Nature is full of beautiful creatures, with diverse colors and patterns. There are creatures with color patterns that are so beautiful that an artist can only dream of creating such a beautiful piece of art. Among all of nature’s beautiful creatures, poison dart frogs occupy a special place due to their vivid and exquisitely beautiful colors. But why is the poison dart frog so colorful?
According to the research conducted by a group of scientists at the Britain’s University of Bristol, the colors on the poison dart frog’s body have many functions.
The primary function of these colors is to protect the animals from their predators. The other functions include providing camouflage, and attractive potential mating partners.
The colors are also a sign that these frogs are poisonous since predators don’t know that they have ’poison’ in their name.
Let’s take a detailed look behind the colors of poison dart frogs.
Reasons poison dart frogs are so colorful
Colors play various roles in nature. Some plants have colors to attract pollinating agents so that they can propagate. Birds have colors to attract potential mates. Insects have different colors to make them invisible to both prey and predators.
When it comes to the sheer beauty of a creature, very few can trump the poison dart frogs. But what is the reason behind it? Let’s find out.
1. Warding off predators
The main cause of a poison dart frog being so colorful is to warn predators. Over the millions of years, animals have evolved to have protection against predators. Alongside this, predatory animals have also evolved to recognize which signs to look out for and which animals to avoid when hunting.
Poison dart frogs are very small in size, reaching only 1.5-2 inches in length. So they need to develop some sort of defense mechanism to protect them in the forest. The coloration on their bodies is their defense mechanism. As animals have evolved over millions of years, they have learned not to eat vividly colored animals as they tend to contain poison.
The colors on the poison dart frogs act as warning signs that stave off predators. Since they are so vividly colored, they stand out more than dull-colored frogs. Although sometimes it tends to attract predators, animals have learned not to attack and eat poison dart frogs because of their poison.
Read More: Where to buy dart frogs?
2. Providing camouflage for the frogs
Although the colors are meant to ward off predators, as animals evolved, some of them developed resistance to the poison of the dart frogs. So they feast upon these tiny animals without any reservation. That’s why these frogs need to blend in with their surroundings. The colors on their bodies provide exactly that.
Since the poison dart frogs can be found in rainforests, their surroundings are full of various colors. So when a frog is vividly colored, its bodies aren’t easily discernible to predators. There is a very interesting reason behind this.
One of the main predators of the poison dart frogs is birds. All birds of prey have keen eyesight. So how does the color of a frog protect it from birds with sharp eyesight? Interestingly, birds can only differentiate between various colors, but when it comes to differentiating various shades of color, they aren’t very good.
This saves the frogs as once they are blended in their surroundings, birds can’t find out due to their coloration.
3. Attracting mating partners
One of the main reasons animals are so vividly colored is they help the males attract females. Every creature in this world wants its genes to be passed on. So nature has provided unique traits to animals to help them attract mates. One of the most common ways to attract a mate is to have eye-catching coloration on the body.
Similar to many other animals, poison dart frogs also use color to attract potential mates. But herein lies the question, what happens if they attract the frogs and also attract potential predators by displaying their color? The answer to this question has already been answered.
As mentioned before, birds are the main predators of poison dart frogs. But birds can’t tell different shades of a color apart, hence it becomes harder for them to pick out a dart frog. But female frogs, on the other hand, have no such limitations. Unlike birds, they can differentiate between various shades of color.
The more vivid a frog’s coloration is, the more likely it is to land a mate. So the body color which makes them invisible to predators, also makes them stand out to their potential sexual partners. This only goes to show how fascinating nature is.
4. Signalling that the frog is poisonous
I mentioned how some animals have learned to avoid poison dart frogs while others have developed some sort of resistance to the poison. But even then the frogs are not out of the woods, as many animals would still try to eat them. Them being so colorful means only one thing, that they are poisonous.
In nature, vivid colors work in two ways when it comes to warning predators. The first one is when the color itself is enough to scare predators off. The animals who exhibit this kind of behavior don’t necessarily need to be venomous or poisonous, such as chameleons. The colors on a poison dart frog’s bodywork in this principle.
Another way the colors work is that they signal the animal is poisonous, which is almost exclusively found among frogs. So when a potential predator comes across a poison dart frog, it has two types of warnings. First, the color itself is off-putting. If that fails, the color signifies that the frog is poisonous and not to be meddled with.
Are Poison Dart Frogs lethal?
Poison dart frogs, despite them being poisonous, are popular pets. But they have to be handled with the utmost care, as any animal with poison in their name should be. The poisons of these frogs work in varying degrees on humans.
Some poisons from poisonous dart frogs aren’t very harmful to humans. Most poison dart frogs’ poisons aren’t lethal to humans. While they cause some discomfort or sickness, they don’t kill humans.
But there are some frogs like the golden poison dart frog, which has poison that can easily kill at least 10 adult humans!
Poison dart frogs are wonderful creatures. The reason why the poison dart frog is so colorful is its survival. We should preserve these animals as best as we can, but due to habitat destruction and capturing these frogs indiscriminately, we are at serious risk of losing them forever.
Proper steps have to be taken soon so that these animals can adorn our rain forests for many years to come.
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