Poison dart frogs are members of the Dendrobatidae frog family and are highly-toxic amphibians. They are brightly-colored, which helps warn the predators about their toxicity. Poison dart frogs are extremely small, about ½ inch in length. They are brilliantly-colored like green, blue, yellow, copper, red, or black. They have elaborate designs on their body which are used for aposematic coloration. They also display flash colors when they jump.
Habitat and Distribution
The poison dart frogs' habitat is in the rainforest regions. They are found inhabiting the rainforest floor in moist and shady areas. They are found in the rainforests of Central America and South America. They are also found on a few Hawaiian islands like Oahu, where they were introduced in 1932. The other habitats are Ecuador, Venezuela, French Guyana, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Bolivia, and Colombia.
The Dendrobatidae auratus is found on the Pacific Coast of southern Costa Rica to northern Colombia. It is also found on the Caribbean coast of southern Nicaragua to Colombia and the island of Tobago. Dendrobatidae tinctorius is found in Suriname, French-Guiana, and Guyana. The D. tinctorius species is also found in a few areas of Brazil.
You will find D. auratus in the wet tropical rainforests at a depth of 2,600 feet or below, near a pool or stream. You will also find them in the secondary forests and agricultural areas. D.tinctorius lives in rainforest areas with elevations of up to 1,300 feet. They are found on the rainforest floor near water streams.
There are over 100 species of poison dart frogs that have different colors and body patterns. You will find black and green species with black spots. The blue jeans frog or strawberry frog is red with blue legs. The yellow-banded species have beautiful black and yellow stripes painted over their body.
Although one of nature's unique creatures with striking beauty, these frogs are poisonous. Their toxicity and alkaloid levels are associated with their beautiful, vibrant colors. This becomes detrimental to the predators, as they can compute that these creatures are poisonous.
Their diet consists of spiders and insects like ants and termites. They use their long sticky tongues to capture their prey. They like to feed on ants and termites that are found abundantly on the forest floor. Poison dart frogs are also raised in captivity like zoos, and fed crickets daily.
Poison dart frogs go through an elaborate mating ritual. The male frogs use a low shrill sound to attract the females and after the courtship, the females lay dozens of eggs on leaves. The slimy eggs are covered with a gelatinous matter that prevents them from decay.
The eggs take about two weeks to hatch and once the tadpoles are developed, they swim onto the males' backs. They are attached to the male through the mucus secretions and are carried by the father to a suitable location for further development. They are dropped off in small pools of water, water collected in tin cans, rubber tires, and even water collected in bromeliads. After a period of about 3 months, the tadpoles metamorphose into frogs.
Poison dart frogs' secretions are used by some Amerindian tribes to poison their darts. Thus, they are also called poison arrow frogs. There are about three species of poison dart frogs that are dangerous to humans. Of these, Phyllobates terribilis (golden arrow frog) is the most dangerous. It is interesting to note that these frogs are not poisonous in captivity. Studies have found that the frogs eat a specific arthropod and some other insects in the wild, that gives them their toxicity.
The only known predator of poison dart frogs is the Liophis epinephelus, commonly known as the Crown Ground Snake. This snake is found to be resistant to the frog's poison and therefore manages to eat the frog.
There are a few species of frogs that may soon be put on the endangered species list. The loss of rainforests is making many animal species endangered, including the poison dart frogs. These are strikingly beautiful creatures that help maintain the balance of the ecosystem. As their habitat is the rainforests, these should be conserved to protect the poison dart frogs from becoming extinct.