Leaping into the New Year

By Sandy Masuo

Rare treefrogs are the latest success for the Zoo’s Celebrated Herpetology Staff

Adult male fringe-limbed frog. Photo by Tad Motoyama.

The first babies of the New Year at the L.A. Zoo dropped in during the first week in January; approximately 24 fringe-limbed frog (Criuziohyla craspedopus) tadpoles hatched in the Zoo’s reptile care facility. This species, native to the Amazon River Basin, is rarely seen in the wild and is unusual in zoo collections. Adults mate near pools that collect in hollow depressions in trees. The eggs are deposited on leaves above these water sources and develop over a period of roughly ten days. When they hatch, the tadpoles pop out and drop into the water below. Like all frogs and toads, the early part of the fringe-limbed frog’s life is aquatic. As fish-like tadpoles they will mature for several months, gradually transforming into adults that breath air through lungs and live in the tree canopy.

The growing tadpoles can clearly be seen inside the eggs at about seven days’ development. Photo by Ian Recchio.

Fringe-limbed frog tadpoles complete their metamorphosis into adult frogs over a period of months. Photo by Tad Motoyama.

The L.A. Zoo’s herpetology staff have been working with this pair of adult fringe-limbed treefrogs behind the scenes for about two years, hoping for reproduction. Although this species is likely not endangered, little is known about the habits and natural history of these amphibians and they, like many frog species around the world, are threatened by habitat loss and the effects of climate change.

“With the continuing loss of rainforest habitat that is home to so many of the world’s amphibians compounded by the unpredictable impact of climate change, it is critical for zoos to maintain healthy populations of these creatures in our care,” comments L.A. Zoo Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians Ian Recchio. “The L.A. Zoo’s expertise in herpetology is acknowledged around the world and I’m pleased to be able to add the fringe-limbed frog to the long list of rare and endangered species that we have been able to reproduce here.”

After these offspring have completed the metamorphosis into adult frogs, they will be placed in the Zoo’s Rainforest of the Americas exhibit.