Wildlife Watch: Poison Dart Frogs

January 22, 2014

Poison dart frogs may be observed in many of International Expeditions' Neotropical destinations. Our Costa Rica tours and Amazon cruises are two of the best trips to observe these amazing little frogs in their natural environment.

The poison dart frogs are a notorious family of frogs whose skin secretions are extremely toxic. Most of these frogs are very brightly colored and their colors are a reminder to would-be-predators to stay away. These bright colors are called “aposmatic coloration.” These brilliantly colored frogs stand out against their rainforest background colors of greens and browns and the bright coloration serves a benefit to both the frog and would-be-predators. The frog is not eaten and the predator does not ingest a possibly lethal meal. Of interest, one of the most virulent toxins known is the toxin of a poison dart frog, the golden poison dart frog of Western Columbia.  

The basic toxins are alkaloids derived from the frog’s diet. Most species of poison dart frog are fairly small (around an inch in length) and they feed on ants, termites and other small arthropods. The formic acid of ants has a significant role in allowing the alkaloid toxins to develop in the skin. Amazingly, once frogs are brought into captivity and fed a diet of fruit flies, their skin toxins gradually diminish. Future offspring of the captive frogs are metamorphosed into adult frogs without any skin toxins. So, a life in the wild with a totally natural diet is what allows poison dart frogs to attain their skin toxins.

Another interesting behavior of dart frogs is their method of reproduction. Quite unique among frogs is the mating process, egg laying, transport of tadpoles, location of tadpole deposition and the feeding of tadpoles. There are many differences in these behaviors depending upon the species.

 

Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.