Arrow-Poison Frog Information
The poison arrow frog has long supplied the Indians with poison to use on arrow heads. Learn about the poison arrow frog.
Found only in Central and South America, arrow-poison frogs have long supplied the Indians with poison that was extracted from their bodies and used on arrow heads. There are many amphibians that have at least a trace of poison in their bodies or secrete poison from glands in their skin. Quite a few can cause a good deal of pain to any human that handles them. But only the arrow-poison frogs and a couple others secrete such a strong poison as to cause rapid death.
In most cases, the arrow-poison frog can be distinguished by the nail-like plate it has on each toe. Many of the species are brilliantly colored, such as the two-toned arrow-poison frog that is brick red with patches of blue black on its legs. One of the most brilliant of these frogs is the three-striped arrow-poison frog, which is yellow with stripes of black running lengthwise down the head, body, and around the limbs. A few of the species have what is known as flash colors, which are suddenly exposed as the frog jumps. It is believed that the bright colors and especially the flash colors are warnings to other animals that this frog is not fit to eat. All the different species of this frog are found in forest of different parts of Central and South America. A few live in trees but the majority live on the forest floor.
Like most frogs, the arrow-poison frog conforms to the usual amphibian diet. All adult amphibians are carnivorous, eating insects and other small invertebrates that are full of protein to restore worn out tissue as well as providing salts, fats, vitamins, and water that is needed for their metabolism. Amphibians also need carbohydrates, which can be rebuilt from surplus protein. The breeding habits of the arrow-poison frog have several peculiar features. Both the courtship and courtship rituals are very rare among frogs and toads. But in the case of the golden arrow-poison frog and other species, they tend to play together for two to three hours. During this play, they will jump at each other occasionally landing on each other's backs as if fighting. Shortly after this play period, the female lays the eggs. Strangely, there is no amplexus, which is the process in the common frog where the male perches on the female's back to fertilize the eggs as they are laid. The arrow-poison frog's eggs are laid on the ground where the male, who is waiting nearby, fertilizes them.
After the eggs have been fertilized, the male carries them on his back where they become attached to his skin. Once the eggs hatch, the tadpoles remain on their father's back getting no moisture except from rain. In most cases, there are up to twenty tadpoles, which causes the male to seek larger holes in which to rest as the babies grow. Arrow-poison frogs are often preyed upon by snakes, predatory birds, and some carnivorous mammals. However, they possess the ultimate deterrent of the animal world with their flash colors giving warning to their predators. This gives this species of frog a much safer life in its hazardous jungle existence.
Indians of South America are renowned for their use of poison-tipped arrows, which are said to cause death if they do no more than scratch the skin of their target. Of the poisons that are used by these tribesmen, the best known is curare, which is extracted from plants. Even this is a mild poison compared with that of the arrow-poison frog.