The golden mantella frog gets its name from the bright golden orange colour of its skin. These tiny frogs make up for their size with their bright colouration. This bright colouration is to warn any predators that they are toxic and stop them from eating them.
There is a small group of mantella frogs living in their custom designed terrarium at Woburn Safari Park. To meet the needs of these tiny frogs their enclosure features specialised heating and lighting to mimic their natural habitat, as well as a special misting system which automatically provides a fine mist of water in the terrarium at intervals to keep the high humidity they need.
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|Habitat:||Upland wet swamp forests|
|Height:||19mm to 24mm long|
|Weight:||Less than 1g|
|Threats:||Deforestation, habitat loss and forest fires|
Scientific name: Mantella aurantiaca
Golden mantellas live in small groups, known as armies. These groups usually consist of more males than females, with two males for every one female.
Communication in the group happens through a series of calls. These calls are described as chirping calls with clicking noises. Oddly the male mantella calls much less frequently than other frog species, it is thought that this is to avoid attracting predators, or to conserve energy, and as these frogs live in small groups there is less need to call.
As well as communicating through calls these frogs will use other senses too, it is thought they can also pick up on chemical clues, and will use their vision for hunting with.
The golden mantella is a small species, reaching an adult size of only around 24mm, and weighing less than 1g. The males are usually smaller and slimmer than the females.
The name golden mantella refers to the bright orange, or gold, colour of their body. Their eyes are small and black. The bright colouration is something known as 'aposematic coloration'. This means that they use bright colours to warn predators that they might be toxic, to stop them eating them. All mantella species secrete a toxin from their skin, which can make any predator that eats them sick, or at least makes them taste terrible, to stop them eating them, or to stop them trying to eat other mantellas. The toxins in their skin come from the food that they eat, so the amount of toxins, and the strength depends of the diet of the frog.
Most frog species have webbed toes for swimming, but as the golden mantella spends it time on the ground under leaf litter and soil, and can also be tree dwelling species they do not have this feature. Instead of webbed toes they have large sticky pads on the end of their toes to allow them to climb. Their legs are shorter than most frogs, to allow them to climb better, instead of jumping like other frogs.
Golden mantellas are known for attempting to eat anything, even if the taste is repulsive
The golden mantella is insectivorous, meaning they only eat insects. Their diet mainly consists of termites, ants, and fruit flies. They are known for trying to eat anything they can fit in their mouth, even if it tastes repulsive.
They hunt down their prey using their eyesight, and occasionally hearing.
Breeding for golden mantellas in the wild occurs during the rainy season, when most food is available. The male will attract the female with his calls, and then move himself onto her back. In most frog species the male will then embrace the female, in an act called amplexus, however the golden mantella will move onto her back but not hold onto her (virtual amplexus). A suitable sit for egg playing is then found, usually on damp moss, a crevice in a log, under bark, or rocks, and always near to a source of water. The female lays a clutch of around 20 to 60 eggs, which are then fertilised by the male straight away, although it can occur up to two days later, and multiple males may try.
The eggs are small and white, and usually around 1-2mm in diameter. It takes two weeks for the tadpoles to hatch, once they do they are then washed out by the heavy rain and into small pools nearby.
It takes around 70 days for the tadpoles to metamorphose into froglets, who measure around 11mm in length. Froglets only change to the orange golden colour after a few weeks.
Sexual maturity is reached at around 12 to 14 months, and the average life span is eight years.
Most natural predators will avoid the golden mantella, as its bright colouration warns them off, and lets them now the frog is toxic, however some species of skink have been known to eat them.
The golden mantella is only found in a small area of Madagascar, around 10km2. This tiny area holds the only wild population.
The main threats to them are all manmade. Deforestation and loss if habitat are the biggest problems. Human settlements are encroaching on their territory, and forest fires cause huge damage to their habitat. They are also captured for the pet trade, which is a big issue for them.
They are listed as appendix II of CITES, which means the trade and export of this species is heavily regulated and controlled to protect them, and with a large population now being bred in captivity by private breeders there is less pressure on the wild population, but steps need to be taken to decrease this number more.
Around 35 zoos now hold and breed this species, and there are many conservation projects in Madagascar top help the wild population, and to breed and reintroduce frogs.
A group of Golden Mantellas is known as an army.
They communicate by a series of clicking noises.
There are usually more males than females in a group.