Frogs of Ecuador
This exhibit represents the canopy layer high in the rainforests of Ecuador. While the nature of the tank required some terrestrial plants, the majority in this display are “epiphytes”, or plants that grow on other plants rather than in the soil. Epiphytes typically root onto the bark of a tree, but they aren’t parasitic; they get their nutrients from water, dust, and debris that gets produced up in the canopy such as rotting leaves and frog droppings. A variety of miniature orchids native to Ecuador grace this tank, ranging from the unmistakable Lepanthes calodictyon and Lepanthes tenatculata with their round patterned leaves and almost constant tiny orange flowers, to more cryptic species such as Christensonella juergensii and Masdevalia minuta that might not catch the eye until they bloom.
Fringed leaf frogs (Cruziohyla craspedopus) provide “aha” moments when visitors suddenly realize the animal has been in front of them the whole time. When folded up to sleep, they camouflage themselves very well, especially on their favorite plant in the exhibit Drymonia chiribogana, where the frogs’ white spots blend into the leaves’ white stripes. The green flaps along the frogs’ legs disguise their silhouette, making them even harder for predators to spot. When active, however, the frogs flash bright yellow hands and eyeballs to startle predators. The surprised predator may pull away for a second, giving the frog time to leap and fall through the forest. Since they start quite high up, there will always be some leaf to grab onto somewhere on the way down. Come to a Saturday frog feeding to see these frogs grab food off of tongs with their sticky yellow hands.
Sun’s glass frogs are the most transparent frogs in the world. Their transparent skin prevents predators from finding them by searching for their silhouettes on leaves above. Light passes through in part because they keep most of their red blood cells inside their liver when at rest. This means if they sit on glass we can actually see their heart, intestines, and eggs forming inside females. This rare species was bred at Wikiri, an ethical captive breeding facility that legally exports frogs to support Centro Jambatu’s amphibian conservation research.