A mimic poison frog (Ranitomeya imitator) photographed at National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland
A mimic poison frog (Ranitomeya imitator) photographed at National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Poison Dart Frogs

Common Name:
Poison Dart Frogs
Scientific Name:
Dendrobatidae
Type:
Amphibians
Diet:
Carnivore
Group Name:
Army
Average Life Span In The Wild:
3 to 15 years
Size:
1 inch

Poison dart frogs, members of the Dendrobatidae family, wear some of the most brilliant and beautiful colors on Earth. Depending on individual habitats, which extend from the tropical forests of Costa Rica to Brazil, their coloring can be yellow, gold, copper, red, green, blue, or black. Their elaborate designs and hues are deliberately ostentatious to ward off potential predators, a tactic called aposematic coloration.

Parenting Behavior

Some species display unusual parenting habits, including carrying both eggs and tadpoles on their backs. Although this "backpacking" is not unique among amphibians, male poison dart frogs are exceptional in their care, attending to the clutch, sometimes exclusively, and performing vital transportation duties.

Toxicity

Dendrobatids include some of the most toxic animals on Earth. The two-inch-long golden poison frog has enough poison to kill 10 grown men. Indigenous Emberá people of Colombia have used its powerful poison for centuries to tip their blowgun darts when hunting, hence the genus' common name.

Scientists are unsure of the source of poison dart frogs' toxicity, but it is possible they assimilate plant poisons which are carried by their prey, including ants, termites and beetles. Poison dart frogs raised in captivity and isolated from insects in their native habitat never develop poison.

The medical research community has been exploring possible medicinal uses for some poison dart frog poison. They have already developed a synthetic version of one compound that shows promise as a painkiller.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by Megan Lorenz, National Geographic Your Shot

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