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Old 01-18-2017, 08:01 AM
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Default The Importance of Letting Frogs be Frogs?

I'd like to hear people's ideas on where we currently stand as a hobby, as far as 'best practices' go about our obligations as keepers in stepping in and managing various bits of our frog's reproductive life cycles.

I personally believe that the value in letting the parents go through their full behavioral range (whatever particular range that may be) outweighs the need for 'more frogs (in terms of sheer biomass) in the hobby.'

I think it's to the mental and physical benefit of our breeding pairs and groups to allow them go through their full reproductive behavioral range, as best as we are able to currently provide for them. I think that it keeps our frogs more mentally 'stimulated/enriched' (and in the end, healthier, both mentally and physically) to let them perform their full reproductive life cycles through to their own respective completions. I'm also inclined to believe that the frogs tend to know their business better than we do, and as much of it as I can let them do, the better.

I also think that the overall health of the captive population in the hobby would benefit if we don't 'coddle' every batch of eggs that gets laid. I think in the end, we're doing ourselves a disservice by taking that approach. I would argue that we'd better served by letting a little natural selection take place, i.e. the less is more strategy, as far as genetic fitness is concerned. In all Dendrobatid species currently kept in the hobby, (at least as far as I'm currently aware) male frogs provide some measure of parental support. That support, at minimum, involves transporting tadpoles to a deposition site.

From Lotters et. al. Poison Frogs: Biology, Species, and Captive Husbandry; section 1.6.4 "Parental Care":

"Once the tadpoles have freed themselves of their jelly coats, they wriggle up onto the male's back, preferably along the outlines of the front and hind legs where they are adpressed against the body. The male will patiently wait for the larvae to arrive there. Larvae that are too weak to manage this climb and give up are abandoned. only in some very rare instances a male was observed to return to an oviposition site and collect larvae that were left behind during the first relocation. "

The degree of care past that varies at that point, whether from transporting tadpoles to a single phytotelmata per tadpole, or whether finding a large pool and then just releasing the whole clutch, or up through the specialized egg feeding behaviors in Oophaga and others. But the point is, there is a crucial aspect of selection that takes place in that process; that is not happening when you just pull eggs as soon as they're laid, which is where I feel like the emphasis too often is.

I think, in the end, it's more important to the health of the population as a whole, that these tadpoles essentially be left behind, rather than what seems to be recommended too often these days:

1)Pull the eggs, as soon as you find them
2)Douse them in methylene blue or tadpole tea or whatever in a petri dish
3)We then as keepers, personally transport them to individual cups

Yes, doing it this way *will* yield higher numbers of frogs, absolutely. But on the whole, I believe that the overall fitness of individuals in a population is being lowered faster than it needs to be through the generations with this practice. In the vast majority of species/locales the hobby is currently working with, we don't particularly need them either; whether it's from a genetic diversity standpoint or even in many species, from a demand standpoint. Obviously there are outlier species or locales that do demand some special treatment do to low population numbers, I won't argue that point, but in most instances I think we breed more than what the demand is, so we could probably stand to produce a little less.

Don't misunderstand, the only point I'm really trying to make here and discuss is that I think we as keepers oftentimes interfere a little too early in the reproductive cycle unnecessarily; not that we shouldn't intervene at some point ever. Also, I have not data mined the journals to back many of these statements as facts (yet! ), but these are more just some of my gut feelings on the issues based on what I've seen so far in the hobby. But I'm keen to hear other's viewpoints and have a discussion! I need a break from the monotony of the 'which light should I pick' question
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Old 01-18-2017, 11:30 AM
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Default Re: The Importance of Letting Frogs be Frogs?

I completely agree with this, once money clouds the view of anything really it lowers the quality, in this sense it is by mass breeding and potentially spreading genetic deficiencies. The same can be seen with clownfish in the aquarium hobby. One second they are doing great and the next moment they are dead, not because anything was wrong with the water, but just because their gene pool was more like a puddle.
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Old 01-18-2017, 01:18 PM
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Default Re: The Importance of Letting Frogs be Frogs?

