The golden poison dart frog is a very deceptive creature – despite its tiny two-inch frame, it happens to be the most poisonous creature on Earth. A single amphibian packs enough venom in it to kill over 10 adult men in about 3 minutes. In fact, the species gets its name from the native Emberá hunters of Colombia, who once used the frogs to make lethal blowgun darts.
The bright yellow frogs can only be found in small rainforest on the Pacific coast of Colombia, and their coloring can sometimes vary between yellow, orange, or pale green. The glamour of their appearance is a deliberate ploy, a tactic called aposematic or ‘warning’ coloration, to ward off potential predators. As proven by a 2001 study by Kyle Summers of East Carolina University in Greenville, the brightest frogs are always the most toxic.
Simply coming in contact with a golden poison dart frog doesn’t necessarily put you in mortal dangers, as the amphibians only produce and excrete the potent toxin through their skin only when they feel threatened. But picking up one of these tiny creatures and holding it in your hand for more than a few seconds without gloves is suicide.
The frog’s skin quickly becomes covered in alkaloid poison (batrachotoxin) that has the ability to ‘freeze’ nerves, stopping them from transmitting impulses. Within minutes, the victim experiences uncontrollable muscle contractions and eventually heart failure.
Scientists have not been able to determine the exact reason behind the frog’s extreme toxicity. They have traced its origins back 40 to 45 million years, in the forests of northern South America, and found that their ancestors were not poisonous.
There is some speculation that the creatures did not generate their own poison, but ingested huge amounts of plant poisons, mainly carried by their prey – flies, toxic ants, crickets, beetles, and termites.
Their high metabolic rate could have allowed them to process the venom rather quickly, allowing them to withstand and even absorb it. This theory is further strengthened by the fact that poison dart frogs that are raised in captivity never develop any venom.
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