The Golden Poison Frog

Possibly the most toxic of all poison-dart frogs, the golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is a terrestrial amphibian which is endemic to the lowland forests of Colombia. This species of poison-dart frog is very well know for its lethal poison and bright, golden skin which acts as a warning to any potential predators (This effective warning technique is called aposematism and it is used by many species on earth). However, the golden poison frog has a few colour variations. The most common colour is a bright gold/ yellow but they can also be pale green, white or metallic orange.

Golden Poison Frog

The golden poison frog is actually quite a social species, living in small groups with up to six individuals in the wild. As a diurnal species, they are active during day and feed on various invertebrates such as crickets, ants, flies, beetles and termites.

Considered one of the most toxic animals on earth, the golden poison frog has enough venom to kill ten grown men so they are not the ideal prey for Colombian predators. For centuries, indigenous Colombian people (like the the Choco Emberá people) have been taking advantage of this species’ unique adaptation, using the frogs’ poison to coat the tip of their blowgun darts – hence their name.

Golden Poison Frog 3

Poison-dart frogs are not venomous, they are poisonous, because they do not have a delivery method to inject their toxins into an unlucky opponent, their poison is purely a self-defence mechanism. If an unfortunate animal decided to eat this species, the poison would act quickly by preventing the transmission of nerve impulses in the individuals, causing their muscles to enter an inactive state of contraction which can lead to heart failure and death. Interestingly, in captivity when these frogs are fed a different diet, they do not develop the lethal toxins suggesting that it is a certain component of their natural diet which gives them their toxicity. Scientists are still uncertain about what organism is responsible for the development of this poison.

The Axolotl

The first amphibian of my blog, the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is an unusual creature which never leaves the water. This species is visually distinct from other amphibians with its feathery external gills which are lined with filaments to maximise the surface area for gas exchange.  Image result for axolotl

Axolotls possess a range of different colour variants, from an olive-green with golden speckles to a pale pink with black eyes. Wild populations have a long-lifespan (up to 15 years) and are found exclusively in the Xochimilco Lake in Mexico, although they are often kept as an exotic pet. They used to be found in Lake Chalco – which is also in Mexico – but this lake was artificially drained many years ago so no longer exists.

Their carnivorous diet consists of molluscs, worms, insects, crustaceans and small fish which once made them the apex predator of their habitat. However, due to the introduction of larger fish and predatory birds (such as herons), their wild population is rapidly declining as they cannot survive these dramatic changes to their ecosystem. Moreover, areas of Lake Xochimilco are being drained and contaminated by human activity, and roasted axolotl is often consumed in Mexico. Consequently, they are considered as a ‘critically endangered’ species by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Axolotl

Some amphibians are able to regenerate their limbs, but interestingly, axolotls are able to regenerate not only their limbs, but also their jaws, spines and even parts of their brain without scarring. This makes them an exceptionally unique species which must be conserved, especially since they now live in such a restricted area.