Whilst 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.
Toads 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.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!
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