Sunday, April 24, 2011

Species Spotlight: Gaige's rain frog

There are so many more amphibians in our Frogs of Panama exhibit than any other at the Garden. In fact, we started with just over 20 adult frogs (3 Anotheca spinosa, 4 Incilius coniferus, 4 Pristimantis gaigei and 10 Colostethus pratti), and since then, at least 2 of these Panamanian species have reproduced in the exhibit!

Every morning the calls of male Rocket frogs (Colostethus) can be heard as they woo prospective mates. The males can also be seen competing for territory in typical poison frog fashion if you watch closely and stay very still. Although Rocket frogs are technically in the family of 'poison frogs', they seem to rely more on their quickness (they are called 'rocket frogs', after all) and their cryptic coloration, rather than being brightly colored, as is typical with their poison frog relatives.

Pristimantis gaigei | Gaige's rain frog — breeding in the Frogs of Panama exhibit

Last Tuesday, I noticed a pair of adult Rain frogs (Pristimantis) in amplexus in the back left corner of the exhibit. This is the most secretive frog we have on exhibit, and I often go days without seeing a single one of them. So I was delighted to be able to show them off during our 11 am feeding.

A day or two later, they laid a clutch of eggs within the moss about 10 cm from where they were mating. If the eggs are viable, it could be a rare treat for frog enthusiasts, as Pristimantis gaigei is a direct developer— meaning the developing embryo skips the free swimming larval stage altogether, and tiny froglets will hatch directly from their terrestrially laid eggs. This process generally takes over 30 days, so we will be on the lookout towards the end of May for baby rain frogs!

A visitor and I counted 13 eggs today ... 
The Rain frogs laid their eggs on a moss covered log