The Kokoe Poison Dart Frog
Auro; from Latin for gold or gold overlay, taenia; Latin for ribbion or band. Very appropriate!
P. aurotaenia is found in primary and secondary lowland rainforest on the western slopes of the Cordillera Occidental in Colombia, along the Río San Juan drainage south to the Río Raposo, and in Choco and Valle del Cauca Departments, at elevations of between 90 and 1,000 meters (approx. 300 to over 3300 ft).
P. aurotaenia measures 1.26 to 1.38 in. (32-35 mm), females typically being slightly larger and fuller-bodied than the males. It is jet black with a brilliant, metallic U-shaped pattern on its dorsum, the bottom of the U being at the snout. This pattern ranges in color from brilliant lime green to bright orange. The legs and ventral area are also black with bright blue speckles. In some specimens there are blue flecks on the dorsum as well. Interestingly, the young of both P. terribilis and P. bicolor have the very similar coloration (minus the ventral flecking), however; with maturity the pattern color eventually fills in to become the over-all coloration for these two species.
There is a population of orange P. aurotaenia that is somewhat larger than the other populations, and the area on the dorsum inside the “U” is somewhat filled in. Speculation suggests that this could be an extant population of aurotaenia that has naturally hybridized with P. bicolor, which is found at higher elevations.
P. aurotaena is a truly stunning animal when seen in real life. I have seen few photographs that do it justice. Additionally, the males have a beautiful bird-like call – a it softer than that of P. terribilis and P. bicolor.
Of the three most poisonous Dendrobatids, P. aurotaenia is the smallest and ties for 2nd most toxic with P. bicolor. Both secrete batrachotoxins potent enough to kill large animals as well as humans.
P. aurotaenia is listed by the ICUN as NT (Near Threatened).