September 25, 2015
Delighted aquarists at Hastings Blue Reef Aquarium are celebrating the birth of nine rare phantasmal poison frog tadpoles – believed to be one of the most toxic amphibians on the planet.
The World Conservation Union considers the phantasmal poison frog to be ‘Endangered’, which means that it faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
The species is now thought to survive in only seven sites on mountains in parts of Ecuador.
As well as the nine tadpoles, staff are hopeful many more will start hatching out in the coming weeks.
Blue Reef Aquarium’s Lauren Winstanley said: “The phantasmal frog has a complicated lifecycle which is tricky to successfully replicate in captivity.
“The females lay dozens of eggs on to a leaf. These are then fertilised by the male who guards the eggs for up to two weeks until the developing tadpoles begin to wriggle free of their jelly-like egg cases. Once fully emerged he pulls them onto his back and carries them to a nearby pond or puddle.
“The tadpoles will take up to two months to develop into tiny replicas of their parents; first growing their back legs, then their front legs and finally reabsorbing their tail, before finally leaving their fully aquatic life behind them.
“We use a special tadpole diet, which includes oak leaves, algae and fish flakes, to feed them and ensure they get the correct balance of nutrition and vitamins which will enable them to fully metamorphose into adults,” she added.
Like other species of poison dart frog it is thought the phantasmals develop their toxicity as a result of their diet which includes small insects.
Scientists have discovered that an extract from the skin of the phantasmal poison frog Epipedrobates tricolor can block pain 200 times more effectively than morphine, and without addiction and other serious side effects.