Once used by Native Americans to poison the tip of their blow darts, the Poison Dart family is known for the many species of toxic frogs. From the depths of the wilderness, nestled in the richest of rainforests and tropic environments, these adorable little croakers lurk, hidden away as the world’s ten most dangerous frogs.
Golden Poison Dart Frog
The bright golden skin of the golden poison dart frog may be attractive, but consider it a warning, the golden poison dart frog is the most poisonous known frog to man. Indigenous to the coasts of Colombia, this golden variety of poison frog is 20 times more toxic than other dart frogs and is believed to be able to kill a person with an amount equal to 2 to 3 grains of salt, and harbors enough poison to kill 10 adult humans. At 2-inches or roughly 5-centimeters, the golden poison dart frog is among the larger of the poison dart species and is known to have only one predator – the snake species Liophis epinephelus, which has built up an immunity to the frog’s toxins.
Black-Legged Dart Frog
Measuring up to 2-inches or roughly 5-centimeters, the black-legged dart frog, or Phyllobates bicolor, is among the largest of poison frogs. Endemic to Colombia, specifically along the San Juan River and lowland forests, this toxic amphibian typically sports a bright orange body contrasted by dark blue or black legs. Unlike the many poison dart frogs in this Archive, the black-legged dart frog is said to have been linked to human deaths, though no reports have been confirmed. Though known for being toxic, the black-legged dart frog’s poisonous discharge has been considered for possible medicinal purposes.
Kokoe Poison Dart Frog
Traverse the tropics of Central and South America and you may find a small striped amphibian living amongst the brush on the ground. The kokoe poison frog, or Phyllobates aurotaenia, may look docile, but pick it up and you’ll find that its glistening skin isn’t because of water. From its flesh, this species of poison frog secretes a batrachotoxin through glands throughout its body. Known for being a steroidal alkaloid, the toxin binds to nerve and muscle cells, causing paralysis in larger mammals, like humans, in doses as smalls 100 milligrams. When found in captivity, like other poison dart frogs, the kokoe is nonlethal as its toxic make-up comes from a diet of indigenous Melyrid beetles and millipedes.
Blue Poison Dart Frog
The brightly colored exterior of the blue poison dart frog may be appealing to the human eye, but to the predators of the forests of Brazil, it’s a warning. Nestled among boulders and amidst the foliage on the forest floor, the blue poison dart frog has few predators thanks to its diet of poisonous ants and beetles, which it uses to create a toxic alkaloid that secretes from its skin. In small doses, the poisonous discharge can lead to paralysis and death. Specific to the blue poison dart frog is a hunchbacked posture and black spots that are unique for each adult member of the species.
Phantasmal Poison Frog
Epipedobates tricolor, named for its trio of colors on its body, is an endangered member of the Dendrobatidae family endemic in Ecuador in the Bolivar Province. By ingesting a diet of certain ants and beetles, the Phantasmal poison frog produces and secretes the alkaloid toxin, epibatidine, which is about 200 times more potent than morphine. At just under .4 inches or 1 centimeter in size, the phantasmal poison frog is a tiny amphibian capable of doing quite a bit of damage. For predators and humans that come into contact with the poison frog’s flesh, death may not be imminent, but it is a grave possibility.
Strawberry Poison Dart Frog
The aptly named Strawberry poison dart frog is a Central American member of the Dendrobatidae family, making up a colorful member of the Oophaga genus. This speckle-backed frog’s brightly colored flesh mimics the look of a strawberry, and though it may look delicious, it is coated in a poison chemical derived from the amphibian’s diet of ants and mites, specifically formicine ants. The pumiliotoxin 251D affects the cardiac function of those that come in contact with it. Predators that do ingest the alkaloid toxin can suffer from paralysis, convulsions, and even death.
Splash-Backed Poison Frog
Also known as the Zimmermann’s poison frog, the splash-backed poison frog is found in Peru, specifically in the upper Huallaga River of the San Martin Region. Like other amphibians of the Dendrobatidae family, Ranitomeya variabilis secretes a pumiliotoxin that is lethal in doses as small as 2 milligrams and, in smaller doses, can lead to paralysis. For humans, even a small amount can lead to illness, though death is unlikely. The splash-backed poison frog is known for being pudgier, can measure up to .6 inches or roughly 1.6 centimeters, and is found in a mix of black, yellow, and green coloring.
Yellow-Banded Poison Dart Frog
It’s all fun and games until you happen across a Dendrobates leucomeias in a lowland or subtropical forest. The small, striped frog, ranging from one to two inches or about 2.5 to 5 centimeters in length, is endemic to South America, specifically Guyana and Brazil. The striped formation on its body protects the frog from predators, serving as a sign of its toxic skin. Alternately known as the “bumblebee poison dart frog,” the Yellow-Banded Poison Frog may not have the stinger of a bee, but simply touching one of these tiny critters can lead to nerve damage. The poison secreted from their skin stems from a diet heavy of ants in their region, which are synthesized to create the chemical toxin.
Golfo Dulce Poison Dart Frog
Found mostly in Costa Rica, the Golfo dulce poison Dart frog, or Phyllobates vittatus, can reach lengths of 1.3 inches or about 3.5 centimeters. Despite its small size, this tropical amphibian produces a neurotoxic alkaloid through its skin, which is potent enough to cause paralysis in predators. What it synthesizes its toxin from is still unknown, though it is known to siphon the required chemicals from invertebrates that they feed on. Though mostly black in color, the toxin that coats its flesh causes it to glimmer and serve as a warning to predators. Despite its secretion of toxins through its skin, the Golfo Dulce poison dart frog is a popular pet to breed.
Dyeing Poison Dart Frog
At 2 inches or roughly 5 centimeters, the dyeing poison dart frog is thought to be one of the largest of the Dendrobates and, like many of its genus, is endemic to regions of South America, including the French Guiana and Brazil. Considered highly toxic, the pumiliotoxins secreted by the dyeing dart frog can cause cramping and pain if handled inappropriately and serve to protect the colorful species from predators. Of the many species of poison dart frogs, the dyeing dart frog has been found in a variety of color morphs, each with a different degree of toxicity.