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Breeding the Green and Gold Bell Frog and Welcoming its Extinct Relative – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for the exciting story behind the “re-discovery” of Australia’s Gold-Spotted Bell Frog (Litoria castanea), which was assumed by herpetologists to have been  extinct since the 1970’s.  Today I’d like to discuss my experiences breeding a close relative that sometimes appears in the pet trade, the Green and Gold Bell Frog (Litoria aurea).

Confiscated Frogs Adjust to New Home

Bell FrogCaptive breeding efforts for the endangered Gold-Spotted Bell Frog are underway at the Taronga Zoo.  Its close relative, the Green and Gold Bell Frog, was quite common when I received my first specimens – part of a confiscation that arrived at the Bronx Zoo in the mid-1990’s.

The 20 or so individual frogs differed so much from one another they each appeared to be of different species, but all were quite beautiful.  They were heavily flecked with gold or bronze, and their ground colors ranged from light to emerald green.

Eggs and Tadpoles

The males began calling soon after being set up in a rain chamber (please write in for details), with females producing huge egg masses shortly thereafter.  I estimated the average clutch to contain 500-600 eggs, but up to 12,000 eggs have been reported as being produced by a single female.

The eggs hatched in 4 days at 78F, and the tadpoles were among the most ravenous I’ve ever encountered – blackworms, dead minnows and tank-mates, Algae Tabs, Tropical Fish Flakes,
and greens such as kale were all attacked with equal gusto.   Metamorphosis occurred in approximately 50-60 days (in the wild, the tadpole stage may span nearly 1 year in certain habitats).

Deformed Frogs

A great many of the metamorphs (newly-transformed frogs) suffered bone malformations, and subsequent diet changes, calcium supplementation and the application of UVB light had no effect in correcting this.  I’ve since learned that these frogs often breed in slightly saline to almost brackish water, and wonder if the lack of salt may have been behind my poor results.  If you have kept or bred this species, please write in with your observations.

Dramatic Population Decline

Gold Bell Frog Dustribution MapIn the decade since I first encountered the Green and Gold Bell Frog, its status in the wild has changed dramatically.  Once common, it is now considered to be a threatened species, and holds on in greatly reduced numbers only in a narrow area along the southeastern coast of New South Wales and Victoria (note the previous distribution in grey and the present in black on the map).  Many populations number less than 20 adults; a recovery plan and captive breeding program has been instituted by local zoos.

I don’t believe that Chytrid fungus, which has decimated amphibian populations worldwide, has been identified among the survivors, but infections have afflicted other Australian frogs.  Climate change, habitat development and introduced cats and foxes may have contributed to the frog’s downslide.

Study Everything!

I think the story of the Green and Gold Bell Frog underscores the importance of paying attention to even the commonest of amphibians.  We should strive to learn all we can, especially as regards captive breeding.  Lessons learned by working with common species may be applicable to rarer relatives, or to that species itself when it unexpectedly declines.

In this case, there is an added benefit to hobbyists – Bell Frogs are active, beautiful and most interesting to keep!

Further Reading

Chytrid fungus is being battled by herpetologists whenever it appears.  The Australian government’s plan is a good example of what is being done.

Please check out this video for a view of a Bell Frog and its terrarium.

Gold Bell Frog image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by LiquidGhoul

Gold Bell Frog distrubution map referenced from wikipedia and originally posted byTnarg 12345

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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