Drop Dead Gorgeous

Poison Dart Frogs

The family of poison dart frogs boasts over 245 species, displaying an astonishing array of colours and potency.  Their brilliant shades and patterns range from strawberry red, canary yellow, sunny orange, metallic green, even to black with yellow polka-dots.  When eaten, some merely taste bitter or irritate the predator’s mouth with slight burning or numbness; a few, however, are truly deadly.  Yet despite being toxic, these dazzling creations hold the promise of benefitting all of our lives.

Consider the golden poison dart frog.  It is, in a word, gorgeous. Though no more than 2 inches (55 mm) long, this magnificent frog’s colour makes it stand out like no other animal in the dim forests of Colombia, South America.  But another description is equally appropriate, deadly.  The golden poison dart frog exudes one of the most lethal toxins known to man.  The equivalent of just two grains of table salt (less than one milligram), flowing in a person’s bloodstream can kill a person in mere minutes.  In fact, animals can die just by touching a spot where a golden poison dart frog has recently been.  Few other creatures can match the lethality of this beautiful killer. 

Poison dart frogs actually got their name from the fact that the native people of Colombia use their toxin when hunting spider monkeys and other game.  Hunters will catch small poison dart frogs, rub their darts on the frog’s backs, and then load the darts into their blowguns.  With this deadly weapon, they can take down  monkeys, birds, even jaguars. Scientists estimate that just one of these lethal frogs has enough poison in them to kill 20 adult humans (thus natives use extreme caution when rounding up their unwitting little hunting partners).  The hunters carry them in small wicker baskets until the need arises for more poison.  Thankfully, the frogs are not fierce predators, using their toxins only for defense.  And their bright colours also serve as a survival mechanism, warning others to stay away.

But what intrigues scientists about the poison dart frogs are their toxins that interfere with the transmission of nerve impulses.  Yes, some are permanently deadly, but others are temporarily numbing.  For instance, the orange poison dart frog excretes a toxin that blocks pain 200 times more effectively than morphine without any addictive or sedative side effects.  So now researchers have added these frogs to the animals in their laboratory as they work on synthesizing similar compounds in the test tube to produce a whole new generation of safe, effective painkillers.  As one scientist put it, “the possibilities seem too good to be true.”  

The bottom line?  In God’s original creation, no animals were dangerous.  So Adam and Eve could hold any of these beautiful little frogs and admire the handiwork without any fear of harm.  However, after the fall, some of these amphibians became deadly.  But even here we see the Creator’s wisdom.  The frog’s lethal poison placed on darts has provided a way for the people of the rainforest to feed themselves.  And the frog’s toxic effect on the human nerve system are enabling scientists to develop new medicines that can greatly and safely alleviate pain.  But then what else would we expect from our good God who gave His own life to save ours?

(Based on an article in Answers In Genesis.)