Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Over 220 species of frogs are incredibly poisonous; some are dangerous to humans and pets.
- Toads are a type of frog, with key differences such as rough, dry skin and a preference for dry land.
- The Golden Poison Frog is one of the most poisonous animals on the planet, with enough poison to kill ten full-grown adults.
- Cane Toads are highly toxic and considered one of the worst invasive species in the world.
- Researchers are studying the chemicals in some frog’s toxins for potential medicinal properties, such as non-addictive painkillers.
When you think of frogs and toads, you don’t typically imagine them as dangerous.
They’re squat and clumsy, and their demeanor is anything but threatening. But don’t let those sweet frog faces fool you because over 220 species of frogs are incredibly poisonous.
For example, the Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis) isn’t just the most poisonous amphibian – it’s one of the most poisonous animals on the planet. No larger than a paper clip, these frogs contain enough poison to kill ten full-grown adults.
But Golden Poison Frogs live in South America’s jungles, so you have nothing to fear from these jumping-jack amphibians. Or do you? In this article, we’re looking at some of the world’s most dangerous and interesting frogs and toads.
But first, a quick word on the difference between frogs and toads.
Frogs and Toads: What’s the Difference?
You may have noticed that this article is titled “Poisonous Frogs,” but I’ve mentioned toads a few times now. That’s not a mistake. Toads are types of frogs. Or in other words, all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads.
Toad is just a descriptor we use to describe dry-skinned frogs. There’s no real taxonomical difference between them.
You can think of it like this: we call pugs “pugs” not because they aren’t dogs but because they’re a specific type of dog. It’s the same with toads – they’re still frogs; we just use a particular word to designate them because of some key differences.
And what are those differences? Well, we already covered one. Toads have rough, dry, and bumpy skin, while frogs are usually smooth and slimy.
Another difference is that frogs tend to dwell by water because they need to stay moist, whereas toads can survive on dry land just fine.
Lastly, frogs’ legs tend to be longer, allowing them to jump much further than most toads. Of course, there are exceptions, but when it comes down to the difference between frogs and toads, it’s usually just pedantics.
So, next time you’re on a walk and your friend says, “Hey, look a frog!” and the frog has dry, bumpy skin, they’re not exactly wrong.
Also, as you might have guessed, some toads can be just as poisonous as frogs. And what better way to demonstrate that than by kicking off our list with a toad species many of you are probably familiar with.
American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
These grumpy-faced backyard dwellers are a common sight beneath porch lights on summer nights. They’re relatively large, reaching lengths of four to five inches. Their range extends through much of the eastern United States and Canada, though some have been found as far west as Kansas.
While not especially dangerous to humans, American Toads can secrete a poisonous fluid from glands on their backs. This poison is used to deter predators and, in some cases, can harm pet dogs or cats.
Luckily, their toxic secretions are rarely fatal to dogs, but signs of poisoning can be startling. For example, a dog may start foaming at the mouth, spitting, or vomiting when in contact with the toad’s poison.
The poison has to be absorbed through mucous membranes – such as the mouth or eyes – for any harm to occur.
Also, toads will not give you warts even if the poison touches skin!
Cane Toads (Rhinella marina)
While American Toads aren’t very dangerous, Cane Toads sure are.
Native to South and Central America, Cane Toads now live in Australia and the southern United States as well. They are considered one of the worst invasive species in the world due to their potent poison.
Cane Toads were introduced to many places outside their native range in the hope that they would control crop-eating insects.
Unfortunately, the plan backfired. Cane Toads weren’t successful at stopping pests, but they were very successful at breeding and adapting to new environments.
Cane Toads are about as round as dinner plates and can weigh up to an astonishing three pounds (1.3 kg). Talk about a chunky toad! They primarily eat insects but will also gobble up small birds, rodents, snakes, and even other amphibians.
Cane Toads are much more toxic than American Toads, though their poison is rarely fatal to humans.
Pets are a different story, too. Many dogs have died simply from licking the back of a Cane Toad, making them a big problem for pet owners throughout their range.
Colorado River Toad (Incilius alvarius)
Colorado River Toads are one of the largest toad species in the United States. Unlike the other toads on this list, they have smooth, olive-green skin.
Like the Cane Toad, River Toads secrete a toxin that can cause hallucinations. Colorado has made it illegal to capture these toads because of their psychedelic effects and because their poison is dangerous.
Poisoning by Colorado River Toads is usually fatal when ingested. Even in mild cases, the poison can induce comas and cardiac arrest. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid handling or consuming these toads, and seek immediate medical attention in case of exposure.
Luckily, these toads have a relatively small range within southern Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. So, you don’t have to worry too much unless you live in those areas.
However, if you live in those areas, it is important to take precautions to avoid contact with these toads, especially if you have pets or children who may come into contact with them.
It’s also advisable to consult with local wildlife experts or authorities for more information on how to minimize the risks associated with these toads.
You may also like: 23 Amazing Types of Frogs From Around the World
Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis)
We already mentioned how poisonous the bright yellow frogs are. But let’s get to know them a little better, shall we?
Golden Poison Frogs are usually no larger than a paperclip. Still, they are one of the largest species of poison dart frogs.
They’re native to a small section of Colombia in South America. The indigenous Emberá people of Colombia use the poison Golden Poison Frogs to coat the tips of blow darts used for hunting – hence the name, poison dart frogs.
No one knows how these frogs develop their potent toxins. Some believe it comes from plant poisons which the frogs absorb when eating prey like ants, crickets, and other small insects that chew on leaves.
