Poison Dart Frog

Poison Dart Frog Facts
Size 0.6 - 2.3 inch (1.5 - 6 cm)
Speed Up to 10.5 mph (17 km/h)
Weight Up to 0,24 oz (7 g)
Lifespan 2 - 4 years
Food Termites, ants, millipedes
Predators Snakes
Habitat Central and South America
Class Amphibians
Order Anura
Family Dentrobatidae
Scientific name Dendrobatidae
Characteristics Bright colors, poisonous skin
Eat Me And You Will Regret It

Red, orange, yellow, blue, green – the bright colors of the poison dart frog already seem to suggest: “I am not edible, beware, I am poisonous!” And it is poisonous indeed. Its convulsant “Batrachotoxin” paralyzes muscles and the respiratory system. 0,002 mg of the poison per kg body weight can kill a human within 20 minutes time.

How Long Does It Take to Die After Having Touched a Poison Dart Frog?

This depends on the actual frog species. Only three of more than 175 species are dangerous to life and you definitely should not touch them at all:

  • Golden dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis)
  • Black-legged poison frog (Phyllobates bicolor)
  • Phyllobates aurotaenia

Poison Dart Frog Poison Dart Frog - Photo: Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock

If you are not accidentally staying in Columbia you do not need to be afraid of these three frogs because they live only there. The other species are not life-endangering but can cause fever, sickness, and gastro-intestinal poisoning if the poison finds its way into open wounds or gets in touch with mucous membranes (e.g. eyes, mouth).

The Poison Dart Frog Has Many Names

There are several names for the poison dart frog, such as dart-poison frog, poison frog or poison arrow frog. The frog’s scientific name (dendrobates) indicates an animal “climbing about in trees”.

Where Does The Name „Poison Dart Frog“ Come From??

Who would have thought that the frog’s poison could also be useful? In Columbia, the native Chocó tribe uses it for hunting with blowpipes. A little drop is enough to kill birds and small mammals.

Poison Dart Frog Poison Dart Frog - Photo: Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock

How Can You Extract The Poison Without Getting Poisoned?

The members of the Chocó tribe wrap leaves around the frogs, skewer them with a stick and “heat” them over a fire while putting a bowl under it to collect their excretions resp. poison.

The natives then soak their arrows with the liquid. But why don’t they die after eating the meat of animals which were killed with arrow poison? They fry the meat until it is well-done. The poison becomes harmless at a certain temperature.

The Slightly Different Fishhook

The poison of one single frog of the species Phyllobates terribilis is enough to prepare 30 to 50 arrows. The poison can be used for up to one year.

"You Are What You Eat" Or: Where Does The Poison Come From?

Poison dart frogs love to eat ants, termites, millipedes and bugs. The biochemical substances are collected in specific glands and make up the poison. If you collect “wild” posion dart frogs and feed them with different food, they will lose their toxicity.

Diurnal Group Animals

Most frogs are nocturnal animals. Poison dart frogs are active during the day when their bright colors can be seen best. They are sociable and live together in small groups.

Not to be Confused!

Poison dart frogs are often confused with the golden frog, which is just as small and colorful but less poisonous and only lives in Madagascar.

Poison Dart Frog Poison Dart Frog - Photo: Alfredo Maiquez/Shutterstock

The Only Enemy

The only natural enemy of the poison dart frog is a snake called Leimadophis epinephelus. It is not immune but resistant against the frog’s poison.

Headache? Take Some Poison Dart Frog ... Um, an Aspirin!

Scientists do research on the use of the poison of the phantasmal poison frog for medical purposes and have developed a new painkiller. It is 200 times stronger than morphine and does not have its side-effects. There is also research going on regarding the use in muscle relaxants and in drugs for the treatment of diseases of the heart.

Poison Dart Frog Poison Dart Frog - Photo: Brandon Alms/Shutterstock


Pupils are welcome to use this information at school for essays, presentations, posters or homework. All information appearing on this site has been precisely and thoroughly researched, nevertheless should you notice any errors, please do notify us via email.