Biologist Spotlight: Breeding Red-Eyed Tree Frogs at Adventure Aquarium

We couldn’t end April without calling out everyone’s favorite colorful species: FROGS! Go behind-the-scenes with Biologist Lauren Hauber for insight into the breeding of red-eyed tree frogs, on exhibit in Zone C.

Content Provided by: Lauren Hauber, Biologist – Fish & Invertebrates

April is significant, and not just because it’s National Frog Month. It also marks the start of breeding season for these tiny amphibians. At Adventure Aquarium, Biologist Lauren Hauber of our Fish and Invertebrates Department is responsible for overseeing the collection and their breeding process. Lauren was caring for the frogs when a pair of red-eyed tree frogs paired up and produced eggs in June 2014.

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Frog ParentsIn the wild, males will start calling after a heavy rainstorm to attract females. When an interested female comes along, the male will climb on top of her until she finds a suitable place to deposit her eggs. Typically, the female looks for a smooth surface that hangs over a permanent water source, normally a leaf. But here at Adventure Aquarium the window was chosen as the best place. Our pair of red-eyed tree frogs laid about 100 eggs on the window overnight. The eggs being on the window even allowed guests to watch the embryos develop and see the tadpoles move around inside the eggs!

Egg casesAfter the female lays her eggs, the male fertilizes them. And believe it or not, this is as far as parenting goes for them; the babies are now on their own. IMG_1272

The change from embryo to tadpole normally takes 5 to 9 days. So a day or two before the eggs were supposed to hatch, Lauren put a small floating basket in the water below the eggs to catch the tadpoles. She then moved the tadpoles to their own enclosure behind the scenes to complete their development once all the tadpoles were hatched.

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The first tadpoles started morphing into little tiny ¼ inch frogs just after about two months. Once the froglets had all four legs, Lauren moved them to a new enclosure where they could continue to grow. At this point, they still have their tail when they leave the water, and it takes a good few days for them to absorb it. When the froglets are finally ready to hunt, they eat teeny tiny insects. At Adventure Aquarium, they are fed a diet of flightless fruit flies and pinhead crickets.

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The froglets will continue to grow very slowly, and are now about 1 inch long. Visitors will be able to soon see them on exhibit, but in the meantime, see adult red-eyed tree frogs in the Ribbit Room in KidZone.

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Masters of Disguise: The Unique and Crafty Ways Frogs Distract Predators

By: Leah Ben

April 1st is a day revered by mischievous lovers of pranks, jokes, and foolery. Some may wish that fooling friends and family would be socially acceptable all year round. For one species, this is not only possible but necessary for survival. Frogs are masters of disguise! Even the biggest tricksters around may have something to learn from these amazing amphibians.

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Vietnamese Mossy Frog

Some frogs use camouflage as a defense mechanism to disguise themselves from predators in the wild. For example, the Vietnamese Mossy Frog’s red, green and black coloration along with it’s uneven, bumpy texture enables it to blend in among mosses and lichens within its habitat.

 

Fire-Bellied Toad

Fire-Bellied Toad

 

There are also some species of frogs that use their appearance to send messages to other animals who may be thinking that a frog would make a tasty afternoon snack. The Fire-Bellied Toad is a semi-aquatic frog species native to Korea, north-eastern China and adjacent parts of Russia. The Fire-Bellied Toad is bright green with black spots, and as its name indicates, it has a bright yellow to reddish-orange stomach area. It’s bright coloration tells predators “Stay away!”. When bothered by a predator, it will exhibit an “unken reflex” by arching its back and limbs to expose its bright belly. Its skin can secrete a mild toxin that can sting.

Blue Poison Dart Frog

Blue Poison Dart Frog

Another frog that uses its coloration to ward off predators is the Blue Poison Dart Frog. This frog’s bright blue skin warns predators of its highly toxin venom. These little guys average lengths of 1.2-1.8 inches and 8 grams, but don’t let their size fool you. Their venom can certainly pack a punch! Their skin can secrete a venom that can paralyze and even kill predators. Blue Poison Dart Frogs are native to South America, and indigenous people of Columbia have used the toxic mucus of the blue poison dart frog to coat the tips of their arrows and blow-gun darts. In the wild, Poison Dart Frogs create their venom from insects they eat, but in captivity, their diet eventually makes them venom-free.

