Spatial and temporal patterns of alkaloid variation in the poison frog Oophaga pumilio in Costa Rica and Panama over 30 years

Toxicon. 2007 Nov;50(6):757-78. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2007.06.022. Epub 2007 Jul 4.


A total of 232 alkaloids, representing 21 structural classes were detected in skin extracts from the dendrobatid poison frog Oophaga pumilio, collected from 53 different populations from over 30 years of research. The highly toxic pumiliotoxins and allopumiliotoxins, along with 5,8-disubstitiuted and 5,6,8-trisubstituted indolizidines, all of which are proposed to be of dietary mite origin, were common constituents in most extracts. One decahydroquinoline (DHQ), previously shown be of ant origin, occurred in many extracts often as a major alkaloid, while other DHQs occurred rather infrequently. Histrionicotoxins, thought to be of ant origin, did not appear to possess a specific pattern of occurrence among the populations, but when present, were usually found as major components. Certain 3,5-disubstituted pyrrolizidines and indolizidines, known to be of ant origin, did occur in extracts, but infrequently. Alkaloid composition differed with regard to geographic location of frog populations, and for populations that were sampled two or more times during the 30-year period significant changes in alkaloid profiles sometimes occurred. The results of this study indicate that chemical defense in a dendrobatid poison frog is dependent on geographic location and habitat type, which presumably controls the abundance and nature of alkaloid-containing arthropods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / chemistry*
  • Amphibian Venoms / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Ants / metabolism
  • Anura / physiology*
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Costa Rica
  • Ecosystem*
  • Geography
  • Mites / metabolism
  • Molecular Structure
  • Panama
  • Poisons / chemistry*
  • Skin / chemistry
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Extracts / chemistry


  • Alkaloids
  • Amphibian Venoms
  • Poisons
  • Tissue Extracts