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Some Fascinating Poison Dart Frog Facts
Toxic Amphibians: Dart Frogs of the Amazon Forest
Poison dart frogs of the family Dendrobatidae are found in tropical forests of Central and South America. Their name derives from the fact that indigenous hunters would tip their blowgun darts with the toxins produced by the frogs. The poisons are thought to be concentrated from the alkaloids in plants eaten by the ants and other insects that the dart frogs prey on. Captive bred frogs are not poisonous, since the flies and crickets that form their staple diet are not fed poisonous plants.
The golden poison frog, Phyllobates terribilis, found mainly in Colombia, is the most toxic frog known. Secretions for one, 2 inch frog, are enough to kill 10 grown men. It produces a poison known as batrachtoxin that blocks transmission at the neuromuscular junction, causing paralysis, including paralysis of the respiratory system, and death.
The bright colours of dart frogs act as warning to predators
The frogs are some of the most brilliantly coloured amphibians. The colours serve to warn potential predators that are considering the frog for their dinner that, if they eat it, it will be their last meal. There are about 75 different species of dartfrog, each one with a different colour. Frequently frogs of the same species exhibit different patterns and colours depending on the locality in which they are found
Dart frog reproduction
One of the most remarkable poison dart frog facts is that, unlike most amphibians, they take care of their young. The male finds a suitable spot and calls to attract a female. Male frogs will often fight over territory and the female chooses the winner, reasoning that he is more genetically fit and will pass ‘good genes’ to her offspring. Females lay few eggs, usually between 1 and 5, unlike waxy monkey tree frogs that can produce hundreds or thousands of eggs. Depending on species, either the male or the female carries the tadpoles on his back, they stick to the mucus the frogs produce, and searches for a suitable place in which to deposit the children. Many dart frog species use bromeliads to rear their offspring, depositing the tadpole in the junction between leaves, which is flooded with rainwater. Each tadpole is placed in a different bromeliad, to prevent cannibalism, and also to increase the chance of at least some surviving, tadpoles are easy prey to other insects and animals.
David Attenborough presents the poison dart frog
In some species this is the extent of parental care, but the strawberry dart frog, Dendrobatis pumilio, male remembers the exact bromeliad in which he deposited each tadpole and checks on them regularly. When the tadpole is hungry, he calls out to attract their mother and induces her to lay an unfertilized egg in the bromeliad, which serves as food for the tadpole until it metamorphoses and can hunt its own food.