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Golden Poison Dart Frog

Phyllobates terribilis


These frogs come in a variety of bright vibrant colors that cover their entire bodies, from mint green to yellow to orange and sometimes white. Yellow or deep yellow is the most common color seen, giving them their common name. Adults are more brightly colored than young, which have the same primitive pattern of most other members of the family.

Golden Poison Dart Frog

The most toxic species of frog, the golden poison dart's skin is saturated in an alkaloid poison that contains batrachotoxins. These toxins prevent nerves from transmitting nerve impulses and ultimately result in muscle paralysis. About 1900 micrograms of batrachotoxins can be found in these frogs, and as little as 2 micrograms can be lethal to humans. It is believed that the frog gets its poison by eating a species of beetle in the Melyridae family.

The golden poison dart frog is the largest member of its family, with females (which are larger than males) reaching a length of 1.85 to 2.17 inches.

Distribution and Habitat

This frog is only found in the Amazonian rainforest along the Pacific coast of Colombia, specifically along the upper Rio Saija drainage in the vicinity of Quebrada Guangui' and at La Brea in Colombia. The region they inhabit is characterized by a hilly landscape, with elevations varying from 328 to 656 feet, and is covered by areas of wet gravel and small saplings and relatively little leafy debris. They rely on freshwater for mating, egg-laying, and to support their young but are otherwise terrestrial.


Golden poison dart frogs prey primarily on species of Brachymyrmex and Paratrechina ants, but also consume small invertebrates such as termites and beetles. They stalk and attack prey in one quick movement, and use their long, sticky tongues to capture prey. They will typically not attack an insect bigger than a full grown cricket, which is approximately 1 inch long.


Courtship and egg laying have only been observed in captivity, with limited specimens.

Both males and females appear to have multiple mates. They are thought to mate year round.

In the wild, once the female lays the eggs, the male fertilizes them and attaches them to his back. It seems that this simply a method of getting the eggs from their laying and fertilization site to the water to hatch. After fertilization and transfer to a small area of water for development, there is no further parental care. In captivity, clutches of eggs usually do not exceed 20. They hatch 11 to 12 days later, typically taking 2 to 4 days for all the eggs to be completely hatched. Newly hatched tadpoles are gray on the bodies and throats with paler gray tails and tail fins, with tiny flecks on the body and tail. They become independent "full frogs" at 55-60 days, and reach sexual maturity at 12-18 months.

With only one known predator (a small snake that feeds on juveniles), golden poison dart frogs are believed to live 5-10 years in the wild.

Habits and Behaviors

This frog is diurnal and strictly terrestrial. Both in captivity and when observed in the wild, golden poison frogs have only been observed sitting on the ground or sitting a few inches above the ground on a tree root or pieces of vegetation.

Captive golden poison frogs thrive in crowded conditions with little aggressive behavior. This differs from other closely related species which have been observed to be highly aggressive and territorial in nature. Most aggression takes place between the same sex, where calling, chasing and wrestling can occur.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Amphibia
order Anura
family Dendrobatidae
genus & species Phyllobates terribilis

Animal Diversity Web
National Geographic

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Reptiles and Amphibians >> Order Anura

This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.