These species, native to Central and South America, are diurnal and often have brightly colored bodies. Although all wild dendrobatids are at least somewhat toxic, levels of toxicity vary considerably from one species to the next and from one population to another. Many species are threatened. These amphibians are called “dart frogs” due to the Amerindians’ use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blowdarts.
DON’T LICK IT! This is the golden poison frog, Phyllobates terribilis, possibly the most poisonous animal on earth. It lives on the border between Colombia and Equador close to the Pacific ocean. Not this one though, cause I visited her at the beautiful zoo Tropikariet in Helsingborg, Sweden today.
Hey, you might say, she’s not golden at all! Well, there are a couple of different colored morphs.
In the midst of the hot and humid Colombian rainforest a nearly naked man walks silently among the trees, looking for his next meal. Spotting a distracted monkey, the hunter readies his blowgun and darts. One shot will be enough. According to a first-hand account from 1825, the dart is “certain death to man or animal wounded by it”. That’s because it is laced with poison.
Hunters from Colombia’s Embera tribe regularly hunted birds, monkeys and other small animals using poison darts. The poison came from bright yellow frogs just a few centimetres long.
A single “golden poison frog” harbours enough poison to kill 10 grown men, making these frogs perhaps the most poisonous animals alive. They are one of many species of toxic frogs, which are known as poison dart frogs. They are all small: the largest are no more than 6cm long, and some are just 1.5 cm. How did these tiny, beautiful creatures become so poisonous, and why?
Poison dart frogs consist of the family Dendrobatidae and are native to the rainforests of South and Central America. They are known for their bright colours and toxic secretions, which have been used by indigenous cultures to create poisonous darts for hunting.
The conspicuous colorations and patterns of the frogs warns potential predators of their toxicity. It is hypothesised that the frogs gain their poisons from their diet, which can consist of ants, centipedes and mites. In captivity, frogs which are reared on diets without these alkaloid poisons have a significantly lower level of toxins.
Around 4 species are used by indigenous peoples to lace darts with deadly toxins. The frogs are carefully exposed to fire, which causes them to exude a poisonous fluid. The tips of arrows and darts are soaked in this fluid and will remain deadly for 2 years.