Blue Poison Dart Frog, Dendrobates azureus

The Blue Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates azureus) is a species of poison dart frog located in the forests surrounded by the Sipaliwini savannah, which is found in southern Suriname and northern to central Brazil. This frog is widely known as the blue poison dart frog or by its Indian name, okopipi. The species name comes from the fact that it is colored azure.

This medium sized frog weighs about eight grams. It grows between 3 and 4.5 centimeters long and has a typical lifespan of four to six years in the wild. The bright blue coloration of its skin serves as a warning to its predators. Its color is usually darker around its limbs and stomach. The glands of poisonous alkaloids located in the skin serve as a defense against potential predators. These poisons paralyze and occasionally kill the predator. The black spots seen on this frog are unique to each one, serving as an identification tool. Each foot contains four toes, each have a flattened tip with a suction cup pad used to gripping. This species of frog can also be identified by a hunch-backed posture.

The physical appearance also differs with the sex. The females are larger and about half a centimeter longer than the males, but the males have larger toes. The tips of the toes in the females are round while the males have heart-shaped toes.

The tadpoles differ greatly from the adults. They have a long tail, about 6 millimeters, with a total length of about 10 millimeters. They lack legs and have gills rather than lungs.

This frog is a mainland animal, but it stays close to water sources. They spend the majority of their awake time, during the day, hopping around in short leaps. They’re very territorial and aggressive both towards their own species and to others. To ward off intruders, they use a series of calls, chases, and wrestling, which usually occur within the same sex.

Although these frogs are known for their skin toxins, used on the tips of arrows or darts of natives, in reality, only the species of the Phyllobates genus are used in this manner, although all poison dart frogs have some level of toxicity.

These frogs breed seasonally, usually during the months of February or March when its rainy. To find mates, the males sit on a rock and produce quiet calls, which the females follow to track them down. The females then physically fight over a male. The male takes the female to a quiet place by the water, which becomes the site of the egg-laying. Once the eggs are laid, the male will cover them in his sperm to fertilize them, therefore fertilization occurs externally.

Between five and ten offspring are produced, and eggs are laid in the male’s territory. The males defend the offspring and take care of the eggs the majority of the time, but sometimes the female does as well. The eggs hatch between 14 and 18 days, and after 10 to 12 weeks, the tadpoles achieve full maturity. Both the male and the female reach sexual maturity at two years of age. The expected lifespan of an average D. azureus is between four and six years in the wild, and about ten years within captivity.

They consume mostly insects, such as ants, flies, and caterpillars, but occasionally it feeds on other arthropods, such as spiders. The mother provides unfertilized eggs for the tadpoles nutrition.

Image Caption: Blue Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates azureus) in the Frankfurt Zoo, Germany. Credit: Quartl/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)