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Animal Database
Animal Database
Dyeing Dart Frog
Dendrobates tinctorius captive FWZ-9662 high res
Common Name Dyeing Poison Frog
Range eastern portion of the Guiana Shield, including parts of Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, and nearly all of French Guiana.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Amphibia
Order Anura
Family Dendrobatidae
Genus Dendrobates
Species Dendrobates tinctorius
Conservation Status
Least Concern

The Dyeing dart frog, (a nickname given by those in the hobby of keeping dart frogs) or dyeing poison frog (Dendrobates tinctorius), is a species of frog in the Dendrobatidae family. It is among the largest species, reaching lengths of 50 mm (2.0 in). This species is distributed throughout the eastern portion of the Guiana Shield, including parts of Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, and nearly all of French Guiana.


The dyeing poison dart frog is large for a poison dart frog, but may be smaller than Phyllobates terribilis and Ameerega trivittata. Many small forms of Dendrobates tinctorius reach 3.5 cm long; most morphs are around 5 cm in length or slightly bigger; some of the larger morphs may exceed 7 cm, although large ones are usually closer to 5.5 cm long. For some time, captive individuals were thought to be incapable of reaching the sizes of wild specimens; however, later evidence suggested captive individuals do not reach their maximum potential size possibly due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. More recently, breeders have had success raising dyeing poison dart frogs to very large sizes.

Dendrobates tinctorius is one of the most variable of all poison dart frogs. Typically, the body is primarily black, with an irregular pattern of yellow or white stripes running along the back, flanks, chest, head, and belly. In some morphs, however, the body may be primarily blue (as in the "azureus" morph, formerly treated as a separate species), primarily yellow, or primarily white. The legs range from pale blue, sky blue or blue-gray to royal blue, cobalt blue, navy blue, or royal purple and are typically peppered with small black dots. The "Matecho" morph is almost entirely yellow and with some black, with only a few specks of white on the toes. Another unique morph, the citronella morph, is primarily golden yellow with tiny splotches of black on its belly and royal blue legs that have no black dots.

Males are typically smaller and more slender than females, but they have larger toe discs. The toe discs of female dyeing poison dart frogs are circular while those of the males are heart-shaped. Also the females have arched backs as opposed to males who have curved ones.


It exists in discrete patches throughout this region, being restricted to "highland" (up to 350 m (1,150 ft) areas. While this species can be found at sea level, individuals have been collected at the base of nearby hills or mountains. The isolation of populations has presumably occurred as a result of the erosion of these highland areas and the seasonal inundation of the inter-patch areas.


Like most species of the genus Dendrobates, Dendrobates tinctorius is highly toxic if consumed. It produces pumiliotoxins which the frog uses for self-defense. While pumiliotoxins are weaker than their derivative allopumiliotoxins and the batrachotoxins secreted by Phyllobates species, they are sufficiently toxic to discourage most animals from feeding on them. In the case of Dendrobates tinctorius, the toxins cause pain, cramping, and stiffness when the frogs are handled roughly. Due to the toxins of the frogs, animals that feed on Dendrobates tinctorius will typically learn to associate the bright colors of such frogs with the vile taste and pain that occurs after a frog is ingested. As it is such a variable species, different color morphs of Dendrobates tinctorius have varying degrees of toxicity.

Local tribes use Dendrobates tinctorius for decoration. Feathers are plucked from the back of young parrots and the frogs are rubbed on the parrots' exposed skin. When the feathers regrow, the toxin causes them to appear yellow or red rather than green. These altered feathers are highly prized by the indigenous tribes.


The species encompasses a great diversity of color and patterning variants (subspecies and morphs). Some batrachologists suspect that some of these are actually different species.