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Golden Poison Frog Fact File

Phyllobates terribilis

Weight

Insufficient

Records

Length

5cm

(2in)

Lifespan

Wild 5-10 years

Captive 5-10 years

Diet

Carnivore

Insects

Conservation Status

IUCN

Endangered

The golden poison frog is considered to be one of the most toxic animals on Earth and are protected by secreting poison from their skin.

Despite being potent enough to kill 10 adults these frogs have helped humans as a compound within their poison has been synthesized to create a painkiller.

This poison has been used by the native people of Colombia to tip their darts which are then used to catch prey. These animals are restricted to the lowland rainforests of Colombia.

Despite being called a golden poison frog they can also be colored white, orange or mint green.

Learn more about these amazing amphibians by reading on.

Appearance

While known as the golden poison frog these animals have a wide variation in their coloration. These include mint green, yellow, orange, white or the namesake golden. Behind the eye is a small, dark spot. In some individuals there are black marks on the toes and snout.

Adults have a single, flat coloration across their body while adults have a more bright, patterned appearance.

They have long, slender legs which end with four toes that are not webbed. At the end of the toes are tiny discs. Males have larger discs than females.

Their bright coloration acts as a warning for predators that this species is poisonous and if eaten they will be harmful.

An extra bone plate sits in the jaw and gives the appearance of teeth which these frogs lack.

As adults the females are typically larger than the males. On average a golden poison frog will measure up to 5cm (2in) long.

Diet


Golden poison frogs are carnivores. They feed on a range of ants, termites and beetles. These insects provide the toxicity they use to defend themselves.

Tadpoles are omnivores. They will feed on algae, plants, carrion and other small tadpoles.

Feeding tends to take place during the day.

Golden Poison Frog

Range

South America is the native home of the golden poison frog. Here they are restricted to an area of western Colombia.

Habitat

They make their home in lowland rainforest often near a watercourse such as a river. Often they hide among the leaf litter.

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Reproduction

Breeding takes place during the rainy season. Males will call in an attempt to attract a mate. This call is a trilling or buzzing.

When a female accepts him the pair will move to a moist area where she lays her eggs and he then fertilizes these. Up to 28 eggs are laid in each clutch. They are encased in a gelatinous outside.

The eggs are laid on land and hatch after two weeks. Once they hatch the male places them on his back and carries them to a watercourse where they can complete their metamorphosis. The watercourse may be ground water or water in the cup of a bromeliad plant.


Females may return every few days to check on their young. If food supplies are low they can produce eggs to act as food for the young.

After 14 weeks in the water course they will metamorphose from a tadpole in to an adult.

Young frogs may have a pattern of blue or green spots on the back.

Sexual maturity is typically reached at 18 months old but is more tied to size.

Behavior

Golden poison frogs are primarily found on the floor of the forest with climbing being rare.

Golden Poison Frog

Predators and Threats

Golden poison frogs are covered by an alkaloid poison which can cause a numbing sensation or in some cases even death. Their poison is considered one of the most potent of any poison dart frog.

Each individual frog carries enough poison at a single time to kill ten people.

These poisons come from their feed and if raised in human care they do not develop this poison.

Despite this adaptation they do have a single predator. One snake shows an immunity to their venom. Often these snakes only eat small frogs due to their small size.

Golden poison frogs are threatened by habitat loss due to cropping, logging and mining. They are also threatened by pollution.

Quick facts

The poison of the golden poison frog was used by native people of Colombia to tip darts they would use when hunting. This is achieved by rubbing the tip of the dart over their skin. They are considered the most toxic frog species.

Once a dart is coated with the poison it can last for up to a year.

Scientists have synthesized one of the compounds in their poison to produce a painkiller.

A second common name of the golden poison frog is the terrible frog.

The golden poison frog was first described for science in 1978 after its discovery in 1973.

Golden Poison Frog

Photo Credits

Top

kuhnmi, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Micha L. Rieser, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two

Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

Holger Krisp, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

National Geographic Society (U. S.), 2012. National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia. Natl Geographic Soc Childrens Books.

American Museum of Natural History. 2021. Golden Poison Frog | AMNH. [online] Available at: <https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/frogs-a-chorus-of-colors/poison-dart-frog-vivarium/golden-poison-frog> [Accessed 28 May 2021].

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2021. Poison frogs. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/poison-frogs> [Accessed 29 May 2021].

Alvarez, M. and M. Wiley 2011. "Phyllobates terribilis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 28, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Phyllobates_terribilis/

World Land Trust. 2021. Golden Poison Frog: Species in World Land Trust reserves. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldlandtrust.org/species/amphibians/golden-poison-frog/> [Accessed 29 May 2021].

AmphibiaWeb 2013 Phyllobates terribilis: Golden Poison Frog <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/1707> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 28, 2021.

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