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The yellow-banded poison dart frog (Dendrobates leucomelas) is a family Dendrobatidae amphibian that is native to South America. These visually striking frogs, true to their names, are indeed toxic, as their skin gives off poisonous chemicals. Size-wise, yellow-banded poison dart frogs are usually just over 1.5 inches long and weigh around a mere 0.11 ounces.
Geography and Habitat
The yellow-banded poison dart frog lives in neotropical settings, and is common throughout Guyana, the northern region of Brazil, the southeastern portion of Colombia and in Venezuela. These diurnal frogs usually live in tropical or evergreen rain forests, and are frequently found over damp rocks and soil, below logs and underneath heaps of foliage. They tend to gravitate toward habitats that are close to rivers, and also thrive in humid locales.
Female members of this species are usually bigger than the males, and are usually sturdier, as well. Yellow-banded poison dart frogs are noticeable for their coloring, which is made up of a combination of black and yellow lines and patterns. With the aging process, however, the sharpness and definition of the black portions tend to become a little less pronounced. The colors function as startling "back off" signals to any possible predators, basically an indication of their toxic skin.
Insects make up the bulk of the yellow-banded poison dart frog diet, indicates Animal Diversity Web of the University of Michigan. Some of these frogs' preferred bugs are crickets, beetles, termites and ants. They are not limited to these insects, however, and also feed on various spiders and other types of wee bugs.
Reproduction in these frogs occurs annually during the wet season -- generally during the months of February and March. They can produce vast amounts of offspring all at once -- usually between 100 and 1,000 young amphibians. The eggs take anywhere between 10 and 14 days to hatch. Both genders attain sexual maturity once they hit the 2-year mark.
Captive frogs, such as those kept as household pets, can survive to between 10 and 15 years old. Free-roaming yellow-banded poison dart frogs, however, do not have as much longevity. Their average lifespan is usually only 5 to 7 years.
Luckily for them, these frogs do not possess a lot of natural predators, most likely thanks to their bright coloration and poisonous bodily emissions. However, wee tadpoles are sometimes preyed on by mayfly nymphs. In some cases, large snakes may be able to dine on fully grown adults, as well.
Native American groups employ these frogs' poison both as arrow poison and in blow darts, hence their names. Yellow-banded poison dart frogs that roam free all give poison off via their skin, although ones that reside in captive settings such as homes and zoos don't. This is due to dietary changes. In the wild, they feed heavily on ants, which are the source of their toxicity, according to the Tennessee Aquarium. Without ants in their diet to provide the necessary chemicals for toxin synthesis, they are poison-free. In the wild, these frogs' poison can actually be life-threatening or otherwise detrimental and injurious to animals and people.
- USGS: Yellow-Banded Poison Dart Frog
- Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Poison Dart Frogs
- Animal Diversity Web: Dendrobates Leucomelas
- Rosamund Gifford Zoo: Yellow-Banded Poison Dart Frog
- American Museum of Natural History: Yellow-Banded Poison Frog
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Dendrobates Leucomelas
- AmphibiaWeb: Dendrobates Leucomelas
- Tennessee Aquarium: Yellow-Banded Poison Dart Frog
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images