These frogs are known as the jewels of the rainforest, but can cause death or serious discomfort to an unwary victim. Some of the most beautiful things on this planet are also some of the most deadly. But that’s the point — by standing out with vibrant colors, a species can ward off potential predators. Such is the strategy of these tiny, vibrantly colored, and highly toxic frogs, which you can see on the following pages.
1. Yellow-banded poison dart frog
The yellow-banded poison dart frog is also known as the bumblebee poison frog, and it’s not hard to see why. Though they have a somewhat lower toxicity level than some species, and are not actually one of the species used by indigenous tribes for poisoned arrows, there’s a good reason why they’re colored like a hazard sign. Wild-caught frogs of this species can do plenty of damage to predators
2. Kokoe poison dart frog
The kokoe poison dart frog is the third most toxic member of the Phyllobates genus – just behind the golden poison dart frog and the black-legged poison frog – when encountered in the wild. It is also the tiniest of all three, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in song. Its call has been described as “beautiful and bird-like.” Instead of males wrestling each other for dominance, they will simply face off and call loudly until one of them backs down. But don’t be lured in by that song — this frog’s toxin seeps in through open wounds and pores, causing intense pain, fever and seizures. Human fatalities from this frog have been suspected, though not confirmed.
3. Phantasmal poison frog
The phantasmal poison frog is not only beautiful, but it is also exceptionally tiny. It grows to only about .4 inches to 1.6 inches in length. But don’t let that small stature fool you. It carries enough poison to kill an adult human. Scientists have looked into the possibilities of using the potent poison of this frog, and have developed a painkiller called epibatadine that is 200 times more powerful than morphine, yet without any addictive qualities. Currently scientists are trying to breed the species in captivity while maintaining its toxicity — something most poison frogs lose because the diet from which they derive the poison is altered. Captive breeding will be a must for future study since the phantasmal poison frog is endangered in its native Ecuador, due primarily to habitat loss.
4. Green and black poison dart frog
Though not as toxic as some other species, the green and black poison dart frog holds enough poison to make a human quite ill. These beautiful little frogs range in shades of green from a dark forest, to mint, lime, emerald, and turquoise, and can even be outside of the green spectrum with pale yellow or cobalt blue coloration. Native to Central America and northwestern parts of South America, these colorful frogs make popular pets. For some species, that spells disaster, but thankfully for this species they are still quite numerous.
5. Dyeing dart frog
The dyeing dart frog is one of the largest species of poison dart frog, yet it only grows to be about two inches long. It is a species from the genus Dendrobates, which is less toxic than the Phyllobates genus (the most toxic genus of poison frogs, and the genus to which the golden dart frog and black-legged dart frog belong). The toxin still has some interesting effects, however. Not only is it used to poison the tips of arrows for hunting, but indigenous tribes of the Guiana Shield rub the skin of juvenile parrots with the frog, which causes their feathers to grow in different colors. And that explains the species’ common name.
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