• Follow FROG BLOG MANCHESTER on WordPress.com
  • Sponsor a Frog

  • Lemur frogs

  • Learning with Lucy

  • Harlequin frogs

  • Fabulous Frogs

  • Amphibian & Reptile Travels: Matt Wilson

  • MADDIE MOATE – Stay curious

  • Latest newsletter

Hibernation in Snowy Sweden

290Hi, Matt here! I’ve just returned from a skill exchanging trip to snowy Sweden, visiting our colleagues and collaborators at Nordens Ark. One of the really interesting aspects of working with native reptiles and amphibians in Sweden at this time of year is the hibernation process..

During the long dark winter, the temperatures plummet to levels which are too cold for reptiles and amphibians to maintain their normal behaviour. Nordens Ark use this time to perform annual health checks and head counts before placing their animals into a specially designed hibernation facility, where they can be closely looked after during this period of dormancy.

As well as the reptiles and amphibians, some of the rare insects they are working with, both larvae and emerged adults, also go through the controlled hibernation. One such intriguing species is the Capricorn beetle, Cerambyx cerdo, which is critically endangered in Sweden due to its specific breeding biology – it requires ancient oak trees with sufficient amounts of dead wood to lay its eggs in and for the beetle grubs to feed upon. The larvae normally take 5 years to grow big enough to moult and become an adult, which once emerged will then live for only 1-2 months. This means that only pristine ancient woodlands can support this species, an environment which is increasingly rarer in modern Sweden.

Capricorn beetle, Cerambyx cerdo (c) Matthew O’Donnell

Current populations are limited to eight trees with only 20 specimens emerging every year, so for the past 3 years Nordens Ark have been working with beetles collected in Poland (which has a bigger population) to perfect the captive breeding and rearing of these stunning beetles so that the experience can be transferred to keeping Swedish beetles. Through their hard work and determination with the beetles, they have been able to produce a method to breed and rear the beetles to mature adults in only just two years, which will highly increase timescales and numbers for release to the wild from captive breeding.



Capricorn beetle larvae (c) Matthew O’Donnell

Due to the great success in rapidly raising polish larval specimens it means that this year they will hopefully be able to start working with the critically endangered Swedish beetles and producing enough young to release to new regions soon and create new populations to ensure this incredible beetle also has a strong future in Sweden.

Below Jimmy Helgessen tells me about the project, and I would like to sincerely thank him and all at Nordens Ark who made my trip so enjoyable.

Hear and see more about my visit to snowy Sweden by going to my own page and following the link under my video below.


Matt’s Page            Nordens Ark         Capricorn Beetle Conservation Project

Lucy’s post – why I want to be a zoologist when I grow up

Hi my name is Lucy. I am 9 years old and I love frogs! I started to love frogs after my visit to Manchester Museum in the amphibian section last summer. This is how it all started… Andrew gave us a guided tour of amphibians and reptiles. It was amazing, because I got to hold lots of different frogs and reptiles. The first one I held was an American toad, then I fed the toad a live cricket. The next frog I held was the prettiest thing I have ever seen! At first the Red Eyed Leaf Frog was asleep in a pretty weird shape.

Lucy making friends with her favourite frog

Me making friends with my favourite frog

When it hopped timidly onto my hand, I realized that frogs are not what I expected. I started to grow in confidence, when suddenly it jumped up my arm. I knew we were becoming friends. The next thing I knew I was holding a baby Python, although it didn’t bite! At first I was scared, but I learnt it wouldn’t bite me.


Andrew asked me if I wanted to feed a chameleon. I really was daring to do it, so I decided to have a go. He gave me a live locust and we went over to the vivarium and the chameleon ate it all up. Since then I have loved the facts and history of frogs and now I want to be a zoologist too and help to save frogs and other endangered animals like Andrew and his friends at Manchester University!



Taxing taxonomy

Darwin’s frog

Darwin’s frog, Rhinoderma darwinii (c) Claudio Soto (Kind courtesy of, especially for frogblogmanchester)

Identifying individual species, and even which genus or family they belong to, can sometimes be extremely taxing for even the most professional herpetologist. I bet when Darwin first discovered his famous mouth brooding frog in Chile he never dreamt it would eventually be split into two different species. Sometimes the slightest difference can indicate a separate species, and now that DNA research is helping us differentiate between species to a much higher degree it has opened up a whole new can of worms for those interested in following the ever changing amphibian taxonomy of today.

