Adult: Species description based on Ibanez et al (1999) and Savage (2002). A small, brightly colored frog. Males to 40 mm, females to 42 mm. Dorsal: The dorsum is brown or black with bright green, blue, yellow or cream-colored markings (including spots, stripes, bands, blotches). Birkhahn et al (1994), Gray (2000), and Patrick and Sasa (2009) describe color and pattern variation in this species. Gray (2000) suggested that the bright coloration is important in visual communication in this species, rather than functioning as aposematic coloration. Ventral: The ventral surface is colored similarly to the dorsal surface. Eye: The iris is black. Extremities: Hands and feet have no webbing. Fingers and toes have small discs at the tips.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs throughout the rainy season (Ibanez et al 1999). Wells (1978) provides a description of some courtship behavior. A male was seen calling and courting a female in Cerro Chucanti during the dry season (in March 2010; Hughey and Touchon, pers. obs.). Egg: Eggs are laid in the leaf litter and cared for by males (Summers 1989). Clutches are very small (Savage 2002), and may contain just two eggs (Dunn 1941). Upon hatching, tadpoles are carried by the males to small bodies of water (e.g. bromeliads or tree holes), where they develop (Eaton 1941). Tadpole: Tadpoles are medium-sized and black (Savage 2002, Eaton 1941). The body is oval-shaped with a longish tail with small tail fins (Savage 2002). Tadpoles cannibalize other individuals, but also consume aquatic invertebrates present in phytotelmata (Caldwell and Arajuo 1998, Fincke 1999). Metamorph juvenile: Metamorphosis can take as long as 43 days (Dunn 1941, Eaton 1941). Froglets develop green coloration almost immediatedly after metamorphosis (Pope 1941, Eaton 1941).
Habitat: Lowland rainforest to 800 m. Ecology: This species is active during the day (Dunn 1941, Ibanez et al 1999). Predators of adult D. auratus include motmots (Master 1999) and theroposid spiders (Gray 2000). Tadpoles are consumed by grapsid crabs (Gray and Christy 2000). Call: A quiet buzzing sound (Dunn 1941, Ibanez et al 1999, Savage 2002). Behavior and communication: Males actively defend territories (Savage 2002). Because male availability is limited when they are caring for clutches, females often compete for males, wrestling away other females (Savage 2002). Likewise, females generally take the leading role during courtship, although both males and females have been observed to hop around and touch the other sex (Wells 1978). Karyotype: 2N = 18 (Rasotto et al 1987) Evolotion: Biogeography and systematics of the poison dart frog group have been work out by Clough and Summers (2000). Type locality: Island of Taboga, in the Bay of Panama Physiology: Toxins produced in the skin contain various alkaloids (Daly et al 1992, Daly et al 2002, Daly et al 2003). These toxins are derived from ants and other invertebrates that these frogs consume (Daly et al 2000, Daly et al 1994). Diet: Dendrobates auratus eats small arthropods, including ants (Toft 1981).
Diagnostic description: From small to moderate size, between 2.5-4.2 cm in length. More elongated wide head, large eyes. Dorso, belly and limbs smooth blue, blue-green, green or yellow-green with spots, bands and stripes of black, brown or bronze. With ovoid to elongated tubers below all digits without enterdigitales membranes and large digital discs (Savage 2002).
Habitat: It inhabits moist forest floor and has also been found in epiphytic bromeliads them to heights of 3-25 m. above ground.
Reproduction: The fertilization of the eggs occurs in the litter. When the tadpoles are developed these back up on the male who takes them as containers aquatic habitats formed by fallen leaves and fruits, bromeliads and holes in the branches (Savage 2002). In Lola (Limón) a tadpole of a bromeliad at a height of 3 m and some larvae were collected in small pools of stagnant water was collected.
Food: It feeds on ants and other small insects (Savage 2002).
Behavior:They are diurnal and land, having a peak of activity at the beginning of the afternoon (1:45 p.m..) Northeast of the country (Caribbean slope).
Uses: Individuals of this species are highly prized for use in terrariums, so they are removed from their natural habitat to be sold illegally, mainly in Europe and USA.
Molecular data: This species has similar toxins Oophaga pumilio (Pumiliotoxins B, C, which is a very potent neurotoxic venom, which causes muscle contraction) and other alkaloids that serve as defense against predators.
Distribution in Costa Rica: In the humid lowlands and the Caribbean slope and the center and south of the Pacific slope, between 2 and 600 m. Lift (Savage 2002).
Distribution outside Costa Rica: It is found from southern Nicaragua to the Gulf of Uraba in Colombia by the Caribbean slope, and from Costa Rica through Panama, to the bottom of the basin of the Atrato River.