Brightly colored poison frogs of the family Dendrobatidae contain an alkaloid-based chemical defense against predation. The bright coloration of these frogs is generally considered an aposematic signal to potential predators; however, relatively few studies have specifically tested this hypothesis. Herein we report the results of a field-based experiment designed to test the hypothesis of aposematism in the dendrobatid frog, Oophaga ( = Dendrobates) pumilio from the La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica. We used plasticine frog models to evaluate natural predation rates as a function of color. Predation rates on brown models were almost twice that of red models, suggesting that predators avoid brightly colored frog models. Birds accounted for the majority of attacks on the models. The results of this study provide experimental evidence in support of the hypothesis that bright coloration in dendrobatids functions as an aposematic signal to predators.
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Vol. 2007 • No. 4