Doyle's Dart Den


Volker Ennenbach and Stacy Surla
The Serpent’s Egg
1809 Irving St., NW
Washington, D. C.  20010

The following was published in the ADG Newsletter No. 9  May - June 199 and is used here with the permission of the ADG

Epipedobates tricolor is the type for the genus Epipedobates recently described by Myers (1987) and was originally called Prostherapis tricolor.  The type locality, that is the locality from which the frog was first described by Boulenger (1899), is Porvenir, Ecuador.  It ranges from about 20 to 25 mm snout to vent length.  Epipedobates tricolor is found west of the Andes Mountains from middle elevations (around 600 m) to highlands and cloud forests (elevation about 1,700 m).  It is a ‘cultural follower’ as it adapts well and even thrives in cleared areas around plantations, grassy environs around small steams and in meadows keep wet by irrigation runoff.  It is easy to maintain and is a relentless breeder in captivity.

Description:  Five color variations of E. tricolor are described here from specimens collected from the Rio Girón Valley, the Rio Poyango drainage and the Rio Zapotal drainage, Ecuador.

Rio Girón variety-This is the largest of the E. tricolor variations found.  The habitat in which the frogs is found is around grasses or among bush and scrub around little rivers and springs at an elevation of about 1,700 m in the Rio Girón Valley near Santa Isabel.  This variety has a ground color varying from orange-red to reddish-brown.  The medial stripe is a creamy yellow-white and is always wide enough to be wider than the lighter white interstices between the stripes of the ground color.  Most commonly the ground color is reduced to very thin stripes on the lower part of the dorsum, which gives the frogs a nearly solid yellow-white appearance.  The ventrum is reddish-brown to brown with light blue spots and markings.

Girón Valley variety-This variation occurs in very moist secondary growth at low elevations from about 25 miles west of Santa Isabel in the Girón Valley to below the arid region.  It is a medium-sized variety ranging in length from about 22 to 24 mm.  Its ground color is deep, bright red with narrow stripes which are usually mint-green, but can range to whitish-blue.  The medial stripe is often interrupted and appears as a line of spots.  A number of aberrant specimens have been noted which lack a medial stripe, one specimen lacked both medial and dorsolateral stripes and therefore had a solid red color with only two white spots on the upper eyelids.

Rio Poyango variety-This is the smallest variety of true E. tricolor recognized here.  It occurs in secondary and primary cloud forests at high elevations at Balsas in the Rio Poyango drainage.  It has a dark brown (chocolate brown) ground color with relatively thin green dorsolateral and medial lines.  Both this and the variety from Rio Zapotal share their habitat with other diurnal frogs from the genera Eleutheredactylus and Colostethus.  They are relatively secretive and unlike other varieties immediately stop calling when approached.

Rio Zapotal variety-This broadly stripped variation occurs in secondary and primary cloud forests at high elevations near Moraspunga in the Rio Zapotal drainage.  The lines are broad, solid and grass green in color while the background is a dark brown color.  The ventrum has a "clown pattern" of alternating white and brown spots.

Lower Rio Girón variety-This form occurs in very moist secondary growth at low elevations in the Rio Girón Valley and cannot with certainty be assigned to E. tricolor as it may be E. anthonyi, but frankly we have been unable to distinguish these two species.  The population was not included in the size range above as it is smaller than normal ranging in length from about 16 to 18 mm, they are reddish brown in ground color with light blue stripes or dots and orange flash marks.  They call frequently throughout the day typically from an exposed and elevated place such as a log or large stone.

Care in captivity:  Epipedobates tricolor can be satisfying additions to any collection because of their interesting colors, melodious call, hardiness, bold behavior and propensity to mate.  Since clutch sizes are large for dendrobatids and tadpoles are easy to feed and not cannibalistic it is likely that the hobbyists will have the opportunity to observe the full range of this frogs life cycle.  As with any dendrobatid the terrarium should have a permanent water area and be well planted.  Bromeliads and other water-holding plants will provide places for the males to call and spawning sites for mated pairs.
 Tadpole rearing theories vary from one breeder to the next.  Some advocate removing eggs and culturing "by hand" while other allow all phases to take place in the terrarium.  Whichever approach you take, be aware that newly metamorphosed froglets are fairly small, around 6 mm, and so will do best with small feeder insects, such as springtails, aphids or pinhead crickets, although they may also take small fruit flies.  The froglets grow rapidly, however, and after a few weeks they will not have problems taking fruit flies or termites.

Dendrobatids bred in captivity do not exhibit all the characteristics shown in the wild.  For instance, captive breed offspring do not produce skin toxins.  It has also been noted that wild-born dendrobatids kept in captivity will eventually decreases toxicity over time.  All Epipedobates tricolor breeders know that captive bred tricolor will have narrower stripes and tend towards brown colors, regardless of the coloration of the parents.  Possible explanation for this phenomena are diet, UV light levels, or other environmental triggers - but definitive proof of any of these hypotheses have yet to be made.  Experimentation and information-sharing among breeders can certainly contribute to a broader understanding of these factors.
Boulenger (1899)
Myers, C. W., 1987, New generic names for some neotropical poison frogs (Dendrobatidae).  Pap. Avulsos Zool. (Sao Paulo), 36(25): 301-306.


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