Some evidence to back up this theory is that poison dart frogs raised in captivity, and thus don’t eat a natural diet, don’t develop any toxicity.
Unfortunately, these beautiful frogs are endangered. Their population continues to decline as more and more of their rainforest habitat is cut down and destroyed.
Blue Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates tinctorius “azureus”)
These beautiful blue and black-spotted frogs are native to Suriname on the north coast of South America. They live in what are called rainforest islands or relic rainforests.
A long time ago, rainforests covered what is now a dry savannah in Suriname. However, small patches of land with enough water to support forest growth remain scattered throughout the drier grasslands. These paradisal rainforest islands are the last refuge of the Blue Poison Dart Frog.
Like the Golden Poison Frog, the poison of the Blue Poison Dart Frog was used by native tribes to coat the tips of arrows and blue darts.
Unlike the Golden Poison Frog, however, the poison of the Blue Poison Dart Frog isn’t usually fatal to humans. That said, consuming their poison can cause nausea, vomiting, or even paralysis.
Also, despite hanging out around water, these frogs lack webbed feet and are poor swimmers.
Poisonous Rock Frog (Odorrana hosii)
This little green frog inhabits rocky streams and lowland habitats in Borneo.
Interestingly, the poison in the mucous covering the frog’s skin is potentially deadly to other frogs.
If another frog comes into too much contact with the Poisonous River Frog, it could spell trouble. The Poisonous Rock Frog’s toxic coating is especially useful in fending off rivals from its territory.
Phantasmal Poison Frog (Epipedobates tricolor)
To be phantasmal means to come from a dream or the imagination, and these frogs sure do look like something out of a fantasy.
These tiny frogs are endemic to Ecuador, where they prowl leafy forest floors in search of food. Their skin is a rusty red with bright yellow, white, or green stripes running vertically down their backs.
Scientists have studied the chemicals that make up the frog’s toxins. Some researchers believe it can be used to make a powerful, non-addictive painkiller. However, other researchers suggest the compound may be too toxic for any form of human consumption.
Unfortunately, these beautiful frogs are endangered; only a few populations are left in the wild.
Granular Poison Frog (Oophaga granulifera)
The Granular Poison Frog is native to Costa Rica. It has a bright red or orange upper body with blue or gray legs and undersides.
The bright red coloration of its back is a warning sign to predators, telling them to stay away. If any predator is unwise enough to ignore the warning signs and eat the frogs, chances are they won’t live to see another day.
Luckily for the frogs, though, they don’t have to worry too much about predators, thanks to their poison.
Unluckily for them, however, it is us that they have to worry about. Habitat destruction and human encroachment have decimated Granular Poison Frog populations, which are now considered endangered.
Harlequin Poison Frog (Oophaga histrionica)
These stunning little frogs are found in the rainforests of Colombia.
They produce a poison known as histrionicotoxin, which differs from batrachotoxins produced by other poison dart frogs. The toxin is less potent than batrachotoxins, but it’s still strong enough to cause harm.
Like the Granular Poison Frog, researchers are trying to find if there are any medicinal properties to the frog’s poison.
Unfortunately, these creatures are critically endangered throughout their native range.
Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree)
Let’s take a trip away from South America and head to the sub-alpine regions of Australia. There, you might come across a brightly-colored Corroboree Frog.
Not only is the name of this frog fun to say but its glossy black and yellow colors makes it fun to look at as well.
Scientists believe that the poison dart frogs of South America get their poison from their diet.
But that’s not the case for the Corroboree, which can produce toxins all by itself. Like poison dart frogs, however, Corroboree still use their poison for self-defense and predator deterrence.
Of course, with the many other frogs on this list, Corroboree are considered endangered. Aside from human interference, one reason is a fungal infection that can infect the frogs.
Green and Black Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus)
Returning to the western hemisphere, we have the Green and Black Poison Dart Frog. Native to south and central America, it was also introduced to Hawaii, where it thrives.
These frogs don’t have a very inventive name, but that doesn’t detract from their beautiful colors and patterns. They are also less poisonous than other frogs on this list, but they can still cause harm if mishandled.
Variable Poison Frog (Ranitomeya variabilis)
These multicolored frogs are native to Ecuador and Peru and are no larger than a human thumbnail.
Despite their small size, the poison these frogs contain packs a big bunch. As a result, they’re considered the most poisonous frog in their genus.
Lovely Poison Frog (Phyllobates lugubris)
The name this frog has is almost comical because, yes, it is a lovely frog with a sweet-looking face, but it’s also deadly. These tiny frogs have enough poison to stop the heart of any predator that decides to eat them.
They are native to Central and South America and are luckily not considered an endangered species.
You may also like: 30+ Types Of Amphibians: Identification Guide With Pictures + Facts
How do bright colors help poison frogs hide from predators?
Strangely enough, the bright colors don’t hide the frogs very well when seen from up close. However, because these frogs are so poisonous, they don’t need to rely on camouflage – they have warning colors, which often do the trick of deterring predators.
However, camouflage is always a helpful advantage. Researchers recently found that, from a distance, most poisons’ colors and patterns hide the frogs and make their forms harder to see in focus.
Could there be more poisonous amphibians?
There certainly can be, as we most likely have yet to discover every amphibian species on our planet.
But unfortunately, we may never be able to find some new species because amphibian populations are dramatically declining in the United States and worldwide.
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