Amphibians on Display

Frogs of Colombia


This exhibit showcases a special “morph” or color pattern of a very rare frog, Oophaga histrionica, acquired from the reputable captive breeding facility Tesoros de Colombia. The Garden does not support blackmarket smuggled plants and animals. Always look for a reliable source when buying animals or rare plants; they should be proud of the work they do and willing to show photos of tadpoles or of greenhouses and seedlings.  

The Harlequin poison frog, Oophaga histrionica, is “oophagous” meaning they eat eggs. Mother frogs remain with their tadpoles and regularly deposit unfertilized eggs for the tadpoles to eat. Like several other poison frogs, this species naturally occurs in multiple color patterns called “morphs”. These different morphs tend to occur wherever the range is broken up and subpopulations do not interbreed, for instance on opposite sides of a mountain that gets too cold or a river too wide to cross. The frogs are the same, only the colors vary, like local sports teams. The morph on display is called “Pacasi”. In the wild, these “aposematic” colors help animals remember what made them sick so that they never repeat the mistake of eating a poisonous frog. In captivity, they don’t actually produce toxins as the alkaloids come from beetles, ants, and millipedes in their wild diets. 

This exhibit showcases a slice of life from the forest floor of Colombia, where rotting logs are crucial to the regeneration of the rainforest and incredible biodiversity hides in every corner. It’s easy to miss the tiny details in the grandeur of the Garden’s Tropical Rotunda, so this exhibit brings a similar habitat up to eye level. The most important plants in this display are bromeliads, such as the Guzmania conifera in the left corner. Harlequin poison frogs breed in bromeliads, raising their tadpoles in the little cups of water formed by the leaves. This exhibit also features 6 species of Philodendrons, a genus of climbing plants some of which are popular as houseplants. Philodendrons typically like high humidity and opportunities to climb as in the wild they’re typically found beginning life on the ground, then forming thick-stemmed vines to climb into the trees where they eventually become epiphytic. That being said, there is immense variety within the genus. Look for the hairy stems of Philodendron serpens on the right, the huge leaves of Philodendron rubrijuvenile in the center, and the silvery small leaves of Philodendron brandtianum climbing along the back wall.  

For more information on projects protecting the plants and animals of Colombia, check out the Active Conservation Alliance.

Harlequin poison frog

(Oophaga histrionica )‘Pacasi’ photo by Peter Rockstroh of Tesoros de Colombia