AppearanceThe dyeing poison dart frog is large for a poison dart frog, but may be smaller than ''Phyllobates terribilis'' and ''Ameerega trivittata''. Many small forms of ''D. tinctorius'' reach 3.5 cm long; most morphs are around 5 cm in length or slightly bigger; some of the larger morphs may exceed 7 cm, although large ones are usually closer to 5.5 cm long. For some time, captive individuals were thought to be incapable of reaching the sizes of wild specimens; however, later evidence suggested captive individuals do not reach their maximum potential size possibly due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. More recently, breeders have had success raising dyeing poison dart frogs to very large sizes.
''Dendrobates tinctorius'' is one of the most variable of all poison dart frogs. Typically, the body is primarily black, with an irregular pattern of yellow or white stripes running along the back, flanks, chest, head, and belly. In some morphs, however, the body may be primarily blue , primarily yellow, or primarily white. The legs range from pale blue, sky blue or blue-gray to royal blue, cobalt blue, navy blue, or royal purple and are typically peppered with small black dots. The "Matecho" morph is almost entirely yellow and with some black, with only a few specks of white on the toes. Another unique morph, the citronella morph, is primarily golden yellow with tiny splotches of black on its belly and royal blue legs that have no black dots.
Males are typically smaller and more slender than females, but they have larger toe discs. The toe discs of female dyeing poison dart frogs are circular while those of the males are heart-shaped. Also the females have arched backs as opposed to males who have curved ones.
NamingThe specific name ''tinctorius'' comes, however, not from the variety of colors, but from the legends of some indigenous tribes. It has been said that tribe members used the frog poisons to cause green parrot feathers to grow different colors.
DistributionIt exists in discrete patches throughout this region, being restricted to "highland" ) areas. While this species can be found at sea level, individuals have been collected at the base of nearby hills or mountains. The isolation of populations has presumably occurred as a result of the erosion of these highland areas and the seasonal inundation of the inter-patch areas.
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