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What Color Are Poisonous Frogs?

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

I love to educate people about these cool species, especially toads and frogs of all kinds!

I used to have a poisonous pet toad named Toady as a kid!

The majority of poisonous frogs display bright colors that stand out in natural-colored environments, such as reds, blues, and yellows. All toads are poisonous and can be shades of brown, grey, or russet. 

This article will expand on the topic about poisonous frogs and their colors.

We will discuss what colors poisonous frogs tend to display and what purposes the colors have in the wild.

We will talk about what mimicry is among animal species and touch on toad colors.

By the end of this article, you will be able to understand the colors of frog species and their many purposes in their wild environments of the world.  

Poisonous Frogs Come in All Colors

Animals may come in a variety of natural colors that may be beneficial to survival in that particular environment.

Frogs come in a higher variety of colors that serves different purposes.

Frogs can be green, brown, gray, red, blue, yellow, black, a mixture of multiple colors, or something different entirely. 

Frogs from different locations in the world can display similar or opposite colors, depending on what the color does for them in the wild.

Wild frogs main purpose in life is to survive and reproduce, so every adaptation and aspect of the animal should help with those goals.

The color of the frog will help it survive and reproduce in some way. 

Poisonous frogs may be black, brown, green, or other color that would help it blend into its environment.

Blending into an environment so it is hardly seen is called camouflage.

Frogs using camouflage may resemble leaves, branches, moss, rocks and pebbles, or other natural aspects of their environment. 

Many poisonous frogs are brightly colored.

These colors come in reds, blues, goldens, oranges, and some others as well.

Frogs with these colorations are able to stand out in their environments instead of blending in. 

Why Are Poisonous Frogs Brightly Colored? 

The main purpose for a frog to display a bright color that will stand out in their environment is to let predators know they are poisonous.

These bright colors are intended to protect themselves from predators that would want to kill them.

They act as natural warning signals to animals higher in the food chain. 

Generally, the poisonous frogs are variations of reds, blues, and yellows.

These colors are antipredator colors as they warn predators that they are toxic. There have been correlations between toxicity and bright color among frogs. 

The brighter the frog, the more toxic they tend to be.

Frogs may show more of their patterns if they are more toxic.

Poisonous frogs may be one singular, solid color, or they may have multiple colors or patterns. 

It is possible that different species of predators see colors in different wavelengths.

Birds may observe color differently from mammals and differently from reptiles.

Toxic frogs may display colors that can be perceived by a multitude of predator species. 

Natural selection may also favor the brighter colored frogs among the populations of colored frogs.

Those that are brighter may be avoided for longer, thus having the ability to mate more times and will more individuals.

If they survive because of their color, those colors will be passed on. 

Sexual selection may favor mates with brighter colors as well.

Sexual selection acts on mate choice during breeding.

If mates with the brightest colors get selected by more individuals, they will again pass those colors on to their offspring. 

Some Bright Colored Frogs Are Not Poisonous

Not all brightly colored frog species are poisonous.

Mimicry is a natural characteristic among non-toxic animals to resemble toxic counterparts or other species that may be perceived as dangerous.

Think of moths with patterns that look like eyes on their wings. This startles a predator and deters them from consuming the moth. 

 Mimicry occurs in many animal populations.

The New Guinea ground boa resembles the venomous death adder.

Frogs use this method to deter predators even if they do not possess any toxin.

It confuses the predator and makes them believe that particular frog is toxic and is less likely to prey on them.  

Mimicry occurs when non-toxic species assume the colors or patterns of toxic species.

Milk snakes have the same colors as coral snakes but are arranged in a different pattern.

This helps the non-toxic species warn off predators by assuming the role of a toxic animal.  

Some frogs use it to startle their potential predators.

Red-Eyed Tree Frogs have white and blue down their sides and bright red eyes that are not seen until the individual opens up.

Once the color is suddenly revealed, the predator may get shocked and abandon the prey. 

Brown Toads Are Poisonous

All toads are poisonous.

Therefore, brown, green, and gray toads are all poisonous.

Toads produce a toxin from the parotoid glands located near their eyes.

This toxin is then excreted over their skin and is very distasteful to predators and may be fatal depending on the species. 

All toad species are toxic regardless of color.

They do not need to possess any bright colors that warn predators of their toxicity level.

Their toxicity level varies among species and can affect predators differently.

Some toxin that is fatal to one species may have no effect on another. 

Toads may be colored brown, or green and gray, to resemble and blend into their environment to act as camouflage.

Since their toxin may not be fatal to every species, they will have to avoid predation in other ways.

Blending into their environment so they are not seen is a perk of being a similar color to their environment. 

Sources

Dorcas, M. E., & Gibbons, W. (2011). Frogs: The animal answer guide. Johns Hopkins University Press. 

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 

Summers, K., & Clough, M. E. (2001, May 22). The evolution of coloration and toxicity in the poison frog family (Dendrobatidae). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC33450/ 

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.