Madagascar is home to an extraordinary number of endemic species – species found nowhere else in the world. In fact, among amphibians, there is literally only one among 230 known species which is not endemic. As habitat loss, the pet trade, and environmental contaminants threaten amphibians like mantella frogs, understanding and trying to protect these animals and their habitats is a race against time. Some species, including the brilliantly-colored golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca), live in tiny, isolated areas, heightening their vulnerability to extinction.
This winter and spring, the Academy’s crack team of aquatic biologists discovered several clutches of eggs in the golden mantella (critically endangered) and green mantella (Mantella viridis, endangered) frog tanks in the rainforest exhibit, and have had success raising them. As of this week, the biologists are caring for over 100 baby frogs in various stages of development. Eighty of the endangered green mantella froglets have come out of the water already, with 20 more on the way in the next couple of weeks.
So what do you feed a baby frog that’s less than half an inch long? When they first metamorphose, tiny green mantellas are just barely big enough to eat a wingless fruit fly, but they do so voraciously. In the case of the newly-metamorphosed golden mantellas, which are even smaller, the food of choice is the springtail, a very small invertebrate.
Eventually, the Academy will share these healthy young frogs with other zoos and aquariums, who share our commitment to raising awareness and learning about these rare rainforest gems.
Above, left: Baby golden mantella frog, with human hair for scale (copyright Brian Freiermuth, California Academy of Sciences).
Above, right: Adult golden mantella frog (copyright Dr. John P. Clare)