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Sunday

11:00 am – 5:00 pm
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Tuesday

8:30 – 9:30 am

Sunday

10:00 – 11:00 am
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Notices

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

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The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 4/24. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Rainforests of the World 

September 9, 2010

Ever met a phytotelm breeder?

The Borneo level of the rainforest has some new inhabitants. Fourteen Orange Spotted Frogs (Nyctixalus pictus) are now living in the Flying Gecko (Ptychozoon kuhli) exhibit. These unique frogs can be very secretive and tend to hide on the backside of the leaves of various plants in the exhibit. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one out and about on your next visit.

Pictus

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Pictus

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Pictus

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Also known as Cinnamon Frogs or Peter’s Tree Frog, N. pictus are phytotelm breeders, which means their tadpoles develop in water accumulated in tree holes or other plant parts. Ours recently laid eggs while off display and three tadpoles are growing quickly. When they emerge from the water they will join their parents in the exhibit.

Pictus

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Pictus

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Also new to the exhibit are two young flying geckoes, one hatched in March and the other in June. Both are doing well on exhibit. They can be tricky to find. Not only do they camouflage perfectly on the tree, they are about half the size of the adults and are able to find many more hiding places.

Pictus

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Pictus

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Herpetiles — vultures are friendly @ 6:20 am

September 2, 2010

New frog species described in Borneo

The number of species yet to be formally described by science is truly amazing! In today’s world of ipods and jet travel, it’s hard to imagine this is true, but biodiversity hotspots, especially those in the tropics and around the equator, are loaded with species waiting to be described.

I was lucky enough to experience this first-hand when I visited Borneo earlier this year. While exploring the lowland rainforest in Sarawak, Malaysia, we found a patch of pitcher plants named Nepenthes ampullaria. It’s an unusual species in that it has evolved to trap leaf litter rather than trap insects like other species of Nepenthes. Not only is it terrestrial in habit, its lid is reduced in size and pulled back to allow leaf litter and other random organic debris to fall inside. Its unique growth form, with subsurface runners and offshoots, forms a dense mat of pitchers covering the forest floor. Check it out below:

tadpole homes

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Even more cool is that when we peered inside there were tadpoles living in the water! Below is a photo of one of them…not the best shot but you’ll see a mosquito larvae on the left and a white tadpole on the right. If you look closely, you can even see some legs and its eyes!

tadpole

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

When we saw the tadpoles in March, our local naturalist mentioned the species was yet to be described formally. Exciting! Then last week a friend sent me an article that said they were now officially recorded by science. Scientists Indraneil Das (Universiti Malaysia- Sarawak) and Alexander Haas (University of Hamburg, Germany) named the species Microhyla nepenthicola, in honor of its pitcher plant home. They published their findings in Zootaxa, but you can read about it by clicking here. Science is cool. So is Borneo.


Filed under: Herpetiles,Plants — rainforest1 @ 10:52 am

June 14, 2010

Warning: Bright Coloration, Sunglasses may be Required!

During our scheduled Rainforest Exhibit closure last week, we were busy improving our terrariums. On the Madagascar level (2nd level) of the Rainforest, look closely for some new additions!

Madagascar Reed Frog (Heterixalus madagascariensis)
Reed Frog

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Madagascar Painted Mantella (Mantella madagascariensis)
Painted Mantella

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The Painted Mantella is closely related to the Green Mantella and Golden Mantella. These species of frog exhibit Aposematic (warning) coloration. These bright colors serve to warn potential predators that the frog is distasteful due to various toxins located in the frog’s skin. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because most people have heard of an identical scenario with the more well-known Dart Frogs of Central and South America.

Auratus

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Despite similar looks and behavior, the Dart Frogs and Mantellas are not closely related to each other, but evolved separately, occupying comparable ecological niches, continents apart. This phenomenon is called Convergent Evolution.

Come compare them for yourself as you visit the Madagascar and Costa Rica galleries in the Rainforest exhibit!


Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 11:35 am

May 22, 2010

Baby Frogs!

The frogs in our rainforest have been very hoppy as of late. We have been fortunate to breed several species that are on exhibit in the rainforest. Most of our breeding groups are kept in our back of house areas. The reason for this is that frog breeding is easiest to encourage in an area that we have total control of. Environmental parameters like dry/wet cycles, hot/cold cycles, humidity changes etc. are adjusted to get our frogs going.

