They’re small, they’re colorful and can sometimes pack a real punch. Poison-dart frogs come from the family Dendrobatidae and presently are split up into four major groups – Dendrobates, Epipedobates, Minyobates and Phyllobates. (Phew…that’s a lot of “–bates”) One of the most noticeable characteristics of a poison-dart frog is its bright coloration. Coming in several colors and patterns, this vibrant look serves an important purpose. It’s the warning sign to all potential predators that these frogs are poisonous and could do some serious harm (including to humans).

Although most poison-dart frogs are vibrant in color, not all are equipped with the trademark poisonous skin. Due to the fact that these commonly-toxic frogs actually get their deadly touch from the ants (a favorite food option) they eat in the wild, many poison-dart frogs that live in captivity are actually harmless. The ants they eat in the wild consume plants that contain an alkaloid base toxin, which is passed along to the frogs that consume them.

Here are a few more super fun facts:

  • Poison-dart frogs are diurnal, which means they are active during the day.
  • Although they are frogs, poison-dart frogs are mainly terrestrial (stay on land) and spend most of their time in the ground litter of the humid South American rainforests.
  • Eggs are laid during the rainy season or throughout the year in damp spots on land (or on the underside of leaves). Once they hatch, they are transported to individual water spots by their parents.
  • Many poison-dart frog tadpoles are cannibalistic.
  • Males make calling noises, while females do not. This is one of the only ways to tell each gender apart. Another way is by their front toes – males have wider toe tips and females have narrower toe tips.

Here at the Minnesota Zoo, you can find our poison-dart frogs along our Tropics Trail in The Canopy exhibit. All in all, poison-dart frogs are pretty cool creatures, but due to deforestation of their tropical rainforest homes they are at risk. Share a fun poison-dart frog fact with a friend and let’s keep working to find ways to protect the poison-dart frog and all of the amazing wildlife of the South American rainforest ecosystem.