Coloration in the polymorphic frog Oophaga pumilio associates with level of aggressiveness in intraspecific and interspecific behavioral interactions

Document Type


Publication Date



© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Intraspecific morphological variation may correspond to behavioral variation that helps determine the nature of species interactions. Color variation among populations of variably toxic organisms has been shown to associate with alternative anti-predator behaviors. However, the effects of these alternative behavioral tendencies on the outcomes of interspecific interactions other than predator–prey remain largely unexplored. We investigated how coloration and body size variation in Oophaga pumilio, one of the most phenotypically diverse amphibians known, associated with territorial aggressiveness and how this association influenced the outcome of agonistic male–male interactions with conspecifics and heterospecifics of two sympatric species (Andinobates claudiae and Phyllobates lugubris). Irrespective of body size, resident frogs from more conspicuous, red-colored O. pumilio populations responded to same-morph conspecifics and P. lugubris more quickly and exhibited more aggressive behaviors and more energetically expensive behaviors than resident frogs from green populations under these same treatments. Furthermore, red-colored resident frogs dominated most of the interactions in which they were involved, whereas green residents dominated only a few of the interactions, despite their status as residents. Because conspecific and heterospecific intruders did not behave more aggressively toward red resident frogs, aggressiveness of red residents does not appear to be a response to higher aggression being directed toward them. These results suggest that coloration in O. pumilio is a good indicator of aggressiveness that associates with the outcome of intraspecific and some interspecific behavioral male–male interactions, providing support for a positive association among anti-predator traits, agonistic behavior, and dominance in both intraspecific and interspecific, intraguild interactions.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.