Poisonous Tree Frog 1

Safari Dan: Poison Dart Frogs


Poison dart frogs are active during the day. Their brilliant colors warn predators of their toxic nature. They are tropical rain forest dwellers in Central and South America. Most live on or near the forest floor in the leaf litter and surrounding habitats not far from streams and small bodies of water. Many poison dart frogs are listed as international endangered species due to habitat loss.

The poison dart frogs which can be seen at the Springfield Science Museum are the dyeing dart frog (D. tinctorius), green-and-black dart frog (D.auratus), bumblebee dart frog (D. leucomalis), and phantasmal poison frog (Epipedobates tricolor ). Many of these frogs would not normally live together in the wild.

Dart frogs produce toxic skin excretions which make them some of the most toxic animals on the planet. The toxin is produced in skin glands from chemicals acquired from the frog’s diet of small insects. Exactly how the frogs produce their toxic skin excretions is still not well understood, however we do know that the diet of small insects that the frogs eat plays a role in their synthesis of the toxin.  A chemical know by researchers as epibatidine found in the skin of the phantasmal poison frog has been used to develop a potential pain killer which is over 200 times more effective than morphine (143 W. Schmidt). Captive bred frogs which eat fruit flies do not produce the toxin.

Many dart frogs form mated pairs and defend a breeding territory. Bumblebee dart frogs lay their eggs on bromeliad leaves where the eggs will develop into tadpoles. After a tadpole hatches from its egg the male frog will place the tadpole on its back and deliver it to a bromeliad pool where it will develop into a frog by eating the microscopic life in the water.

You can view the Poison Dart Frog display in the Solutia Live Animal Center of the Springfield Science Museum.

Dan Augustino, AKA Safari Dan, is the Aquarist at the Springfield Science Museum, which is one of the five museums that comprise the Springfield Museums.


About The Springfield Museums

THE SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in the heart of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated consortium of museums includes the Springfield Science Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, and The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss, the first and only museum dedicated to the beloved children’s book author and Springfield native.

The Museums are open Tuesday—Saturday, 10 am—5 pm; Sunday, 11 am—5 pm. One admission gains access to all five museums: Members free, Nonmembers: $25, adults; $16.50, seniors & college students; $13, children 3–17; under 3 free. Springfield Residents: FREE with Springfield Access Card and proof of address.