Ontogenetic Scaling of Poison Glands in Dendrobates Pumilio Honors Thesis

(2000). Ontogenetic Scaling of Poison Glands in Dendrobates Pumilio .


  • Saporito, Ralph

honors thesis advisor


  • The relationship between granular (poison) gland size and density was examined in an ontogenetic series of the strawberry dart-poison frog, Dendrobates pumilio. Specimens used in this study were collected from the La Selva Biological Station in northeastern Costa Rica. Patches of skin from the dorsal surface of seven frogs, ranging in size from 11 to 23 mm snout-vent length (SVL), were fixed and embedded in paraffin for histological sectioning. Poison gland size and density were quantified microscopically in these sections. Poison glands are uniformly distributed across the skin and mean poison gland diameter increases at a rate faster than snout-vent length from 42.5 at SVL 11mm to 120.0 at SVL 23 mm. Conversely, gland density decreases with body size from 71.9 glands/mm2 to 33.2 glands/mm2 • Due to the positive allometric growth of the poison glands, the percentage of skin surface occupied by poison glands increases from 10.1-22.1% in small frogs (SVL<18 >mm) to 50.0-65.2% in large frogs (SVL>19MM), resulting in more toxin per mm2 in the larger animals. The largest increase in toxicity is correlated temporally with the onset of sexual maturity rather than with changes in aposematic coloring.

publication date

  • January 1, 2000