5 Incredible Poison Dart Frog Facts

Poison Dart Frogs are a group of frogs predominantly found in tropical regions of Central and South America. Their brilliant colors, amazing adaptations, and captivating behaviors are some of the things that make them so incredible. But this is all common knowledge, which is why we’ve dedicated an entire article to facts about these amazing amphibians that range from fun to educational to downright strange.

Poison Dart Frogs are mainly found in South America, and are the most toxic frogs species on Earth. 1 Golden Poison Dart Frog has enough poison to kill 10 men. They are not as dangerous when kept in captivity. Despite only having one natural predator, most Poison Dart Frog populations are declining.

These are just a few quick facts about Poison Dart Frogs, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Below we’ve gone deeper into the facts previously discussed and listed several new ones as well. By the end of this article, you’ll feel like a Poison Frog expert with all of these amazing facts at your fingertips to share. 

1. Poison Dart Frogs Need Alkaloids to Secrete Poison

Most people know that Poison Frogs get their name from their potent toxins that deter predators and paralyze or kill any animal unfortunate enough to come into contact with or attempt to eat these tiny amphibians. What many people don’t know is that not all Poison Dart Frogs can create their famous killer toxins.

Interestingly, the toxins that give Poison Dart Frog’s their reputation are predominantly found in wild species, not captive frogs. This is because the frogs naturally acquire the toxins from alkaloid ants. Eating alkaloid foods allows them to maintain their poison.

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So, if you’ve ever seen someone in a zoo or who owns pet Poison Dart Frogs handling them, don’t worry. Unless these individuals feed the frogs alkaloid ants, they are unlikely to carry the toxins to secrete and harm other organisms.

Learn more about Poisonous Frogs in the complete guide on our blog.

2. The Golden Poison Dart Frog is One of the Most Poisonous Creatures on Earth

Measuring no larger than a paper clip at a maximum of one inch long and four ounces, the Phyllobates terribilis, or Golden Poison Dart Frog, is known to science as one of the deadliest creatures on Earth due to its nearly unmatched levels of poison.

In its small body, the Golden Poison Dart Frog carries as much as 1,100 micrograms of batrachotoxin and homobatrachotoxin, enough to kill 20,000 mice and 10 grown men. The toxins attack a living organism’s nervous system, causing convulsions, muscle contractions, salivation, and eventually, death.

One of the most terrifying facts about the Golden Poison Dart Frog’s toxins is that they can kill nearly any species in under ten minutes, and there is no cure for the toxin. 

For centuries, the indigenous EmberĂ¡ people of Colombia have harnessed this small amphibian’s dangerous toxins in their hunting techniques. All they have to do is rub the tip of their arrows down the frog’s back to coat it in enough toxins to paralyze or kill even the largest prey. 

Of course, modern science has used the Golden Poison Dart Frog’s high toxicity levels to their benefit as well in using it to create a powerful painkiller. 

3. Poison Dart Frogs Only Has One Natural Predator

While only three species of Poison Dart Frogs carry toxins deadly enough for human hunting, the nearly two hundred that remain still have high enough toxin levels to deter most predators. However, one animal refuses to be deterred by these tiny amphibians’ vibrant colors and harsh toxins.

The only recorded natural predator of the Poison Frog (humans aside) is the Leimadophis Epinephelus, also referred to as the Fire-Bellied Snake. Somehow, presumably through evolutionary adaptation, this species has become resistant to the toxins produced by Poison Frogs. 

Unfortunately, as is common with the vast and diverse population found in the Amazon region, little is known about this particular snake. Apart from agreeing that these snakes are somehow immune to the Poison Frog’s toxins, unless present in vast quantities, sources have little other information to provide. 

Perhaps, in time, scientists will study this exceptional predator and discover how it is able to consume these otherwise harmful or deadly amphibians without issue (CTNF).

4. Most Poison Dart Frogs Are Poor Swimmers

When people picture frogs, one of the most common images that come to mind is of these amphibians splashing and swimming around in lakes and ponds. However, if you’re looking for Poison Frogs in their natural habitat, you’re better off searching around the water sources rather than in them. 

Most Poison Frog species are poor swimmers, so they are more often found near streams and among leaf litter on the forest floor. While they can swim, they aren’t as adept at it as other frog species because they lack the essential webbing between their toes. 

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Poison Dart Frogs may not be good swimmers, but they are excellent climbers. These frogs are tree frogs and have padded toes allowing them to climb trees and cling onto leaves. Although these frogs tend to spend most of the time close to the ground, they can climb if need be.

There was once a myth floating around that Poison Frogs can’t swim at all due to their lack of webbing, which is untrue. These frogs can swim for brief periods in shallow waters, but they struggle swimming long distances, particularly in deep waters. 

Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for a Poison Frog to drown if it is caught in a large, deep body of water or somehow stuck underneath an obstacle blocking the surface. For this reason, you might find Poison Frogs near temporary, shallow water sources, like puddles, but this is mostly for reproductive purposes.

5. Poison Dart Frogs Are Endangered Despite There Being Over 100 Species

You might think that their potent toxins would mean there are hundreds of thousands of Poison Dart Frogs hopping around Central and South American because they have few natural predators. However, the sad truth is that these frogs are highly endangered.

As a general rule, Poison Dart Frogs are endangered or listed as near threatened. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List shows that the majority of Poison Frog species are experiencing population decline, with some labeled as “stable” and many listed as “unknown.”

The root causes of this population decline are climate change and habitat loss, but there are additional threats. One of the most harmful to Poison Dart Frogs and their environment is individuals engaged in illegal mining who pour excess amounts of cyanide into natural waterways. 

Not only does this extremely dangerous chemical kill nearly all life it comes into contact with, but the waterways, particularly rivers and streams, allows it to carry through miles of the frog’s habitat, killing their food sources, shelters, and the frogs themselves. 

Currently, the population of these frogs is so low that they can only be found in seven distinct locations, primarily the Amazon, within a 2,000 square mile radius. 

More About Poison Dart Frogs

Just recently, a new species, Brachycephalus Rotenbergae (also known as the pumpkin toadlet), was added to the list of Poison Frogs (Nunes et al, 2021). Hopefully, significant steps can be taken in the future to protect and increase wild Poison Frog populations so scientists can continue studying, discovering, and learning from these remarkable animals. 

Learn more about Poison Frogs in the guides on our site:

Sources

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List

Nunes I, GuimarĂ£es CS, Moura PHAG, Pedrozo M, Moroti MdT, Castro LM, et al. (2021) Hidden by the name: A new fluorescent pumpkin toadlet from the Brachycephalus ephippium group (Anura: Brachycephalidae). PLoS ONE 16(4): e0244812. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244812