There are nine species in the Oophaga genus...
Oophaga, Greek for "egg eater" (oon, phagos), is descriptive of the tadpoles' diet. The tadpoles feed exclusively on unfertilized eggs supplied as food by the mother. After a parent transports newly-hatched tadpoles to a tiny water reservoir (often in the axil of a bromeliad), the mother returns periodically and lays unfertilized eggs, on which the tadpoles feed until they are ready to metamorphose and leave the water.
Because of this rearing behavior, some of the Oophaga species are among the most difficult poison dart frogs to breed successfully in captivity. As a result, they are not widely available, and those which are available may be of questionable origins. Captive bred froglets of species such as histrionicus and sylvaticus are occasionally available to very experienced keepers.
Other species such as pumilio are very popular with some being much easier to breed in captivity. They do well in vivariums as long as the the correct environment has been provided. They have been imported from South and Central America in large quantities to Europe since the early 1990s. Now with much greater breeding success due to a better understanding of their needs more and more captive bred pumilio morphs are becoming available.
Unlike many frog species, amplexus (where the male grasps the female with his front legs as part of the mating process) does not occur with O. pumilio, mating individuals instead they perform a very distinctive vent-to-vent position in which the female lays eggs and the male fertilizes them. The female will lay eggs on a plant leaf or bromeliad axil and then the male will then ensure that the eggs are kept hydrated by transporting water in his cloaca.
After about ten days, the eggs hatch and the female transports the tadpoles on her back to some water-filled location. In captivity, on rare occasions the male is observed transporting the tadpoles, though whether this is intentional, or the tadpoles simply hitch a ride, is unknown. Bromeliad axils filled with water are commonly used tadpole deposition sites, but anything suitable can be used, such as knots in trees, small puddles, or human trash such as aluminum cans.
Tadpoles are deposited singly at each location. Once this has been done, the female will visit each tadpole every few days and lay several unfertilized eggs which the tadpole will eat. In captivity, tadpoles have been raised on a variety of diets with varying degrees of success by using, algae and the eggs of other dart frogs. O. pumilio tadpoles are considered obligate egg feeders, as they are unable to accept any other form of nutrition.
A month or so later the tadpole will metamorphose into a small froglet and stay near their water source for a few days whilst they absorb the rest of their tail.
There are literally dozens of different colour morphs of pumilio that occur in Central and South America. They inhabit primary and secondary rainforest, as well as plantations and pastures to a maximum elevation of 1000 meters above sea level. Pumilio are found in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. Females are a little larger than males and have a more rounded shape.
The histrionica and sylvatica morphs are among the rarer dart frogs found in collections. This rarity has added to illegal collecting becoming a major threat to wild populations of some morphs. Oophaga lehmanni is the most endangered dart frog in Colombia, and the few remaining populations are under threat from smuggling which has in some areas resulted in species extinction. In 2005 a small population of the yellow form which was considered extinct was located by smugglers who allegedly collected around one hundred individuals.
Lehmanni, sylvatica and histrionica are all primarily found in very humid rainforest habitats and mostly encountered on the forest floor, saying that they are also found in areas that have been ‘managed’ such as old banana plantations providing there are deep layers of leaf litter.
They need water-containing plants such as bromeliads for successful breeding and these bromeliads are sometimes found meters above the forest floor. They regularly hunt in between the large fallen leaves where they find ants, termites, small beetles and other small arthropods.
Their clutches consist of between 4 to 20 black eggs usually laid within the leaf litter. Parental care of the eggs is provided by the female who cares for the eggs, wetting them if necessary. On hatching she carries the tadpoles to small pools in bromeliads or other plants. She returns every few days to feed the tadpoles with unfertilized eggs. Like all Oophaga species the tadpoles have adapted to eating the infertile eggs that are provided by the mother.
Species Habitat and Ecology:
All species of Oophaga are located in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
Oophaga arborea is a phytotelmic canopy species of humid lowland and montane forest with breeding occuring in bromeliads.
Oophaga granulifera most often found in relatively undisturbed humid lowland forest, but also recorded from secondary forest and plantations
Oophaga histrionica is located mostly on the forest floor in tropical rainforests, but it can be found at different levels above ground. It can survive in secondary forest, and in small plantations, but not in open areas.
Oophaga lehmanni is mostly a ground dweller of submontane tropical rainforests, but it can also be found up to 60cm above ground. It is not found in heavily degraded areas, but does occur in mature secondary forest.
Oophaga occultator found mainly on the forest floor in undisturbed, lowland rainforest areas. There are no degraded habitats within its tiny known range, and so its adaptability to secondary habitats is unknown.
Oophaga pumilio mostly a terrestrial frog of humid lowland and premontane forest, cacao plantations, and abandoned forest clearings.
Oophaga speciosa is a terrestrial species of humid lowland and montane forest, with breeding taking place in plants.
Oophaga sylvatica lives in lowland and submontane rainforest and can survive in moderately degraded areas in the more humid parts of its range. The eggs are laid on the ground, and the larvae are transported to bromeliads by the female.
Oophaga vicentei is a largely arboreal species of humid tropical lowland and montane forest. Breeding takes place in arboreal vegetation, and adults then transport larvae to forest streams to develop.
All the Oophaga in our collection are captive bred and legal as are their offspring that we have succesfully bred.
Oophaga – the obligate egg feeders