This species occurs in the humid lowlands from southeastern Nicaragua on the Atlantic slope and southeastern Costa Rica on the Pacific versant to northwestern Colombia (Golfo de Uraba on the Caribbean coast and the lower Atrato River drainage and Bahia Solano on the Pacific coast) (sea level up to 1,000m asl). In 1932, 206 specimens of D. auratus from Taboga or Taboguilla Islands, Panama were released in the upper Manoa Valley, Oahu, Hawaii in an attempt to control non-native insects (Silverstone, 1975; McKeown, 1996). A few feral populations of D. auratus descended from these animals still persist in the mountains and valleys of Oahu.
Habitat and Ecology
It is an arboreal and terrestrial diurnal species of humid lowland and submontane forest. It is also found in dense secondary growth and cocoa plantations (Kitasako, 1967). The adults are often associated large buttressed trees. Males are essentially non-territorial, but occasionally engage in aggressive competition (Wells, 1978). The species is polygynous; females actively compete for males and attempt to guard their mate from others. The species shows a high degree of paternal care. After oviposition upon leaf-litter the male guards and cares for the clutch of three to 13 eggs (Silverstone, 1975; Schafer, 1981; Heselhaus, 1992). On hatching (13-16 days in captivity) the tadpoles are carried by the male to a stagnant water body in a tree-hole, the leaf axil of a bromeliad (up to 30m from the forest floor), or a small ground pool (Eaton, 1941; van Wijngaarden, 1990). Wild tadpoles feed on protozoans and rotifers, and metamorphose after 39-89 days; in captivity, sexual maturity is attained at between six and 15 months (Eaton, 1941; Silverstone, 1975; Summers, 1990; Zimmermann and Zimmermann, 1994). A reduction in the number of egg clutches and tadpoles maintained by the male results in a more rapid development of the eggs and higher growth rate of tadpoles (Wells, 1978; Summers, 1990). Longevity of at least six years reported in captivity (Zimmermann and Zimmermann, 1994).
This is an abundant species that is often seen and regularly recorded throughout its range. There is great geographic variation in the appearance of this species; over 15 distinct colour morphs of wild D. auratus have been recorded. (Heselhaus, 1992). The blue morph of D. auratus present on the Pacific side of Panama is believed to be threatened with extinction (Heselhaus, 1992).
There is a general loss of suitably wooded areas and collection for the international pet trade. Owing to the apparently low fecundity of this species, the possibility exists that over harvesting, especially in the more rare morphs, might contribute to localized population declines. Approximately 18,500 specimens of D. auratus were reported in trade over the period 1991 to 1996. The great majority of specimens were live animals, exported from Nicaragua, and presumably destined for the herpetological pet market. The USA was by far the largest single importer of D. auratus (about 15,000 animals in total) during this period. It is believed that the trade in Nicaragua was decreasing by 2002 because of over collection. McKeown (1996) states that populations on Oahu are highly sensitive to destruction of their habitat and over collection. Museum specimens of this species have been found to have chytrid fungi, the current impact of this pathogen on D. auratus is not known.
This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES, and the species occurs within many protected areas. Within Colombia, Decree INDERENA No. 39 of 9 July, 1985, forbids the collection of Dendrobates spp. from the wild for breeding (or other) purposes. Nicaragua has established CITES export quotas for this species.
Solís, F., Ibáñez, R., Jaramillo, C., Chaves, G., Savage, J., Köhler, G., Jungfer, K., Bolívar, W. & Bolaños, F. 2008. Dendrobates auratus. In: IUCN 2014