Christmas Quiz!

Whilst I was travelling this year a good friend of mine tested my knowledge by asking if I knew about a very unusual creature indeed…

The animal in question can be seen in the short clip below – perhaps you know what it might be?..



Please use the comment box below this post if you know what type of creature that is!

frog-with-a-question-mdTalking of testing peoples knowledge, maybe you might also be interested in a little Christmas quiz  – the first prize for answering all the questions correctly is a behind the scenes tour of the Vivarium at Manchester Museum for you and a friend, anytime in the New Year. It’s free to enter and the closing date of the quiz is New Years Day. Second prize is a wonderful book on Frogs and Toads of the World by Chris Mattison (this can also be chosen by the 1st prize winner if you do not live in the UK).

So – lets see how much you know about frogs, the Vivarium at Manchester Museum, and the people who contribute to frogblogmanchester?..

Vivarium Christmas Quiz 

Last orders

Christmas1Still thinking of what to give that hard to buy for person at Christmas?..

Perhaps Sponsoring a Frog or donating in support of a critically endangered species on their behalf might be just the ticket!?

Donation Gifts can be for any amount, and for this a special letter of thanks together with a limited edition print and conservation pack will be sent out directly to your person of choice.

Lemur Frog Sponsorship also includes a lovely book on Frogs and Toads of the World by Chris Mattison, and the opportunity for a behind the scenes vivarium visit!

Don’t miss the date – our last day for Donation Gifts and Frog Sponsorship packages being sent out is 17th December!

DONATE A GIFT                   SPONSOR A FROG

Wired and Wild!


2 colourful chameleons meet! – but which is the real thing? Mandy Beck-McKim decides (c) A Gray

Today I met with Mandy Beck-McKim to discuss the development of a new environmental education project for children that proposes to combine the animals and environmental themes of our vivarium with colourful animated puppetry. Mandy is extremely enthusiastic about the use of puppets to educate children of all ages, and inspired by a love of Nature she creates amazing characters from her studies of different creatures.

Inventing the creature characters, their form and movement organically, the characters grow in the making process and are brought to life with simple hand and rod mechanisms. Her characters are all developed through knitting and crochet work, which adds a new dimension to the highly colourful characters she creates.


WIRED & WILD (BLOG)                       WIRED & WILD (FACEBOOK)

A Gift of Giving..

IMG_9742This is a short note to thank all the people who are supporting our conservation work through donations and our sponsor a frog initiative at this time of year – As Christmas is fast approaching we are getting an increasing number of people who are wanting to show their support whilst also giving this on behalf of one of their loved ones. It’s an usual thoughtful gift, and the support is very much appreciated.

For those who would still like to do so and just haven’t gotten round to it,  just to let you know our last date for Donation Gifts and Frog Sponsorship packages being sent out is 17th December!

Donation Gifts can be any amount you would like to donate, and a special letter of thanks together with a gift pack will be sent out directly to your person of your choice.

Frog Sponsorship is £50, and also includes a lovely book on Frogs and Toads of the World by Chris Mattison, and the opportunity for a behind the scenes vivarium visit.


The Coronated Tree Frog, Anotheca spinosa


A young specimen of Anotheca spinosa (c) Adam Bland

Finding a specific species of tree frog in the rainforest can be difficult at the best of times, even if the species is considered to be common; sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Some have adapted to live and reproduce within the hollows of trees or within the water filled bromeliads high up off the forest floor, making them extremely difficult to find!

One such species of Central American amphibian which lives within tree holes is the Coronated tree frog, Anotheca spinosa.

A sub-adult Anotheca spinosa showing early development of the bony crown characteristic of the species (c) Adam Bland

Anotheca spinosa is a unique tree frog, in fact there is only one species of Anotheca; so there really is no other quite like it. This species has been recorded in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama, and as previously mentioned lives and breeds within water filled tree holes; making it quite difficult to observe them in the wild.

