The first Andinobates geminisae froglet born in human care has been hatched by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) abd Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) as part of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.
Andinobates geminisae is a tiny dart frog species which was only described and collected for the first time last year in Panama. They only attain a size of 14 millimetres long.
Scientists from the SCBI and the STRI collected two adult frogs so they could evaluate the potential for establishing a captive insurance population.
“There is a real art to learning about the natural history of an animal and finding the right set of environmental cues to stimulate successful captive breeding, “explained Brian Gratwicke, amphibian conservation biologist at SCBI and director of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. “Not all amphibians are easy to breed in captivity, so when we do breed a species for the first time in captivity it is a real milestone for our project and a cause for celebration.”
It was necessary for scientists to replicate the conditions of the wild in the small tank. The egg was laid on a bromeliad leaf which scientists then moved to a most petri dish. 14 days later a tadpole emerged.
Dart frog parents are known to provide care to their young but it is unclear if that is the case with this species. Scientists have as yet been unable to determine if this is the case with Andinobates geminisae. They believe that one of the parents may carry the tadpole on their back to a little pool of water which is situated inside a tree or on a bromeliad leaf.
To mimic this keeps have moved the tadpole to a small cup of water. Here was fed on fish food and successfully metamorphosed into a froglet 75 days after hatching. He has now grown into a mature adult.
While scientists are unsure if the chytrid fungus which is decimating frog populations worldwide can affect this species the large amounts of agricultural conversion occurring in the rainforest where they live makes them a conservation priority.
The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is a partnership between Houston Zoo, Zoo New England, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the SCBI and STRI. They are working to breed endangered frogs from Gamboa and El Valle in Panama.
Photo Credit: Smithsonian National Zoo