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Scientists have discovered new toxins that some Amazonian poison frogs use as a chemical defense against predators.
Credit: The American Chemical Society
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H. Martin Garraffo and colleagues note there are more than 500
alkaloids, potentially toxic substances, known to exist in the skin of
poison frogs of the family Dendrobatidae. Frogs use them as a chemical
defense to discourage predators from biting and eating them. Western
Colombian natives have used skin extracts from another group of frogs,
unrelated to those in the new study, to coat blow-darts for hunting.
get nearly all of the alkaloids from their diet, removing alkaloids
from ants, mites, small beetles, millipedes and possibly other small
arthropods, concentrating them with incredible efficiency, and storing
them in their skin. However, Garraffo’s group was not certain about the
origin of the newly discovered N-methyldecahydroquinolines, which could
also be produced in the frogs’ own bodies. Feeding experiments with
alkaloids fed to captive frogs are planned, which might settle this
The scientists analyzed alkaloids from the skin of 13 of the more than
25 species of the genus Ameerega of poison frogs. They identified the
new toxins in the frogs as being of the N-methyldecahydroquinoline
class, which were present among several other alkaloids.
-- News release courtesy of American Chemical Society
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