16 Beautiful but Deadly Frogs

Vivid blue, black, and yellow dyeing dart frog sits on a moss-covered rock.
Dyeing dart frog.

Frank Cornelissen / Getty Images

While most of these frogs are known as jewels of the rainforest, they can cause death or serious discomfort to unwary victims. Some of the most beautiful things on this planet are also some of the most deadly. But that's the point — by standing out with vibrant colors, a species can ward off potential predators. Such is the strategy of these tiny, vibrantly colored, and highly toxic frogs.

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Golden Poison Dart Frog

Bright yellow golden poison dart frog sits on a mound of dirt in jump position.

Picture by Tambako the Jaguar / Getty Images

Our journey begins with the most toxic of all poisonous frogs, and perhaps the most poisonous animal in the world, the golden poison frog. Even its scientific name, Phyllobates terribilis, shows that small things can be incredibly harmful. The poison it carries is derived from its diet, and depending on location and specific diet, the average wild golden poison frog produces enough poison to kill 10 humans. Despite having this staggeringly powerful self-defense, it is still an endangered species with decreasing population due to habitat loss and pollution.

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Blue Poison Dart Frog

Blue with black polka dots, the blue poison dart frog sits on a plant with round green leaves.

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The blue poison dart frog is found in southern Suriname and portions of Brazil. Though all the members of this species are a brilliant blue color, the black spots are unique to each individual. These frogs contain enough poison to cause harm or death in humans. Like most other poison frog species, they lose their toxicity in captivity as a result of an altered diet. Blue poison dart frogs are also popular pets.

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Black-legged Poison Dart Frog

The yellowish black-legged poison frog sits on a damp green leaf.

Mark Newman / Getty Images

You may have noticed that this frog, the black-legged poison dart frog, looks similar to the golden dart frog. Indeed it is, and both of these frogs share the distinction of being part of a group of three species of frogs (including the kokoe poison dart frog) whose poison has been used by humans to poison darts. Found in Columbia, the black-legged poison dart frog is considered endangered due to habitat loss. Though it is a little smaller and more slender than the golden dart frog, and its toxin is a little weaker, scientists believe its toxin may be strong enough to cause death in humans.

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Dyeing Dart Frog

The blue, yellow, and black dyeing dart frog sits ready to pounce from a green leaf.

Frank Cornelissen / Getty Images

The dyeing dart frog is one of the largest species of poison dart frog, yet it only grows to be about two inches long. It is a species from the genus Dendrobates, which is less toxic than the Phyllobates genus. Research has shown that the dyeing dart frog's bright color pattern not only warns nearby predators of its undesirability to eat, it also offers excellent camouflage from a distance. This colorful frog is found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname. Legend suggests that skin secretions from the dyeing dart frog were at one time used to color the feathers of juvenile parrots.

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Phantasmal Poison Frog

The maroon and gold-striped phantasmal poison frog sits on a long green leaf.

H. Crisp / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-3.0

The phantasmal poison frog is not only beautiful, it is also exceptionally tiny. It grows to only about one half inch to one and a half inches in length. But don't let that small stature fool you. The phantasmal poison frog carries enough poison to kill an adult human. Scientists have looked into the possibilities of using epibatidine, a natural alkaloid which is the potent poison of this frog, to develop a non-addictive painkiller more powerful than morphine. While promising, scientists have determined that epibatidine may also be too toxic to humans.

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Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

The bright reddish orange, blue-legged strawberry poison dart frog sits on a green plant.

Paul Souders / Getty Images

The strawberry poison dart frog is not the most toxic poison frog out there, but it is the most toxic of its genus, Oophaga. And you'll want to be wary of this species because you might not know what you're looking at, at least not at first. This species is usually bright red, but there are somewhere between 15 and 30 different color morphs, ranging from completely red, to a blue coloration, to green with black spots. The striking colors of this species serves as a warning that they are toxic. Like other dart frogs, the strawberry poison dart frog derives its toxicity from its diet of ants and termites. In captivity, these frogs lose all traces of poison.

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Lovely Poison Frog

The striped poison dart frog is camouflaged by the brown leaves beneath it.

James Kelley / Getty Images

The lovely poison frog is also known as the striped poison dart frog. This is one of the least toxic of the Phyllobates genus (but is still in the most toxic genus of poison frogs). Though it indeed looks lovely, it is still deadly. It can hold enough toxin to cause heart failure in predators that try to eat it. The lovely poison frog is native to Central America and is found throughout Costa Rica, southeastern Nicaragua, and central Panama.

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Kokoe Poison Dart Frog

The blue, black, and green polka dot Kokoe poison dart frog sits on a sandy brown rock.

