Saskatchewan

U of S researchers discover 3 species of poisonous frogs at risk of extinction

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan recently discovered three species of poisonous dart frogs in Colombia.

The frogs are often sold for more than $2,000 on the international black market

The frogs are traditionally used by Indigenous hunters in Colombia to poison blowgun darts. (University of Saskatchewan)

Despite their colourful, even cute, appearance, these frogs are lethal — and they're at risk of extinction.

After studying more than 300 dart frogs  — a group of small and colourful frogs that live deep in the Colombian jungle — researchers at the University of Saskatchewan recently discovered three species of poisonous dart frogs. 

The frogs technically fall under the Oophaga species, but have genetic differences and and show unique colour patterns and sizes. (University of Saskatchewan)

In the 1970s, researchers believed there were only two dart frog species, but the new findings indicate there are actually five. However, the three recently discovered species are already at risk of extinction.

The frogs technically fall under the Oophaga species, but have genetic differences and and show unique colour patterns and size.

According to the U of S, the frogs are often sold for more than $2,000 on the international black market because of their vibrant colours and dangerous appeal.

José Andrés, a professor at the U of S and one of the researchers, hopes the findings can help protect the frogs from becoming extinct. 

"The only way we [can] regulate the traffic of any species is by including them in international treaties," he said.

U of S Researchers say they hope the new findings can help protect the frogs from becoming extinct. (University of Saskatchewan)

"By defining some of these frogs that we have been studying as valid species, we can sort of help them by including them in these international treaties."

The frogs are traditionally used by Indigenous hunters in Colombia for poisoning blowgun darts, a U of S news article on the discovery states. The frogs produce poison by eating toxic bugs and is only harmful to humans if it enters their bloodstream.

By naming the species of frogs, the Colombian government can add them to the list of endangered animals.

The results have recent been published in the journal Molecular Ecology and will provide Colombian policymakers with evidence to help conservation strategies for the endangered frogs, according to the U of S article. 

The study was funded by Canada's Natural Sciences and Research Council and a grant from the Colombian government.

With files from CBC Radio One's Afternoon Edition

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