How do I sex Poison Dart Frogs?

Dart frogs, like many frogs, can be difficult to sex based on outward appearance. Sure, we all know males call and females lay eggs, but how can you tell who is who just by looking at them? The following hints and tips are meant to help you in establishing the sex of your anuran pets.

Sexing Dendrobates tinctorius

Dendrobates tinctorius, known as ‘Tincs’ in the trade, are a very common beginner frog. They typically mature at around 12-18 months of age. With most locales in the trade, an educated guess about sex can be made at 8-10 months of age. There are 4 general characteristics that will aid you in sexing Tincs.

    1. Toe pads: Male Dendrobates tinctorius tend to have larger, heart shaped toe pads on their front feet. Females will have much smaller toe pads. This rule is not steadfast, but is more correct than not among Tincs.


Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Cobalt’

      1. Back Arch: As seen in the picture below, Female Tincs tend to have a higher back arch than males when both are viewed side by side. This characteristic is best used when comparing multiple animals to each other, and the frogs are in a relaxed state.

 

Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Patricia’

      1. Size: As a general rule, female Tincs will be larger than their male counterparts. This assumes that feeding, housing, and age are similar.

 

Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Azureus’

      1. Girth: Mature, breeding female Dendrobates tinctorius generally appear swollen or full, because they are carrying eggs. This is much more visible in some females than others. Take note that many frogs in the hobby are obese, which can negate this general rule.

 

Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Bakhuis’

Sexing Dendrobates auratusD. leucomelas, and D. truncatus

Auratus, Leucs, and Truncs are all considered part of the “Tinctorius Group”, and are very closely related to Dendrobates tinctorius. However, sexing them is often more difficult. Generally, by 8-10 months, an experienced keeper can make an educated guess. The older the frogs are, the more apparent their sex – by 2 or 3 years, the differences are often very obvious at first glance. Trucs tend to be pretty difficult to visually sex, regardless of age.

    1. Size: As a general rule, female frogs will be larger than their male counterparts. This assumes that feeding, housing, and age are similar.

Dendrobates auratus ‘Costa Rican Green and Black’

      1. Girth: Mature, breeding females generally appear pear shaped because they are carrying eggs. This can be obvious in some frogs, and much more subtle in others. If the frogs are overweight (a common occurrence in the hobby), it may be more difficult to distinguish between the two sexes.

 

Dendrobates leucomelas ‘British Guyana’

Sexing Phyllobates sp. And Epipedobates sp.

This group includes many popular hobby frogs, such as Phyllobates terribilisP. bicolorP. vittatus, and Epipedobates anthonyi. It can be fairly difficult to sex many of the species in these genus, and often times your best bet is to wait for calling or egg laying. After the animals are sufficiently old enough (typically 1-2 years), it’s possible to make an educated guess on sex based on body shape and size. Having a group of individuals to compare to will greatly aid you in your ability to properly sex the animals.

    1. Size: As a general rule, female frogs will be larger than their male counterparts. This assumes that feeding, housing, and age are similar. Not only are females larger, but they tend to have a wider head, as well. Females also have a more robust, rotund appearance.

 

Phyllobates bicolor ‘Gold’

      1. Girth: Sexually mature females will generally appear wider than males. This can be obvious in some frogs, and much more subtle in others. If the frogs are overweight (a common occurrence in the hobby), it may be much more difficult to distinguish between the two sexes. In my experience, these frogs typically do not develop the ‘pear shape’ evident in many females of other species.

 

Phyllobates vittatus

Sexing Thumbnail Dart Frogs

Thumbnail Dart Frogs are in the genus Ranitomeya. They are so called due to their diminutive adult size, with many species not exceeding the size of a thumbnail. Being so small would lead you to believe that visual sexing would be more difficult. Luckily, this group of frogs tends to reach sexual maturity at a young age (I’ve had R. ventrimaculatasuccessfully breed as young as 4 months, although breeding at 6-8 months is more common), and show sexual dimorphism at an earlier age than other dendrobatids. When visually sexing thumbnails, there is two basic features that stand out.

    1. Appearance of body length: Even though female thumbnails tend to be larger, and longer, often males have a lanky, stretched out appearance. This contrasts greatly to the pear shape of a sexually mature female carrying eggs.

 

Ranitomeya lamasi ‘Standard/Highland’

      1. Size: As a general rule, female Ranitomeya sp. will be larger than their male counterparts. This assumes that feeding, housing, and age are similar. This is especially evident when the frogs are in the 4-6 month range.

 

Ranitomeya ventrimaculata ‘Amazonicus’

Conclusion

Although visually sexing dart frogs is by no means an exact science, by using the presented guidelines along with the experience that will come with time, an experienced dart frog keeper can make accurate predictions on the sex of the animals before they are sexually mature. Most of the time, raising young frogs together in a group will allow for easier selection of pairs (as you have more individuals to compare against each other), as well as presenting a greater chance of getting at least one male and one female.

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