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Interesting Facts on Poison Dart Frogs

written by: Diana Cooper•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 12/21/2010

The poison from some of these cute little frogs can kill a tiger within a few minutes. Find more fun and interesting poison dart frog facts, including information about their habitat, diet, lifespan and more.

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    The Poison Dart Frog

    Phyllobates terribilis (the most toxic poison dart frog) Poison dart frogs belong in the Dendrobatidae family and are native to Central and South America. Depending on the frogs habitat, their coloring can vary from a rainbow of colors. Their bright colors are warning signs to other animals that they are poisonous. Some of these tiny frogs have enough venom to kill 10 grown men. Below are more fun and interesting poison dart frog facts.

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    Body length can range from under 1 inch to 2 1/2 inches. Colors include black, red, blue, green, gold, copper and yellow.

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    Poison dart frogs generally live in tropical rainforests where there is high humidity, dense vegetation and a water source.

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    Only three species (all Phyllobates) are considered extremely toxic; the Phyllobates terribilis is the most toxic. In Columbia, the Choco Indians have been applying the poison to the tips of their blowgun darts for centuries when hunting. It can kill a bird almost instantly and take the life of a tiger in 4 to 5 minutes. After removing the dart and surrounding flesh, the Indians would eat the rest of the animal without ill effects.

    When stressed, the poison is secreted from the frog's skin. It can enter the human body via the mouth or an open wound. The poison can cause debilitating hallucinations and affect the heart, which can lead to heart failure. It is not sure where the source of poison comes from but it is believed to come from the prey they eat (actually from plants the prey eats). Poison dart frogs raised in captivity, that do not eat in the wild of their native land, do not possess the poison.

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    Poison dart frogs eat mostly small spiders and small insects, including ants, beetles and termites. They use their long sticky tongue to capture their prey.

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    Mating takes place during the rainy season. Males attract females using vocal sounds. The female lays a few dozen eggs on leaves and the male tends them. In about 2 weeks, the eggs hatch and the tiny tadpoles climb onto the male's back to be transported to small pools of water. The tadpoles are self-sufficient and become frogs in about 3 months.

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    The only known predator is a frog-eating snake called the Leimadophis epinephelus which is believed to have developed a resistance to the poison.

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    More Information

    The following are more interesting poison dart frog facts:

    • Some non-poisonous frogs have evolved to have similar coloring of the poisonous frogs to avoid being eaten by predators.

    • Males and females defend their territories against other frogs, including those from the same species.

    • Because the poison from these frogs affect nerves and muscles, scientists are researching possible medicinal uses.

    • The poison dart frog is considered threatened due to habitat loss.

    • In the wild, these frogs can live up to 15 years.

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