Global explorer’s save the date

focOver the summer we have be running a new initiative ‘Global Explorers‘, where families have been visiting Manchester Museum and creating animals from junk modelling materials, inspired by the museum’s collections, including the museum’s Vivarium as well as the Nature’s Library and Living Worlds.They have made everything from frogs, birds, foxes,  and many more…

1[2]The Autumn will also provide many opportunities for families wanting to get immersed in the museum’s collections, so don’t miss our next BIG SATURDAY ON 27TH SEPTEMBER, which will provide a full day of discovery and exploration of the South Pacific inspired by the Museum’s Living Cultures collection.

Here you will able to make their own Hawaiian flower lei to wear as you all explore the Museum and learn about the fascinating cultures and diverse environments of the Pacific.

Drop in, free, for families

*Don’t forget there are also drop-in drawing and other art activities inspired by the Museum’s collection in the Museum’s Discovery Centre, every single weekend 11am-4pm.

Guest blog post contribution by Sajia Sultana, Manchester University student and Manchester Museum Summer Public Programme Intern, and Victoria Grant, Family Programme Co-ordinator.

Colour-changing frogs

When people think of colour-changing animals most people immediately think of chameleons, and although certain chameleons can change colour, they’re not the only animals to do so..

Lemur leaf frog, showing green resting colouration

Lemur leaf frog, showing green resting colouration

For the last few weeks I’ve been investigating the dramatic colour change of some of the lemur leaf frogs at the vivarium.

Visitors to the vivarium can see the lemur frogs being housed in the tanks on the left as you look into the back of house conservation area, but here they are normally sleeping on the underside of leaves or occasionally pressed tight against the glass to conserve moisture. Different groups of frogs are carefully kept in separate tanks for each bloodline, in order to preserve genetic diversity for their future conservation.

Lemur leaf frog, showing dark brown colouration associated with nocturnal activity

Lemur leaf frog, showing brown colour associated with nocturnal activity

One of the amazing things about these frogs is that they can change their pale green colour to a dark reddy-brown colour. However, even if you’re lucky enough to be able to see some of these amazing frogs in the vivarium, you won’t see this dark colouration as they only change colour at night. Like many tree frogs, the lemur leaf frog is nocturnal, and so to see this colour change myself I have been photographing the frogs in a specially prepared tank overnight. I’ve made the pictures for one night into a short video so hopefully you can see both how active these frogs can be, and how dramatically they change colour.

Although the video looks bright, the room in which they are housed was actually very dark, and this video has been assembled from individuals pictures taken with a flash, once every ten minutes. At the end of the video, you can see how their body clock knows that it is morning again, and they all retreat back to the leaves and revert to their original pale green colour.


 Chris Blount: New Research Project            Chris Blount: Research update 

Fabulous frogs, coming soon..

David2 copy 2

Sir David Attenbrough with Splendid leaf Frog at Manchester Museum (c) Andrew Gray

If you’re interested in watching the latest offering from Sir David Attenborough, filmed with him in our Vivarium here at the Manchester Museum, here is a related link associated with the programme and our Lemur Leaf Frog conservation project:

BBC 2, Natural World 


Fabulous Frogs will be transmitted on BBC 2, Thursday 28th August at 9.00pm.

Amphibian Conservation in Action

Lemur Leaf frog at Manchester Museum (c) A Gray, courtesy of Sir David Attenborough

Project Lemur Frog is a model amphibian conservation project and an international collaboration of  institutions and individuals committed to helping secure the future of the Critically Endangered Lemur Leaf Frog. The holistic approach used includes research, public engagement and educational activities, and directly conserving the species through direct in-situ and ex-situ action:

Research: Latest genetic research facilitating the first genetically informed professional amphibian breeding programme in the world. 

Get involved: Sponsor your own Lemur Leaf Frog in support of Project Lemur Frog

Ex-situ Conservation: Amphibian Ark Update

In-situ Conservation: Habitat Restoration

Questions Answered: Lemur Frog Project Interview


Fabulous Frogs!

SBA MUSEUM (18)Frogs are fabulous, its official! Even some of the very poorly kids from Manchester Children’s Hospital couldn’t help but raise a smile at the antics of some of the amphibians we took over there this week, which was so wonderful to witness. That super initiative, Culture Shots, was a pure pleasure to be involved with.

Another pleasure we are lucky enough to be involved in is the widespread sharing of information about these fabulous creatures. This is done on many levels, from using the museum’s live collection for our baby explorer programmes at the museum, to teaching on the field courses we run for undergraduate students in the tropics..

- all are geared up for opening a window of wonderment to the world of nature, and providing an insight into some of the marvellous creatures that so many people know very little about.

