Poison dart frog

Update of post from January 11, 2014

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Poison dart frogs are small colorful amphibians living in the rain forests of South America. There are more than 175 species of these frogs in the world, and they come in all different colors. The pictures below show that these frogs can have stripes, speckles, or splotches, and they can come in green, red, blue, black, and brown as well as orange and yellow as shown above. These animals come in almost every color you can imagine.

These frogs, also called poison arrow frogs, got their name from a use South American natives found for them. On their skin, poison dart frogs have a poisonous liquid that can kill a predator that would try to eat the frog. The natives sometimes catch these frogs and rub them on the tips of their darts or arrows. They can then shoot the arrows at animals they are hunting and kill them quickly with the poison! The bright colors the frogs have warn predators of their poison. I’ll talk more about the poison later on.

Size

Since there are so many species of poison dart frogs, they have a large size range. Some frogs may be as small as just 0.4 inches (1 cm) long, while others are as large as 2.4 inches (6 cm) long! Most of these frogs are about an inch in length (2.5 cm).

Being so small, poison dart frogs do not weigh very much. They can be as light as just .02 ounces (0.5 g) or “heavy” as 0.14 ounces (4 g). For comparison, 0.1 oz (2.7 g), which is towards the heavier end of this spectrum, is the same weight as a ping-pong ball!

Diet and hunting

Like most frogs, poison arrow frogs eat almost exclusively invertebrates. Most of these are insects, such as ants, termites, and beetles, but they will sometimes eat centipedes as well. In the wild, these creatures actively hunt their prey, and since most of their food is so small, it takes a large amount of time to find enough to fill them up. When one finds an insect it wants to eat, the frog will quickly shoot its sticky tongue out at the insect and retract it, bringing the food with.

Somewhat surprisingly, this frog’s diet is related to its poison. These creatures gain their poison from some invertebrate that they eat in the wild. It isn’t known exactly what animal gives them their poison, though. In captivity, poison dart frogs are fed mainly crickets and fruit flies. These insects do not give the frogs their poison, so after not long in captivity, the frog will no longer be poisonous!

Poison

Poison dart frogs have extremely toxic poison. Different species have varying strengths of poison, but the deadliest species is the golden poison dart frog, shown below. These animals can have enough poison on them at once to kill 10 adult humans! It is thought that their toxins may be up to 5,000 times as deadly as cyanide!

Habitat and range

Poison dart frogs live in both Central and South America, but the vast majority of their range is in South America. The range map below shows where these animals live. As you can see, they inhabit mainly the northern part of South America. This is because this area has the moist tropical rain forests where they live.

Status and threats

Most species of poison dart frog are listed by the IUCN Redlist as “Least Concern.” Some are more threatened than this, and there are several species that are classified as Endangered. Most of this animal’s threats are not natural, as their poison protects them from most predators. There is one species of snake, however, that is immune to the poison, and is therefore a threat to the poison dart frog.

Most of the threats poison dart frogs face are due to humans. Since they are so colorful, these frogs are often captured for use in the pet trade. As with almost all animals, habitat destruction is also a major threat.

One other threat is one that many amphibians face, and that is a disease. Chytrid fungus grows on the skin of adult amphibians and does not allow them to absorb the water they need to survive. So far, this fungus has not greatly affected the poison dart frog, but it may soon.

Reproduction

Since they live in the rainforest where the temperatures are relatively constant throughout the year, these frogs breed year round. Males partake in wrestling matches with the winner either winning the right to a female or to a territory. The male and female will partake in a long mating dance which involves calling, chasing, stroking, and even hopping on each other.

The male leads the female to a place where she can lay her eggs. Most of the time she will lay them in the dark, moist leaf litter where they are protected from most predators. She can lay up to 40 eggs at a time. Both the male and the female will guard the eggs, protecting them from ants, as well as keeping them moist and clean from fungal growth.

Most of the time the eggs hatch after 10 to 18 days, but the actual length depends on the species and the temperature. After they hatch, the parents will let the small tadpoles wriggle onto their backs and then transport them to a water source. After about eight weeks, the young frogs’ front legs will begin to grow, and by the tenth week their tails have disappeared, and they start to get their bright coloring. Some species of poison dart frogs can live up to 20 years!

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Poison dart frog – youngster.com
  • Red poison dart frog – Geoff Gallice
  • Green poison dart frog – caspar s
  • Brown poison dart frog – Wikipedia user: LiquidGhoul
  • Golden poison dart frog -Wilfried Berns
  • Poison dart frog range – Wikipedia user: Tnarg 12345
  • Mystery animal – Bernard DUPONT
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