Poison-dart Frogs
This group of frogs owe their name to the fact that several species of South American Dendrobatids have been used by Amerindians to coat the tips of their blow darts and or arrows, with the toxic secretions from these frog’s skin. Have a blow dart, or an arrow? Do you need to make it more lethal, or give it more stopping power? One answer was to find a special brightly colored frog, and to either rub the arrow tips on its back, or to cook, or sweat the poison out of it, and capture the toxic liquids that dripped off. Some frogs are so toxic, that you should not even handle them with uncovered hands. This is not so much the case with the 8 Dendrobatid that occur in Costa Rica. However the uses and treatments of such amazing creatures underscores their evolutionary path.

These are frogs that are active during the day, they are for the most part, brilliantly colored or at least adorned with bold stripes. This to would-be frog-eaters is should be an obvious message “eat me, and you will be sick, or worst than sick”

Polar opposite to camouflage, this is aposematic coloration, or warning coloration, as is the yellow and black of bees, and the bright banding on a coral snake. The toxic secretions of these frogs is dependent upon diet. Captive raised poison-dart frogs which are not fed ants,do not develop the toxins necessary to back up the threat,which has led to their niche, that of a slow diurnal insectivorous amphibean.–one that can look pretty, and sing proudly in the light of day, or at least where some of it might penetrate the canopy.



Dendrobates pumilio the Strawberry poison-dart frog, or the Blue jeans poison-dart frog is a fairly common small frog of the forest floor, and lower level of the lowland Caribbean Rainforest. The sound which should load with this page, is insect-like, and while the piece provided here is just a snippet, it is not uncommon to hear several males singing from low perches, each with a song like this however lasting upwards of a minute.

Links: Dendrobatidae (Poison-dart frogs)

(Phyllobates lugubris)–above, is the striped poison dart frog of the Caribbean lowlands and foothills. The trilled call of this species is heard low near the forest floor. This individual was heard, photographed and sound recorded at OTS Finca La Selva. The voice of (P. lugubris) has a plaintive ringing quality.

(Phyllobates vittats)–left, is the striped poison-dart frog of the Pacific lowland rainforest in Costa Rica. The vocalizations of frogs are used to advertise the presence of a male. Male frogs want to both attract a mate, and protect a territory, or a space within their habitat.

The male (P. vittatus) to the left has actually been drawn to the top of this rotting log in Corcovado N.P. by playing back a recording of its own song. Male poison-dart frogs are very territorial, and aggressive towards tresspassers.

If you are standing and playing a recording in their territory, you may end up with poison-dart frog on the toes of your rubber boots.

The original photo included part of the tape recording equipment. The recorder was being played on the log–and “presto-dendro-batid”

(Dendrobates granuliferus) -right, photgraphed in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica, lowlands near the Sirena Field Station. The Pacific rainforest counterpart to the much better known, and more often photographed (Dendrobates pumilio) of the Caribbean versant.

(Dendrobates auratus)-left, the black and green poison-dart frog, is found on the southern Pacific rainforest of Costa Rica. Personally I’ve seen and photographed very few from near the Sirena Field Station in Corcovado N.P.

Though the individual photographed to the left is from a captive individual. This does seem to be one of the more common captive bred species.

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