Poison jewels: the dart frogs

These South American frogs are brightly coloured and highly poisonous. The colour alone deters many predators, but when threatened, these frogs also release deadly poisons through their skin.

All dart frogs in the Dendrobatidae family (about 170 species) are toxic to different degrees. These poisons taste fowl and are inedible by predators. However, some poisons are far worse, causing rapid paralysis and death of an attacker if they enter their bloodstream through the mouth.

Green and black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus) – a least concern species from Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Colombia.


Safe in captivity

Our frogs at The Living Rainforest are entirely harmless, they are only toxic when they eat certain foods in the wild.

Medicine from frogs

Researchers have recently developed a painkiller known as ‘ABT-594′ using the dart frogs’ poison. This is 200 times as powerful as morphine, but without any side effects or addiction.

The toxins from Dendrobates auratus are being studied for their potential use in treating heart attacks.

2 comments on 'Poison jewels: the dart frogs'

  1. Brett Murty says:

    There’s clearly a lot to understand about this. I think you produced some great factors in Attributes also.
    Keep working , fantastic work!

  2. Charlotte says:

    Why can the Golden Poison Frog eat the defensive toxins of poisonous ants without being poisoned and suffering a heart attack.

    This is a great site and I am using it for school work. I love all the plants and animals in the world.

    Charlotte aged 6 nearly 7 .

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At a glance


Lowland tropical rainforests in South America, found on the ground or up to 15m (45ft) high in the canopy


Spiders and small insects such as ants and termites


Up to 5cm (2’’)

IUCN conservation status

Many species are threatened or their conservation status is unknown. The golden poison frog is endangered
What does this mean?

Scientific name

Dendrobatidae family. Phyllobates terribilis (Golden poison frog), pictured above

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