08 09/08/2017

Comparing anti-predator behaviour between in-situ and ex-situ populations of golden mantella frogs

Chester Zoo Conservation Scholar has paper published

New study conducted by Chester Zoo’s Conservation Scholar, Luiza Passos, assesses the differences in anti-predator behaviour between wild and housed golden mantella frogs.

The study recently published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that the wild populations of golden mantella frogs and those at Chester Zoo have similar anti-predator responses.

Luiza Passos explains:

“We found out that the animals from Chester Zoo actually have the same responses than the ones from the wild so it is something intrinsic that triggers that behaviour.”

Luiza carried out comparative research between wild individuals from the Mangabe region of Madagascar and frogs housed in Chester Zoo and in Mitsinjo Association Breeding Centre.

golden mantella

She measured thanatosis reaction, an anti-predator strategy, in the different populations of golden mantella by using the tonic immobility (TI) test. The study reveals that there was no significant difference in TI responses among the wild and the other groups, however, a significant difference was found between populations. The analyses showed that the golden mantella frog population kept at Mitsinjo Breeding Centre had a significantly shorter duration TI response when compared to all other groups.

The same results were obtained when looking at body conditions in the different populations. No significant difference was found between the wild and housed frogs but individuals kept in Mitsinjo presented a significantly lower body condition.

These results suggest that ex-situ conditions are not the only factor involved in the shorter TI duration observed in Mitsinjo as the frogs at Chester Zoo didn’t present any significant differences with the ones living in the wild. The lack of UV light provision in Mitsinjo could explain the differences between the two housed populations.

This study shows that body condition is an important factor in the duration of anti-predator responses proving that husbandry conditions and not ex-situ conditions per se have an impact on the health conditions of the golden mantella frogs.

Read more from Luiza and her research on golden mantella frogs here >

The tonic immobility test: Do wild and captive golden mantella frogs (Mantella aurantiaca) have the same response?

Authors: Passos LF, Garcia G, Young RJ. 2017. The tonic immobility test: Do wild and captive golden mantella frogs (Mantella aurantiaca) have the same response? PLOS ONE 12(7).

You can read the full paper here >