Page last updated at 11:40 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Fife aquarium breeds deadly frogs

Golden arrow poison dart frog
The golden arrow poison dart frog has very poisonous skin

A frog so poisonous that it can kill up to 200 people has been successfully bred at a Fife aquarium.

The golden arrow poison dart frog secretes toxin from its skin, which is used by south American tribesmen to poison their blow-gun darts.

The amphibian is under threat in the wild due to loss of habitat and pollution in its native region of Chaco in West Colombia.

Deep Sea World in North Queensferry has now bred nine of the frogs.

The centre's breeding programme will play an important role in protecting the species by reducing the number of frogs being taken from the wild for captivity.

They've passed the critical stage of development from tadpoles into froglets and they now look like perfect miniature replicas of their parents
Michael Morris
Deep Sea World

Scientists believe the frogs produce their chemical arsenal by metabolising toxins contained in their prey - mostly insects, ants and other invertebrates.

Michael Morris, Deep Sea World aquarist, said: "These beautiful frogs are under increasing threat in the wild due to loss of habitat and pollution and we are delighted to have been able to breed them successfully here in Scotland.

"It's imperative we are able to mimic exactly their wild environment in order for the species to thrive in captivity and it's a real achievement they are breeding so successfully.

"They've passed the critical stage of development from tadpoles into froglets and they now look like perfect miniature replicas of their parents."

There are about 70 different species of poison dart frogs found throughout the rainforests of central and south America.

Loss of habitat threatens their long-term survival chances and captive breeding programmes are being set up worldwide to try and safeguard their future.

Despite their deadly status, it is hoped that the golden arrow frog could one day help save lives.

Medical researchers are developing muscle relaxants, heart stimulants, and anaesthetics made from the frogs' toxins which have the potential to become a far more effective and less addictive alternative to morphine.

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