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Dendrobates auratus morphs

Dendrobates auratus range through out southern Central America, from Nicaragua through Panama. They occur in both the eastern, and western lowland areas of these countries. These frogs show a remarkable variety of forms through their range, particularly in Panama, where there are literally dozens of different color forms of this frog. Not only is the color and pattern different from one population to another, but they vary in size and behaviour as well.

The most common two colors are green, and black. In the most familiar forms, the green and black cover approximately equal proportions of the body. A common variant of this pattern is found in the many mostly black forms, which usually have green spots, or a very reduced green pattern. I have worked with a couple of these forms, and one thing that I found interesting is that one produced froglets that had a normal auratus pattern, of approximately equal amounts green and black, and then faded to the green spotted form as they aged, and another very similar form produced offspring that came out of the water looking the same as the adults. Auratus are the only Dendrobates frogs that I can think of that often show dramatic color change as they age.

In the wild, based on my observations, they seem to live in pairs, with the pair often setting up a territory around the base of a large tree. When disturbed they tend to retreat to the tree, and then climb it with ease if further pursued. Widespread habitat destruction has undoubtedly already eradicated some forms of these beautiful frogs, and many others are in grave danger of being driven out of existence. Fortunately they seem to deal fairly well with moderate habitat disturbance, and often thrive in areas around farms, especially if they are cultivating cacao (the tree that produces the fruit from which chocolate is made), the pods of which serve as an ideal reservoir for raising tadpoles.

There are many variations on the green and black form, and some of the most beautiful are the green and bronze color forms. There seem to be several different green and bronze auratus localities but its not easy to tell for sure. What is for sure is that there are many subtle differences in the appearance of the frogs. Some of these frogs have the more traditional pattern, others are spotted with bronze spots. The bronze varies from a medium light brown, to a light brown that looks almost transparent, depending on the angle you view it from. In some cases the bronze can be so light it almost appears white. This is apparently the source of the green and white auratus form that I have seen pictured on some European auratus morph guides. All the bronze forms seem to show some level of ontogenic (age related) color change, and in some specimens the color changes continue up through several years of age, in the case of certain individual frogs. In particular the bronze area is prone to lightening in color.

There is also a blue and bronze form, these are relatively new to the US hobby, a few came in during the flood of auratus that has come in from Panama over the past two years, but only a few, and its unclear how true this morph will breed, most offspring are coming out of the water looking more like green and bronze frogs. Look for these to be offered here in late 2006 with some luck.

Another somewhat similar form is the “Brown and White” or “Kahlua and Cream” form. It appears that there are two different localities with very similar frogs, but its not clear if both forms are in the US hobby. “Kahlua and Cream” is the correct label for the brown and white form auratus found in the US in most cases. These are from western Panama. This is one of the few auratus forms for which very accurate collection data exists.

Of course the “white” is not really white but generally a muddy light brown. In this frog the lighter color doesn't appear until the frogs are approaching adult hood, and its usually unclear how light the color will get until the frogs are about two years old. New morphs and juveniles are generally a dark brown color all over. Unfortunately this form, as with many other auratus forms, is very shy, and rarely seen in the terrarium. I found my customers to be basically uninterested in these frogs so I stopped working with them a couple of years ago. However recently I ran across some pictures posted on line by Robb Melancon of some of his “Kahlua and Cream” frogs, which showed an unusual color variant which he is calling “Camo Kahlua”. These frogs are quite different from the normal morph, and have a green color along with the traditional dark brown, and then the dark brown turns a light color as the frogs get older. Just how light the color will get is unclear but the adults he is working with are fairly stunning. The variant seems to breed true. I have a group of his offspring and will hopefully be producing and offering these frogs at some point in the future. You can view Robb's discussion of this situation here.

Another very popular form of D. auratus is the Blue form, which appear identical to the typical green and black form, except for the fact that the green is replaced by blue of course! These are a fairly shy frog as well, but very beautiful and always popular. They seem to come from Panama, and have been in the US hobby for at least ten years.

One form of D.auratus exists on the island of Tobago, and is an unremarkable morph with the exception of the fact that it also lives on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Apparently in the 1930s a group of these frogs was intentionally let go on the island, and they have thrived. It is unclear if they present any environmental threat to native species. For years these auratus were imported to the mainland US as “Hawaiian” auratus, until about 1998 when Hawaii stopped allowing the export of its non native animals.

My personal favorite form of D. auratus, and the one I most often recommend to people looking for a great inexpensive dart frog to start with, is the Costa Rican form. This is one of the larger forms, and is a gorgeous bright green and a deep black color. The best thing about them is the fact that they are a fairly bold frog, unlike so many other auratus forms.

Over all the auratus morphs are great frogs to get started with, and should be on the short list for anyone starting with dart frogs. They generally do well in groups, and are among the easiest dart frogs to breed.

Listed below are the Poison Dart Frogs that are regularly available.