Video: Animal Magic - Warning! These frogs are not edible

Welcome to Animal Magic – a series of fortnightly columns where we take an in-depth look at some of Tilgate Nature Centre’s less well-known animal residents.

Some very colourful creatures are the focus of our column this week – some tiny golden mantella frogs which have just joined our ‘weird and wonderful’ residents in the Discovery Room.

jpco 30-4-14 Animal Magic at Tilgate Nature Centre. Frogs (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140428-112315001

jpco 30-4-14 Animal Magic at Tilgate Nature Centre. Frogs (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140428-112315001

Golden mantella

(Mantella aurantiaca)

Madagascan mantella

Golden mantella frogs are found in a handful of areas in the mountains and forests of central Madagascar in Africa.

Forest clearance and disease means this colourful species is critically endangered and their numbers declining.

Although tiny, growing to 25mm in length, these frogs are eye-catching with colourings ranging from bright orange to pale yellow – earning them their golden name.

Warning colours

With many creatures coloured for camouflage from predators, it may seem like the bright colours of golden mantella frogs would make them visible and put them in danger but they actually serve an important protection purpose.

In a defence mechanism known as aposematism, the intense colourings of these frogs warn predators they are poisonous and would certainly not make a healthy meal!

Tadpoles and froglets

Golden mantella frogs live in small groups called armies. Males tend to be smaller than females and have a distinctive clicking call to attract potential mates.

Despite their small size, females can lay up to 100 eggs at a time and will lay them in beds of leaves or in rocky crevices near water.

When the tiny tadpoles hatch the rainfall gently washes them into the nearby water where they flourish into froglets after about 10 weeks.

Their transformation from tadpoles to froglets is known as metamorphosis. Golden mantella frogs can live to be eight years old.

Sheep swap

We welcomed the golden mantella frogs from Bristol Zoo this year in an animal exchange which saw some of our Boreray sheep moving to a new collection in ‘Wild Place’ on the outskirts of the city.

The frogs have recently moved into the revamped Discovery Room and are enjoying their new home.

They’re bold and active throughout the day and if you can’t see them hopping around look closely and you’re sure to see them guarding their territory amongst the rocks and leaves.

When they aren’t on the move, the golden mantella frogs are fed on a diet of ants, flies, aphids and springtails.