One of our favorite frog species is the Asian Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta). The frog is called “horned” because of their supraciliary projections (cool science word for the long tips of skin over the eye brows and extending beyond the nose). These projections help the frog blend in with leaves and debris on the forest floor where it lives. Here is a picture of our Asian Horned frogs:

Megophrys nasuta

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

We got these frogs to reproduce by providing a long misting cycle after some minor conditioning. It is easy to get this species to engage in amplexus (the typical frog grasping behavior where the male rides around on the female’s back) but successful egg laying and fertilization is more difficult. We were fortunate to get this to happen. The result was thousands of surface feeding tadpoles:

Megophrys nasuta tadpoles

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

It can take up to 18 months before Asian Horned Frog tadpoles began to absorb their tails and develop limbs. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait that long to see this process:

tail absorbtion, limb development

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

tail absorbtion, limb development

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

While our remaining tadpoles and juvenile Asian Horned Frogs are being raised in our back of house areas, our adult Asian Horned Frogs can be seen on exhibit on the Borneo level. They share their display with the Wagler’s Pit Viper on the Borneo level of our Rainforest Dome, and they would love it if you would st-HOP by!


Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 3:40 pm

April 11, 2010

Borneo or bust!

Those of us that work with animals and plants on a daily basis often take our vacations where we can see even more animals and plants! Recently I had the opportunity to travel to one of the regions exhibited in our rainforest here at the Academy- the island of Borneo. There I witnessed first hand the world’s oldest tropical forests and the island’s amazing biodiversity. Below is a photo of Mulu National Park.

Mulu National Park, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Borneo is the world’s third largest island and is divided politically between Indonesia (73%), Malaysia (26%), and Brunei (1%). We explored the Malaysian sections of the island. First, I met my friends in Singapore where we spent some time adjusting to the 13 hour time difference. From there we traveled to Kuching, Sarawak state, then made our way east across the island, ending in Danum Valley, Sabah state. Below is one of the emergent trees in Danum Valley.

big tree, Danum Valley, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

We were led by talented author Eric Hansen, along with biologist Ch’ien Lee, and botanist Anthony Lamb. Borneo has a rich history and great cultural diversity in addition to its unique ecology. And we saw some pretty cool stuff…including this pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata . We have the same species growing in our rainforest here at the Academy- look for them growing on the wall on the Borneo level.

Nepenthes bicalcarata, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Borneo has some pretty fascinating insects, including this rhinocerous beetle and millipede:
giant beetle, Danum Valley, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

big millipede, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

At one point we found a Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra that had flown into glass and stunned itself. We gave it some fluids and a quiet spot in the shade to recover. Spiderhunters are the Bornean equilvalent of the honeycreepers Cyanerpes spp that can be seen in the neotropics and in our rainforest exhibit.

Little Spiderhunter, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

We even found a land planaria, sometimes called hammerhead leech. Remember those planaria from 7th grade biology class? This is what they look like in Borneo!!
land planaria, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

And of course, no trip to the tropics would be complete without some sort of habituated monkey that’s causing trouble. In this case, long-tailed macaques Macaca fascicularis, sometimes called crab-eating macaques, were the smart ones that kept an eye on unattended bags, waiting for the chance to thieve some treats.
long-tailed macaque, Bako National Park, Sarawak

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

The reality is that most of what we saw was in protected areas such as national parks or conservation areas. Land that is not protected is being “developed,” mostly into oil palm plantations. It is a very complex issue compounded by the fact that Borneo has some very unique and charismatic species along with the need to provide jobs and infastructure for its people.

Monocultures of oil palm have extremely reduced species diversity (12 bird species compared to 220+ in lowland primary forest). Palm oil is used in a variety of products, from processed foods to soaps and shampoos. The effect of oil palm plantations on habitat in Borneo is one we as consumers can shape, by using our purchasing power to support sustainably grown palm oil.

For more info, check out fellow AZA member Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s palm oil resource site or GreenPalm, a certification program designed to address the social and environmental issues surrounding palm oil production.

bird's nest fern, Sabah

Photo by: Eric Hupperts

Filed under: Herpetiles,Insects & Arachnids,Plants — rainforest1 @ 1:01 pm

March 22, 2010

Our newest resident

Check out our Paradise Flying Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi)!