So do you worry about smaller species such as thumbnails having eggs and then transporting them to who knows where.

What about if there is no water feature for them to deposit tadpoles in?
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Old 01-18-2017, 02:50 PM
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Default Re: The Importance of Letting Frogs be Frogs?

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So do you worry about smaller species such as thumbnails having eggs and then transporting them to who knows where.

What about if there is no water feature for them to deposit tadpoles in?

There would need to be some sort of water feature for tadpole deposition. A simple small pond would probably suffice for many PDF's. In the case of thumbnails wouldn't they transport tads to bromeliads/film canisters that are in the vivarium? I'm not sure I understand what you're asking.
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Old 01-18-2017, 05:57 PM
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Default Re: The Importance of Letting Frogs be Frogs?

I kinda get that, but have you tried capturing froglets from a established tank, in same cases its not that easy. in my vittatus tank I have let them do their thing and there are atleast 4 froglets running around, and next to impossible to catch them with out tearing the tank apart.

i know this isnt the point you are trying to make, but it is a pain to catch them sometimes
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Old 01-18-2017, 06:02 PM
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Default Re: The Importance of Letting Frogs be Frogs?

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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post

I also think that the overall health of the captive population in the hobby would benefit if we don't 'coddle' every batch of eggs that gets laid. I think in the end, we're doing ourselves a disservice by taking that approach. I would argue that we'd better served by letting a little natural selection take place, i.e. the less is more strategy, as far as genetic fitness is concerned.
There are problems with respect to "healthy" genetics in both the pull and no pull scenarios. Both of these are forms of selection but the selection is not "natural" as it is directed by the actions of the keeper and it should not be described as natural. As there is a lack of predators and normal environmental system upsets, it is in no way natural selection, it is artificial ...

Both of those scenarios result in adaptation to captivity (as animals that are maladapted die or don't breed) and both result in the loss of genetic diversity to the captive population particularly since the hobbyists have little interest in keeping a genetically diverse captive populations.

In both scenarios the process of domestication is going continue, the question is just when does the population has lost sufficient genetic diversity that it becomes susceptible to disease or environmental factors and is lost to captivity.


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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
In all Dendrobatid species currently kept in the hobby, (at least as far as I'm currently aware) male frogs provide some measure of parental support. That support, at minimum, involves transporting tadpoles to a deposition site.
Not all males transport, consider the Oophaga genus or even some dendrobatids that utilize small phytotelmata see for example

Caldwell, Janalee P., and Maria Carmozina Ara˙jo. "Cannibalistic Interactions Resulting from Indiscriminate Predatory Behavior in Tadpoles of Poison Frogs (Anura: Dendrobatidae) 1." Biotropica 30.1 (1998): 92-103.


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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
I think, in the end, it's more important to the health of the population as a whole, that these tadpoles essentially be left behind, rather than what seems to be recommended too often these days:
The problem with this idea is that your making the assumption that these tadpoles have a negative fitness but that is is problematic as hatching is dependent on humidity and temperature as well as genetic factors. Eggs within the same clutch could have different thermal exposures changing the rate of development (example light spot hitting one side of a covering leaf ...

What you are advocating is that the frogs showing the best adaption to captivity that includes parental care should be bred the most frequently but this has no bearing on other important genetic contributions such as variation in the histocompatability complex and again is a form of direct selection.



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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
2)Douse them in methylene blue or tadpole tea or whatever in a petri dish
A lot of these practices originated back in the days when there was frequent deaths of eggs and tadpoles before hatching which based on anecdotal evidence has decreased significantly since preformed retinoids have been included in the supplements of the frogs so in a way they are outdated or archaic practices.


