The Splashed-Backed Poison Dart Frog
Adelphobates galactonotus is a striking, medium sized frog (about 1.3” or 3.5 cm, females slightly larger) that is typically shiny black with a large splash of color on its back and sometimes its limbs. The look is truly as if paint was poured on the back of a black frog, thus the common name “splashed-backed”. The colors, which represent different locales within its range can be from bright lemon-yellow, to dark orange, reds ranging from brick to blood to wine, greens from silvery to whitish, and blues from light to bright. Others are marbled with 2 or more colors against a black background. Morphs like the solid greenish-silver ‘Moonshine’ and ‘Solid Orange’ have little or no black coloring, making it easy to confuse them with morphs of P. terribilis, a larger, heavier-bodied Columbian endemic with similar coloration. A. galactonotus can be further distinguished by the presence of enlarged toe pads. P. terribilis does not have them.
A. galactonotus is found in lowland rainforests throughout the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil (Pará, Maranhão and Tocantins states, likely beyond).
The Latin word “galact” pertaining to galaxy is from the Greek “galakt” for milk. Notus (Notos) in Greek mythology is the god of the south wind. Perhaps a reference to the Milky Way was intended in naming this frog Galactonotus. Please feel free to contact me if you can clarify this.
Typical of the genus, A. galactonotus is a “terrestrial climber”. That is to say that it can be found in the understory, where it prefers to forage and breed, as well as the upper reaches of its warm, dense rainforest environment. Eggs are deposited among the leaf litter and the hatched tadpoles are carried to small pools such as depressions in rocks, fallen tree hulls, large, discarded nut pods, etc.
Captive Care and Breeding
While not necessarily a frog for beginners, A. galactonous is not difficult to keep. It does well in groups provided that there is adequate space in a well-planted vivarium. These frogs can be difficult to sex, so it is a good idea to house them in groups to increase the odds of breeding if space permits. If sexes can be determined a male and 2 females (1.2 ratio) would do well standard 20 gallon tall vivarium. A group of 5 can be nicely accommodated in a standard 45 gallon vivarium (36”X24”X12). Obscured broad leaves, film canisters, and halved coconut shells fashioned as caves containing a smooth laying surface, like a petri are all candidates for egg deposition sites. Humidity should be high at 80% or more with temperatures ideally ranging between 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit (22-28 degrees Celsius). Some individuals, and indeed certain morphs, such as the ‘Red’ can be shy. Keeping a well planted vivarium within these parameters should encourage activity and increase boldness.
Male galactonotus have a low and sustained buzzing call. As with other Dendrobatids, this will encourage a female to follow him to a deposit site where she will deposit her eggs, and he will fertilize them. The clutch sizes range 4-8 eggs, and will hatch after about 2 weeks, at which time a parent, typically the male, will transport them to a pool of water. No further parental care is exercised, and the tadpoles can be removed and reared on high-quality fish foods. If the decision is made to leave the tadpoles in the vivarium they will feed on whatever grows or lands in their container, like drowned fruit flies, leaf litter, algae, and slime. Feedings should be supplemented, and the water quality must be monitored. It will be necessary to carefully flush their containers occasionally to improve the water quality. Although healthy tadpoles typically have an instinctive “dive” response when disturbed, care should be taken to ensure that the water flow during the flushing process is not forceful enough to remove them from their containers.
After 60 to 90 days the froglets will emerge and will be able to take melanogaster fruit flies at their first feeding. They will become sexually mature in about 8 months, although some morphs take a while longer. In most cases breeding takes place after about a year. A. galactonotus can live for over 12 years.
A. galactonotus is abundant within its range, however deforestation is a concern. Currently the IUCN categorizes it under LC (Least Concern).