Colombian Kokoï or Phyllobate terrible - Characteristics, Behavior and Feeding

Kokoï de Colombie or Phyllobate terrible: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The Colombian Kokoi (Phyllobates terribilis),...

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The Colombian Kokoï (Phyllobates terribilis), also known as the terrible Phyllobate, holds the dreaded first place among the most venomous animals in the world. Although this anuran is only a few centimeters long, this amphibian produces a toxin so powerful that it is able to scare and kill its main predators, such as snakes and birds. Indeed, it is estimated that the venom of a single frog can kill more than 10 people. Impressive, isn't it? If you want to know more details and curiosities about this incredible amphibian, continue reading this article from PlanèteAnimal in which you will find out all about its origin, physical characteristics, behavior and reproductive techniques.

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  • America
  • Colombia
  • Panama

Origin of Colombian Kokoï

The Colombian Kokoi is an amphibian that is part of the order Anurans and belongs to the family Dendrobatidae, which includes several species of poison dart frogs endemic to Central and South America. They are known in Spanish under the vernacular name of ranas punta de flecha, which can be translated as arrowhead frog and this name comes to them from the fact that many indigenous tribes dipped the tips of their arrows in the venom of these animals, thus obtaining greater efficiency in hunting and in defending their territory.

For its part, the Kokoï de Colombie is considered endemic to Colombia, but some populations also live in Panama.In Colombia, these amphibians live almost exclusively on the Pacific coast of the departments of Cauca, Chocó and Valle del Cauca. In Panama, they have been recorded mainly in the jungles of Darien province.

These amphibians are tropical animals, which live in hot and humid areas of the American continent, with abundant vegetation and average temperatures of 24ºC to 27ºC throughout the year. Specifically, the Colombian Kokoi is best suited to jungle forests at elevations up to 200 m above sea level, with high rainfall and a minimum relative humidity of 80%.

Physical characteristics of the Colombian Kokoi

Within the large Dendrobatidae family, the Colombian Kokoi is a relatively large species and adult individuals generally reach 5-5.5 cm. All Kokoïs in Colombia are distinguished by different aposematic coloring patterns on their skin, a type of pigmentation that is often linked to the animal's toxicity and which acts as an alarm signal for predators.

In these frogs, the adults have the typical shiny skin, but the coloring is uniform and does not present the dark spots that can be observed in other Dendrobatidae. We also notice the presence of tiny adhesive discs on the toes of these frogs, which allow them to easily climb trees to escape, look for food and rest quietly. Another feature that sets this frog apart is the bony plate on its lower jaw, which gives it the appearance of having small teeth.

There are three colors in this frog:

  • " Yellow: you could say it&39;s the real Kokoi from Colombia, because it has the bright yellow color that inspired its popular name. The largest population of this variety inhabits the Guangüí stream in Colombia."
  • Mint green: this is the most common variety in captivity and its natural habitat is mainly concentrated in the La Brea region of Colombia.Despite their name, frogs of this variety can have different shades of bright or pale green, and there are even white individuals.
  • Orange: Although not as common as other varieties, orange frogs are most attractive due to their orange or orange-yellow colors with a metallic sheen.

Behaviour of the Colombian Kokoï

Some may imagine that an animal as poisonous as this frog tends to behave more aggressively towards its predators. But in most cases it's the other way around, as these species are generally reserved and shy and they avoid all dangerous situations.

In their natural habitat, these frogs have diurnal habits and search for food mainly in the morning and early afternoon. It is a carnivorous animal whose diet is mainly based on insects, especially ants of the Brachymyrmex and Paratrechina families, although they also feed on termites, caterpillars, flies, crickets, cockroaches, beetles , etc.

Interestingly, their insectivorous diet is why these types of frogs are poisonous animals. Indeed, it is the insects that produce the formic acid essential to these amphibians to synthesize batrachotoxin (the powerful toxin that makes up their venom).

Many experts today assume that the very high toxicity of this frog is due to the high consumption of a small species of beetle belonging to the family Melyridae, which, in addition to producing acid formic, is also capable of synthesizing batrachotoxin, so its presence in the diet of frogs may enhance their toxicity. However, this hypothesis has not yet been tested.

Reproduction of Kokoi from Colombia

Frog breeding always takes place during the hottest times of the year, when climatic conditions and food availability favor the development of tadpoles.Like all species of frogs living in tropical climates, this frog can reproduce at any time of the year. They also tend to prefer periods of heavy rainfall.

" Although little is known about the specific breeding ritual of this frog, it is thought to begin with sexual calls from males to attract females, who respond to their call when they are receptive . They are oviparous animals with external fertilization, that is to say that the eggs will be fertilized by the male outside the body of the female."

In the absence of external reproductive organs (penis and vagina), male and female frogs release their sexual gametes through the cloaca. Female Colombian Kokoi usually lay their eggs under leaves or rocks during periods of heavy rain. The male is then responsible for fertilizing them and the pair usually take turns guarding the eggs to ensure they are always moist.

" About 15 days after fertilization, the eggs hatch and the male carries the larvae on his back until the tadpoles are well developed and can survive in water. When he finds a safe place in the water, the male releases the tadpoles which are ready to feed on their own and continue their process of metamorphosis until they become adult frogs."

State of conservation of the Colombian Kokoi

The Colombian Kokoi is currently considered an endangered species on the IUCN list. Although they have a powerful defense system against predators, the survival of these amphibians is mainly threatened by human intervention in their habitat, due to hunting, trapping and deforestation of tropical rainforests.

Can you have a Colombian Kokoi as a pet?

" Theoretically, the Kokoï de Colombie would be one of the species of frogs that can be kept as a pet, since it is harmless when it does not consume insects that synthesize formic acid, like some species ants, caterpillars and beetles.In other words, with a controlled diet, this type of frog cannot synthesize batrachotoxin and therefore it is no longer toxic at all. However, before adopting one as a pet, it is important to take into account several essential points. The first is that it is an endangered species, which, as we have seen, has been hunted and trapped for several years, in part to serve as exotic pets for humans. One of the fundamental premises would be to guarantee that it does not come from the trafficking of illegal species and therefore its adoption is 100% responsible, legal and thoughtful."

It is also fundamental to consider that in order for these frogs to stop being toxic, it is necessary to modify their nutritional sources and subject them to a diet that is significantly different from the one they would maintain in their habitat natural. Additionally, providing this type of fresh, nutritious diet requires financial solvency, as well as preventative medicine from an exotic animal veterinarian to prevent common frog illnesses.Finally, keep in mind that you will need to condition the environment to provide optimal conditions for a golden frog to develop. It also means an investment of money, time and effort, as it is an animal adapted to the very specific conditions of the rainforest.

Therefore, if you are considering having a frog as a pet, we advise you to opt for species that are easier to keep, non-toxic and non-threatened, such as the green frog or the bullfrog. But don't forget to check if you can keep a bullfrog as a pet, as it is considered an invasive species in several countries.

Photos of Kokoï de Colombie or Phyllobate terrible

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