If Looks Could Kill

Part of the Frogs: A Chorus of Colors exhibition.


 © Taran Grant/AMNH

Splash-backed Poison Frog Adelphobates galactonotus (formerly Dendrobates galactonotus): This frog is usually black with a yellow or orange back that looks like paint has been splashed on it. They live in the lowland forests along southern tributaries of the Amazon, from the Rio Tapajós east to the mouth of the Amazon.

Most frogs are leafy green or muddy brown to blend into their environments, but the bright colors of some frogs make them hard to miss. Many poisonous frogs are boldly colored as an advertisement that they are not good to eat. But some colorful frogs do not have particularly toxic skins. These imposters gain protection from birds and other predators by looking dangerous.

Mantella frogs from Madagascar hop around boldly in broad daylight with little to fear. Although they are not especially poisonous, their bright colors mimic more toxic species and warn predators to keep away.