Poison Dart Frogs:
Although the sales of some tree-frogs and horned frogs probably exceed those of arrow-poison frog in volume, it is the latter that have the greatest number of "hard-core" devotees. Anyone familiar with the beauty and reproductive intricacies of the various neotropical arrow-poison frogs can certainly understand why so many hobbyists show enthusiasm for this group of anurans.
One reason for the popularity of poison dart frogs probably is their beauty: they are very brightly colored and patterned. Another reason may be their unusual history: these frogs' toxins have long been employed to poison the tips of arrows used in hunting by the native peoples of Central and South America. Most of the poisonous skin exudates must be processed to maximize their toxicity. Some are toxic "as is"/ A third reason may be the fascinating patterns of care given eggs and young by the caretaking parent.
Besides these four genera of poisonous species, there are two basically nonpoisonous genera in the family: Colostethus, the rocket frogs, and Aromobates, the highly odiferous skunk frog. Although there are more species in the nonpoisonous genera (more than 100 rocket frogs and the single skunk frog) than in the poisonous ones (65 species), they are seldom available to hobbyist. Nor is it likely they would find favor with many hobbyists if they were available.
Poison dart frogs are not large. Those commonly found in the pet trade are small, with a snout-to-vent length of 3/4 to 2 inches. These are often very common within restricted areas, and are now protected by the Commission on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Color: If it is brilliance of color that interests you, you can't go wrong here. Poison dart frogs come in greens, blacks, yellows, reds, oranges, blues and combinations of those colors. Not all populations of given species are colored similarly. In the strawberry frog, Dendrobates pumilio, for instance, there are many color morphs: red frogs with blue legs, red frogs with black legs, green frogs with black reticulation, red frogs with white reticulation, and even some that are gray on blue. This variety of colors demonstrates how inappropriate a common name (strawberry frog) can be. This species is not the only one to display such marked diversity of color; in fact, among the poisonous members of this family, color variation within the species seems more the norm than the exception.
Toxicity: How toxic are poison dart frogs? In nature their toxicity varies by species and perhaps by population. Some of the less brilliantly colored species seem to have little toxicity, while some of the more brilliantly colored species are dangerously toxic.
it would appear that the title "most toxic of all" is shared equally by three closely related species of the genus Phyllobates. Denizens of south-western Columbia, these three are the golden, P. terribilis, the bicolored, P bicolor, and the gold-banded, P. aurotaenia, poison dart frogs. None of the three are common in America, by they are popular in Europe. All, though pretty, are a rather unspectacular golden color or gold and black (or black and gold). The toxicity of these three frogs in nature is so great that it would be necessary only to rub an arrow tip on the skin of an upset adult frog to gather sufficient toxin to
The most toxic of the skin secretions of other poison dart frogs are exuded only when the frog is seriously or mortally-wounded. To obtain the lethal poisons from these dart frogs, their captors put them to death.
Interestingly, even the most toxic of the poison dart frogs seem (and we emphasize "seem") to lose most
Whether newly imported or long term captives, poison dart frogs should be handled with care, for the sake of bother the handled and the handler. Unfrightened frogs are less apt to exude toxins than frightened ones. Long-term captives exude fewer secretions than new imports. The three species of dangerously toxic Phyllobates should never be touched with bare hands. Move them with nets or by inducing them to hop into a jar or glass used only for that purpose. The skin toxins of the frogs can enter the bloodsteam of a handler through abrasions or, it is thought, through the pores. it is not smart to take chances.