Leap Day is for the Frogs

Splash Back Poison Dart Frog (Photo by Tad Motoyama)

Splash Back Poison Dart Frog (Photo by Tad Motoyama)

To celebrate Leap Day 2016, the L.A. Zoo pays tribute to the vibrant frog collection on exhibit at the LAIR.

Conservationists often rely on images of big, charismatic mammals to rally support for environmental causes. The plight facing polar bears, gorillas, and elephants is undeniably compelling, but often it is smaller, less noticeable species that feel the impact of habitat loss and degradation long before the tremors reach the top of the food chain.

For years, an amphibian crisis has escalated around the world. In addition to die-offs and deformities caused by pollutants, alarming numbers of frogs and other amphibians have fallen victim to chytrid fungus. Leading the conservation cause, Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles Ian Recchio has helped the L.A. Zoo remain front and center in efforts to save many of these unique species for generations—and leap years—to come.

Magnificent Tree Frog (Photo by Jamie Pham)

Magnificent Tree Frog (Photo by Jamie Pham)

Magnificent tree frogs (Litoria splendida) live on the northwestern coast of Australia and are typically found on rocks and in crevices and caves. Their coloration is olive to bright green with white-yellow spots on their back, and the undersides of their feet and legs are bright yellow. The big, fluid-filled sac covering the back of this frog’s head is a poison gland—the biggest of any amphibian in Australia. The foul-tasting poison serves as a deterrent to birds and snakes, yet does not affect humans.

Golden Poison Dart Frogs (Photo by Tad Motoyama)

Golden Poison Dart Frogs (Photo by Tad Motoyama)

Poison dart frogs (Phyllobates terribilis) come in a rainbow of bright yellows, blues, reds, and oranges. Known as warning colors or “aposematic coloration,” these unmistakable hues turn thin skin into veritable frog armor—signaling to predators to make another meal choice. “‘We taste bad, don’t eat us; we are dangerous,’” explains Recchio. “That’s the message being sent by poison dart frogs.”

Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs (Photo by Jamie Pham)

Mountain Yellow-legged Frogs (Photo by Jamie Pham)

Mountain yellow-legged frogs (Rana muscosa) are native to the larger mountain ranges throughout Southern California, and due primarily to habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species such as trout and bullfrogs, populations have declined drastically.

Giant Mexican Leaf Frog (Photo by Charlie Morey)

Giant Mexican Leaf Frog (Photo by Charlie Morey)

Mexican leaf frog (Pachymedusa dacnicolor) is one of the largest tree frogs, at over three inches in length. Endemic to Mexico, this frog is commonly found in areas characterized by a prolonged dry season.
Information from this post originally appeared in the L.A. Zoo’s Photo of the Month (February 2015), Zoo View (Summer 2012), and Zooscape (March 2008).