Archive for November, 2010
Late last week I noticed an interesting clump in our leopard frog display, part of the special exhibition WATER. This clump appeared as a jellylike substance with lots of little black dots. Closer observation confirmed we had leopard frog eggs!
Over the weekend, our animal staff kept watch over the frog eggs and Monday morning the clump was gone. I worried a bit, but then realized there were tens of little black streaks in the water, maybe even hundreds. The little streaks are tiny tadpoles. They will continue growing and feeding on detritus and algae in the water. The process of metamorphosis may continue two to three months before these tadpoles begin resembling baby frogs. The newly-morphed frogs will either find a nice home in our Naturalist Center terrarium or be released back into “the wild.” Space constraints, temperature and behavioral observations will determine where the froglets will roam.
If you get a chance to check out the WATER exhibit, be sure to look for our leopard frog tadpoles. In the coming months, they will increase in size (up to 2.5 inches!) and develop tiny back legs. Before they head out of the water, front legs will emerge as well. Small tadpoles are often subject to predation, so some of the tadpoles will move off-display to our animal care room where they can be closely monitored as they grow and morph. Maintaining two separate tadpole populations will allow our animal care staff to study their growth rates, feeding and mortality in different environments.
The process and conditions of nature can be harsh for small animals like our tadpoles, but the naturalistic environment in their display tank maintains a healthy supply of algae and other microscopic food items. We also insure the adults have ample food supplies so we can monitor their feeding behaviors.
We’ll continue to keep watch over the leopard frogs, as they may continue laying eggs until the beginning of winter. The controlled temperature in the exhibit environment can be tricky for frog instincts. They may prepare for winter and hunker down throughout the cool weather, or they may remain active. Over time we will see how the frogs continue reacting to their exhibit.
If you have an urge for another challenge, try to find all 6 adult leopard frogs in the display. They are masters of disguise and burrowing, so it may be tough! If you look underneath hiding places and near plants, you’ll see at least one or two. When you’ve seen the frogs, it is also fun to find the mudskippers in their display tank. These little fish have great camouflage and blend in with their surroundings right before your eyes!
—Lynn Anders, Animal Care Coordinator