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Jump for joy: blue frog babies.

Jump for joy: Blue frog babies

After five years of experimenting to create the perfect amorous atmosphere for their blue poison arrow frogs, scientists at the National Aquarium in Baltimore have something to celebrate: six newly metamorphosed blue frogs, the first bred in the United States. A rainbow of other-colored poison arrow frogs -- 50 black-and-green, 20 orange-striped and 21 yellow -- also were successfully hatched and metamorphosed from tadpoles between July 1987 and February 1988. And two other species are in the tadpole stage.

The poison arrow frog family was recently given "threatened" status by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species, which regulates the export and import of animals. The frogs' already limited habitat -- from Nicaragua to Bolivia and Brazil -- is being destroyed as rain forests are cleared for agriculture and ranching. Blue poison arrow frogs inhabit an even smaller area, living in isolated "forest islands" in the savanna of southern Surinam, near the Brazil border. This region is not currently threatened, but scientists want to learn about the frogs' breeding as a hedge against future threats to their existence in the wild.

"One of the biggest reasons we have [for breeding the frogs] is to show the public that other living things besides just trees are going to be lost in rain forests when they're cleared," says herpetologist Jack Cover at the National Aquarium.

The aquarium's blue poison arrow frogs had produced eggs before, Cover says, but none had ever been fertilized. The researchers discovered the frogs prefer to live in pairs rather than in large groups and they require the privacy and security of a relatively small nest to lay and fertilize their eggs. Taking cues partly from European breeders, Cover and his colleagues made "breeding huts" out of the upside-down bottoms of 2-liter soda bottles, cutting a small door in each.

A more varied diet enriched in vitamins and minerals and an increase in humidity to simulate the rainy season also may have helped put the frogs in a steamy state of mind.

PHOTO : Blue poison arrow frog: No longer blue about no babies.
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Title Annotation:first blue poison arrow frogs bred in U.S.
Author:Weisburd, Stefi
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 16, 1988
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