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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
Yes, doing it this way *will* yield higher numbers of frogs, absolutely. But on the whole, I believe that the overall fitness of individuals in a population is being lowered faster than it needs to be through the generations with this practice.
The directed selection you are commenting on effects are pretty much dwarfed by the habit of breeding siblings together for each generation. For those that choose "unrelated" animals (which they don't actually know they are unrelated"), there isn't enough people doing this to move the directed selected you are discussing up the ladder of risks to the captive population. Pretty much


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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
In the vast majority of species/locales the hobby is currently working with, we don't particularly need them either;
They may not be "needed" as specimens in the established section of the hobby but they could be sold wholesale which would relieve some of the issues with the swamping of local markets, put pressure on those selling hybrids to the wider market and potentially lure more people to the hobby.



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whether it's from a genetic diversity standpoint or even in many species, from a demand standpoint. Obviously there are outlier species or locales that do demand some special treatment do to low population numbers, I won't argue that point, but in most instances I think we breed more than what the demand is, so we could probably stand to produce a little less.
The problem here is that there isn't any way to know which populations are in decline until they actually crash or are lost to the hobby. So to make this recommendation without that data should be considered as suspect as there isn't any test to know when a morph or species is in decline before it has really bottomed out.

This entire argument only really works if there is some way to determine and manage, the genetic relatedness of the frogs in question as anything other than that information renders the whole argument pretty much useless as the argument is for genetic diversity which is going to pretty much continue to be an unknown. The hobby has more than once made a lot of noise about good genetics but that didn't slow down the purchase of sibling groups or other bad choices genetically ...


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Old 01-18-2017, 06:14 PM
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I kinda get that, but have you tried capturing froglets from a established tank, in same cases its not that easy. in my vittatus tank I have let them do their thing and there are atleast 4 froglets running around, and next to impossible to catch them with out tearing the tank apart.

i know this isnt the point you are trying to make, but it is a pain to catch them sometimes
They are quick little buggers! To some level, it's species dependent. If you're dealing with frogs that use a terrestrial water body, it's easy enough to just put a cup in the substrate with some water; they'll deposit the tads as a group in it, then you can certainly pull them at that point, as the parental care part of it is done. I'm not an obligate keeper, but I was under the assumption that most obligate keepers left tads in their respective phytotelmes anyways, since it was easier to let the female drop feeder eggs for the larvae rather than try to come up with some alternative way to feed them. At that point, you do just have to snatch them up in the viv, but *most* obligates are kept in relatively small enclosures anyways. You're trading a couple months of feeding tads for the effort of trying to catch up froglets when the time is due.
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Old 01-18-2017, 06:21 PM
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Not all males transport, consider the Oophaga genus or even some dendrobatids that utilize small phytotelmata see for example

Caldwell, Janalee P., and Maria Carmozina Ara˙jo. "Cannibalistic Interactions Resulting from Indiscriminate Predatory Behavior in Tadpoles of Poison Frogs (Anura: Dendrobatidae) 1." Biotropica 30.1 (1998): 92-103.
Correcting a misstatement: should have read "not all males transport consider the Oophaga genus or those that transport single tadpoles repeatedly and utilize small phytotelmata, see for example."

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Old 01-18-2017, 07:25 PM
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There are problems with respect to "healthy" genetics in both the pull and no pull scenarios. Both of these are forms of selection but the selection is not "natural" as it is directed by the actions of the keeper and it should not be described as natural. As there is a lack of predators and normal environmental system upsets, it is in no way natural selection, it is artificial ...
True, natural selection is not the best phrase to utilize here, it was pretty late last night. I hesitate to call it artificial selection either at that point, as I think one is more artificial than the other.

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Both of those scenarios result in adaptation to captivity (as animals that are maladapted die or don't breed) and both result in the loss of genetic diversity to the captive population particularly since the hobbyists have little interest in keeping a genetically diverse captive populations.
Indeed. But, given that none of our populations are ever going to be introduced back into the wild, I think striving to make them as well adapted to captive life as possible isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm not sure being adapted to captivity necessarily leads to them not breeding; but animals that are predisposed to not breed because of genetic factors are certainly not going to be favored in the population because of obvious reasons. I guess my argument is that in the lesser of two evils, it's preferable to wean out tadpoles that even in a vivarium setting would not be able to hatch normally and then undergo the transport process.


