Tiny & Unforgiving: The Poison Dart Frog
November 19, 2016
You’ve heard of the phrase “If looks could kill,” right? Well in the case of the Poison Dart Frog it’s looks, specifically its cobalt blue color, tell it can kill. Like its name suggests, the Poison Dart Frog, scientifically known as Dendrobates Tinctorius, secretes a venom from it’s skin that most predators find distasteful if not deadly. To warn of their toxicity, these frogs developed bright vibrant colorations and almost ostentatious patterns which is a tactic called aposematic coloration.
What’s even more interesting is how frogs raised in captivity never develop the venom that is so abundant in their wild brethren. Researchers propose that the reason may be because captive frogs do not have access to the bugs and insects that they eat in their native habitats, such as the rainforests of French Guinea and Brazil, and are instead fed a diet of crickets. This suggests that the Poison Dart Frog’s notorious toxicity comes from their diet of termites and mites, which in turn means that the insects most likely acquire the poison from plants.
And if their poisonous quality wasn’t enough, the way that Poison Dart Frogs raise their young also makes them stand out among amphibians. These frogs start the reproductive process in the usual way, with the female laying the eggs in damp mossy areas, but once they are laid the males take over caring for their young by keeping the eggs moist. Once the eggs hatch into tadpoles, the male frog carries them attached to his back by a special mucus and deposits each tadpole in a separate pool of water. This strange separation of offspring is due to the fact that these tadpoles turn cannibalistic if left in the same restricted area. After that, it is speculated that the female provides the tadpoles with food in the form of her unfertilized eggs. Such extensive care in raising offspring is uncommon in other species of amphibian.
However, these vibrant and unusual frogs are on the verge of becoming vulnerable and are classified as Least Concern on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. The cause of such a threat to the species’ survival is due in part to the illegal pet trade in which frogs are taken from their habitat, and also because of the declination of their habitat itself. The Poison Dart Frog lives in an extremely small area that consists of mostly isolated patches of forest which makes them increasingly vulnerable to human activities, such as logging and deforestation, as well as natural calamities such as drought.
Luckily for the Poison Dart Frog, there are many conservationist groups and organizations such as WWF and The Biodiversity Group that work to ensure the frog’s habitat remains intact and that their populations begin to increase. These tiny frogs, no bigger than your thumb, are gems of the rainforest not only because of their striking coloration but also because of their wonderfully strange biology that makes nature so diverse and enigmatic.
We feature the Poison Dart Frog on our 77% Tome-Acu Amazon Rainforest chocolate bar.
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