They are commonly referred to as the Coronated tree frog due to the bony spines that form on the skull of the frog like a crown as they mature, as can be seen beginning to form in the above image of a sub-adult A.spinosa . When this species reproduces their tadpoles develop within the small pools inside the tree holes with the adults. The female frogs even produce eggs for them to feed upon, but besides this fairly little is known in detail about their reproduction.

Working with species such as this in captivity can be useful in discovering aspects of their natural history that are otherwise almost impossible to observe in the field. Due to the success of the Atlanta Botanical Garden in reproducing this species, we are lucky to also have a small group in The Vivarium. It is a pleasure working with such an unusual species of tree frog and we hope to have success in reproducing these ourselves in the future.

                    Atlanta Botanical Garden             Tree Hole Breeding Leaf Frogs                  

Talking Toads

photoWhilst Andrew was away in Costa Rica working on the future progression of Project Lemur Frog, back in The Vivarium at Manchester we were very busy as usual, especially during the recent half term break. Behind the scenes in The Vivarium we are well known for our work with Phyllomedusine frogs, these are the nocturnal leaf and monkey frogs that can be seen housed through our viewing window.

Although during this year Andrew and I have also be working with some particularly interesting species of toads from Central and South America.

M.klappenbachi amplexusToads come in all shapes and sizes and do not always have the stereotypical appearance many people associate with the name. One species housed off display in The Vivarium is the Bumble bee toad, Melanophryniscus klappenbachi.

This small species is an inhabitant of sub-tropical shrubland habitats within the Chaco region of Argentina and Paraguay. Unlike many toad species, they are diurnal, and much like a poison dart frog they are brightly coloured to act as a warning to potential predators. As their common name suggests this species is coloured with yellow and black; they also possess red flash markings beneath the hands and feet.

M.klappenbachi toadlet[1]

(c) Adam Bland

In the wild this species lives in a relatively dry habitat, which has a short winter period followed by a seasonal and short rain season.  Due to the availability of breeding sites being very limited to a matter of weeks after the rains, the eggs and tadpoles of this species have rapid development to ensure that they make it out of the water before the temporary pools completely dry up. Once spawned the eggs hatch within two days and the tadpoles metamorphose into small toads after two to three weeks.   We have had success in breeding this species in The Vivarium and currently have tadpoles developing in one of our rain chambers, and also small toaldlets from a previous breeding. When these toads metamorphose they are extremely small, barley over 5mm in total length and lack the bright colour seen in the adults.

The young toad pictured is over two months old and now showing adult colouration. Perhaps more surprising than the rapid tadpole development is the call of the male toads when breeding, their call is so loud that it could be heard in the gallery when they are housed off display, and males call non stop whilst in the breeding chamber fighting amongst themselves to compete for a female, which often results in louder calls!

Adam’s Page            Green Toads             Native Toads

Frogs and Physics

IMG_9613Since returning from Costa Rica I’ve have been busy teaching on several courses, including the University’s AGMS course. This is an Art Gallery and Museum studies Masters course for graduate students, and the session was a real pleasure to deliver.

This past week I have also been working in collaboration with my colleague from the Photon Science Institute, Mark Dickinson, to deliver an A-Level Study Day based around our frog research interests – and it’s been great fun for all involved! The session allowed students to get to learn all about how animals use colour, which has included investigating our live specimens from the vivarium and also spending time in the Photon Science Institute.

IMG_9607Following a morning sessions in the Museum, where the pupils got to learn all about the frogs and had an introduction to the physics behind the colour of animals, this afternoon  the pupils used hi-tech spectrometers, Infra-red cameras, and thermal imaging equipment. They learnt how the use of the equipment helps us to understand reptile thermoregulation and the optical properties of amphibian skin.

The collaboration draws on the expertise and resources of both our departments, and today supported the learning of students from Blue Coats School in Oldham.


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We hope everyone from the school enjoyed their visits and would like to say a big thank you to Emily Robinson, Kayleigh Rose, Francisco Herrerias, Hanna Radtke and Adam Bland who helped support the study days.

Blue Coats School             Photon Science Institute             Sun-loving frogs


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