Saturday, 19 March 2011

Frogs of Bristol 2: The Lemur Leaf Frog

The other species we are currently breeding in the Amphipod, although in somewhat smaller numbers, is the Lemur Leaf Frog Hylomantis lemur. Originating from Costa Rica and Panama, this tiny (3cm) tree frog has undergone massive declines in recent years, almost certainly due to chytridiomycosis, although it is apparently slightly more resistant than some other species. It was assessed as Critically Endangered in 2008.

There are several other species in Hylomantis, but they are currently classed as Data Deficient or Least Concern – although this last may be in part due to lack of study rather than any actual difference in their status. The ‘lemur’ part of its scientific name come from the Latin word ‘lemures’, which means spirit or ghost, and presumably refers to its nocturnal habits and bulging eyes. The same word was of course also given to the Lemurs of Madagascar, which are of course primates.

As well as being small, Lemur Leaf frogs are spindly animals, with long legs and slender bodies. They climb rather than jump mostly, hauling themselves up vine tendrils hand over hand. Green during the day, at night they change colour, becoming reddish brown. The diet is various small invertebrates, including small snails – an often overlooked part of the diet of many insectivorous animals.

As with many frogs, they have unusual breeding habits. The eggs – up to 35 in a clutch have been recorded – are laid on the end of a leaf overhanging water, and the tadpoles are washed into the pool or slow moving river when they hatch after about a week. The tadpoles are vegetarian, and grow quite large before they metamorphose.

Lemur Leaf Frogs were first bred at the Atlanta Botanical garden in 2001, and the captive population in zoos currently stands at 242. In the last year Bristol, the only zoo in Europe which has them on show, has bred 63, which is a pretty respectable number although we still need to boost productivity. Identifying the correct trigger for breeding in amphibians is a large part of the secret of breeding them, and research in this area is ongoing. They are kept in 40cm x 40 cm x 60 cm tall glass vivaria, with a potted plant in each for them to rest on. feeding is on small crickets and similar small insects.

One of the key institutions in the breeding and study of the phyllomedusine tree frogs, the group to which the Lemur Leraf Frog belongs, is the Manchester Museum. For a video about the Lemur Leaf Frogs at the Manchester Museum, see here: The herpetologist in charge also produces a good blog, which I have added to the links section = please check it out!

Next week, from small frogs to gigantic ones – the Mountain Chicken Frog of Montserrat (sounds like something from a horror story doesn’t it)


  1. i am doing a project and we have to choose an endangered species to study and i love frogs so i chose to do the lemur leaf frog is there any way we can help them and if so what can we do and do you have any interesting facts about them i found the information above was very helpfull please write back as i would love to help save them

  2. Hi.

    If you click on the link to the Manchester Frog Blog at the right of this blog under Useful links, you should have lots of information that will help in your project. Good luck


  3. thank you so much the link really helped
    good luck with the frogs Alan