Posts Tagged 'poison dart frogs'

Happy World Frog Day!

Can YOU freeze during winter hibernation, thaw, and continue on? Yeah, we didn’t think so… 

In celebration of World Frog Day, we’ve put together an infographic that highlights some of our favorite amphibian facts!

national aquarium frog infographic

Did you know? The word amphibian comes from the Greek word amphibios, which refers to the fact that the early life stages of many frogs are aquatic and that the adult stages are generally terrestrial.

There are approximately 6,000 known species of frog found worldwide (on every continent except Antarctica)! Frogs are especially prevalent in North and South America! Not all frogs are poisonous, but run-ins with those that do posses toxins can be fatal.

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The Life Cycle of Poison Dart Frogs Explained

Blog-Header-AnimalExpertUpd

National Aquarium has had a long, successful history of breeding poison dart frogs. Here in the Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit, we have 16 species of poison dart frogs. Over the last few decades, scientists have become very interested in the reproductive strategies of these species and how they care for their young.

blue poison dart froglet

Dart frogs are incredibly intriguing animals. In addition to possessing toxins and bright colorations/patterns, they also have a fairly complex life cycle!

For most species, females will choose a leaf lying on the rain forest floor to deposit a mass of eggs, which the male will then fertilize. Males are oftentimes in charge of guarding the eggs while they develop.

poison dart frogs developing

Here at the Aquarium, most of our tadpoles develop behind-the-scenes in their own simulated bromeliad cup.

Once the tadpoles have developed, one parent will carry each tadpole to their very own pool of water held in a plant, known as a phytotelma. In the wild, some dart frog species (including many of the species we have in our collection) choose the water-filled cups at the base of bromeliads to safely store young.

Many tadpoles are omnivorous and most species will feed on algae and/or other small animal life (including other tadpoles). During their time in the bromeliads, the tadpoles will progressively metamorphose into full-fledged froglets!

The transition takes approximately two months, and they typically reach adult size and maturity within a year.

The normal life span for these animals in zoos and aquariums is about 10-15 years. Here at the Aquarium, we’ve had frogs live to be at least 23 years old!

ken howell rain forest expert national aquarium

What in the world is a Kokoe-Pa?

Kokoe-Pa female and offspring

The Kokoe-Pa poison dart frog (also called the harlequin poison dart frog) has become a rarity in captive collections. For the past several years, we have maintained one female (wild caught and arriving at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, in 2001 as a USFWS confiscation) and a male that was born here in 2002.

These frogs are particularly difficult to successfully reproduce, as the tadpoles are obligate egg feeders. After a clutch of eggs are laid, the parents move each tadpole to its own small reservoir of water, usually within a bromeliad plant. The female frog will then return every other day or so to lay unfertilized eggs into the water for the tadpole to feed upon.

Research on other obligate egg-feeding dart frogs suggests that mother frogs may recognize their own tadpoles by specific “begging” behaviors during the process.

New Kokoe-Pa offspring

In 2005 and 2009, we had egg-laying episodes that, unfortunately, did not result in thriving viable young. Our herpetologists have paid particular attention to this species, closely monitoring their enclosure temperature, food supply, supplementation, and use of artificial bromeliads (which tend to decompose and fall apart just before the tadpoles have completed their development and metamorphosed into small froglets).

This year we are happy to report that a 2011 egg-laying event has produced at least two offspring that have hit the 3-month-old mark! They look spectacular and appear to be thriving.

The Kokoe-Pa are housed in a special off-exhibit enclosure while we work on all the details of their husbandry.


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