Photo by: Rachael Tom

She has been on display on the Borneo level of the rainforest since March 5th. These are normally very shy snakes but she is settling in nicely.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Flying snakes can move from tree to tree by launching themselves from branches, flattening their bodies using hinges along their ventral scales and gliding to the next tree.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Herpetiles — vultures are friendly @ 1:26 pm

March 15, 2010

Rainforest FAQs

If you’ve ever had any questions about our rainforest and the organisms that live there, this is YOUR blog post! The following questions are some of the most common that our biologists hear:

What is the temperature and the humidity in the rainforest?
We aim to keep temperatures between 75-80 F and humidity between 65-80%. The plants and animals in our exhibit depend on it!

Are the two strawberry dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio) next to the railing real?
Next to the railing: no. In our dart frog exhibit on the Costa Rica level: yes! As you walk up the rainforest ramp from the Borneo to the Madagascar level, you will see a mini exhibit which demonstrates how some animals in the rainforest have adapted to live amongst bromeliads. As the sign states, animals such as monkeys, birds and strawberry dart frogs utilize the water that accumulates in their cup and leaf axils. With a focus on strawberry dart frog reproduction, the exhibit shows that those small pools of water in bromeliads serve as excellent nursuries for strawberry dart frog tadpoles. During the Academy’s brief period at Howard Street, our strawberry dart frogs successfully bred that way!

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Here is a picture of one of our live strawberry dart frogs, which you may be able to find with a keen eye in our dart frog exhibit on the Costa Rica level:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Why are there different types of animals in one tank? Are the smaller animals food for the bigger animals?
Many of our exhibits house multiple species because that is how they occur in the wild. Although many animals have adapted to live in specific areas in a rainforest, there is usually overlap between different species. This is what allows them to be compatible in an exhibit. As long as those animals have enough space, hiding places, food and water, they seem to live just fine together. The animals in our terrariums are typically fed fruit flies, crickets, kingworms, silk worms and hornworms. The snakes in the rainforest are fed anoles, mice and young rats. The animals in our aquariums and the Flooded Amazon are fed fish flake and pellets, algae wafers, black and blood worms, brine shrimp, chopped fish and produce.

What do you feed the birds and the butterflies?
Our birds are fed a variety of fruits and vegetables, insects, pellet bird diet, seeds and nectar. Our butterflies drink nectar as well, which you can see when they insert their probosics into our flowers and nectar feeding stations. They use their proboscis like a straw to draw out liquids. Some of our butterflies also eat pollen. There are five feeding stations throughout the exhibit which we change twice daily. Check out this enthusiastic bird diet:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

What do the bats eat?
Our Lesser Dog Faced Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis) are provided with nectar, as well as a variety of fruits which include: bananas, melons, grapes, apples, pears and oranges. We also throw in a couple of veggies which they occasionally munch on. You may see them eating throughout the day on large chunks of fruit which hang from the vines in their cave, or using their furry bellies as plates to rest pieces of fruit on them as they hang and eat.

How long do the butterflies live?
Our butterflies live approximately 1-2 weeks as adults, but our Longwing species will live up to a few months as long as they have a pollen source.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Why do the macaws bicker with each other?
This is the case with all animals that establish hierarchy and territory, and parrots are one group of animals where bickering is a common and completely natural process. For the most part, these scuffles last only a couple of minutes and then both our macaws will resume preening, chewing, eating, etc. Often times you may see them preening each other or even regurgitating into each other’s mouths which is a sign of companionship:

Photo by: Rachael Tom

How many species of plants are in the rainforest?
There are several hundred species of plants in our rainforest… and counting!

What kind of tree is the one with green fruit?
We have two Saba Nut trees (Pachira insignis) in our rainforest exhibit which produce green football shaped fruit year-round. In its native habitat (Central and South America), the fruit are a food source for people and animals. It is said to have a mild peanut and chestnut flavor.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

What do you feed the Tropical Pitcher Plants?
We actually don’t feed them; our pitcher plants are trapping insects all on their own! Carnivorous plants have adapted to survive in low-nutrient environments and consume insects to obtain the nutrients they need. To learn more about how they trap prey, be sure to check out our enlarged pitcher plant replica across the elevators on the Borneo level.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

That fish is huge! What kind is it?
The largest fish we have in the Flooded Amazon is the Arapaima (Arapaima gigas). Ours are 6-7 feet long, although they can reach lengths up to 10 feet long. The longest lived Arapaima at the Academy lived to be 18 years old. Despite a diet primarily composed of fish, they have been known to be opportunistic predators and will eat just about anything that can fit in their mouths. An interesting fact about Arapaimas is that they are air breathers, and must come to the surface for oxygen every 10-20 minutes.

