Poison Dart Frogs

Green and Black Poison Dart Frog

Green and Black Poison Dart Frog

I always thought poison dart frogs squirted lethal poisons.  I came across two different species on a trip to Costa Rica, and was pleasantly surprised to see my fear was exaggerated, as many fears tend to be.


It is a common name for frogs in the Dendrobatidae family, native to Central and South America.  They are named for their use by indigenous Amerindians who used the frogs’ secretions to poison the tips of blowdarts.  But of the over 175 species, only 4 species were actually used for this purpose.  The frogs’ bright colors are a warning signal to predators, a defense mechanism known as aposematism.


The degree of toxicity in each frog species varies, and there are only three that are dangerous to humans.  Neither of the two frogs pictured here were poisonous to us.  In any case, since frogs secrete their toxins through the skin, to receive their poison you would have to touch it.

Green and Black poison dart frog

Green and Black Poison Dart Frog


Two teen brothers in our small group were constantly touching them.  The real hazard, these frog lovers explained, was imparting human bug spray into the frogs’ sensitive, thin skin; if we were ever to pick up any frog, we should not have on lotions of any kind.  Their devotion was demonstrated in this sticky, humid rainforest by the constant swatting at persistent mosquitoes.


These frogs are really tiny:  one inch long (2 cm).  I’ve seen strawberries bigger than the strawberry frog!  If it hadn’t been for the boys lifting logs and leaves, and snatching the frogs gently and quickly, we never would have seen them.  Once we bid adieu to the boys and their parents, Athena and I sought out the frogs on our own.


Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

My job was to gingerly walk through a patch of grass where a ranger had indicated they might be found.  It was sopping wet grass and with every sloshy, squishy step I took, a cloud of mosquitoes poofed up around my hiking boots.  Occasionally a strawberry frog would jump up a few inches and then land.  Athena followed, crouched close to the ground, and snapped away.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander




60 thoughts on “Poison Dart Frogs

    • And the strawberry poison dart frog, although it is only one species, has many different varieties of colors in itself. I agree, Rosie, great colors! 😀

  1. Unusual to say the least. We have the bufo [think that’s how you spell it] here in FL. but it is basically only poisonous to to dog size and smaller animaller animals.

  2. They are really tiny! Thanks for the great photos and interesting information. I can imagine the mosquitoes singing around your feet 🙂

  3. They are both so beautiful….and surprisingly so tiny. The thing that would bother me would be the mosquitos as for some reason, they seem to love me…..Thanks again, Jet for a very interesting post. Janet.

    • I’m a mosquito magnet, too, Janet. Those tropical places have their difficulties too…whew! Very glad you enjoyed the post, my friend, and appreciate your comment. 😀

    • That is such a kind comment, I am smiling from ear to ear. With comments like that it is a true pleasure to be able to share the beauties of the world. Thanks so much smilecalm. 😀

  4. They are gorgeous. Thanks for the info about the bug spray. Not sure if and when I might go but worth knowing (although mosquitoes love me…)

    • I thought it was good info too, about the bug spray. Those two teen boys will never know what an impact they had on me…sort of the same with being a writer, eh Olga? Many thanks! 😀

    • I am so happy you enjoyed it Iris. It’s fun to be with a guide and a group, but it is always fun to try things on your own, too. Thanks so much, my friend, for your comments today and other days too. 🙂

  5. Indeed, I would’ve thought the same thing about the poison dart frogs at first! Thanks for this very interesting and informative post. They are such beautiful creatures…what colors…Your trek through the forest sounds so exciting and I’m glad you were able to catch a glimpse of the frogs…the strawberry frog is especially unique!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post today, Lia. I agree with you, those strawberry frogs are awesome. With many different variations of this frog, they don’t all have blue legs. This one I pictured is called the “Blue Jeans” variation. funny! 😀

  6. I encountered many of this bright colored frogs while in the Amazon Rainforest, the Campa tribes and others used them to rub their darts in the frog’s bodies and be extremely deadly. Funny thing about these poisonous frogs if taken out of their environment a while later they lose all their toxic poison.
    I wouldn’t mess around with them anyway! Thanks Jet for a great post, I remembered old times! 🙂

    • Great point HJ! I’ve read when scientists raise the frogs in captivity the frogs lose their toxicity. But I like your approach to respect the creatures, everything’s better that way. Always a treat to “chat” with you HJ — 😀

    • The research on some of the poison dart species is quite intricate, regarding alkaloids and the different levels of toxicity. I, too, find them fascinating, Jan — thanks so much. 🙂

  7. Your descriptions are so vivid, Jet. I can just see the two of you slinking through the rain forest. I’m always glad it was you, and not me!

  8. Love your posts, Jet. Great guides and the bit about the bug spray. We generally aren’t ‘thinking’ clearly when we’re in another’s environment or looking to get joy of exploration (touching, getting too close for a photo, etc.). Wild is wild, and wild we are no longer.

    • Righto Shannon. I know how respectful you are of wildlife, like me, like many, but there’s always something new to learn — that’s the fun part. Thanks so much for your kind comment. 😀

  9. That was fascinating, Jet. Now i’m wishing i had time to write a story about beautiful colorful frogs and poison darts! But i’d write from my sofa… mosquitoes absolutely love me, and choose me for their feast even with there are six other people inches away… Hugs! 😀

    • The poison darts are definitely intriguing, Teagan; I’ve read an Agatha Christie mystery with them as the murder weapon. So very glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciate your fun comment. 😀

  10. I adore frogs of all kinds. I’ve only ever seen poison dart frogs in a public aquarium. What a treat to be able to see them in their real environment. Their vibrant colours and markings are so beautiful. I’ve picked up frogs around our ponds here and, while I generally don’t wear bug spray when we visit there, I’ll now make certain my hands are well washed before I ever pick one up again. Thanks for sharing your adventures in yet another, informative, and enjoyable post! Wishing you a happy week! :))

    • I am delighted you enjoyed the frog post, Jeannie. And I’m also glad to impart the frog skin sensitivity issue to you too, in case you pick some up. Many thanks! 😀

  11. Jet what amazing photos of these little wee beings. So interesting about the poison issue. Yes I suppose like in so much of nature we are more dangerous to the animal than the other way around.

    • Very glad you enjoyed the poison dart frog post, Sue. As you know, we all make better co-inhabitants of the planet when we respect one another. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful and warm comments my friend. 😀

  12. It wouldn’t be because of the poison that make me afraid of touching a frog, it’d be for their slimy texture. 🙂 But, I do remember touching frogs as a kid. Probably won’t happened again. I’m fine just looking. 🙂

  13. Love this post, Jet! They are beautiful frogs. Good thing that human should not touch them due to their poisonous skins. I think it is not wise to touch any wild animals at the first place 🙂

  14. I have never fancied touching frogs but these little fellas look sweet ( for watching only!) and so bright. We don’t have anything like them here! Thanks for all the info Jet X

  15. The poison dart frogs are beautiful, both the Green and Black and the Strawberry one:) The green and black one looks much like one I observed when we spend some nights in the jungle in the Amazon in Brazil. Our guide did however advise us to not touch it, but I guess it could just have been a precaution.

    • How great that you saw the green and black frog, Inger! Yes, I suspect it was a precaution, too, on behalf of the frog. There are many unfortunate problems with the dwindling frog populations in So. Amer., primarily due to a fungus. Guides and other professionals are taking every precaution possible to save them. Thanks so much for your input and visit, Inger. 😀

  16. What gorgeous little creatures. I know you say that the poisonous ones have to be touched to do harm BUT I’m worrying about the word ‘dart’, which suggests a projectile capability… RH

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