To provide a developmental correlate with other frogs, we prepared a normal table of development for the dendrobatid, Colostethus machalilla and analyzed the morphology of its early development. This frog reproduces in captivity and deposits moderately sized eggs (1.6 mm in diameter) in terrestrial nests. The father guards the embryos until tadpole hatching. We divided development until hatching into 25 stages and implemented methods for in vitro culture of the embryos. The external and internal morphology of embryos were evaluated by observations in whole mount and in sections. Neural, notochord and somite specific antibodies were used to analyze gene expression patterns by immunostaining of embryos. Embryonic development of C. machalilla is slow and deviates from Xenopus laevis. In C. machalilla the elongation of the notochord, neural plate and somite formation occur after blastopore closure, possibly due to a delay in the dorsal convergence and extension movements. The gastrula of C. machalilla also deviates from X. laevis. The archenteron remains small until blastopore closure, where small cells accumulate at the blastopore lips. Simultaneously, the blastocoel roof thins until it becomes a monolayer of cells. Although C. machalilla does not form an embryonic disk, its thick blastopore lips resemble the embryonic disk of the marsupial frog Gastrotheca riobambae and represent an interesting deviation from the gastrulation pattern observed in X. laevis.