What in the world is a Kokoe-Pa?

Published February 15, 2012

The Kokoe-Pa poison dart frog (also called the harlequin poison dart frog) has become a rarity in captive collections. For the past several years, we have maintained one female (wild caught and arriving at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, in 2001 as a USFWS confiscation) and a male that was born here in 2002.

These frogs are particularly difficult to successfully reproduce, as the tadpoles are obligate egg feeders. After a clutch of eggs are laid, the parents move each tadpole to its own small reservoir of water, usually within a bromeliad plant. The female frog will then return every other day or so to lay unfertilized eggs into the water for the tadpole to feed upon.

Research on other obligate egg-feeding dart frogs suggests that mother frogs may recognize their own tadpoles by specific "begging" behaviors during the process.

In 2005 and 2009, we had egg-laying episodes that, unfortunately, did not result in thriving viable young. Our herpetologists have paid particular attention to this species, closely monitoring their enclosure temperature, food supply, supplementation, and use of artificial bromeliads (which tend to decompose and fall apart just before the tadpoles have completed their development and metamorphosed into small froglets).

This year we are happy to report that a 2011 egg-laying event has produced at least two offspring that have hit the 3-month-old mark! They look spectacular and appear to be thriving.

The Kokoe-Pa are housed in a special off-exhibit enclosure while we work on all the details of their husbandry.

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