Weird Animals – the Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog
Weird Animals – the Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog
Have you ever heard of the Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog? This tiny amphibian looks like it is wearing blue jeans! You need proof? Read on. This is the text of an email I received:
Por favor, póngase en contacto conmigo tan pronto como sea possible. Su amigo, Levi, el Jeans azul Poison Dart Frog
Oops, sorry. Here is the text in English:
Please contact me as soon as possible. Your friend, Levi, the Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog.
It’s true, I do know Felix the Flying Frog and recently communicated with D, the extinct Gastric Brooding Frog. But I never met a Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog named Levi (or Tom or Dick). He was clever enough to use email but mistakenly used the BCC option and sent the email to himself.
So I received my email without the sender’s address. Attached was a photo of a bright reddish-orange frog with dark blue limbs. I became as excited as Miley Cyrus while twerking during her famed televised MTV Video Music Awards dance (?) gyrations. Make that, almost as excited. I installed my technologically superior brain wave apparatus once more and contacted Levi supernaturally.
me – Hola! Is this Levi, the Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog?
Levi – Si, speaking! Is this drbeegee?
me – It’s drbj, Levi. Are you really known as the Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog?
Levi – Well, my scientific name is Oophaga pumilio formerly Dendrobates pumilio. But that’s such a mouthful that frog collectors call us Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frogs.
me – The ‘Blue Jeans’ part of your name is appropriately accurate since your limbs are dark blue to purple in color. You do resemble a bright red frog wearing dark blue jeans.
Where in the world do you live? Why the brilliant neon-red coloring? What does the ‘poison dart’ in your name represent? And how did you get the name, Levi?
Levi – I’ll explain it all. Go on, interview me.
That buzzing you hear is Levi communicating.
If you travel to Costa Rica you can see the Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frogs up close and personal at Tortoguero National Park and Arenal Volcano National Park.
Interview with Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frog
me – Okay, Levi, where do you live?
Levi – Most Blue Jeans Poison Dart Frogs can be found in rainforests in Central and South America. My family inhabits the lowland rainforest on the eastern coast of Costa Rica. I have cousins in Nicaragua, too.
Although we are tiny, we are diurnal. So if you look carefully, you can see us during the day on the ground in the rainforest. Or you can spot us on low-lying branches no more than three feet above the ground. We buzz and chirp continually so you can hear us, too.
me – How tiny are you?
Levi – (proudly) Adult BJPD frogs like me measure almost one inch long.
We move with jerky movements and small hops as if we were dancing to salsa music as we approach our prey.
me – Your prey?
Levi – Si, we are carnivores and must hunt for the small invertebrates – ants, mites, termites, centipedes (yum!) and teeny spiders – that we dine on. We spot them on the forest floor with our excellent vision. Then we capture them with our long sticky tongues. Just like amarillos in Texas.
me – I think you mean armadillos.
Levi – Whatever!
Plastic Poison Dart Frogs
Brilliant Neon Color
me – I never saw a colorful frog like you before. The frogs in my neck of the woods and streams are dull gray/brown or monotonous green. Your photo displays a brilliant, neon-like red-orange coloring on your head and back.
Levi – That’s the most common coloring for those of us who live in Costa Rica. There are more than 100 different species of poison dart frogs with up to 30 different, colorful combinations.
Our cousins, the Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs, have the same brilliant red-orange coloring – without the jeans. Do you know why we are adorned in such bright colors?
me – A capricious Mother Nature?
Levi – Capricious? That sounds like a cinco dolares ($5) word. Our brilliant coloring is a warning to potential predators that we are poisonous.
me – And the Poison Dart in your name … ?
Levi – We carry tiny little blowguns and use them to shoot poison darts at our enemies. (laughs hysterically)
me – (sarcastically) Very funny!
Levi – Gracias! All poison dart frogs possess a potent skin toxin. If an animal bites us, we reflexively release the toxin from poison glands on our back and around our ears. Spiders are often attracted by our beautiful colors. But if they bite us, they die and become dinner.
If a larger animal bites us, our skin toxin has a very bitter, peppery taste that causes vomiting. So any animal that has bitten us immediately expels us from their mouth.
me – Are you lethal to humans?
Levi – The good news is, No! But you might want to wash your hands after you handle any poison dart frog. The bad news is … there is one exception…
me – (interrupting) … which is?
Levi – Hold your frogs! We say that instead of hold your horses! (chuckles). I’ll explain in a moment.
Poison Dart Nickname
me – In the meantime, can you tell me why you are called Poison Dart Frogs?
Levi – Ay, Dios mio, (OMG) I thought you would never ask. We got that unfortunate appellation because Amerindian tribe members have habitually used dart frog toxin to poison their blowgun darts and arrows when hunting.
The toxin poison is so powerful it can prevent nerves from transmitting impulses which can incapacitate prey and lead to heart failure.
me – But I thought you said Blue Jeans Poison Dart frogs are not lethal to humans.
Researchers in the 1960s discovered that the poison of the Golden Poison Dart Frog contains a substance known as batrachotoxin – a nerve poison more toxic than curare. The name is derived from the Greek for frog (batrachos) and for poison (toxin).
Batrachotoxin does not immediately block the nervous system. At first, it makes the contractions of the heart muscle stronger.
