The blue poison dart frog (Dendrobatus azureus) is bright blue but was only discovered in 1968 in South America. It is also known by its local name of Okopipi. The blue poison dart frog is poisonous in the wild but loses its venom in captivity. Close relatives are used by Amazonian Indians to make a poison for their blowpipe darts. A successful captive breeding program has helped protect the species in the wild, but it is still one of the rarest and most threatened of the poison dart frogs.
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The blue poison dart frog is bright, cobalt or sapphire blue with black and occasionally white mottles. It grows to be about two inches long and has a characteristic hunched back. The feet have four unwebbed toes with suction pads on the ends. Females are slightly larger and plumper than males. Their skin contains poisonous alkaloids.
The species is found in patches of relictual rainforest surrounded by grasslands in the Sipaliwini savannah area of southern Suriname and Brazil. It is thought to have become trapped in these areas as the original forest turned to grassland during the last ice age. Within the forest the blue poison dart frog is found on the forest floor. It frequents damp areas close to streams but is a poor swimmer and is never found in the water.
Adult frogs are active during the day and the males are aggressive towards each other, defending small territories. Males and females can make a soft calling noise and males have been know to wrestle over territories. Females lay a small batch of up to 10 eggs in damp moss or under a log. The male then defends the eggs and keeps them moist with urine. When the eggs hatch he carries the tadpoles to a pool of water on his back. The female lays unfertilised eggs in this pool to feed her brood.
Blue poison dart frogs eat mainly insects such as beetles, termites, caterpillars and especially ants, although they will also eat spiders and arthropods such as woodlice. The poisonous alkaloids in their skin are absorbed from ants. In captivity the frogs eat mainly crickets and fruit flies and lose their toxicity.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore is leading an initiative to create a self sustaining captive population of blue poison dart frogs to prevent any further collection of wild frogs for the pet trade. They should be kept in pairs in a heavily planted terrarium no smaller than 10 gallons and misted daily with rainwater or aged tap water to maintain humidity. Blue poison dart frogs are regarded as among the easiest poison dart frogs to keep in captivity but may fight if more than two are kept in a single tank.
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