Poison Dart Frogs
When captured in the wild, Poison Dart Frogs are mostly poisonous. Indigenous to South and Central Americas, the poison dart frogs are easy to identify as their body skin sport bright colors called Aposematic coloration or “warning colors.” The bright coloration and patterns of the poison dart frog are a biologic adaptation to its foraging penchant in the bright sunlit day.
They serve to warn would-be predators that its poison is not only irritating, but that it could be one of the most lethal on earth, depending on the dart frog variety. The tiny pores on its skin secrete a type of neurotoxin that wards off its enemies and can be fatal to both animals and man. Animal predators instinctively avoid them.
The skin of the poison dart frog had been used since ancient times by native Columbian Choco Indians of the Amazon rainforests of South America. They use it for tipping their blowgun darts and arrows used in hunting. Hence the name, Poison Dart and Poison Arrow frogs are used interchangeably.
Measuring anywhere for half an inch to two inches, the poison of three Phyllobate dart frog species is a poison factory in itself, capable of producing toxins that can kill 10 humans at a time. The native Indians would capture these frogs and put them near fiery stoves. The heat literally makes the frogs sweat and the liquid are carefully scraped off and processed for use in their hunting instruments. Because the poison blocks neuromuscular transmission, it results in muscle and lung paralysis and eventual death rather quickly – ideal for a hunter’s purposes.
The species of the dart or arrow frog are as many as the many colors and patterns they exhibit. The blue poison dart frog belong to the Dendrobates Azureus species, while another relative the Tinctorius has a black and white pattern on its back. The vividly yellow Phyllobates Bicolor has a more poisonous relative in the golden Phyllobates Terrribilis. The name is apt as it is known to be the most poisonous creature on earth for its weight and size.
Now the good news. These frogs are one of the loveliest and cutest creatures on earth. As mentioned above, they have bright coloration and striking patterns that make them a fascinating sight to behold and are valued as pets at home – less to play with than to serve as a home décor, like an aquarium of multicolored marine animals. Poison dart frogs are a protected species though. All dart frogs for sale in the market have been bred in captivity.
Poison Dart Frogs in Science
Scientists of the American Museum of Natural History has been conducting research and lab tests on the poison dart frogs to identify and culture the toxins they produce. The effort has paid off. The steroidal alkaloids in the frog toxins promise some biomedical breakthroughs in the understanding and cure of muscular and neurological disorders. There’s a good chance that in the near future, human lives can be saved literally, by a frog.