55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
94118
415.379.8000
Regular Hours:

Daily

9:30 am – 5:00 pm

Sunday

11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Members' Hours:

Tuesday

8:30 – 9:30 am

Sunday

10:00 – 11:00 am
Closures
Notices

The Academy will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

There are no notifications at this time.

Rainforests of the World 

September 28, 2010

Needle in a Haystack: Searching for Reptiles in Costa Rica

During our 10 day collecting trip to Costa Rica, our goal was to collect specific reptiles and amphibians in order to display them in our Rainforest exhibit and to form captive breeding programs for select species.

When planning our collecting locations, we generally targeted certain habitats where we knew various amphibian species would occur. Since amphibians are generally bound to water to complete their life cycle, they can be targeted based on the aquatic habitat that they reproduce in.

Stream

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Pond

Photo copyright of: Chris Andrews

Bromeliads

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Reptiles on the other hand, can be a bit trickier to come across. This is especially true in a dense Rainforest.

Our strategy for finding reptiles was to first look for species that are known to occur around human habitation. Arboreal geckos tend to thrive in disturbed areas in and around human dwellings. Sheds and other human structures provide excellent habitat for geckos to find mates, lay eggs, and most importantly eat! The lights at night attract thousands of insects for this group of lizards to feed on.

Farm Shed

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Yellow-headed gecko

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Turnip Tailed Gecko

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Next, we spent a lot of time in the Rainforest targeting our amphibians based on habitats. Ponds are perfect places for certain frogs to find mates and lay eggs. This is a good place to find the reptiles that feed on frogs in addition to water loving turtles.

Fer-de-lance

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

White-lipped mud turtle

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Stream or riparian zones are another area where amphibians such as glass frogs choose to reproduce. We were able to find several reptile species along these fast moving streams at night.

Brown basilisk

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Slug eater

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Snail eater

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The other reptiles we encountered on our trip were found simply by being in the right place at the right time. This usually means spending a lot of time “in the field” to increase chances of such encounters.

Black Iguana

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Croc

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Green basilisk

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Hognose viper

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Racer

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Overall we were able to find 25 species of reptiles on our trip, and collected 7 species to bring back with us. Keep an eye on the blog for when these new species will be on display on the Costa Rica level of our Rainforest Exhibit!


Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 5:13 pm

September 15, 2010

¡Recuerdos de Costa Rica!

Three of our rainforest biologists, along with Steinhart Aquarium Director Chris Andrews, had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for 10 days in August of this year. The purpose of this trip was to collect specimens for the Costa Rica exhibits in our rainforest, develop in-country contacts, and to observe the natural habitats represented in our exhibits.

Biologists were able to become familiar with permitting and shipping processes, as well as gaining practical experience in the field. Our next few blogs will focus on some of the fascinating specimens that we observed and collected. We were also able to visit some places that focused on other areas of interest.

One of those places was the Aviarios Sloth Sanctuary, located near the mouth of the Estrella River, north of the beautiful beach town of Cahuita.
sloth wherabouts

This sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates sloths with special needs. Since receiving their first three-fingered sloth in 1992, Aviarios has successfully hand-reared over 100 orphaned sloths of both the species that are found in Costa Rica.
sloth house

Photo by: Chris Andrews

The two species of sloths that are found in Costa Rica are – Bradypus variegatus, or ‘Three-fingered’ and Choloepus hoffmanni, or ‘Two-fingered’. Can you tell which is which? Clue: since we can’t see their front feet so well in these photos, look at their head (or what you can see of it). Three-fingered sloths in this part of Costa Rica have a dark nape and and a dark line extending from their eyes.
sloth

Photo by: Chris Andrews

sloth2

Photo by: Chris Andrews

Sloths are arboreal folivores, which means they live in the trees and primarily eat leaves. Cellulose is notoriously hard to digest, and up to 2/3 of a sloth’s body weight can consist of stomach contents. A sloth’s fur hosts two species of symbiotic cyanobacteria which in turn host many species of non-parasitic insects. The majority of sloth deaths in Costa Rica are due to contact with electrical lines and poachers.

Over the next couple weeks check back to see blog posts about the insects, reptiles, and amphibians we encountered on this trip. ¡PURA VIDA!


Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest1 @ 8:18 am

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

The Rainforest Team

   

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

Academy Blogroll