Thursday 23 February 2012

Researchers fight time to save 'secretive' alpine frog-Baw Baw frog (via Herp Digest)

by ifrog boss on February 16, 2012

FIFTEEN tadpoles hatched since Christmas might not sound exciting. But for those who know about the plight of the Baw Baw frog, it is a big deal.

The alpine amphibian is among the state's most endangered species. Researchers fighting to save it admit they know little about the secretive, underground-dwelling frog.

But thanks to a precious egg mass found in the wild just before Christmas, they are learning. The gelatinous mass of 93 eggs now at Melbourne Zoo has produced 15 white tadpoles, which, it is fair to say, are the most documented tadpoles in the country. The data is analysed daily for development trends.

'I go in there five to 10 times a day to check on them, the temperature and the water, and take notes each time," said amphibian keeper Raelene Hobbs.

So precious are the tadpoles that the 15 have been separated into four tanks as a "hedging" method to ensure if something goes wrong, loss is minimised.

Researchers say everything they learn about the Baw Baw frog's development will aid future captive breeding programs and the fate of the critically endangered species.

"This is the first time that a zoo has kept them and there is very little published literature on the Baw Baw frog in captivity . so a lot of it is us starting from scratch, and that's certainly a challenge," Ms Hobbs said.

Among the mysteries is what to feed metamorph frogs. "We need something that fits in their mouths, moves around in cold temperatures and that we can cultivate in captivity in large numbers," she said.

The alpine frog numbers no more than 7000 in the wild and is only found on the Mount Baw Baw plateau, 120 kilometres east of Melbourne.

There has been a 98 per cent decline in Baw Baw frogs since the 1980s due to a combination of factors, including chytrid fungus and a shrinking habitat.

"We are hoping that at least 50 per cent of the tadpoles will make it through to frogs," Ms Hobbs said.
"This is all new and we are learning. But we have to try."

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