Natures wonders: Poison frogs eat fire ants (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 09, 2014, 00:19 (2039 days ago) @ David Turell

And live to tell about it. If they are exposed to the ants, they develop alkaloid poisons for defense:

"In Central America, the tropical fire ant, S. geminata, occupies the same territory as the poison dart frog, Oophaga pumilio, Vander Meer says. The major alkaloid produced by S. geminata is found on the skin of O. pumilio, showing that this frog eats S. geminata ants. However, the bioassay showed that this alkaloid was not very effective against S. invicta.

"Interestingly, this same frog has a varied diet of ants and mites," he says. "Mite-derived alkaloids have also been reported on O. pumilio's skin, and these compounds were found to be highly effective at incapacitating S. invicta."

"The varied frog diet appears to protect the frogs from ant predation, he adds. This supports the observation that poison frogs are not attacked by predatory ants in their natural habitat, but if the frogs are raised on a diet that does not contain alkaloids, they are readily attacked when exposed to ants.

"Once the frogs get these alkaloids into their systems, they may modify some of the compounds," Vander Meer says. "Without those starting materials from the arthropods, they cannot produce the alkaloids.'"

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