NEW ORLEANS, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Tiny poison dart frogs living wild in Panama, known for their brilliant colors, may provide clues about relatively rapid biodiversification, researchers say.
The major defense mechanism of the poison dart frogs is aposematism, the combination of toxicity and bright coloration, researchers at Tulane University said.
In Panama, poison dart frogs have diversified to have skin with a variety of intense colors, including blue, green, red, orange, white and spotted, they said.
"Their coloration is an advertisement of sorts, saying 'do not attempt to eat!'" Tulane evolutionary biologist Corinne Richards-Zawacki said.
Researchers have observed the behavior of chicks upon spotting the vividly hued frogs.
"The chicks pick up the frogs in their beaks, but the frogs taste bad so they spit them out right away," leaving both frogs and chicks unharmed, Richards-Zawacki said.
"Do the chicks avoid all of the colors -- green and blue, as well as red? Or just the color that they've learned to avoid?" she said.
The researchers are studying relatively rapid evolutionary changes of poison dart frogs, including a blue morph of the strawberry poison frog from the Aguacate peninsula of Panama, a Tulane release reported Wednesday.
"Understanding how we got the diversity of life here on Earth is important for conservation," Richards-Zawacki said. "If we want to conserve a species, we also need to conserve its ability to adapt and undergo natural evolutionary processes."
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