BOGOTA (Web Desk) – Believe it or not, the world’s most poisonous animal is a tiny frog, found only in Colombia.
The Golden Poison Dart Frog is a very deceptive creature – despite its tiny two-inch frame, it packs enough venom in it to kill over 10 adult men in about 3 minutes.
In fact, the species gets its name from the native Emberá hunters of Colombia, who once used the frogs to make lethal blowgun darts, the Oddity Central reports.
The bright yellow frogs can only be found in small rainforest on the Pacific coast of Colombia, and their coloring can sometimes vary between yellow, orange, or pale green.
The glamour of their appearance is a deliberate ploy, a tactic called aposematic or ‘warning’ coloration, to ward off potential predators.
Simply coming in contact with a golden poison dart frog doesn’t necessarily put you in mortal dangers, as the amphibians only produce and excrete the potent toxin through their skin only when they feel threatened. But picking up one of these tiny creatures and holding it in your hand for more than a few seconds without gloves is suicide.
The frog’s skin quickly becomes covered in alkaloid poison (batrachotoxin) that has the ability to ‘freeze’ nerves, stopping them from transmitting impulses. Within minutes, the victim experiences uncontrollable muscle contractions and eventually heart failure.
Scientists have not been able to determine the exact reason behind the frog’s extreme toxicity. They have traced its origins back 40 to 45 million years, in the forests of northern South America, and found that their ancestors were not poisonous.
There is some speculation that the creatures did not generate their own poison, but ingested huge amounts of plant poisons, mainly carried by their prey – flies, toxic ants, crickets, beetles, and termites.
Their high metabolic rate could have allowed them to process the venom rather quickly, allowing them to withstand and even absorb it.
Sadly, the magnificent golden poison dart frogs are an endangered species due to the widespread destruction of their natural rainforest habitat through deforestation, and illegal gold mining, cocoa cultivation, and logging.
To protect the species, international conservation charity World Land Trust set up the Rana Terribilis Amphibian Reserve in the wettest tropical rainforests of western Colombia.
According the organisation’s website, “Living in the rich undergrowth of the reserve is a healthy population of Endangered Golden Poison Frog, one of the most extraordinary creatures on the planet. Just 55mm in size, this tiny vibrant creature carries a single milligram of toxin – a small but lethal dose.”
Currently, medical researchers and amphibian experts are interested in discovering possible medicinal uses to the poison dart frog’s venom, especially as painkillers. In the past, alkaloids have been found to possess cancer-fighting and pain numbing properties, and stimulants as potent as caffeine. Of course, the venom cannot directly be administered as medicine, but understanding its structure and chemistry could help design better drugs.