Poison dart frog (also dartipoison frog, poison frog or formerly poison arrow frog) is the common name of a group of frogs in the family Dendrobatidae which are native to Central and South America. These species are diurnal and often have brightly-colored bodies. Although all wild dendrobatids are at least somewhat toxic, levels of toxicity vary considerably from one species to the next and from one population to another. Many species are critically endangered. These amphibians are often called "dart frogs" due to the Amerindians' indigenous use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blowdarts. However, of over 175 species, only four have been documented as being used for this purpose (curare plants are more commonly used), all of which come from the Phyllobates genus, which is characterized by the relatively large size and high levels of toxicity of its members.
Most species of poison dart frogs are small, sometimes less than 1.5 cm (0.59 in) in adult length, although a few grow up to 6 cm (2.4 in) in length. They weigh about 2 grams, depending on the size of the frog. Most poison dart frogs are brightly colored, displaying aposematic patterns to warn potential predators. Their bright coloration is associated with their toxicity and levels of alkaloids. Frogs like the ones of Dendrobates species have high levels of alkaloids, whereas the Colostethus species are cryptically colored and are nontoxic.
Poison dart frogs are an example of an aposematic organism. Their bright coloration advertises unpalatabilty to potential predators. Aposematism is currently thought to have originated at least four times within the poison family according to phylogenetic trees, and dendrobatid frogs have since undergone dramatic divergences - both interspecific and intraspecific - in their aposematic coloration. This is surprising given the frequency-dependent nature of this type of defense mechanism.
Adult frogs lay their eggs in moist places, including on leaves, in plants, among exposed roots, and elsewhere. The poison dart frog is an amphibian. Once the eggs hatch, the adult piggybacks the tadpoles, one at a time, to suitable water, either a pool, or the water gathered in the throat of bromeliads or other plants. The tadpoles remain there until they metamorphose, fed by unfertilised eggs laid at regular intervals by the mother.