Chemical Defense Against Predators

Chemical Defense Against Predators - Sonoran Desert Toad
Sonoran Desert Toad
Chemical Defense Against Predators - Giant Monkey Frog
Giant Monkey Frog

God’s design in the natural world provides protection for animals that would appear to be unable to defend themselves. Some animals can’t bite or run, and camouflage is not an option because their environment changes too quickly. Toads and frogs are classic examples of this, but they have an effective chemical defense against predators.

The Sonoran Desert toad (Incilius alvarius) in the desert southwest (also known as the Colorado River toad) defends itself with a chemical mix secreted through its skin. This toad is very large, and its desert environment makes hiding difficult. All toads secrete toxins through their skin, but the Sonoran Desert toad secretes a substance known as 5-MeO-DMT from glands behind each eye and on its legs. This chemical is a powerful hallucinogen secreted by no other toad or frog, and predators quickly learn to avoid it.

The giant leaf frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) in South America (also known as the giant monkey frog) secretes a chemical known as kambo, which causes violent regurgitation and seizures and even affects the heart function of predators. The chemicals differ with each species, and researchers are trying to determine how the defenses work. Sonoran Desert toads and giant leaf frogs are geographically isolated, yet they share a common problem of vulnerability. They both use a chemical defense against predators but with different chemicals.

Interest in the Sonoran Desert Toad has increased because people have found that licking the toad produces a high. The psychedelic effect has caused people to catch the frogs, threatening their survival. Although predators are smart enough to leave them alone, apparently, humans are not. Abusers call the 5-MeO-DMT toxin “the God molecule,” but researchers warn that it can cause cardiac arrest.

Researchers are studying the ability of toads and frogs to secrete a chemical defense against predators. The difference in the chemicals depending on the species is still a mystery, but it’s a testimony to the design built into the natural world, allowing diversity in living things. The statement of God’s design of humans in Psalms 139:14 is also true of every creature in God’s creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Science News (May 6 and 20, 2023, pages 21-22)