Are Red Frogs Poisonous?

I hold a certificate in Master Herpetology and have learned a lot about frog and toad species during my studies for school.

When I found a russet-coloured American toad as a kid, I was worried if it was toxic or not.

With all my studies behind me, I can now confidently name which red-coloured frogs are poisonous or not:

Red frogs that are poisonous include the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, Cane Toad, and Red backed Poison Frog of South America, as well as the American Toad of North America. Non-poisonous red frogs include the Tomato Frog of Madagascar, and the Common Frog of Europe and Asia.

This article will discuss the color red in frogs. It is a common belief and fear that any brightly colored frog is poisonous.

For this article we will talk about frogs with red colorations, patterns, or morphs. We will discuss about why some red frogs are poisonous and why some are not.

I have created tables of toxic and non-toxic red-colored frogs and locations in the world for comparison and easy comprehension. 

Some Poisonous Frogs Are Red

Some frogs are colored red to show their toxicity, while others may want to blend into leaf litter in their environment.

Some frogs may be red to show that they shouldn’t be eaten or messed with. The coloration acts as a predator deterrent. 

The following frog species contain poisonous red-coloured frogs:

  • Strawberry poison frog of Costa Rica and Panama 
  • Red backed poison frog of Northern South America 
  • American Toad of North America
  • Poison dart frog of South America 
  • Cane Toad of South America
  • Reticulated Poison Frog of South America

Poisonous frogs that are red typically want to be bright so they can be seen instead of camouflaging into their environment.

This coloration is a defense mechanism against potential predators. The red color is easy to be seen and avoided. 

However, one singular species may have several subspecies of different locales and regions.

These subspecies and populations can display color morphs that differ from one another while still being the same type of frog.

Their red may be more or less bright, raining from bright tomato red to a deep russet or maroon with brown undertones.

Henga et al. (2012) describe the strawberry poison frog of Central America as having around 15 different color morphs across the species. Their colors range from reddish to yellow, green, and blue, among several other color morphs.

The popular pet Pacman Frog also displays several different color morphs as a result of selective breeding.

So although a frog may not be red, it could still be related to one of the above toxic species.

Some Red Frogs Are Not Poisonous

Some people who come across frogs in the wild may instinctively think they are poisonous.

We have made a table of common frogs people may see, in the wild or in human care, that are either red-colored or have red-colored morphs.

These are non-poisonous red, russet, or maroon frogs:

Species Poisonous Region
Pacman FrogNoSouth America 
Tomato FrogNoMadagascar 
Southern Cricket Frog No Southern United States 
Sand Frog NoAustralia 

The frogs that will be provided in the following list are non-poisonous frog species that contain the color red. Their red may occur as a subspecies, pattern, or eye color.

These red frog species will not secrete a toxin over their skin:

  • Mahogany Treefrog of Central America 
  • Northern Red-Legged Frog of the united States Pacific Coast
  • Red-Eyed Tree Frog of Southern Mexico through Central America into South America
  • Common Frog of Europe and Asia 
  • Sunset Frog of Australia 

All the species provided in the table and lists above are merely examples of frog species from all over the world that can be red or have a red morph.

There are countless other species and morphs that can be red, brightly colored, or patterned.  

Color is Not Always an Indication of Poison

Frogs exist all across the world in many different environments and habitats. These habitats may contribute to the color they display to other species.

The toxicity level of the frog may also contribute to their color. Frogs can come in an assortment of colors, from greens to browns, to reds and yellows and blues. 

Some frogs are colored brown, gray, black, or brown to camouflage into their environment.

Their inconspicuous colorations allow them to stay hidden from potential threats, mostly predators

Brightly colored frogs stand out against their environments. This is mostly for the purpose of telling their predators that they are toxic and distasteful.

Some frogs may mimic these frogs and display bright colors when they are not toxic to fool predators into thinking they should not be eaten. 

Overall, there is nothing to worry about if you come across a red frog. Most of them are non-toxic or harmless to humans.

Sources

Global amphibian assessment. IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.iucn-amphibians.org/red-listing/global-amphibian-assessment/ 

Hegna, R. H., Saporito, R. A., & Donnelly, M. A. (1970, January 1). Not all colors are equal: Predation and color polytypism in the aposematic poison frog oophaga pumilio. DSpace Home. Retrieved from https://repository.si.edu/handle/10088/21032 Maan, M. E., & Cummings, M. E. (2012, January). Poison Frog Colors Are Honest Signals of Toxicity, Particularly for Bird Predators. The University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/663197?cookieSet=1

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.