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Easter: Egg Eaters

Pumilio on handIt seems a long time ago since I showed my beautiful daughter her first wild Strawberry Poison-dart Frog in Costa Rica. It’s always a wonderful experience seeing such jewels in the wild and at the moment Adam my assistant is traveling through Panama and Costa Rica, where he too is coming across many strawberry poison- dart frogs.

This species varies greatly in colour throughout its range; frogs from differing localities may be red, green, blue, yellow or a combination of these colours and with varying patterns.  However, whatever their colours and wherever the area they inhabit, the one thing that never changes is the strawberry dart frog’s call, which is an insect like sound. Males are extremely active and call throughout the day to declare their territories and also attract females.

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Newly hatched tadpole being carried on back of parent frog through public exhibit at Manchester Museum (c) Adam Bland

Once a female has chosen a male she produces a small clutch of 1-6 eggs on a leaf or on the ground, which are then fertilised. The frog guards the eggs for about 10 days until ready to hatch. Upon hatching the tadpoles are then very carefully transported on the back of the parent to the water-filled centres of a bromeliad plant. Here they are deposited  then carefully cared for – when hungry, the female frog comes back to lay infertile eggs within the bromeliad which the tadpoles will then feed upon. They eat nothing else but these ‘food’ eggs. This is where the frog species gets its Latin name from, ‘Oophaga’ meaning ‘Egg Eater’, which directly refers to the tadpole’s very specialised diet.

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Metamorphosing tadpole of strawberry dart frog on public display at Manchester Museum (c) Andrew Gray

The aquatic nursery chosen for the developing tadpoles is like a miniature pond formed by rainwater being funnelled down the outer leaves into the heart of the plant, and is prevented from evaporating by the dense shade of the leaves. The tadpole takes about 50 days to metamorphose into a perfect, half-sized strawberry dart frog.


Strawberry dart frog exhibit, The Vivarium, Manchester Museum (c) Andrew Gray

As you may know, we have a large centrepiece exhibit at the museum that features this particular species. Over the past few weeks many of our visitors have been lucky enough to witness them breeding naturally in the exhibit, including being able to see the tadpoles being carried on the backs of the adults as well as swimming in the bromeliads and emerging as newly formed froglets. If you haven’t seen our Strawberry dart display then please come along to take a look – you won’t be in bad company.        

Watch another video featuring Strawberry dart frogs in the wild Here. 

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