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Mantella Frogs

This colorful little critter looks like one of the tiny poison dart frogs from Central and South America, but he’s a mottled mantella frog (Mantella heraldmeiri) from Madagascar.

Like their New World counterparts, the mantellas, also called Malagasy poison frogs, secrete chemically complex toxins through glands in their skin. They also have similar aposematic coloring — the opposite of camouflage — that advertises their toxicity in bright colors and bold patterns. Interestingly, these two far-flung froggy groups have almost identical secretions, pumiliotoxins. In both cases, the noxious (but not necessarily poisonous) punch is packed by organic chemicals called alkaloids, which the frogs extract from the ants they eat. While some researchers see this as a case of convergent evolution, others think the tiny amphibians sprang from a common ancestor way, way back before continental drift divided the supercontinent of Gondwanaland, and South America, Africa and Madagascar went their separate ways, carrying with them pretty little frogs with a bad taste. See (but don’t taste) the mantellas in Waters of the World.


Check out photos, videos and stories of other Shedd frogs, like the poisonous dart frogs.

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