In addition to the enclosures in the lobby, animals can be found throughout the “gardens under glass,” contributing to our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. Letting these animals perform their natural jobs helps prevent the need for harsh pesticide treatments in the indoor ecosystem of the Tropical Rotunda.
Phantasmal poison frogs
Epipedobates tricolor, is a small brown and green frog frequently encountered around bromeliads and the waterfall. Their call, a high-pitched trill, can be heard throughout the room. Humans have nothing to fear from these residents. Like all poison frogs, the species’ toxicity results from the combination of the insects they eat and the plants those insects have eaten. Our environment lacks the relevant compounds and as a result, individuals raised here do not contain toxins. Nonetheless, the frogs should not be handled because the salt and oil on human skin is dangerous to them.
The loud whistling co-qui of the Puerto Rican Coquí frog is regularly heard at night and sometimes during the day. The squeaky call of the greenhouse frog may also be heard from time to time. Both of these small, brown, difficult-to-locate frogs are in the genus Eleutherodactylus. One fun fact about frogs in this genus: they are “direct developers,” meaning their eggs hatch into tiny fully-formed frogs without a tadpole stage!
Alligator Snapping Turtle
The turtle living in the waterfall pond is native to the southeastern U.S. They don’t leave the water except when the female lays eggs. These turtles are omnivorous, but mainly eat fish and are among the largest freshwater turtles in the world. This one weighs more than 55 lbs! He was an unreleasable rescue the Garden agreed to house.
A radiated tortoise makes itself at home in the Desert House. This species is endemic to the dry “Spiny forests” in the southern part of Madagascar. They are critically endangered due to habitat loss and over collection in the wild for the international pet trade and local consumption. They have an interesting connection to plants: Over 90% of the plants from this region are endemic to only this small range, so the human introduction of vigorous and invasive Prickly Pear (Opuntia) cactus into that area has the potential to cause many plant extinctions and drastically alter the habitat. Luckily, radiated tortoises have been preferentially eating the cactus, thus protecting their home and ecosystem. Many wild specimens eat so much of the red opuntia fruits that they end up with "lipstick" stains on their mouths.
The pond in the center of the Orchid Display House contains musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus), as well as Gambusia fish. Musk turtles prevent the stagnant water from becoming anaerobic by churning up the silt layer at the bottom of the pond, while the fish eat mosquito larvae or other undesired insects in the still water. Although both species are subtly colored and may not be observed, together these animals keep the pond healthy and attractive.
Phantasmal poison frogs (Epipedobates tricolor) and coquí frogs (Eleutherodactylus coqui) can sometimes be heard calling in this room and benefit our little ecosystem by preying on small pests like mealybugs and thrips.
The Tropical High Elevation House also contains white cloud mountain minnows (Tanichthys albonubes), which help prevent mosquitoes in the water feature.