YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
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Cute, colourful… and deadly! This week’s featured creatures may be small, but they can certainly pack a punch.
Let’s hop on in and learn all about poison dart frogs!
Poison dart frog is the common name of a group of frogs which live in the tropical areas of Central and South America.
These amphibians are called dart frogs due to Native Americans in the area who used their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blow darts to hunt birds and other prey.
Though there are over170 species of poison dart frogs, only four have been documented as being used for this purpose.
Most poison dart frogs display aposematic patterns, which warn of their toxicity. It’s their colourful way of telling would-be predators, “I’m poisonous, don’t eat me!”
Other aposematic animals include skunks, with their powerful scent glands, and cuttlefish, whose Wowzerful colour-changing skin warns predators that it’s one of the most poisonous creatures in the sea.
A lot of poison dart frogs are very tiny, with some barely reaching a size of 1.5 cm (0.6 in) in length. There are a few, however, that can grow up to 6 cm (2.4 in) in length.
While most frogs are nocturnal, such is not the case with these colourful diurnal critters, which means they’re mostly active during the day, just like us!
Poison dart frogs prefer to live in the rainforest, but they can also be found in other tropical environments such as marshes, swamps, savanna grasslands and farm land.
Because the climate in which they live is so humid, they are able to survive while living away from permanent bodies of water. And while they do spend some of their time in trees, they typically remain close to the forest floor.
Poison dart frogs are carnivorous, and employ their opportunistic hunting techniques to dine on small insects such as fruit flies, termites, crickets and ants, as well as some smaller species of beetles.
Their long, sticky tongues zap out in a blink of an eye to capture and reel in their fast-moving prey.
Scientists think that these amphibians became toxic as a result of their diet. Because of the many insects in the rainforest that are also poisonous, the belief is that this has had an effect on the toxicity of the poison dart frog.
Captive poison dart frogs, which feed on a different diet of non-toxic insects, do in fact lose their toxicity over time.
Not all poison dart frogs are actually poisonous, but those that are tend to be extremely toxic. The poison is carried on their skin to deter predators, so they aren’t safe to handle.
Sadly, due to deforestation and human infrastructure projects which encroach on their habitat, many poison dart frogs now appear on the endangered species list.
With their amazing displays of colour, poison dart frogs can certainly put on a show for being such small animals!
A single golden poison frog has enough poison to kill 10 grown men, making these frogs one of the most poisonous animals alive.
The poison-dipped darts of hunters can be dried and stored for up to 10 years without losing their potency!
Many species of poison dart frogs are dedicated parents. Their newly hatched tadpoles stick to the mucous on their backs as they carry them to safety.
Poison dart frogs spend more time on the ground and in the trees than they do in the water, so they have wide, flattened toes to help them grip instead of webbed feet.
Join Coyote Peterson as he and his crew go on the hunt for poison dart frogs in the rainforests of Costa Rica.
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