Date of Award

Spring 2013

First Advisor

Ralph Saporito


Poison frogs have the ability to sequester and store alkaloids in their skin as a mechanism of defense against predation. Alkaloids in poison frogs are obtained exclusively from the consumption of alkaloid-containing arthropods. As a result, changes in the environment can potentially harm Oophaga pumilio by altering their source of chemical defense. To date, only two conflicting studies have examined the effects of habitat disturbance on poison frogs chemical defenses. In the present study the effects of habitat disturbance on populations of O. pumilio from Colon and Solarte Islands, Bocas del Toro archipelago in Panama is examined. In addition, an indirect evaluation of the effects of habitat disturbance on arthropod diversity is done. The results of this study suggest that frogs from undisturbed habitats have a higher number and amount of alkaloids than frogs from a disturbed habitats. A comparison between O. pumilio alkaloid profiles from Colon Island and Solarte Island, revealed that frogs from Solarte Island are less toxic than frogs from Colon Island. Overall, Solarte Island had a lower amount and number of alkaloids than Colon Island. This study is another example of the tremendous alkaloid variability within frogs from the same population and between frogs from different populations. Herein, it is shown that the number of mite derived alkaloids increased, while the number of ant derived alkaloids decreased in disturbed sites; suggesting that habitat disturbance changes the composition of alkaloid-containing arthropods and therefore alters O. pumilio chemical defense.


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