Friday, 25 March 2011

Frogs of Bristol 3: Tastes like?

Pity the poor Mountain Chicken frog. As if being eaten to extinction on several Caribbean islands by both humans and introduced mongooses is not bad enough, it then had its last stronghold on a volcano in Montserrat blow up and finally the survivors were hit with chytridiomycosis. A frantic effort was initiated by DWCT on Jersey – if you are at all interested in any conservation work check out the Dodo blog on their site – and a few European zoos now hold and breed Leptodactylus fallax. With a wild population on the last two islands where it lives (Dominica and Montserrat) having a combined population of under 8,000 (probably much less) this species is in dire need of help.

There are many species grouped under the Leptodactylus, and the genus should probably be split up into smaller genera. There is a considerable range in size, behaviour, and distribution, with Mountain Chicken frogs being among the larger of the worlds’ frogs – bigger than an American Bull frog for example. Mountain Chicken frogs are terrestrial, as one would expect from their size, and are quite secretive, preferring to spend most of the daylight hours hidden away in burrows. The diet in the wild is large insects, and probably any smaller frogs as well, and here at Bristol our adults get adult locusts and Blaberus cockroaches, all vitamin supplemented.

Breeding Mountain Chicken frogs is a tricky business. They exhibit a great deal of parental care, as the females lay their eggs in a foam nest in their burrows. The tadpoles remain in the nest, developing into miniatures of the adult. The developing tadpoles are fed by the female, who lays infertile eggs into the foam nest for them. Breeding has been made possible by manipulating temperature, day length, and humidity, combinations of which are the usual triggers fro reproduction in amphibians.

After holding Mountain Chicken frogs for several years, in 2010 Bristol had its first successful breeding of these magnificent frogs, raising 19 from one nest. These are being raised off show, but the adults can be seen in the Reptile house. If you are visiting, try and look inside the rolls of cork bark we have as shelters – they will often be found hiding inside. With these and other successful breeding, the captive population now stands at over 500. Most of these are in Europe, but a few US zoos now have them as well – check out on ISIS for your nearest collection to hold them.

For great video of these frogs see here:

Next week – a truly splendid tree frog

(images from wikipedia)

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