Big leap forward in breeding of top EDGE frog

For the first time, New Zealand’s critically endangered Archey’s frog – the world’s most evolutionarily distinct amphibian – has been successfully bred from a long-term captive population at Auckland Zoo.

Archey's frog embryos

Seven Archey’s frog babies that hatched at the Zoo in early December from fertile eggs laid in October are continuing to thrive.  Over 50 million years old and described as “living fossils”, Archey’s frogs, like New Zealand’s other three endemic frog species, don’t have a tadpole stage like other frogs. Instead, the Archey’s ‘tadpole’ grows rudimentary limbs inside the egg, and then hatches out as an almost fully formed frog. The seven baby frogs, each just a half a centimetre long, have absorbed their yolk sacs and progressed to a diet of tiny invertebrates.

Archey's frog tadpoles

While Archey’s frogs have been bred twice before elsewhere in captivity, the babies – from adult frogs that had not long been collected from the wild – did not survive.

“It’s a massive step forward to finally breed these enigmatic and extremely sensitive little frogs after almost eight years,” says Auckland Zoo NZ Fauna curator, Richard Gibson.

“While a slow process, perfecting husbandry and furthering our understanding of Archey’s reproductive biology is all part of developing a skill set that provides the best possible chance of conserving this frog in the wild – where it’s battling the combined threats of habitat disturbance, introduced predators, disease and climate change,” says Mr Gibson.

Archey's frog baby froglets

 

International experts agree the breeding of Archey’s frogs is a huge achievement.

Kevin Zippel, programme director of the Amphibian Ark (AArk) – a world body focussed on the global survival of amphibians using captive breeding for species that can’t be safeguarded in nature, says: “Conserving any species usually requires a whole range of actions and captive breeding is increasingly a requirement for many threatened amphibians. Auckland Zoo’s recent success with Archey’s frog is exciting news and represents an important breakthrough”.

One month old Archey's frog

Our very own Professor  Jonathan Baillie, the driving force behind the EDGE of Existence programme says “breeding one of the most primitive and threatened species on the planet is an amazing achievement and a major breakthrough for conservation”.  “It will help to ensure the future of the world’s most ‘Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered’ (EDGE) amphibian and its truly fascinating parenting practices”.

Auckland Zoo is the only facility in the world to hold Archey’s frogs, which it does with the blessing of Hauraki whanui iwi and Marokopa-Kiritihere iwi.

 

Comments

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  1. Peter Keane, Curator, JungleWorld said,

    on March 1st, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Congratulations on this breakthough breeding. It is a great sight to see these little froglets are doing so well. Keep up the Great work!..

    Peter Keane,
    Sr. Curator of Herpetology
    JungleWorld (formerly Safari Exotic)

  2. Larry said,

    on March 14th, 2013 at 11:13 am

    They are so cool. It’s a great thing with breeding them!!

    Nice article :)

    Larry

  3. vps said,

    on March 14th, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    This post is great. I realy love it!

  4. Faz said,

    on April 6th, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    im currently doing a piece of coursework on this frog for my AS biology and think this is very interesting and to see how the change has evolved is amzing to research. well done to those who successfully bred the frog!

  5. abby said,

    on March 4th, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    I love this but are there any projects for 5th graders to do.

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