February 9, 2009

Captive Breeding Inches Closer to Reality

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual meeting of the Amphibian Populations Task Force in Bodega Bay. The dozens of talks over two days provided an abundance of new data from a wide array of amphibians in California and Nevada. Perhaps the most relevant information for conservation of the mountain yellow-legged frog was the announcement that the captive population of southern mountain yellow-legged frogs (Rana muscosa) being maintained at the San Diego Zoo (see my previous post for details) had produced a clutch of eggs. To my knowledge this is the first time mountain yellow-legged frogs have bred successfully in captivity. The ongoing reproductive activity of animals in the captive population has raised hopes that numerous additional egg masses might yet be laid this year. If such success continues this captive colony might play an important role in the recovery of these highly endangered frog populations in southern California's Transverse Ranges. (The above photo shows an R. muscosa egg mass from the Sierra Nevada.)

Although I have strong reservations about using captive breeding as a primary strategy to conserve mountain yellow-legged frogs, the southern California populations are in such bad shape that captive breeding may be one of the best options left. Populations in some parts of the Sierra Nevada remain robust enough that captive breeding is not yet needed. I hope we never get to the point where captive breeding of these Sierran populations becomes necessary. But if we do need to go this route in the future, it is somewhat reassuring to know that the techniques to house and breed these frogs in captivity are already being developed.

Back to The Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Site.

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