Wild Lives: Rainforest Residents

These colorful reptiles and amphibians will soon bring the new Academyís rainforest exhibit to life.

A four story living rainforest exhibit is currently under construction inside the new Academy building in Golden Gate Park. When the new museum opens in 2008, visitors will be able to wander through rainforest habitats from Borneo, Madagascar, Costa Rica, and the Amazon. These geckos, chameleons, and frogs—all native to Madagascar—will be among the 1,600 live animals that will fill the exhibit.

An island nation that has been isolated from other land masses for over 160 million years, Madagascar is home to many endemic species—animals that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth. Of the over 500 species of retiles and amphibians known from the island, nearly 95% are endemic, including the golden mantella frog and the yellow-headed day gecko. 

Academy scientist Brian Fisher recently discovered that Madagascarís golden mantella frogs (Mantella aurantiaca) acquire their toxins by eating poisonous ants. The frogs are able to sequester and store toxins from the ants without harming their own bodies. Photograph: John White
Academy scientist Brian Fisher recently discovered that Madagascar’s golden mantella frogs (Mantella aurantiaca) acquire their toxins by eating poisonous ants. The frogs are able to sequester and store toxins from the ants without harming their own bodies. Photograph: John White
One of the largest chameleons in the world, Oustalet's chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) can reach up to 27 inches in length. Its tongue, which is folded like an accordion inside its mouth, can measure up to twice the length of its body when extended. Covered with a sticky liquid and capable of moving at speeds of over 20 feet per second, this tongue can easily capture unsuspecting prey.
One of the largest chameleons in the world, Oustalet's chameleon (Furcifer oustaleti) can reach up to 27 inches in length. Its tongue, which is folded like an accordion inside its mouth, can measure up to twice the length of its body when extended. Covered with a sticky liquid and capable of moving at speeds of over 20 feet per second, this tongue can easily capture unsuspecting prey. Photograph: Chris Anderson
Unlike most geckos, which are nocturnal, yellow-headed day geckos (Phelsuma klemmeri) are mainly active during the day. Discovered in 1990, they live in the rainforests of Northwestern Madagascar, where the females lay their eggs in hollow bamboo shoots. Toe pads that function like suction cups allow them to walk on the smooth surface of the bamboo.
Unlike most geckos, which are nocturnal, yellow-headed day geckos (Phelsuma klemmeri) are mainly active during the day. Discovered in 1990, they live in the rainforests of Northwestern Madagascar, where the females lay their eggs in hollow bamboo shoots. Toe pads that function like suction cups allow them to walk on the smooth surface of the bamboo.
Rainforest exhibit drawing