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There are over 200 species of frogs in the family Dendrobatidae, or poison frogs; they range in size from .5 inches to just over 2 inches.
Poison frogs are found in the tropical forests of Central and South America, ranging from Costa Rica to Brazil.
The bright colorations of these small frogs, from reds and yellows to blues and greens, make them easy to recognize. This color pattern will warn predators of the frog’s toxicity; however, not all members of the poison frog family are toxic.
Excellent climbers and jumpers, poison frogs spend most of their days walking on the forest floor and climbing on tree trunk vegetation. However, some members of this family will be found among the tree tops while others, such as the skunk frog, live in cold water streams of cloud forests.
Although scientists are not sure exactly which food item helps to create the frog’s toxic property, they eat a variety of ants, beetles, and other insects. Poison frogs in aquariums and zoos are not toxic as their diet is different than in the wild.
Leimadophis epinephelus, a frog eating snake is the only known predator of the poison frog.
Mating can be a loud affair with males making loud calls to attract females. In some species, multiples males will court a female at one time. Depending on the species, a female could lay between 2 to thirty eggs on a leaf or in a small body of water. Poison frogs are unique, in that they put much effort into the care of their young. Some species will “backpack’ their young, adults will watch over the eggs and when they hatch into tadpoles place the young on their back to relocate them to safer regions. Another species of frog will place one egg in a small pool of water on a leaf returning to each pool to lay unfertilized eggs for the growing tadpole to consume.
Q: What is the difference between an amphibian and a reptile?
A: “Both reptiles and amphibians have common characteristics such as being vertebrates, lungs as adults, and being cold blooded. However, amphibians will undergo a metamorphosis during development while a reptile will not. Also, reptiles are covered in scales while amphibians have a premeable skin."
Q: What is the largest amphbian species?
A: “The largest amphibian species is the Giant Chinese Salamander (Andrias davidianus) which can grow to a size of over 5 feet.”
Q: What kinds of poison frogs do you have at Mystic?
A: "At Mystic, we have a variety of poison frogs including blue poison frogs, bumblebee poison frogs, dyed poison frog, and splash-black poison frog."
Q: Do you have to wear any protective gloves when working with the frogs?
A: “No, poison frogs in the wild obtain their toxins from thier diet. Here at Mystic, we feed our animals small crickets and fruit flies which will not cause the frogs to become toxic."
Learn how we educate students on amphibian species through the use of a very unique costume created by costume maker Julie Cook. Also, check out the video to learn more on how you can become involved in monitoring local amphibian species.
Species of the Month Podcast: Croak?
Join Mystic Aquarium's Kelly Matis and MaryEllen Mateleska as the talk about amphibian population decline and what you can do to help.
Kelly and MaryEllen want to hear from you! Send questions, comments and suggestions for future podcast topics to [email protected].
Scientific Name: Family Dendrobatidae
Size: African penguins range from 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 11 pounds
Range/Distribution: The only penguin to breed in Africa, the African penguin ranges from Namibia to South Africa. Young penguins have been known to migrate north and west along the coastline and are found between Southern Angola, Namibia, and sometimes found off Gabon, Congo, and Mozambique, but generally reside in South Africa.
Appearance: The African penguin has a robust, torpedo-shaped body with black feathers on their back, flippers, and head while white feathers cover their front with the exception of horseshoe-shaped black stripe on the chest. Following the penguin’s first few molts a white stripe will develop around its cheek and throat. These birds have a bare patch above their eyes to assist with regulating their body temperature.
Habitat: When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas.
Prey: African penguins feed on 25 species of fish, such as sardine and anchovy but also prey on squid and krill. A penguin may eat up to one pound of food or up to 14% of their weight.
Predators: African penguins face predation by gulls, feral cats and mongoose while nesting on land, while sharks and fur seals hunt African penguins in the water.
Life Span: The African penguin may live up to late 30 years in an aquarium or zoo but averages of 15-20 years are seen in the wild populations.
Mating Behaviors: There are no set breeding seasons for African penguins, however, most penguin pairs are monogamous and will remain together over several breeding years. The male will prepare a nest by digging a shallow burrow in sand or in brush using guano (penguin waste) and any materials nearby to complete the nest for the female to lay two eggs. Both the male and female share the nesting and chick duties, keeping the young safe from predators and warm temperatures. The chicks will hatch between 38 and 42 days and will leave the nest when they are between 60 to 130 days of age.
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