Around 2004, a poison dart frog resembling the polka dot poison dart frog Oophaga arborea was smuggled into the European pet trade. The striking animal had yellow dots characteristic of the species and caused a sensation. Part of the excitement is because Oophaga arborea is a critically endangered species is from a very small known distribution where it inhabits bromeliads in the tree canopies. It was thought to be common in the 1980’s but may have declined due to chytridiomycosis. According to the IUCN redlist it was last seen in 2012, but was possibly heard from the Fortuna forest reserve more recently. Could this animal indicate that the polka dot poison dart frog survived the amphibian chytrid epidemic?
In June 2022, a population of frogs with yellow spots resembling the polka dot poison frog was discovered in Veraguas, outside the known distribution of the polka dot frog. The researchers collected a few specimens and analyzed them genetically where they most closely matched Vicente’s poison frog Oophaga vicentei. These dart frogs are known to be highly polymorphic, coming in slate gray, metallic blue, yellow or brick red with mottling. The yellow polka dot version, however, has now been confirmed to be Vicente’s poison dart frog as opposed to strawberry poison dart frogs Oophaga pumilio, or Oophaga arborea. Vicente’s poison dart frogs are listed by the IUCN as an endangered species, they can be locally abundant in places they are found and are known from a small area in Panama.
The paper was published in the journal Salamandra: Monteiro JPC, Ibáñez, R, Mantzana-Oikonomaki, V., Pröhl, H., Rodríguez, A. (2023) Genetic diversity of Oophaga vicentei (Anura: Dendrobatidae) and taxonomic position of a remarkable color morph from Panama. Salamandra 59 (4): 347-351