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Poison frogs have distinct personalities that influence reproduction

According to two new studies led by the University of Bern, the poison frog Allobates femoralis, while not possessing the toxicity of some of its relatives, is remarkable for its varied behavioral traits. These frogs appear to have distinct personalities, with individuals exhibiting boldness, aggression, or a tendency to explore. Notably, these character traits are present from an early stage, even in tadpoles. 

Reproductive strategies

Unlike the highly poisonous frogs used by indigenous Colombians for hunting, Allobates femoralis frogs are not venomous. However, they exhibit distinct personality traits, influencing their reproductive strategies. With multiple partners during a reproductive period, the character traits of both males and females play a significant role.

Focus of the study

Previous studies typically focused on the impact of personality on a single aspect of reproductive success. However, the new studies from the University of Bern’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution offer a broader perspective. 

The team examined the effects of different combinations of personality traits on various components of reproductive success, including mating success and the survival of offspring.

Behavioral experiments 

An intriguing aspect of these studies is the discovery that personality traits in Allobates femoralis are already present at the tadpole stage and persist through metamorphosis. This was established through field and laboratory behavioral experiments.

The research team, led by Eva Ringler, a professor at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Bern, studied a wild population of these frogs in French Guiana. This unique environment allowed for a comprehensive understanding of individual behavioral differences and their reproductive success. 

Experiments were also conducted at the Hasli Ethological Research Station of the University of Bern to observe personality trait stability post-metamorphosis.

Important insights

The findings indicate that no single behavioral type ensures reproductive success. Personality traits like boldness, aggression, and explorativeness have varying impacts depending on the context. For instance, males attracting multiple females tended to be either non-aggressive and non-exploratory, or very aggressive and exploratory.

“The two studies demonstrate the importance of considering individual differences in ecological and evolutionary research. They also provide important insights into the mechanisms that both generate animal personality and maintain it over evolutionary time,” Ringler explained. 

The results further suggest that personality traits may have a physiological and/or a genetic basis. “Future studies should investigate the extent to which personality is inherited in poison frogs to better understand how genetic factors may constrain behavioral variation,” she added.

These studies – published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences offer a comprehensive look at how individual behavioral traits can influence reproductive strategies and success, showcasing the complexities of animal behavior and its evolutionary implications.

More about Allobates femoralis

Allobates femoralis, commonly known as the brilliant-thighed poison frog, is a species of frog in the family Aromobatidae. It is found in the Amazon rainforest in South America, particularly in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. This species is known for its striking appearance and unique reproductive behaviors.


Allobates femoralis has a distinctive coloration that varies among individuals and populations. Generally, they exhibit a combination of black, brown, and yellow or orange hues. The most notable feature is the bright coloration on their thighs, which can be yellow, orange, or red. These vibrant colors serve as a warning to predators about their toxicity.

In terms of size, these frogs are relatively small, with adults typically measuring between 2 to 3 centimeters in length. They have a slender build and smooth skin, which is typical for many poison dart frogs.


Allobates femoralis is also known for its unique reproductive behavior. Unlike many other frog species that lay their eggs in water, the females of this species lay their eggs on land, usually in moist leaf litter. 

After the eggs are fertilized, the male takes on the responsibility of guarding them until they hatch. Once the tadpoles emerge, the male carries them on his back to a nearby water source, such as a stream or a pool, where they continue their development into froglets.


In terms of habitat, Allobates femoralis prefers tropical rainforests with high humidity and access to fresh water. They are typically found in lowland forests but can also inhabit secondary forests and disturbed areas.

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