Researchers at the Vancouver Aquarium have been busy lately, working to help save endangered populations of B.C. amphibians. This week, these researchers were excited to report that for the first time ever, tadpoles were successfully hatched from egg masses of the Rocky Mountain population of Northern leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens), an amphibian that is considered to be endangered in B.C.
This hatching of Northern leopard frog tadpoles represents the first time that this species has been bred in an aquarium setting, and the first time throughout Canada that the species has been bred as part of an assurance population (a population bred specifically to help ensure the survival of a species). Although there are various populations of these frogs that reside throughout North America, the population that resides in B.C. – the Rocky Mountain population – is listed as Endangered by SARA (Species at Risk Act) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and is on the provincial Red List.
As part of its frog conservation efforts, the Aquarium has established an assurance population of Rocky Mountain Northern leopard frogs in an effort to reverse their at-risk status in British Columbia.
Although once found in the eastern Kootenays, the Creston Valley and the South Okanagan, the Rocky Mountain populations of Northern leopard frogs in B.C. have dwindled to the point where the two existing wild populations are presently known from only one location in the province, in the Creston Valley.
Why should this matter, you might ask? Amphibians such as the Northern leopard frogs play a critical role as serving as key environmental indicators regarding the health of their local ecosystems. What occurs within amphibian populations can reflect, or impact, the overall environmental state of their habitats. This is why Aquarium scientists are so concerned with the state of our amphibian populations in B.C. and beyond.
The Northern leopard frog tadpoles will be released into the wild on Monday – in the Columbia Marshes near Cranbrook, British Columbia, creating a new additional population to the one native and one introduced existing populations.
The Vancouver Aquarium is part of a worldwide effort, along with other zoos and aquariums, to conserve this and other amphibian species under the Amphibian Ark (AArk) project.
More information on the state of our frogs and other amphibians can be found in our Frogs Forever? Gallery at the Aquarium.