Isn’t it cool when you experience something that changes your perception… true growth that can sometimes lead you on a different path in life, if the impact resonates strongly enough within..



Fabulous_Frog_QRCode copyPlease note: For interaction with the vivarium’s new mobile phone or iPad ‘Fabulous Frogs’ app, specially developed by Mimas with us for ages up to 11 year olds, the steps are as follows:

- Download Junaio for free from App Store (Apple) or Play Store (Android)

- Make sure you device has internet access

- Click onto the Junaio logo (once downloaded)

- Press the Scan button and scan the Fabulous_Frog_QRCode.png (above left)

- Click on the Splendid Leaf frog trigger image kindly provided by Chris Mattison, to fully open it (image below)

- Hover the iPad or phone over the trigger image to view the interactive content.

Fabulous_Frog_App_Trigger copy


Southern sculptures


Mark Mandica by Giant living sculpture of Agalychnis lemur (C) Mark Mandica

This week I visited the wonderful Botanical Gardens in Atlanta, Georgia. Its many years since I was last there and the place is as beautiful as ever. Atlanta Botanical Gardens is set in 30 Acres of parkland and is a non-profit organisation that aims to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, research, conservation and enjoyment. We first started working with ABG when Ron Gagliardo first developed their superb amphibian collection.


Giant Living sculpture of Gastrotheca cornuta (c) Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Today, Mark Mandica (above) is leading the way with the exceptional amphibian conservation collection at ABG, and meeting him this week was a real pleasure. He is a super nice guy and extremely committed to their collection, which includes a wide variety of rare Panamanian and South American tree frog species such as Anotheca spinosa, Agalychnis lemur, and  Gastrotheca cornuta. Walking through the gardens towards the Fuqua Conservatory, where the frogs are housed, I couldn’t help but be wowed by some of the amazing giant plant sculptures which feature in their new exhibition – the tree frogs were obviously first to catch my eye!


The Fringed Leaf Frog, Cruziohyla craspedopus (c) Andrew Gray/Manchester Museum


Located within the entrance to the tropical conservatory are several naturalistic exhibits containing a wide variety of rare frogs that also feature in the major frog conservation program based at ABG. Frogs on display included the Fringed Leaf Frog,Cruziohyla craspedopus, a rare species with its own highly sculptured legs that we are also now lucky enough to be working with again in Manchester.

The centerpiece of the high elevation tropical House at ABG was a massive waterfall surrounded with brilliantly flowering orchids and exotic bromeliads. Poison dart frogs constantly called around me as I wandered around this wonderful tropical setting, and Mark pointed out pools of water absolutely full of developing tadpoles, which were clearly thriving under such naturalistic conditions.

I would like to recommend anyone visiting Atlanta to go to the Botanical Gardens and experience this wonderful place for themselves. I would also very much like to thank Mark Mandica, ABG, and Ron Gagliardo for all their continuing valued support.

Fogpodblog     Manchester Frogs to USA    Amphibian Conservation at ABG

Tree snakes


Cat-eyed tree snake of the genus Leptodiera                       (c) Andrew Gray

Tree snakes come in many colours and sizes, and most are highly nocturnal. In Costa Rica I come across many species, both venomous, like the beautiful Eyelash Viper, or non-venomous, such as the many active snakes that can be found living around aquatic breeding sites, where lizards sleep on their perches and night-time frogs are active.

At the moment I am teaching at La Selva Biological Research Station and during my time here have been supervising several student projects focusing on the morphological adaptations seen in different frogs and snakes. The cat-eyed snakes of the genus Leptodiera are species commonly known to eat lizards, frogs, and even the eggs of the many tree frogs in the main swamp here.


Yellow blunt-headed tree snake, Imantodes inornatus        (c) Andrew Gray

However, several other interesting species which fill a similar niche can also be found. Almost every night we have come across 1 or 2 species of Blunt-headed tree snake. Belonging to the genus Imantodes, these beautiful long snakes have huge eyes in comparison to their head size. Holding on with their long prehensile tails, these snakes silently manoeuvre their slender bodies between the slightest of twigs and branches.


Head of Sibon longifrenis, showing eye camouflage detail (c) Andrew Gray

Last night we found 2 other tree snakes belonging to separate but closely aligned genera that behave in exactly the same way – one was Sibon longifrenis. These snakes really are beautiful, and being various shades of green and brown they are extremely well-camouflaged amongst the moss. As other tree snakes, even their eyes perfectly match their cryptic colour.

We were lucky enough to find a pair in one tree, but rather than tree frogs, or frogs eggs, these snakes actually feed only on snails and slugs. Their mouthparts are specially adapted to extract snails from shells. To observe this behaviour in action is a very special moment for any herpetologist.



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