Golden Poison-dart Frog

Golden Poison-dart Frog, Phyllobates terribilis

Description: This stunning poison dart frog is the deadliest of the dart frogs. It is also large for a dart frog, growing up to 5cm. Its common name derives from the yellow or ‘golden’ skin colour covering it, but it’s Latin name eludes to how terribly dangerous the toxins in its skin can be.

Golden Dart-frog (c) Andrew Gray

The Golden Poison-dart Frog has one of the most toxic species known within the animal kingdom. When disturbed by a potential predator the frog quickly releases poison from its skin, and if ingested will kill the predator very quickly. If the poison was to pass into the bloodstream of a human it could cause death within hours. Each frog has enough poison in its skin to kill over 10 humans and live to tell the tale. Amerindian tribesmen in South America use this frog to help them when hunting. Even today they carefully catch the frogs using leaves, so that their hands never come into contact with the frogs when collect them for using on their darts. After catching them,  they then extract the frog’s poison for their blow darts by wiping the sharp tip of the dart across the frogs back before use.

Reproduction: Females deposit 10 – 15 eggs on the ground among leaf litter, once developed and ready to hatch they are carried to pools on the back of the male. The male is capable of carrying multiple tadpoles at one time. The tadpoles feed and develop within these pools until they metamorphose. Despite the extreme level of toxicity in the adult frogs, the tadpoles are non-toxic and the young frogs begin to develop small quantities of these toxins within the skin once they have been out of the water for only a few weeks.

Diet: Small invertebrates.

Distribution: A small area of western Colombia, South America

Conservation Status: Endangered. These frogs are threatened in the wild as they only occupy a relatively small part of south-western Colombia. The specimens on display in the Manchester Museum highlight how localized this species is and also how the indigenous people still use the frog in their culture. If you would like to hear more about this frog, the way it is used, and see a specimen on display in the museum please see the following link:

Living Dangerously – (Video of these frogs at Manchester Museum)

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