However, some individuals have dedicated much of their professional working life to helping us keep abreast of the latest status of our beloved creatures, and if it wasn’t for their dedicated efforts it would be very difficult for many of us to have any sort of handle on where everything is currently at. One such person who I have a great amount of admiration for is fellow Museum Curator of Herpetology, Darrel Frost at the AMNH.

Darrel created and manages Amphibian Species of the World, an online database listing all scientific and English names for more than 7,000 amphibian species. Whilst the database was designed for professional systematists, it gets more than a million visits a year from scientists, conservationists, and policymakers. Use of the database supports trade regulation of amphibian species and informs habitat conservation efforts around the world.

The amazing online database that catalogs every currently recognised amphibian species is available  HERE


Solving a Mystery

Young or old, everybody loves a mystery – and everybody enjoys solving one..

Just this week I had a gentleman contact me from the beautiful green island of Corfu with a story involving a mystery that had caused him a great amount of bewilderment:

“The Cat that Killed the Snake that Saved the Snakes Life”


Four-lined snake (c) D Mulder

To his wife’s horror, the man concerned had found a young four-lined snake at their home. He was an avid photographer and so after taking several shots he rushed to get a better lens for his camera. Whilst doing so, their cat promptly pounced on, and, after some tussling, killed the snake stone dead…

After some time, the snake began to move.. but it was dead for sure. However, it moved, and moved, and moved. The man and his wife were totally puzzled by the mystery of the moving dead snake.


Whip snake emerges (c) D Mulder

Then, to both their complete amazement, another snake’s head appeared from the mouth of the first snake and a smaller snake emerged unscathed to slither off…  A small whip snake had just been eaten by the predatory snake the cat had killed. Amazing, but true. How the snake survived, and turned itself around inside the other to come out head first is another mystery that remains unsolved..

If you or your children would be interested in perhaps solving other interesting mysteries for themselves, just ask them to click on the image below to get them started!

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 15.30.44

Chameleon World Muji

mer copy

Dwarf Jackson’s Chameleon, Jacksonii merumontanus.

6 months ago I acquired a beautiful young male Jackson’s chameleon.

He was no ordinary jacksons, but a dwarf specimen from the mountain of Meru in Tanzania. Mount Meru is located 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of Mount Kilimanjaro and reaches a height of 4,565 metres (14,977 ft). It is about the ninth or tenth highest mountain in Africa.

My male is stunningly beautiful, is bright turquoise blue and has 3 long horns. Last summer I kept him outside on a potted olive tree and he loved sunning himself and feeding on flying insects, including hoverflies. I obtained him from a super couple, Julian and Michaela of Chameleon World Muji, who specialise in keeping and breeding such montane species of chameleons, and their knowledge and experience with these wonderful creatures is extensive.

JulianYesterday Tara and I had the privilege of meeting Julian and Michaela, after travelling to Oxford in order to see them and their collection and to collect a female specimen we had reserved. It was an amazing afternoon and Tara and I were treated to a visual feast of some of the most incredible chameleons you could imagine!  Julian and Michaela’s passion and enthusiasm for them made it a very special day.

Although they have wealth a experience breeding Panther Chameleons, their interest has been drawn toward working with ‘montane chameleons’ and to try to dispel the common thought that they’re hard to keep, and don’t adapt well in captivity.

Female Furcifer minor, Endangered Madagascan species

Female Furcifer minor, Endangered Madagascan species

Over the last few years they have been working with a number of spectacular African and Madagascan species, some of which haven’t been seen in the hobby for some time. This, and sharing experiences of like-minded keepers, has provided them a wealth of knowledge and the skills required to breed and provide captive-bred chameleons of the highest quality for others to enjoy.



Happy New Year!

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas! This past year has been one of the most eventful of all for us here and next year proposes to be just as super. Over the next 3 or 4 months Matt will be visiting Norden’s Ark in Sweden, Adam, surveying amphibians in Atlanta, and I hope to post back from Brazil.  All in all the new year promises lots of new exciting adventures, amphibian-related escapades, and frog fun that we hope you’ll all enjoy following. We wish you and yours a great year ahead too!

We also hope you have fully recovered from New Years Eve! – unlike these two troublemakers who gave away the unsupervised party antics of frogs in the vivarium  – which until now we were totally unaware of! 🙂


Tara’s page