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In both scenarios the process of domestication is going continue, the question is just when does the population has lost sufficient genetic diversity that it becomes susceptible to disease or environmental factors and is lost to captivity.
This is always the hardest part of managing any captive population. I'm not arguing for line breeding or anything of that nature; genetic diversity should always be considered. My main point though is that in our given populations coddling every egg mass through to hatching instead of letting the parents do it is not necessarily beneficial.




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Not all males transport, consider the Oophaga genus or even some dendrobatids that utilize small phytotelmata see for example

As far as I know, Oophaga are the only genus where the females consistently transfer tads. This doesn't change the main point tho, there is still a distinct level of parental care.



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Originally Posted by Ed View Post
The problem with this idea is that your making the assumption that these tadpoles have a negative fitness but that is is problematic as hatching is dependent on humidity and temperature as well as genetic factors. Eggs within the same clutch could have different thermal exposures changing the rate of development (example light spot hitting one side of a covering leaf ...
I am. I think that the thermal differences we are talking about here are negligible in the scales we're dealing with. I've browsed around a few papers and haven't really seen good evidence that a half degree F difference will have a statistically significant effect on developmental rates. I agree though that there certainly variables, even in our relatively closed systems, that could effect clutch development, but I'm not yet (show me the data!) convinced that those variables play a bigger or more important part then the over-riding fitness of the eggs.



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What you are advocating is that the frogs showing the best adaption to captivity that includes parental care should be bred the most frequently but this has no bearing on other important genetic contributions such as variation in the histocompatability complex and again is a form of direct selection.

I'm of the opinion that larvae that wouldn't normally survive a hatching process are probably not going to be the ones with uber-strong immune responses, at least in most situations. And does the benefit of getting that rare frog with some immune response superior to the population at large outweigh the what is more likely effect of introducing the countless other weaker frogs that wouldn't normally have survived a hatching process, other than for our coddling of them?



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A lot of these practices originated back in the days when there was frequent deaths of eggs and tadpoles before hatching which based on anecdotal evidence has decreased significantly since preformed retinoids have been included in the supplements of the frogs so in a way they are outdated or archaic practices.
I agree completely; with the addition of pre-formed vitamin A we see significantly less developmental issues, including egg molding. That being said, I frequently see on these boards methylene blue being recommended as a treatment to hatch eggs that consistently mold; which I view as skirting the actual problem. Doing it that way, you're allowing eggs and individuals that really had no business surviving to get into the hobby and pass on those poor traits. But yes, I view it as an outdated practice as well.




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Originally Posted by Ed View Post
The directed selection you are commenting on effects are pretty much dwarfed by the habit of breeding siblings together for each generation. For those that choose "unrelated" animals (which they don't actually know they are unrelated"), there isn't enough people doing this to move the directed selected you are discussing up the ladder of risks to the captive population.
I also agree, unfortunately. And it's been said time and time before, but we (myself included) need to be better about this and try harder.



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Originally Posted by Ed View Post
They may not be "needed" as specimens in the established section of the hobby but they could be sold wholesale which would relieve some of the issues with the swamping of local markets, put pressure on those selling hybrids to the wider market and potentially lure more people to the hobby.

You could, but how many people are actually willing to do this? Convincing people that eliminating the hybrid threat and market swamping are more important issues than making 10$ per frog instead of 35$ is difficult. I'm not convinced we can do it.


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Originally Posted by Ed View Post
The problem here is that there isn't any way to know which populations are in decline until they actually crash or are lost to the hobby. So to make this recommendation without that data should be considered as suspect as there isn't any test to know when a morph or species is in decline before it has really bottomed out.
I think we can see probably some of those effects earlier, whether it's a shift in the size of individuals over time, or whether certain morphs/species have clutches that consistently mold over or are infertile species wide. But generally, our populations are far larger than what the minimum number required for a decent genetic diversity requires. Not always, but mostly.



