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What Is a Poison-Arrow Frog?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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Also known as a poison dart frog, poison-arrow frogs are found in Central and South America. They are less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and have brightly colored bodies, ranging from yellow to red. The poison of a poison-arrow frog is incredibly potent and capable of killing most animals, including humans. This frog’s name is derived from the fact that people once put its poison on arrows or darts. Poison-arrow frogs can be kept as pets, but they remain poisonous for some time after capture in the wild.

Poison-arrow frogs are rainforest frogs, and their colors let other animals know they are poisonous. They can be bright blue, green, or yellow, among many other rich colors. The frogs have various markings depending on the species; for example, stripes are relatively common. Even the largest poison-arrow frog can fit in the palm of an adult person’s hand, while the smallest can sit atop a person’s fingernail.

This kind of frog is not aggressive, nor is it widely known to kill humans under normal circumstances. It is primarily found in jungles, away from human habitats. Still, just one frog carries enough poison to kill dozens of people. Researchers believe the frogs make this poison by using chemicals obtained from their food, which consists of smaller creatures like ants and mites.

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The mating habits of a poison-arrow frog largely depend on the type of species. Some species are incredibly territorial and will fight over nests and roosts. A few species of poison frogs lay their eggs high in the trees, while others prefer to hide eggs under ground litter. For the most part, both the male and female poison-arrow frog work together to safely hatch new poison frogs.

Some species of poison-arrow frog are kept in captivity by zoos or people who know how to properly handle such a poisonous animal. There is some debate about how long the frog can live; studies show up to three years, but some people report having one frog for at least 25 years. It could be that the frogs simply live longer in captivity than in the wild. As time passes, a poison-arrow frog becomes less poisonous in captivity.

Many species of poison-arrow frogs are endangered. Habitat loss and fungi are common problems that kill this type of frog. Stable populations of the frog still exist, however, and some conservation groups have made attempts to help stabilize more populations of the animal.

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