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Dendrobates auratus  
Girard, 1855

Family:   Dendrobatidae
Genus:   Dendrobates
Species: auratus

Auratus are found throughout Central American humid lowlands and premontane rainforests from Nicaragua to northwestern Colombia at elevations (depending on the morph) ranging from 0 – 1200 m (3,937.01 ft).  There is also a morph found on the volcanic Panamanian island of Taboga, which was introduced to Hawaii in 1932 where it has since become established.

Auratus are medium-sized Dendrobatids ranging from about 1 – 1 ¼”, with females being slightly larger than the males.  The coloration of this frog is highly variable, although in many cases it is consistent enough to indicate morph local.  For example, bright sky blue reticulations against a shiny, ink-black background indicate an auratus found along the streams in the Veraguas Province (Calobre District) in central Panama; while silvery-green reticulations against a metallic bronze background suggests an auratus from the cloud-shrouded highlands of eastern Panama.  Although some morphs are solid colored, i.e. gold or jet black, in general auratus have light to bright patterns set against a dark background, and this coloration is carried through on the undersides of the frogs as well.

Of the genus Dendrobates, auratus are one several species (D. leucomelas & D. tinctorius azureus being two others) known to convert (hydroxylize) ingested pumiliotoxin (PTX) 251D into the 5x more potent allopumiliotoxin (aPTX) 267A. [1]

A single wild auratus carries approximately ½ milligram of allopumiliotoxin, an amount capable of causing serious illness in humans, with 2 milligrams being a lethal dose.  Wild auratus can be handled safely if not agitated (agitation stimulates the release of the toxin) and provided that there is no exposure to open wounds or mucous membranes.

Habitat and Captive Care
Semi-terrestrial and often seen among fallen branches and leaf litter, D. Auratus does climb trees to forage, sleep, and to deposit tadpoles in spaces that collect rainwater such as tree trunks hollows and phytotelmata.  Auratus are opportunistic with regard to tadpole deposition, using whatever small pools of water deemed suitable, whether on the ground, on large rocks and boulders or in trees.  The omnivorous tadpoles feed on drowned insects, insect larvae, submerged leaves, algae, slime and other detritus.  Those that find themselves sharing a pool with other tadpoles must compete if available food is scarce.  The largest and most aggressive feeders will out-compete the others, grow faster, and morph into froglets sooner.  In addition to being cannibalistic, these tadpoles release hormones which chemically suppress the growth of some, ensuring the dominance of others.  Tadpoles that have not been cannibalized will morph into froglets successively, the order determined by their ability to withstand the growth inhibitors and effectively release their own.

In captivity auratus froglets can be raised in groups, and adult D. auratus do well when kept in groups provided there is enough space and cover.  Females can become quite combative during breeding, and need to have the ability to get away from each other between battles (see video).

[1] Daly, J.W.; Garraffo, H. M.; Spande, T. F.Clark, V.C.;Ma, J.; Ziffer, H.; Clover, J.F.; Evidence for an Enantioselective Pumiliotoxin 7-hydroxylase in Dendrobatid Poisn Dart Frogs of the Genus Dendrobates. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2003, 100, 11092-11097 / Richard Auler; Alkaloids of the Poison Dart Frog; The Occurrence, Bioactivity, and Synthesisi of Pumiliotoxins.