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Colors of Danger

Written by Carla Mae Jansen


What is so colorful that both animals and people know that touching is dangerous? Poison Dart Frogs.

Poison Dart Frogs come in bright yellows, reds, blues, greens, and blacks. The colors and patterns are striking and beautiful. They are also a warning. Other animals in the rainforest know that the colorful frogs are poisonous.

Poison Dart Frogs come in over 100 varieties—some are yellow and black, some are blue with black spots, and some are red with blue legs. Vivid colors decorate all of them. Most are between one and two inches long (about as long as a large paper-clip). They live in rainforests in South and Central America. When a Poison Dart Frog is nervous, it secretes a mucus-like poison (or toxin) from its skin. Different types of Poison Dart Frogs make different amounts of toxin. Some just taste bad while others will kill any animal who tries to eat the frog.

How did Poison Dart Frogs get their name? People also know that the bright colors mean poison. Native hunters in Columbia (a country in South America) dip their darts in the toxic frog mucus before hunting. The dart is now poisonous and more likely to kill the animals the hunters are looking for.

How do the frogs make the poison? Scientists do not know for sure, but it seems like something the Poison Dart Frogs eat in the rainforest helps. Frogs raised in zoos eat crickets and do not make the toxin. In the wild, they eat spiders, ants, and other small insects.

Poison Dart Frogs are not the only dangerous animals with bright colors. Black Widow Spiders have a bright red hourglass on their black body and Coral Snakes have bright red, yellow, and black stripes.




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