Top 10 Dart Frog Facts

Written by on January 7, 2015 in Introduction with 0 Comments
A male 'thumbnail' dart frog, Ranitomeya imitator, carrying two tadpoles. Photo: Lee Hancock

Poison Dart frogs are among the most amazing, highly adapted animals on the planet.  Most people’s image of a frog is of a green, semi-aquatic animal with webbed feet, that typically hides away during the day and lays hundreds of eggs in ponds.  Poison Dart frogs break all these rules!

Here’s a top ten list of why they are so amazing;

1. Poison:

The Golden Dart frog, Phyllobates terribilis, is the most poisonous animal on Earth.  Its poison is 500 times more potent than cyanide and one frog can produce enough toxin to kill 10 grown men.

2. Size:

They can be as small as your thumbnail and no bigger than about 2 inches (50mm) in length, yet can live 15 to 20 years or more.

3. Types:

There are over 170 species of poison frogs belonging to 8 groups, all being members of the Dendrobatidae family.  Three of the Phyllobates are deadly to humans.

4. Parenting:

Small clutches of about 10 eggs are typically laid on damp leaves, which the males then guard.  Males then carry the tadpoles on their back to find water.  Some females feed these cannibalistic tadpoles unfertilized eggs.

5. Colors:

Bright skin colors from cobalt blue to strawberry red warn predators of their poison.  Many species come in multiple patterns and colors, with the Strawberry Dart frog, Oophaga pumilio, being one of the most polymorphic animals in the world.

6. Habitat:

Poison frogs live in the rainforests of Central and South America, from Costa Rica to Peru.  Many are listed as endangered species, either because they are found in isolated colonies or due to habitat destruction.

7. Captivity:

Amazingly they lose their toxicity in captivity, making them a popular choice for hobbyists.   A wide variety of captive bred frogs are available within the hobby.

8. Hunting:

Indigenous Columbian hunters traditionally tipped blowgun darts with poison from the 3 deadly Phyllobates, giving the whole family their popular name – ‘poison dart frogs’ or ‘dart frogs’. The name ‘poison arrow frog’ is therefore incorrect.

9. Behavior:

Unlike most tropical frogs which are only active at night for fear of predators, poison frogs’ skin toxins and warning coloration allow them to be diurnal.  This results in fascinating daytime behavior, with some species spending their time on the forest floor hunting through leaf litter, whereas others are great climbers.

10. Swimming:

They don’t have webbed feet, making them very bad swimmers and can easily drown.  Many species like to hangout in the miniature ponds created by bromeliad plants and will even raise their tadpoles here.

 

Photo CreditLee Hancock

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