Toxicity of Golden Dart Frogs


When someone speaks of toxic amphibians, one may think of the wide variety of colorful and poisonous frogs that roam the earth. But what among them is the most poisonous frog in the world? It turns out to be the brightly-colored golden dart frog, found in the humid rainforests of Colombia. Its skin secretes batrachotoxin, which targets the sodium channels of anything that tries to eat it. Death descends upon the unlucky animal as the nerves are damaged and muscles contract, leading to heart failure.

The typical golden dart frog in the wild is estimated to contain enough batrachotoxin to kill up to twenty humans. The indigenous people of Colombia’s rainforests are known to smear the golden dart frog’s skin secretions over their arrows for later use in hunting. The poison can retain its effects for a couple of years after being transferred from the frog.

Interestingly, the most poisonous frog is only toxic thanks to its diet rich in alkaloids. Although it is unclear which specific prey item provides it with the necessary components to manufacture the toxin, the golden dart frog feeds on a variety of insects and consumes mostly ants in the wild. Golden dart frogs bred and raised in captivity do not consume alkaloid rich prey items and consequently do not acquire toxicity.