Ants Are More than Just a Delicious Meal

The strawberry poison frog (Dendrobates pumilio) fends off its enemies with toxins in its skin. Strangely, when the frogs were placed in captivity, they lost their skin toxin. A team of researchers led by John Daly at the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases’ Laboratory investigated. They found evidence that in the wild the frogs eat a type of ant that produces chemicals similar to the toxins found in the frog skin. Thus, the frog’s diet appears to play a role in the frog’s defense against attack. The study indicates that attempts to reduce the ant populations with insecticides may affect the frog population by making the frogs more vulnerable to attack. This work suggests yet another important, yet subtle, link between different species.

Submitted by Pauline Garber