*December 2022 update: We aren't working with this morph and have no plans to breed it in the future. We'll keep this blog article available as a resource to inform and educate.
Every now and then, a particular frog comes along that catches me by surprise. I consider myself a bit of a Dendrobates leucomelas aficionado, having bred most of the known lines and morphs available in the United States dart frog hobby, and was caught by surprise when I saw Sean Stewart offering 'Blue Foot Leucomelas', imported from Europe, on a popular dart frog forum in mid 2011. These animals were a gorgeous yellow-green hue, with bright blue feet. They also had a bit more black than the standard leucs available in the hobby. I managed to get 4 out of the 20 imported, and received them a few days later.
While the 4 I received were not quite as breathtaking as the image displayed on the sale post, they were certainly beautiful little dart frogs. Based on size, I'd guess they were about 3-5 months old. I housed them in a sterilite container for 3 months while I observed them for any visible issues. During this time, I did a bit of research on this unusual morph of Dendrobates leucomelas. Contrary to some earlier (and unfounded) claims that these animals were auratus x leucomelas hybrids, blue foot leucs (known in Europe as 'Green Foot Leucs' or 'Cerro Autana') are actually a locale specific morph from the Cerro Autana region of Venezuela. Also know as Autana Mountain, it is located at the western portion of the Guiana Shield near the Colombian border. This form of leucomelas is reportedly found around the base of the mountain.
After quarantine, the blue foot leucs were introduced into a 24x18x24 naturalistic vivarium, specifically built just for them. After they were given time to settle in, I began to spend a bit of time observing the animals, as I was interested in how they compare to other varieties of leucs. Blue foot leucs seem to be a bit smaller and more shy then most other types of leucs, although they are not quite as shy as my breeding group of Dendrobates leucomelas 'Banded'. Over 2 years after they had been introduced into their vivarium, I found a clutch of eggs! Up to that point, I had wondered if I had 4 females based on a lack of calling and eggs. Visually, it looked like I had 2 males and 2 females, and it was possible that I hadn't noticed calling (there are a couple dozen other bumble bee dart frogs in the room making a racket!), so I was greatly relieved when eggs were discovered.
Blue foot leucs seem to lay relatively small clutches (mostly 2-3 eggs, even though the first clutch consisted of 7!), and lay less frequently than any other morph of Dendrobates leucomelas I've worked with before. Since then, I find a clutch of eggs every 2-3 weeks, always laid on a petri dish underneath a coconut hut. Tadpoles seem identical to other leucs, and took about 10 weeks to morph at my frog room temperatures (72-75F, with a 5 degree temperature drop at night during the winter).
This morning, I found the first two blue foot leucomelas froglets out of the water! I've been able to keep track of where some of the original imports went, and know at least 7 out of the 20 are deceased, and have reason to believe less than 10 animals from the original import are still alive and doing well. That means just these 2 new froglets increases the population in the United States by about 20%! Josh's Frogs will continue to work to establish this exciting and unique morph of Dendrobates leucomelas in the hobby. Watch www.JoshsFrogs.com to see when some are available!