dart frogs are being kept as exotic pets, and are not fed with ants and beetles.
The most distinguishing characters of strawberry dart frogs, is the high level of parental care exhibited by these frogs. After mating, female frogs lay around five eggs on leaves, or bromeliad axils. It takes around seven to ten days for the eggs to hatch. Meanwhile, the males hydrate the eggs, by carrying water in his cloaca. This is done on a daily basis. Once the eggs hatch, the females carry each tadpole to different locations. Usually, they chose locations filled with water. The female regularly visits each location, and deposits unfertilized eggs for feeding the tadpole. It takes around 30 to 45 days for the tadpoles to metamorphose into froglets.
Strawberry dart frog care includes proper food and temperature settings. They are fed with flightless fruit flies, termites, and vitamin-calcium mix. The temperature has to be warm, i.e. between 70 to 80° F. In captivity, they are found to be less toxic, but you must be very careful, while handling strawberry dart frogs, as they are highly fragile. Even though they are not in the endangered species list, habitat loss may lead to population decline.