Among vertebrates, comparable spatial learning abilities have been found in birds, mammals, turtles and fishes, but virtually nothing is known about such abilities in amphibians. Overall, amphibians are the most sedentary vertebrates, but poison frogs (Dendrobatidae) routinely shuttle tadpoles from terrestrial territories to dispersed aquatic deposition sites. We hypothesize that dendrobatid frogs rely on learning for flexible navigation. We tested the role of experience with the local cues for poison frog way-finding by (i) experimentally displacing territorial males of Allobates femoralis over several hundred metres, (ii) using a harmonic direction finder with miniature transponders to track these small frogs, and (iii) using a natural river barrier to separate the translocated frogs from any familiar landmarks. We found that homeward orientation was disrupted by the translocation to the unfamiliar area but frogs translocated over similar distances in their local area showed significant homeward orientation and returned to their territories via a direct path. We suggest that poison frogs rely on spatial learning for way-finding in their local area.
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