What is in a name?
Local Amerindians in the Amazon rainforest used toxins from the skin of these frogs to poison the tips of their blow darts, therefore the name poison dart frog.
- Kingdon: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Amphibia
- Order Anura
- Suborder: Neobatrachia
- Family: Dendrobatidae
- Poison dart frogs have bright colorful bodies. Their color is associated with toxicity and alkaloids. It is the skin that contains the poison.
- All species of dendrobatidae family are somewhat toxic. Toxicity varies among species.
- They are aposematic organisms, meaning that their coloration gives warning signal to predators. Another aposematic organism is the larva of the monarch butterfly.
- Depending on their habitat they can be red, green , blue, yellow, copper, gold or black, or a combination of colors; solid or patterned.
- Poison dart frogs raised in captivity do not develop toxicity.
- Their toxicity comes from the chemicals in their prey which collects in the glands of their skin.
- Males are the same size as females.
Distribution and Habitat
- The poison dart frog, a species of the dendrobatidae family, is native to Central and South America.
- These amphibians live in tropical and subtropical, humid environments near sources of water.
- Their distribution extends through the tropical rainforests of Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, Brazil, Guiana, Panama, French Guyana and Nicaragua.
- The poison dart frog is an introduced species in Hawaii.
Size and length
- Length varies depending on the species. The smallest are 0.59 inches or 1.5 centimeters and the largest 2.4 inches or 6 centimeters in length.
- They weight 1 oz on average.
- Poison dart frogs are diurnal animals. They are more active in the morning.
- Males and females make very good parents.
- They are territorial animals and they can be aggressive when it comes to defending their territory.
- They make loud vocalizations to attract females.
- These amphibians are carnivores. They feed on spiders, ants, termites and flies. They sequester toxins from their prey in the glands of their skin.
- They use their long sticky tongues to eat their prey.
- When in captivity they eat crickets and fruit flies and do not develop the toxicity in their skin as when in the wild.
- Habitat loss due to farming and logging. Poisoning of sources of water due to mining.
- Chytrid disease is a parasite that attacks poison dart frogs.
- Males attract females by making loud vocalizations.
- Females lay eggs on leaves, roots or the forest floor. The eggs are protected by a gelatinous substance.
- The male fertilizes the eggs externally, just like fish do.
- It takes two weeks for the tadpoles to hatch.
- The male carries the tadpoles on their sticky backs to the forest canopy where they are fed small invertebrates.
- It takes about 3 months for tadpoles to develop into small frogs. They develop hind legs first and then front legs, then their tails get absorbed and they are ready to walk on land.
- Because of their toxicity the poison dart frog has one natural predator, the snake Leimadophis epinephelus have developed immunity to their venom.
- About 10 to 15 years in captivity.
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the poison dart frog as “least concern” because it its widely distributed in its range and has a healthy population growth.
- There are more than 175 discovered species of poison dart frogs
- The most toxic species is the Phyllobates terribilis or golden poison frog. It has enough venom to kill 10 to 20 men.
- Chemicals from their skin may have medicinal value.
- Their poison can cause nausea, swelling, paralysis and in the worst case death.
References and further research