There are about 250 different species or morphs/phenotypes of poison arrow frogs. The main genera of frogs are: Adelphobates, Ameerega, Colostethus, Dendrobates, Epipedobates, Hyloxatus, Minyobates, Oophaga, Phyllobates, Ranitomeya, and Silverstoneia, and their colors range from somewhat plain browns and black to the many vibrant spectrums of the rainbow. All are diurnal (active during the day) except for one species. Poison arrow frogs can be either terrestrial (residing on the ground) or arboreal (residing in the canopies or tops of trees). They have adhesive pads on their feet, making it easy for them to maneuver on the forest floor or up in the trees.
Poison arrow frogs inhabit the rainforests of Central and South America. The animal’s name is derived from the fact that the native people in some regions of Central and South America extracted the toxins the frogs produce to tip their arrows or darts. Although there were only a few species that the natives actually used to extract poison, all in the genus
Phyllobates, all other species in the same family of frogs are characterized as poison arrow frogs. The poison was extracted for hunting, and to a smaller extent, for warfare. Sometimes the natives shoved the dart straight through the frog to collect as much poison as possible. Alternatively, the natives captured the frog and rubbed the darts on its back until the frog secreted a mucous onto the dart. A third and final method to collect the poison was to cook the frog in order to collect the poison.
Poison arrow frogs produce poison to protect themselves against predators. The frogs’ bright colors serve as a warning sign to potential predators that they are toxic, a warning that they should not be eaten. Poison arrow frogs’ toxins taste bad or sour so that if a predator attacks, the predator will spit them out. The poison acts quickly, attacking the nervous system and muscular system, producing respiratory problems and/or muscular paralysis.
If you are interested in having a poison arrow frog as a pet, do not be overwhelmed by all of the information provided in an effort to answer some of the basic questions that prospective owners might have about the animals. Once the frog’s habitat is set up correctly, poison arrow frogs are fun and easy pets to keep. Poison arrow frogs can live up to 10-15 years in captivity if kept and cared for properly.
Many owners feel that their frogs require “friends." Companion frogs are not a necessity, but there are many advantages to keeping more than one frog in an enclosure. Multiple sexes of the same species have elaborate social interactions. Courtship rituals are fascinating, well worth seeing even if you are not planning to breed. Males will often call in the form of buzzing, humming, chirping, clicking, or trilling. Females will respond by approaching the males. Males and females perform several motions that resemble a dance. They often stroke one another on the head or back before retreating to the breeding quarters. Males often hold females down. Many frogs breed in a “vent to vent” manner, while others fertilize after the eggs are laid. Mating rituals can last hours or days at a time.
Despite the fact that these frogs are not poisonous, it is important to note that these are “look and don’t touch” frogs. If you want a pet to handle, this is probably not the best pet for you. Frogs and the vivariums (habitats or terrariums) in which they are contained are a pleasure to observe and maintain, despite the limitations on contact.