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Perhaps the biggest prankster of them all is the Red-Eyed Tree Frog. As its name suggests, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog has red eyes along with a brilliantly green body. These rainforest tree dwellers are not poisonous, but they flash their bulging red eyes, huge orange feet and blue-and-yellow flanks when disturbed, tricking predators into thinking they are toxic. Red-Eyed Tree Frogs are nocturnal, spending the day on green leaves in the rainforests of Central America with their legs tucked in and eyes shut. This makes them practically invisible.

Want to see these frogs up close and personal? Visit Adventure Aquarium to experience Frogs: Nature’s Messenger, a limited-time opportunity to discover more than 20 kinds of frogs and see the world through their eyes.

Frog of the Week: Cane Toad

Meet our awesome new Frog of the Week: the Cane toad! Commonly known as the Giant or Marine toad, this amphibian is one of the largest toads in North America, capable of reaching average lengths of 7 inches!

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Cane Toads can be found naturally from the Amazon River Basin of South America to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and they are generally found near water but can also be found around houses and in gardens. Ambush hunters, they mostly feed at night- especially when it’s humid outside, and hide by day under rocks, burrows and other objects.

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Cool Facts:

  • The call of a Cane toad is a low-pitched rattling trill that lasts about 4-6 seconds. A larger Cane Toad will have a noticeably deeper and more resonant sound than a smaller one. Almost like an old one-cylinder engine puttering in the distance!
  • Cane toads were originally introduced in warmer regions of the world to control sugar cane beetles. They adapted so well they are now considered pests, threatening the survival of native species.
  • These toads secrete a poison from their large paratoid glands behind their ears – a poison so potent that it can kill pets that attempt to eat them!

Meet Adventure Aquarium’s Cane Toads in KidZone (Zone C) during Frogs: Nature’s Messenger, now through April 27.

Frog of the Week: Vietnamese Mossy Frog

We talk about frogs being the ultimate masters of disguise, and they just don’t get much cooler than today’s Frog of the Week: the Vietnamese Mossy frog. It has been said that the Mossy frog has the most elaborate camouflage in the animal kingdom. One look at this fascinating species, it’s easy to see why!

The ultimate 'master of disguise' - the Vietnamese Mossy frog

The ultimate ‘master of disguise’ – the Vietnamese Mossy frog

Native to rivers and streams of northern Vietnam, these amphibians are known for having black, red and green colorations along with an uneven, bumpy texture that enables them to essentially disappear into the background of their natural forest habitats; therefore keeping them safe from predators. Adding to their impressive camouflage? When frightened, they will roll into a ball and play dead. This formation allows them to look like a clump of moss instead of an edible frog!

The Mossy frog's camouflage is one of the most elaborate in the animal kingdom.

The Mossy frog’s camouflage is one of the most elaborate in the animal kingdom.

As with most Tree frog species, the females will grow larger than the males and can reach sizes of 2.5 – 3.5 inches.  The sticky discs at the end of each toe makes them skillful tree climbers, and their large, bright eyes give them a broad range of vision.

Come face-to-face with Mossy frogs, on exhibit during Frogs: Nature’s Messenger, now through April 27 at Adventure Aquarium.

Frog of the Week: African Bullfrog

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This week’s Frog of the Week throws the spotlight on one of the larger amphibian species being featured during Frogs: Nature’s Messenger. Known as an African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus), this big guys is – believe it or not – nicknamed the “pixie” frog thanks to its Latin name!

African Bullfrog

Native to Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nambia and South Africa and is typically found in savannas, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland and freshwater lakes and marshes, this large frog is known to reach average weights of 3 – 4 pounds and 5 – 9.5 inches.

African bullfrogs are considered carnivorous and voracious eaters. They stay underground when it is too dry and hot, but during the rainy season they come to the surface and eat everything and anything, including their own species!

Look for African Bullfrogs, on exhibit in Zone A during Frogs: Nature’s Messenger, at Adventure Aquarium now through April 27.