Poison Dart Frogs Facts

Poison Dart Frogs Information

Poison Dart Frogs are some of Mother Nature’s most vibrantly colored protégés. These tiny frogs range in size from less than an inch long to two and a half inches long and finally prove that size does not matter.

Their bright colors serve to tell predators that they are poisonous. The most toxic of all, the Golden Poison Frog, carries enough toxins to kill 10 – 20 men. Tiny but dangerous are these little fellas. This tactic of preservation is known as “Aposematic Coloration”  and works much the same way as a Monarch Butterfly’s colors.

The scientific family name for Poison Dart Frogs is Dendrobatidae and they are native to Central and South America. They are dinural, which means they are active all day and sleep at night. Many species are threatened.

Blue poison dart frog
By Brian Gatwicke

Their bright colors are astonishing and serve to warn predators of their toxicity. It is their skin that carries the poison. The level of toxicity varies between species and even between populations. The name Poison Dart Frog comes from the fact that many early humans would use their poisonous secretions to coat their darts.

The tropical rainforests and humid areas of Central and South America is where these frogs originated. Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Peru, these are places you’ll likely find native poison dart frogs. The live near flowing streams and wetlands that stays humid. It helps to keep their skin moist and to find insects to survive. Dendrobatidae may live on the ground in leafy areas overgrown with flora and fauna but may also climb and live in trees of the rainforest.

Their coloring and poisonous natures are the most famous attributes of these tiny frogs but they have other remarkable traits as well. Their socialism, parenting skills, courting habits and territoriality are also unusual for amphibian species.

Many species of Dendrobatidae are highly devoted parents.  Poison dart frogs in poison dart frogs in the Oophaga and Ranitomeya classes actually carry their freshly hatched tadpoles on their backs. Predators are well aware of the effects of eating a poison dart frog. Their bright colors serve them well. Their tadpoles, on the other hand, do not have that advantage.

Mom and dad poison dart frogs will guard their eggs and once hatched carry their offspring to treetop aquatic nursery. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? It quite certainly is. High in the treetops of the rainforest, leaves and tree fronds curl and twist to form towering, watery nurseries.

These types of frogs lay up to 40 eggs at a time. This is unusual in the frog world. Most species will lay hundreds of eggs at a time. They are covered in a clear, gelatinous substance that helps to protect them. The adult frogs will carry their tadpoles on their backs to place one single tadpole in each curled leaf cup hanging from the trees.

Strawberry Dart Frog Picture
By Pasha Kirillov

Should a predator find it, the rest of the tadpoles are safe in their own private leaf cup of water. Once safely deposited in their sky-high nurseries, the mother Strawberry poison-dart frogs, Dendrobates pumilio, will go back to the water and lay unfertilized eggs which serves as nourishment to the un-hatched tadpoles.

Their courtship process begins in the rainy season (mid-July through mid-September) with the males of the species fighting amongst each other for territories which remain the victors throughout the mating season.

Once territory is established the various males will begin emitting a courtship call to attract eligible females. The female will follow the male into a marshy area to lay the eggs and the male will then fertilize them. Both parents will share the responsibility of guarding the eggs. Each parent takes turns sitting on the eggs which protects them and keeps them moist. In roughly 12 days, the eggs hatch into tadpoles. The adult frogs carry individual tadpoles to secure nurseries to further develop. In six to twelve weeks, they will develop into fully grown frogs.

The feeding habits of these mighty miniatures are not as delectable as they are useful. They eat the regular fare of any frog, mites, ants, spiders and the lot. The interesting part comes in the after effects. No indigestion or heartburn here. No, the food these little frogs eat is what makes them poisonous. Scientists suggest skin poisons of these frogs are derivative from predecessor molecules found in their prey.

The frogs prey is lured close to them by their colorful skin. They resemble flowers and other flora insects eat. By the time they realize their folly it is way too late. They die almost instantly and are orally ingested by the poison dart frogs.

Poisonous Dart Frogs in the Caribbean

Poison dart frogs are an interesting little bunch of fellows. Their characteristics and habits are unusual for others in their species. So interesting are they, people have developed an interest in keeping them as pets and breeding them.

One thing is for certain, in the wild or in an aquarium, these fascinating creatures are one of the world’s tiniest wonders.