How To Tell If A Frog Is Poisonous?

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There are over 4,700 known species of frogs that we have discovered. Frogs live on every continent except for Antarctica. There are aquatic frogs, terrestrial frogs, and arboreal frogs, but all frogs are amphibians and prefer to live in humid climates. But how can you tell if a frog is poisonous?

This may come to surprise you, but all frogs and toads produce natural toxins. A toxin is a dangerous substance that can be absorbed either through skin contact or ingested. The toxins that frogs develop are a defensive mechanism used to protect them from potential predators. While most frog and toad toxins are not harmful to humans, some can be pretty deadly.

The easiest way to determine if a frog has dangerous toxins is by looking at the frog’s colors. There is a family of highly toxic frogs called poison dart frogs. Poison dart frogs have vibrant colors and strange patterns. Poison dart frogs can be blue, red, yellow, or green and will usually have at least one other color that covers its body. However, it would be best not to be worried about poison dart frogs because they only live in rainforest regions of central and south America. 

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As you continue to read this article, we will be giving an in-depth explanation of poison dart frogs and where they are found. Furthermore, we will also go over the poison that toads secrete and some other potential dangers.

How To Identify The Dangerous Frogs

While we stated that all frogs and toads produce some toxin, only a handful of frogs are actually dangerous to humans. However, while writing this article, we did some research and found that no reported cases revolved around poison frogs. Which, to say the least, is fantastic.

With that said, poison dart frogs are by far the most dangerous and poisonous frogs. Poison dart frogs secrete a thin film of toxin all over their body, so even touching them can make you sick. While poison dart frogs are the ones you will need to avoid, they are easy to identify due to their bright colors, making it easy for you to spot them. Furthermore, like most small animals, poison dart frogs will avoid danger and bigger creatures. 

There are roughly 100 poison dart frog species, and they all come from the Dendrobatidae family. Poison dart frogs are brightly colored and only exist in the rainforests of the South and Central Americas. Even though poison dart frogs are pretty to look at, they are covered in a potent alkaloid toxin. Poison dart frog toxin is called Batrachotoxin or BTX, and it works by causing paralysis when it enters the bloodstream.

What Do Poison Dart Frogs Look Like?

The most defining characteristic of poison dart frogs is their colors. There are around 100 known species of poison dart frog, and all of them have bright colors and varying patterns and sizes.

For example, one of the more known species is called the Yellow-banded. A Yellow-banded poison dart frog has a dark black base coloring covering its whole body, with two yellow stripes with black spots across and over its legs. Another example is the Golden poison dart frog, a beautiful bright yellow covers its body with some black freckles spread randomly across its body. 

Both the Yellow-banded and Golden dart frogs are poisonous, but one is significantly more poisonous than the other. If you touch the Yellow-banded dart frog, at most, you might suffer some nausea or some swelling or numbness. However, if you eat one of these frogs, you will be in for a world of hurt, but you will most likely survive the ordeal. 

On the other hand, the Golden dart frog is considered to be the deadliest poison dart frog discovered to date. Coming into contact with a Golden dart frog will have the same side effects as the Yellow-banded dart frog but on a much worse and could be fatal. Scientists believe that the Golden dart frog has enough toxins to kill two fully grown elephants.

Most poison dart frogs will have different colors and patterns, but their bodies follow similar shapes. Poison dart frogs are all tiny frogs that can sit comfortably on your finger. Furthermore, poison dart frogs have slightly pointed noses and black eyes. 

Scientists believe that the source of the poison dart frogs toxins comes from their diet of alkaloid-containing insects. This is bolstered by frog enthusiasts successfully keeping poison dart frogs as pets, and because they don’t have access to their natural alkaloid-containing insect diet, they are not poisonous. Furthermore, the exact source of the poison dart frog toxins is currently unknown.

Where Do Poison Dart Frogs Live?

Knowing is half the battle, and knowing where poison dart frogs live can help you know if you need to be concerned or not. Thankfully they all live in the rainforests in South and Central America. However, poison dart frogs have adapted to live in warm climates that have high humidity levels.

Poison dart frogs mainly reside in Bolivia and Brazil. However, some poison dart frogs have been found in the southern part of Central America around Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. Furthermore, some poison dart frog species have been found throughout Columbia, and some parts of Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. In addition to these areas, green and black poison dart frogs were introduced into Hawaii.

Poisonous Toads

We have covered just about everything you need to know about the most poisonous frogs until this point. However, toads are also poisonous. While all toads are poisonous like all frogs, the most poisonous toads are far less dangerous than any of the poison dart frogs mentioned above. 

True toads belong in the Bufonidae family, and toad toxin is referred to as Bufotoxin. With that said, toads are found worldwide, and much like frogs, their toxins potency differs for each species. 

Toads have Bufotoxin in their glands located right behind the head. Bufotoxin has a milky white color and can cause some irritation on the skin if touched.

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However, toads do not secrete their toxin feely as frogs do. Instead, the Bufotoxin needs to be squeezed out of their glands. Because a toad’s Bufotoxin needs to be squeezed out, making animals more susceptible to the toxin, a dog or a cat might find a toad in your yard and start playing with it, and they can unknowingly bite the toad’s glands and get poisoned. 

Because our dogs and cats are much smaller than us, toad toxin is much more dangerous to them. Within minutes of licking Bufotoxin, your cat or dog will start drooling or frothing at the mouth. This is followed by the gums beginning to inflame and turn red, causing pain. Vomiting and diarrhea are other common side effects. If the side effects worsen, your pet could have trouble walking or standing, have tremors, or even have a seizure. Furthermore, Bufotoxin can cause abnormal and rapid eye movements, difficulty breathing, and heart rate fluctuations. If you suspect your pet might have ingested some toad toxin, take them to the vet immediately.

If you accidentally come into contact with some toad bufotoxin, you will suffer some irritation or itchiness. If this happens, do not touch your eyes, as the pain will be much worse. Instead, wash your hand thoroughly two or three times to ensure the toxin is cleaned off of your hands. Ingesting Bufotoxin is extremely unlikely in humans because most people don’t go around squeezing and licking toads. Some of the side effects of ingesting toad toxin are vomiting, intense irritation in the mouth and throat, diarrhea, and extreme discomfort.

Two of the most common species in America are the invasive Cane toads and the American toad. Cane toads are an invasive and aggressive toad species that was introduced in southern Florida. Cane toads are significantly bigger than most other American toad species. 

Frogs Are Known To Carry Salmonella

In general, you shouldn’t handle frogs and toads. Handling wild frogs and toads causes unneeded stress for them. Not only that, but frogs and toads have semi-permeable skin, so if you happen to have any chemicals on your hands when you touch them, their skin will most likely absorb it and harm or even kill the frog.

Another reason why it would be best not to handle frogs and toads is that they can carry salmonella bacteria. Frogs and toads are known to carry salmonella in their bodies and in their waste. Therefore, picking up a frog or toad will scare them enough to pee or poo on your hands, which can lead to you getting infected with salmonella. This is especially important for children who are more susceptible to salmonella. Furthermore, young children are known for chasing and catching frogs and toads alike.

According to the New York State Department of Health, salmonella is more likely to produce serious symptoms in children under the age of five. No one wants salmonella, so take the necessary measures. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming into touch with any reptile or amphibian!

Final Thoughts

While all frogs and toads are considered poisonous, their toxins are more deadly for small animals. While there are a handful of poison dart frogs that can be harmful to humans, most will only cause slight irritation or numbness if touched. However, it is best to avoid touching and picking up frogs and toads because you can stress them out, injure them, or even contact salmonella bacteria.

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