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Photo by: Rachael Tom

We hope this gives you a little more insight about our awesome rainforest and those that dwell in it. If we haven’t answered one of your questions, please leave us a comment here and we’ll do our best to answer it!


Filed under: Birds,Butterflies,Fish,Herpetiles,Plants — rainforest @ 6:16 am

February 25, 2010

Wagler’s Pit Viper

Wagler’s Pit Vipers live in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. They find their food—mainly small mammals and birds—using heat sensitive pits located between their eyes and nostrils. The receptors in these pits are associated with the visual processing center of the brain which allows them to literally see heat emitted from their prey.

Wagler's Pitviper

Photo by: Brian Freiermuth

 

Visitors rarely get an opportunity to see our snakes feed. So here is your chance. Click below to see our Wagler’s Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) eating her weekly meal. Don’t worry, it wasn’t alive when we gave it to her. We feed previously frozen mice that are thawed and warmed just before feeding.

 


Video by: Richard Ross

Filed under: Herpetiles — vultures are friendly @ 1:25 pm

February 9, 2010

The Return of the Chameleons

The New Year has brought the long awaited return of our Madagascar panther chameleons to the rainforest. While their exhibits were being structurally improved, the chameleons were housed in our Rainforest Holding room.
sambava

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Panther chameleons are native to the island of Madagascar, and have been introduced to the nearby islands of Mauritius and Reunion.

You may notice that our two panther chameleons look quite different from one another. While structurally, they look the same, they differ greatly in their coloration.  This is because these two individuals are from different locations or “locales” in Madagascar. Our red panther chameleon originates from animals that were collected in Sambava while our blue panther chameleon hails from animals that were collected in Ambilobe.  Although the two chameleons we have on display were bred in captivity, their coloration carries with it the unique regional variation of their wild forbearers.

 sambava2

Photo by: Rachael Tom


ambilobe1

Photo by: Rachael Tom

 A popular misconception is that chameleons change color to match their surroundings. While chameleons can in fact, change color, they are limited by a natural range of color unique to each species and, in the case of the panther chameleon, unique to the locales within the species. Color change occurs based on temperature, lighting, time of day, and the individual’s mood. It is also a way for the chameleons to communicate with one another.

ambilobe2

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Over time, chameleons evolved to be very visual creatures. They live solitary lives, but when they do encounter another member of the same species, some of the most dramatic color changes can be observed. This type of communication can convey territorial aggression, whether a female is carrying eggs, or whether a female is receptive to breed.


Filed under: Herpetiles — rockclimber @ 3:50 pm

February 3, 2010

Art, our rainforest turtle

One of my very favorite animals here at the Academy is Art, our Giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa). Her name is an acronym for another common name given to this species: Arrau river turtle. Reaching over 3 feet long and weighing over 150 pounds these turtles are the largest of the South American river turtles and the largest members of the side-necked family Pelomedusidae. This means they have an extra-long neck that, instead of pulling straight back like most other turtles, they must fold sideways under their shell for concealment.

Below is a picture from last summer of Biologists Nancy Levine and Brooke Weinstein releasing Art into her new home here at the Academy:

nancy levine brooke weinstein art arrau river turtle release new academy home

Photo by: Charles Delbeek

This species is widely distributed in Amazonia, yet centuries of exploitation for their meat, eggs, leather, oil and supposed medicinal importance have rendered it Endangered. Their meat is so highly regarded in the local cuisine that hunters and fishermen will go to great lengths to capture them; in the illegal game market a single large specimen can fetch as much as would normally be earned over several months. Like the giant marine turtles they migrate in large numbers to specific beaches to lay eggs in the sand, making them particularly vulnerable to poaching. Below is a graphic picture of an Arrau head and meat for sale at a traditional market in Peru, taken by Biologist Brian Freiermuth:

arrau river turtle head meat sale Peru market

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Other factors negatively impacting this species in the wild include habitat destruction from both urban and industrial development, alterations to the water cycle from logging and damming, and climate change.

Art is on a temporary loan to us from another AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) facility so don’t miss the chance to see this amazing and rare animal! A powerful swimmer, she can usually be seen cruising around or foraging for algae and plant detritus on the sandy bottom.  She seems to be really loving life in her new 110,000 gallon home!

art arrau amazon river turtle new academy home

Photo by: Charles Delbeek


Filed under: Herpetiles — brooke @ 11:40 am
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The Rainforest Team

   

Academy biologists share the inside scoop on the Academy's 'Rainforest of the World' exhibit.

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