Dirk Ercken / Shutterstock

The kokoe poison dart frog is the third most toxic member of the Phyllobates genus — just behind the golden poison dart frog and the black-legged poison frog – when encountered in the wild. It is also the tiniest of all three, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in song. Its mating call has been called loud and bird-liike. Instead of males wrestling each other for dominance, they will simply face off and call loudly until one of them backs down. But don't be lured in by that song — these frogs store batrachotoxin in glands in their skin, which can be fatal in humans.

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Golfodulcean Poison Frog

The black with green and red striped golfodulcean poison dart frog sits on a green moss covered brown rock.

Paul Osborne / Getty Images

This beautiful species is part of the genus Phyllobates, and is the fourth most toxic member. Its poison causes excruciating pain, mild seizures, and sometimes even paralysis. Scientists are unsure how the golfodulcean acquires its toxicity; however, they are certain it comes from an outside source and is not self-manufactured. Found in Costa Rica, the golfodulcean is endangered due to habitat loss.

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Variable Poison Frog

The blue legs and green body of the variable poison frog are covered by black polka dots as it sits on a large green leaf.

David Kenny / Getty Images

You can find the beautiful variable poison frog (also known as the spash-back poison frog) living in the rainforest of Ecuador and Peru. But don't try looking for it — or at least if you do look, don't touch. Small enough to be called thumbnail frogs, variable poison frogs feed primarily on bromeliad plants. The color of the frog's "splashed" back can range from lemon yellow to vivid orange to bright red, and sometimes the color takes up the entire back, with little or no black remaining except for the legs and underside.

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Red-Backed Poison Frog

As it stands with its legs extended on a green plant, the red-backed poison dart frog has black polka dots ringed with blue on its legs and sides.

Brian Gratwicke / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The red-backed poison frog is the second most poisonous in its genus, right behind the variable poison frog. While the toxicity of this frog is quite a bit less than the variable, it can still kill smaller predators like birds and can cause serious injury to humans. You can thank ants because this frog gets its toxicity from the neurotoxic venom of the ants it eats. This is one of the smaller species of poison dart frogs and is native to the Amazon rainforests of Peru and Ecuador.

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Green and Black Poison Dart Frog

The green and black poison dart frog sits on a brown tree stump.

Patrick_Gijsbers / Getty Images

Though not as toxic as some other species, the green and black poison dart frog holds enough poison to make a human quite ill. These beautiful little frogs range in shades of green from a dark forest, to mint, lime, emerald, and turquoise, and can even be outside of the green spectrum with pale yellow or cobalt blue coloration. Native to Central America and northwestern parts of South America, these colorful frogs were also brought to Hawaii, where they have thrived.

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Yellow-banded Poison Dart Frog

The yellow-banded poison dart frog sits among green ferns.

Joe McDonald / Getty Images

The yellow-banded poison dart frog is also known as the bumblebee poison frog, and it's not hard to see why. Though they have a somewhat lower toxicity level than some species, there's a good reason why they're colored like a hazard sign. The yellow-banded poison dart frog is one of the largest species in its genus, Dendrobates, and females are often larger than males. Found primarily in Venezuela, northern Brazil, Guyana, and southeastern Colombia, yellow-banded poison dart frogs thrive in a wet, humid habitat.

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Granular Poison Frog

The bright red granular poison frog with gray legs sits on a green leaf.

Ondrej Prosicky / Getty Images

The granular poison frog lives in Costa Rica and Panama, and has a bright red body that serves as a warning for its toxicity. Despite its bright colors and built-in protection system, it is listed as a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and degradation from agriculture, logging, and human settlement. It is also captured for the pet trade, but the extent of capture isn't known. For these frogs, like many species, humans are a bigger threat than predators.

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Harlequin Poison Frog

The reddish brown and yellow spotted harlequin poison frog sits nestled in a small green plant.

Thorsten Spoerlein / Getty Images

The harlequin poison frog has a fun-loving name, but these little guys produce a poison known as histrionicotoxins, which is different from the highly toxic batrachotoxins produced by other frogs like the golden poison dart frog. Though less toxic, it is still toxic enough that these frogs were desired for their use in making blowgun darts. It is also of interest to scientists, due to its unique properties and how it affects the body. Critically endangered, this interesting and special species is found in Columbia.

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Corroboree Frog

The black and yellow Corroboree frog sits in a sphagnum bog.

Ken Griffiths / Getty Images

This poison frog is quite a bit different from the others. First, it doesn't live in the rainforests of Central and South America, but in the sub-alpine areas of Australia. Second, instead of getting its toxins from its prey, it actually produces its own poison. It is the first vertebrate discovered that makes its own alkaloids, and similar to other poisonous frogs, it uses them for self-defense. These tiny frogs don't breed until four years of age, and hibernate during winters. Unfortunately, like so many other frog species, it is critically endangered with populations plummeting over the last three decades due to tourism, pollution, and chytrid fungus.