POISON DART FROGS

There are approximately 150 species of amphibians living in Costa Rica. Several of these species include some of the most brightly colored frogs found in the rainforest.

This fascinating group of frogs belongs to the family Dendronbatidae. In Costa Rica there are 7 species, 3 of which boldly display the bright and contrasting colors that are a family trademark.


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Strawberry Dart Frogs are beautifully colored. Although their eggs are laid among the leaves, the newly hatched larvae are carried on the backs of the parents to a pool of water or water-filled plant.


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This Strawberry Poison Dart Frog captures their prey using their sticky retractable tongue. This species is the most common Dendronbatidae found in Costa Rica.

Using the reverse psychology of camouflage, poison dart frogs stick out like a sore thumb to warn potential predators to stay away. Usually once an animal has tasted the unpleasant poison of a Dendronbatidae (and they live to tell about it!), they will stay away. When an animal uses this technique its called aposematic coloration.

The toxins of Costa Rica’s poison dart frogs are not nearly as venomous as their Colombian cousin, but nonetheless they serve to defend the frogs from predators. An animal that feeds on any member of the Dendrobatidae is likely to suffer from violent sickness or death. The lucky survivors quickly learn to avoid anything with the color pattern that caused such extreme illness. Thus the bright reds, blues, greens, and blacks of the frogs actually serve as a warning.

Most poison dart frogs are active during the day(diurnal). They feed on ants and termites, but will also eat other small insects. Males defend a territory by physical combat (which is much like Greco-Roman wrestling) and vocalizations.


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The common name of Poison Arrow Frog or Poison Dart Frog originates from the Choco Indians of Colombia. The Choco knew that the frogs emitted a toxin from their skin. The Choco would rub the tips of their arrows across a frog’s body to make the arrow head poisonous.


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Dave Freeman is the Executive Director of the Wilderness Classroom. Dave and Amy Freeman have traveled over 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world’s wildest places. National Geographic named the Dave and Amy Adventurers of the Year in 2014.

When the Freemans aren’t on expeditions or conducting school assemblies, they guide canoe, kayak and dogsled trips.

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