Parenting Skills of Poison Dart Frogs

It has been said that bright colors on critters are a warning, and an excellent example is the poison dart frogs down Central and South America way. They get their name because natives used them to poison their darts — so someone who has a penchant for toad licking should stay home.

There are many varieties of these little lethal lovelies, and their toxicity is variable. The strawberry poison dart frogs have less poison, several varieties of color, and apparently they can discriminate to be with those having similar markings. Racist? Speciesist?

Strawberry poison dart frogs have a poison to protect them from predators. It is in their skin. They have surprising parenting skills.
Credit: Flickr / Pavel Kirillov (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Darwin's disciples are puzzled as to why their poison doesn't make them croak. Some people actually have them as pets, they just don't feed them the things that produce toxins. In the wild, their contact poison also makes their parenting procedures even more curious. Mom frog carts each young'un on her back for a while.

Many frog species simply lay their eggs in water and leave the scene. Any eggs that don’t get eaten hatch into tadpoles that must fend for themselves. Not so with the poison dart frogs of Central and South America! Devoted parents, they remain with the eggs until they hatch. Since they lay their eggs out of the water, they keep coming back to ensure that the eggs stay moist. Once the eggs hatch, either one or both parents carry the tadpoles on their backs to a nearby water hole, where the young complete development.

You can read the entire article or download the audio by my favorite reader at "Piggybacking Pollywogs". You may also be interested in "Look but do not Touch the Poison Dart Frogs".