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This entire argument only really works if there is some way to determine and manage, the genetic relatedness of the frogs in question as anything other than that information renders the whole argument pretty much useless as the argument is for genetic diversity which is going to pretty much continue to be an unknown. The hobby has more than once made a lot of noise about good genetics but that didn't slow down the purchase of sibling groups or other bad choices genetically ...
Again, I agree completely. We like to make noise, but when it comes time to buckling down and doing something about it, there aren't enough motivated individuals to get things changed. And again, a lot of what I've said above is more of my gut feelings and opinions on the issues after having spent a fair amount of time working around animals and captive management situations (which I'm well aware is your specialty as well Ed). And unfortunately, the data sets we really need to talk about most of the above issues just don't exist when it comes to long term captive husbandry of amphibians. So, unless presented with the data (which I'd love to see if it exists), I'm left with going with my gut feelings on how to manage the frogs I work with.
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Old 01-18-2017, 07:28 PM
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Correcting a misstatement: should have read "not all males transport consider the Oophaga genus or those that transport single tadpoles repeatedly and utilize small phytotelmata, see for example."

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I did read that paper, thanks for the link. Always looking to add more articles to the library, as it were. That being said, I'm not sure that paper makes any stronger case for pulling eggs as soon as they're laid.
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Old 01-20-2017, 04:43 AM
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True, natural selection is not the best phrase to utilize here, it was pretty late last night. I hesitate to call it artificial selection either at that point, as I think one is more artificial than the other.
In that case, perhaps the term you are looking for is relaxed artificial selection as it by definition isn't as directed as artificial selection implies.


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Indeed. But, given that none of our populations are ever going to be introduced back into the wild, I think striving to make them as well adapted to captive life as possible isn't necessarily a bad thing.
It can if it results in the loss of genetic diversity to withstand parasites or diseases. There have been more than a few examples of how the loss of genetic diversity in domestic populations can result in bad outcomes for the captive populations. On the global scale consider the Irish Potato famine or how the loss of thermregulatory ability puts this captive population of feathertail gliders at risk. Geiser, F., and C. Ferguson. "Intraspecific differences in behaviour and physiology: effects of captive breeding on patterns of torpor in feathertail gliders." Journal of Comparative Physiology B 171.7 (2001): 569-576. free access at https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets...batesJCP01.pdf

That feathertail glider population could go extinct with one power outage ... and as a hobby we'd be remiss in assuming that something like that could happen hence the argument for greater genetic diversity versus domestication should always be made.


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I'm not sure being adapted to captivity necessarily leads to them not breeding; but animals that are predisposed to not breed because of genetic factors are certainly not going to be favored in the population because of obvious reasons.
Hmm, are you so sure about that? Consider Old English Bulldogs, domestic chickens that do not incubate their eggs, double breasted turkeys ...

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I guess my argument is that in the lesser of two evils, it's preferable to wean out tadpoles that even in a vivarium setting would not be able to hatch normally and then undergo the transport process.
Hatching normally is different than pulling eggs for outside rearing. For successful hatching the tadpole has to be able to secrete an enzyme to digest the membranes of the eggs so it can successfully escape. Cutting tadpoles out of the eggs should be discouraged unless there are extreme extenuating circumstances.

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My main point though is that in our given populations coddling every egg mass through to hatching instead of letting the parents do it is not necessarily beneficial.
I can agree that it isn't necessary but the glut of animals in the hobby and the prices that they are sold for is an artificially created issue due to the whole not selling to a reseller or wholeseller dogma and that issue should also be addressed here are it is part of the whole equation.

One of the biggest drivers of the whole attempt to rear every egg mentality is that people who produce a lot of eggs are able to acquire greater status in the hobby despite the fact that pretty much all of the difficulty in breeding these frogs has been eliminated and if a person can follow a recipe they can have success ...

