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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Sexual Conditioning in the Dyeing Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates tinctorius)


Amphibian populations worldwide are currently in decline. One approach to preventing extinction of some of the affected species is to create assurance colonies. These sustainable populations might some day be used to reestablish wild populations. One issue with creating assurance colonies is successful breeding; often difficulties arise when attempting to breed exotic animals in zoological institutions. Sexual conditioning, a form of Pavlovian conditioning, has been shown to improve breeding behavior. In this study the efficacy of sexual conditioning to improve breeding behavior in the dyeing dart frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) was tested. Pairs of frogs were exposed to one of three conditions. In two conditions pairs were trained with a stimulus (a flashing green light) that was either predictive of (experimental) or independent of (active control) exposure to a member of the opposite sex. The third condition was a no-treatment control. After training all three conditions were given five days to interact. Members of the experimental condition showed shorter latencies to a variety of breeding behaviors and produced more eggs than those in the control conditions. The sexual conditioning procedure was successful in increasing breeding behavior in this population of frogs.

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