Takeover Tuesday: A day in the life of a Newport Aquarium Herpetologist

Takeover Tuesday features a “day in the life” of biologists at Newport Aquarium. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

My name is Erin and I am one of the biologists at Newport Aquarium! I am a Herpetologist, which means that I work with the Reptiles and Amphibians. The place you are most likely to find me is in our Frog Bog where I care for most of our amphibian collection! Come with me on this #TakeoverTuesday as I show you a day in my life!

Erin Muldoon

Herpetologist, Erin, takes care of the animals in Frog Bog.

One of my jobs is to raise the next generation. These are Halmahera gecko eggs. We had Halmahera geckos running free in Canyon Falls and found these eggs when we were getting ready to start construction on the new Stingray Hideaway.

Gecko eggs

These Halmahera gecko eggs are from geckos that were running free in Canyon Falls. If these eggs hatch, the geckos will be released to run free in Stingray Hideaway.

If they hatch, we’ll release them and their parents back into Stingray Hideaway. So, keep your eyes out for geckos on the walls when we open our new exhibit this summer!

Sometimes, animals arrive too small to go into their future home. When that happens, I take care of them and help them grow up big and strong. Here is a baby Giant Musk Turtle who has a little more growing to do before he can hang out in our Shore Gallery.

musk turtle

Baby Giant Musk Turtle

Some of the smallest animals I care for live in the Frog Bog. These are Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs in multiple stages of their development, from tadpoles just getting their legs, to a brand new froglet, to two adults.

Anthony’s Poison Arrow Frogs are considered Near Threatened in the wild. Breeding efforts by Newport Aquarium and other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions will hopefully keep this frog and other amphibian species off the Endangered Species List.

You may ask yourself, what does a newly hatched dart frog eat? One food we offer is called a spring tail – it’s a tiny insect.

We also give them small fruit flies and newly hatched pinhead crickets. Here at Newport Aquarium, we breed our own fruit flies and crickets so that we always have a good supply of food ready for our smallest amphibians.

Not all of the animals I take care of are tiny. I also help take care of the biggest reptiles at the aquarium, Mighty Mike our American alligator, and the rare white American alligators, Snowball and Snowflake.

Mighty Mike (2)

Mighty Mike, the 14-foot long American alligator

 

They may look like statues, but believe me, they are alive. Part of taking care of them includes everyone’s favorite to watch: Feeding!

White gators (2)

Snowball and Snowflake, rare white American alligators

During the winter, they eat every three weeks. But in the summer, they eat every week. If you are lucky, you might catch us out on the beach feeding Mike some chickens, fish, or even a rabbit or two!

Mighty Mike

Herpetologists, Erin and Ryan feed Mighty Mike.

I hope you enjoyed #TakeoverTuesday with me. Now, like this Tiger Leg Monkey Frog, it is time to rest!

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

Tiger Leg Monkey Frog

 

Check out our other #TakeoverTuesday posts

Leap Day 2016, Celebrating and Saving the Frogs

By Megan Gregory, Newport Aquarium Public Relations Aide

While Leap Day’s true purpose is to keep the year aligned with the seasons, animal lovers across the globe are using it to celebrate the world’s best leapers, FROGS!

We can find our leaping friends around the world on every continent except Antarctica. The Romans believed frogs brought good luck into their homes while the native Aborigines of Australia thought frogs brought rain, which would help their plants grow. Now a days, they can be found close to water areas like ponds, lakes, swamps, and marshes.

Frogs are a member of the amphibian family. Amphi means both while bio means life which refers to frogs living both in water and on land. The frog’s life cycle starts as an egg which is hatched into larvae (or “tadpoles”), as the larvae grows it develops its back legs, then its front legs, and finally emerge from the water. This process could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years!

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Bumblebee Poison Dart Frog

Frogs are important to the earth for several reasons. First, they are an indicator species. This means we can look at frogs in a specific area and determine how well it’s doing. If the frogs are thriving then nothing needs to be changed, but if they are struggling with survival then something is wrong with the ecosystem and immediate action is required.

Second, frogs are both predator and prey. They serve as food for many animals such as birds, snakes, and large fish. But, frogs help control the population of insects, eating a variety of spiders, mosquitos, flies, and sometimes mice. Frogs are known for using their long sticky tongues to catch their food. Their tongues are about a third of the size of their body. If humans had the same tongue, it would reach all the way to our belly buttons!

And lastly, frogs are very beneficial to human medicine. Since ancient times, frog skin has been used to help regrow skin. It was also believed that the oil secreted from frogs contain a pain reliever and help strengthen the immune system. More recently, it was discovered that compounds from their skin could be the key to treating cancer and HIV.

There are currently over 4,900 species of frogs and toads worldwide. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) states that nearly 1/3 of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Major threats include:

  • habitat loss
  • global warming
  • Chytridiomycosis- a fungal disease that affects about 30% of the amphibian species.

How can you help?

Leap into action by becoming a FrogWatch USA volunteer with the WAVE Foundation at Newport. Aquarium. FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is always looking for passionate individuals to help collect data on local frogs and toads.

FrogWatch USA trains volunteers to identify local species, listen for their calls and teach them how to report their findings.

Leap day only comes once every four years, come spend your extra day leaping in Newport Aquarium’s Frog Bog, which is sponsored by CET and Think TV. You can see over 15 species of amphibians, play giant Frogger, and discover the sounds of frogs and toads from all over the world.

(Newport Aquarium Frog Bog Video: https://youtu.be/dLWuEFqmMRs)

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There are more than 20 Green and Black Poison Dart Frogs in Frog Bog, along with nearly 20 species of exotic frogs from around the world.