Scientists believe that the toxin might be used as a cardiac stimulant after a heart attack. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), poison dart frogs offer over 300 alkaloid components – chemicals similar to cocaine and morphine. Some medicines produced on the basis of batrachotoxin are already being used as anesthetics in surgery.
Golden Poison Dart Frog
Levi – Es verdad. That’s true. But one of our relatives – the Golden Poison Dart Frog (Phyllobates terribilis (terrible) – is the exception I mentioned.
One Golden Poison Dart Frog can release enough poison to kill ten adult humans.
me – Is the Golden Poison Dart Frog much larger than you?
Levi –Si, twice as big – almost 2 inches long. It lives in a small rainforest area along the western slopes of the Andes in Colombia, South America, but uses its poison only as a self-defense mechanism and not for killing prey.
It is listed as an endangered species because its habitat is restricted to such a small area.
me – Is this frog endangered because of agricultural development where it lives?
Levi –That’s one way to put it since it is the planting of illegal crops that is one of the biggest threats to its existence as well as the international frogs as pets trade.
me – Isn’t it dangerous to keep Golden Poison Dart Frogs as pets?
Levi – It’s not wise to handle them if you have any cuts on your hands. But they are very intelligent, like me, and can recognize their human caretakers after just a few weeks.
The change in their diet – crunchy crickets, for example, instead of their usual native ants – causes them to lose much of their toxicity when kept in captivity. You are probably wondering what makes the ants so toxic.
You know what they say – you are what you eat! Scientists believe that the concentration of alkaloids in the ants comes from the native plants they eat.
Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy 'Indian Love Call'
Mating and Reproduction
me – Tell me more about the unique behaviors of Blue Jeans Poison Dart frogs.
Levi – Did you know that I am a champion wrestler?
me – Actually, Levi, that thought never occurred to me.
Levi – We BJPD frogs are very territorial. If an intruder male invades our territory we will initiate a wrestling match that may last up to 20 minutes. You would enjoy watching the two of us one-inch male frogs standing on our hind legs, chest-to-chest, trying to pin each other.
me – Perhaps I can interest WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) in sponsoring a match or two. Does the winner eat the loser?
Levi – Of course not. What do you think we are? Animals? (laughs). The loser simply slinks off in disgrace.
me – Are your mating habits also that inventive?
Levi – To attract a mate, we males vocalize by singing a loud trill. My favorite tune is ‘Indian Love Call.’ Works for me every time.
The loving couple find a safe area where there is moist leaf litter, and face away from each other, back to back, during mating which can last anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours. Endurance is our middle name.
The female deposits a clutch of three to five eggs encased in a gelatinous substance – she can lay up to one clutch per week – and the male fertilizes them.
me – Does the baby mama remain with the eggs?
Levi – No, she leaves to lunch with the girls and the male returns daily to moisten the eggs to keep them from drying out.
me – I know I’ll be sorry I asked but how does he keep the eggs moist? Does he water them?
Levi – I guess you could say that . . . he urinates on them.
Tadpoles to Froglets
me – How soon does the female frog return?
Levi – After an incubation period of generally seven days, the eggs hatch into tadpoles and the mama returns. Now it’s her turn to mother her brood. She sits patiently among her offspring and waits for the tadpoles to wriggle on to her back.
One by one, she carries them to a separate plant or leaf stem crevice that holds water. Her preference is bromeliad plants.
me – How does she choose the most appropriate plant for each tadpole?
Levi – Good question and that is what is so amazing. The tadpole itself chooses the spot it wants by vibrating when mama frog approaches a desirable plant.
me – That’s more than amazing. It’s supernatural. Like this interview. What do the tadpoles eat?
Levi – The mother delivers unfertilized eggs to each tadpole every few days until they complete the metamorphosis from tadpole to froglet (baby frog). The process takes up to ten months. Then they are on their own.
me – Thank you, Levi, for this incredible story. Before we say, ‘adios,’ I must ask how did you get your name?
Levi – Simple. My mom named all of us after the makers of blue jeans: I’m Levi and my siblings are Wrangler, Lee, Pointer and True Religion. If she had produced a clutch of six, there would be a Gucci, too.
me – Makes sense to me. Until we meet again, Levi, 'te cuidas' (take care).
Levi - 'Te veo cuando te veo' (See ya when I see ya.)
More Weird Animals
- Weird Animals - the Naked Mole Rat
The following is a verbatim transcript from Mr. Heterocephalus Glaber who most people would call a naked mole rat. HG wants to set the record straight so I promised to write this article just as he dictated.
- Weird Animals - the Anglerfish
Scary and bizarre-looking, the deep sea anglerfish makes its home in the darkened depths of the Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans. The female sports its own built-in fishing pole.
© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2013. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So."
Learn to write a dynamic resume and cover letter, network effectively, interview confidently, and negotiate salary.
More by this Author
The axolotl (pronounced AHK-so-LA-tuhl) or walking fish is a rare Mexican salamander that forever looks like a teenager. It looks forever young.
How can you tell an alligator from a crocodile? If you want to, that is! It's not very difficult. First, look at the shape of the snout and the visibility of the teeth when the jaws are shut.
Pigs are ranked number four in animal intelligence and can learn tricks faster than dogs. True!