They are among the world’s most colourful animals and also one of the deadliest. Meet the little but lethal Poison Arrow Frogs. These new, thumb-sized residents are also the first amphibians to make S.E.A. Aquarium their home.
A visual warning
Poisonous amphibians tend to sport bright colours and/or eye-catching patterns. Poison Arrow Frogs are a prime example. Their bright colouration is a warning of their unpalatability (due to toxic skin secretions) to potential predators.
One frog can kill 10 adult humans
Measuring just 1.5cm to 6cm long, Poison Arrow Frogs derive their toxicity from their natural diet of small insects like poisonous ants, termites and even spiders. These alkaloid toxins found in their skin glands serve as a chemical defense against predation. When humans touch these frogs, the toxins will enter our bloodstream and may cause paralysis and death, even in minuscule amounts.
Among them, the deadliest is the Golden Poison Frog. Each frog has enough toxins to kill 10 adult humans.
Indigenous hunters have been known to coat darts and arrows with their toxic skin secretions to kill birds, monkeys and other small animals. According to an account published in 1978, obtaining this toxin for use on darts was a gruesome process. The hunters would pass a pointed piece of wood down the frog’s throat, and out at one of its legs. Naturally, the frog becomes agitated, and begins sweating toxic white froth, especially on its back. The hunters then dip their darts and arrows in this toxin, which supposedly remains potent for a year.
“Poison-less” under human care
Poison Arrow Frogs raised under human care are isolated from poisonous insects in their native habitat. As such, they do not develop toxins like their wild counterparts. Nevertheless, our aquarists exercise caution and put on gloves when handling them.
Here at S.E.A. Aquarium, the frogs feed on a variety of non-poisonous insects such as crickets and wingless flies, coated with vitamin powder for extra nutrition.
More than 40 frogs from 5 species
There are currently over 40 Poison Arrow Frogs from five species in our new Poison Arrow Frog habitat.
The frogs’ lush habitat is specially designed to replicate the dense vegetation and humid environment of their native tropical forests in Central and South America. Temperature is kept between 22 and 27 degrees Celsius while a misting machine releases fine mists at regular intervals to maintain the desired humidity.
In the wild, the number of Poison Arrow Frogs is declining as a result of deforestation to make way for farmlands. Come to S.E.A. Aquarium for a rare close-up look at them.