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I think that the thermal differences we are talking about here are negligible in the scales we're dealing with. I've browsed around a few papers and haven't really seen good evidence that a half degree F difference will have a statistically significant effect on developmental rates.
However you can have more than a 0.5 F variation within a couple of inches if one area gets a greater proportion of direct sunlight. The difference between direct sun exposure and shade could be 10-15 degrees difference depending on air movement and humidity.


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agree though that there certainly variables, even in our relatively closed systems, that could effect clutch development, but I'm not yet (show me the data!) convinced that those variables play a bigger or more important part then the over-riding fitness of the eggs.
The problem is eliminating environmental conditions as the causal difference as opposed to negative genetic tendencies. Selecting only the early hatchers or the later hatchers as not having negative (or less negative) genetic tendencies is a problem as you don't know what your actually selecting for; see the feather tail glider reference above as an example of this.. or consider that the variation could be due to phenotypic plasticity as seen in translocated pupfish...

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I'm of the opinion that larvae that wouldn't normally survive a hatching process are probably not going to be the ones with uber-strong immune responses, at least in most situations. And does the benefit of getting that rare frog with some immune response superior to the population at large outweigh the what is more likely effect of introducing the countless other weaker frogs that wouldn't normally have survived a hatching process, other than for our coddling of them?
Consider that many of the activities such as tadpole tea or methylene blue to ensure that tadpoles hatched were in part as a result on insufficient vitamin A reserves in the adults when the eggs were provisioned. How much genetic damage could have been done to a population if only those tadpoles that hatched without the adjuncts were allowed to breed? The problem again is being able to determine those problems that are the result of genetic faults as opposed to those that originate in husbandry or environmental factors.



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Originally Posted by TarantulaGuy View Post
That being said, I frequently see on these boards methylene blue being recommended as a treatment to hatch eggs that consistently mold; which I view as skirting the actual problem. Doing it that way, you're allowing eggs and individuals that really had no business surviving to get into the hobby and pass on those poor traits.
See above, I suspect that many of these cases are due to one or more husbandry issues as the recommendation is often that the frogs will get it right eventually ... On the otherside, welcome to the world of fighting against dogma...


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You could, but how many people are actually willing to do this? Convincing people that eliminating the hybrid threat and market swamping are more important issues than making 10$ per frog instead of 35$ is difficult. I'm not convinced we can do it.
This is one of the areas where consistent repetition is important ... if it isn't consistently presented then it will never change ... which is why I've said it more than a few times ....

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But generally, our populations are far larger than what the minimum number required for a decent genetic diversity requires. Not always, but mostly.
If you consider popularity swings, do you think this is still true??


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And unfortunately, the data sets we really need to talk about most of the above issues just don't exist when it comes to long term captive husbandry of amphibians. So, unless presented with the data (which I'd love to see if it exists), I'm left with going with my gut feelings on how to manage the frogs I work with.
So wouldn't a more conservative approach be the warranted that is likely to sustain maximal genetic diversity as opposed to only allowing tadpoles that were transported to survive? Hatching on their own is one thing.....

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Old 01-20-2017, 04:11 PM
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Default Re: The Importance of Letting Frogs be Frogs?

Greetings,

Ed does a fine job above of emphasizing how well-removed from any sort of "natural" dynamic frog selection is in captivity - but Tarantula Guy, you make a good point about the value of frog populations that do well in captivity, too.

There is an inevitable tension in a hobby centered on the husbandry of rare or delicate critters (and I include plants in that definition - I also grow rare and unusual bulbs). On the one hand, natural populations are spared pressure by readily available domesticated populations.

The momentum of domestication, however, has its own direction. We see this in Agave species where some plants are only available in forms that offset prolifically but never attain the size & maturity of the typical wild-growing specimen of the same species. Offsetting has been highly selected for since it allows growers to propagate immature plants - but the offsetting habit interferes with adult development.

That means the on-going domesticated stocks will need back-crossing from wild populations... and the larger the domesticated breeding effort becomes, pressure on the wild populations could eventually return as more breeders (especially the conscientious ones) try to find "wild genetics".
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