Episode 129 – Golden Poison Dart Frog: The Miniature Midas

“…and today we’re talking about a tiny bright yellow animal that doesn’t have to worry about most predators. But more on that later.”

The rainforest is a lush verdant landscape covered in shades of green and brown. Organisms that deviate from this chromatic conformity usually want to be seen like budding flowers or lovestruck birds. But what if you’re a small earthbound amphibian? You’d want to blend into the forest, never to be seen by the multitude of hungry animals that could make a meal out of you. Not so with one bright yellow frog that wants to broadcast its position to every creature within eye-shot. But having a hidden trick behind your back is often the golden rule in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new measure up intro this week so we get to hear from an animal and Carlos has to guess what it is!

  1. Beaver
  2. Goose
  3. Seal
  4. Bullfrog


  • 55 mm
  • How many frogs go into the height of the world’s current shortest man?
  • Hint: Edward Niño Hernández of Bogota, Colombia achieved the title in May 10. He told Guniess, “Size and height don’t matter! I want people to meet who I truly am: small in size, big in heart!”
  • 13 frogs. 72.10 cm (2 ft 4.3938 in)


  • 1 oz 
  • How many Golden Dart Frogs go into the Columbia space shuttle?
  • Hint: the Columbia space shuttle was heavier than the Endeavor. It completed 27 missions before it was destroyed on re-entry in the Columbia disaster in 2003.
  • Answer: 2,640,000 frogs. The shuttle was 165,000 pounds.

Major Fact: Midas Touch

The golden poison dart frog is possibly the most poisonous animal in the world.

Quick distinction: this is not to be confused with the most venomous animal in the world, the box jellyfish.

  • Venom is intentionally delivered to catch prey or to combat aggressors.
  • Poison is passive, and means that ingesting or handling an animal can result in ingesting the toxin. This is usually used for defence. 

The golden poison dart frog has enough toxic poison in it’s one ounce body to kill 10 to 20 adults, 10,000 mice, and two bull elephants.

  • The poison in these kinds of frogs is called a batrachotoxin, and it’s designed to kill.
  • A frog’s skin is densely coated in the poison.
  • Some toxins in the animal kingdom cause pain so the animal can get away. 
  • This toxin stops the nervous system from sending impulses, which can stop your heart and immobilize muscles.
  • Poisonous animals use poison as a defense mechanism. 
    • Animals that get the frog in its mouth are likely to be killed by the toxins.
    • However, even if a frog is eaten and dies, it’s attacker dies too.
    • But it seems that their reputation precedes them.
    • They use aposematism coloration to let predators know that they are indeed the frog your momma warned you about.
    • Aposematic colors are usually bright and extremely easy to see, for the purpose of warning attackers.
    • Animals seem to have an in-born aversion to eating these frogs. Even less sophisticated animals like dragonflies, avoid eating poison dart tadpoles.
    • Perhaps, animals that eat the frogs die out and don’t reproduce.
  • The existence of the golden poison dart frog, leads scientists to believe that there is a more poisonous animal out there.
    • Frogs that are bred in captivity don’t have the toxins that they do in the wild.
    • This leads researchers to believe that they get their toxins from food sources and store the poison in glands on their backs.
    • There is a beetle that produces the same toxin, and it’s thought that an undiscovered, extremely poisonous cousin of that beetle is the golden dart frog’s favorite food.