• Green and Golden Bell Frogs (Litoria aurea)

    Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea, Lesson 1827)
    by Ebony Davis

    Family: Hylidae (Tree Frogs)
    Subfamily: Pelodryadinae (Australasian Tree Frogs)
    Origin: Australia
    IUCN status (Red list): Vulnerable
    Max length: Male-70mm (2.76")
    Female-100mm (3.94")
    Tadpole-80mm (3.15")
    Life span: 10-15 years
    Captivity difficulty: Beginner
    Activity: Both nocturnal and diurnal
    Temperature: 15C to 25C (59F to 77F)
    Food: Locusts, roaches, mealworms, wax-worms, earthworms, flies etc


    Taxonomy
    Also known as the Green and Golden Swamp Frog, this species was originally described as Rana aurea by Lesson in 1827 and has since been re-classified 20 different times. It is now classified as Litoria, a group of frogs closely related to Ranids, and aurea, Latin for 'golden'. They have many things in common with Ranids but there are key anatomical structures and other differences that set them apart. Green and Golden Bell Frogs are equally and most closely related to Litoria castanes (Yellow Spotted Bell frog) and Litoria ranaformis (Growling Grass frog).

    It wasn't until 1972 when electrophoretic studies were done that it was discovered that they are actually different species and up until that time the Growling Grass Frog and the Green and Golden Bell frog were regarded as the same. It is believed that the evolution of the Green and Golden Bell Frog diverged from the other two species somewhere around 1.1 million years ago. It is suspected that they can still hybridize and their ranges overlap but there is no evidence that this has happened.


    Description
    A beautiful range of green and golden colors, hence the name. These frogs will darken in color in the colder months or if in a dark environment. They have a distinct rainbow of pale cream, gold and black thin lines that run from the snout and along the side of the body. The underside is creamy white. The inner thigh supports a beautiful turquoise color. Their eyes have a gold iris with a black pupil.

    An adult frog’s size is generally 6 to 8 centimeters (2.5–3.25 inches). The adult male is smaller than the adult female and his throat is a distinct yellow to a grayish color. The Green and Golden Bell Frog is native to southern Australia and was introduced to New Zealand in the 1860s and is now common on the north island north of Rotorua. There are no variations in size or appearance between animals from different geographic locations.


    Housing
    Green and Golden Bell Frogs are found in many non-flowing water body situations, from wetlands to troughs sitting in back yards. Being a large tree frog you will need to ensure you have an appropriate sized enclosure. A 45x45x60cm (17.5x17.5x23.5 inches) enclosure is a good size for two adults. These frogs are active and feed during the day as well as at night. While climbing around branches and basking in the sun they also spend time on the ground looking for food and soaking in the water. You need an enclosure that provides plenty of land and climbing opportunities. At least 1/3 of the enclosure should be water.

    There are many ways to set up an enclosure and as long as they have a clean safe environment with plenty of hiding places, water, and branches to climb, they will be happy. Personally, I like the natural look. Lots of moss and plants. Your enclosure should have good ventilation. Setting up an enclosure can be a lot of fun. You can use a mix of real and artificial plants, woods, and vines. Be sure to sterilize any wood and rocks that have been collected from outside. To do this you can boil and bake them. This will kill any nasties that may come into contact with your frogs. One simple set up that works for me is a selection of large rocks placed in a way that leave a pond area in the bottom of your enclosure. You add the water last. You build up the rocks in a safe, secure manner to make a land area. Remember that you will need to build this to create the height you would like your water level to be, 7.6-10.2 cm (3-4 inches) is suitable.

    You can organize this so you will have room to place your potted plants if you have any. I pot my plants in organic soil with both top and bottom lined with Sphagnum moss. This will keep the water clean as well as keep your frog from coming in contact with the soil. You will need to place your pots slightly up but in between the rocks so it only sits slightly in the water once poured into your enclosure. You can do this by placing large stones under the pots. Once you have done this, you place fresh Sphagnum moss on top so it should be just sitting above water level (not soaking in the water). If you have it available to you, decorative mosses can be placed on top of the Sphagnum. This not only looks good but creates a carpet on which your frogs can walk.

    The plants and the Sphagnum moss will grow in this situation provided you have light and warmth which is what the frogs like as well. These frogs love to climb and sit up off the ground, so twisted woods and vines make this easy for them to do. Make sure when placing your wood and rocks that they are secured as you don’t want your frog to come to any harm. Once you have your enclosure set up to your liking, pour in your dechlorinated water.

    To maintain this set up you need to siphon the water out no less than once a week. Keeping the land clean is just a matter of spot cleaning and picking out the frog feces every day. I usually totally clean out the whole enclosure 3-4 times a year. Mist your enclosure with a water sprayer (free of chemicals) once a day to keep your mosses and plants healthy as well as keeping humidity up which is good for your frog’s environment.



    Behavior
    These frogs are associated with coastal wetlands, marshes, swamps, ditches, small rivers, and forests. They spend a great deal of their time basking in the sun on reeds and rocks near the water or hopping around between these places. Unlike most frog species, they are often active during the day. They are most commonly found in still, calm, unshaded freshwater ponds. They prefer ponds with emergent vegetation, such as bullrushes and reeds, for basking. Green and Golden Bells stay close to grassy habitat to provide suitable feeding grounds.

    These frogs are well equipped for survival on land. During the winter months they will become inactive and remain in one place. However, they will become active during periods of warm or wet weather. It has been suggested that these frogs hibernate. This is based on individuals found in a "torpid" state, but has not been proven with physiological evidence.
    Although they have strong legs that grip well, they are mostly found within 10 cm (4 inches) of the ground and are rarely found above 1 meter (about 3 feet).

    For defense, these frogs secrete a slime which can be poisonous to other frogs. It also helps them to squeeze out of a predator's grip. It is a slimy, acrid mucus which contains 17 aurein peptides, thirteen of these are broad-spectrum antibiotics that fight off infections. Often when males get to within 1 meter (about 3 feet) of each other they will fight and this often results in injuries. These frogs may let out a piercing shriek/scream if they are alarmed or distressed.

    These frogs will tolerate handling and will sit happily in your hand. However, you should thoroughly wash your hands with cold water before handling (do not use soap). I find disposable gloves to be a great tool to avoid contact with any frog chemicals. Once the gloves are on though you should give them a rinse with cold water first. Most disposable gloves contain a powdery substance to make them easy to put on and take off.


    Diet
    These frogs will eat almost anything that moves and will fit in their mouths, even other frogs. They have a strong tendency towards cannibalism and frogs in the same enclosure will devour each other unless they are the same size. A varied diet is best as this is what they would have in their natural habitat. You can feed them in a separate container or in their own enclosure. There are benefits to both approaches, such as in the enclosure they get to hunt and have exercise doing so. Feeding in a separate container provides monitoring of food intake and condition of your frog.

    Foods that you may be able to purchase or breed for yourself include locusts, flies, cockroaches, crickets, wax-worms, and mealworms. Mealworms must be feed sparingly or as a treat because they are high in fat and there are some anecdotal accounts of mealworms causing impaction, which can be fatal.


    Breeding
    Green and Golden Bell frogs breed in the warmer months of the southern hemisphere, from October to March. They like the water temperature to be between 17 and 24 °C (63-
    73 °F) and the enclosure temperature to be about 15-25 °C (59-77 °F).

    At night the males will call for females while floating in the water or sitting at the water's edge. The call sounds like a deep, four syllable growl. Calling frequency increases just after it rains. Males reach sexual maturity at 9-12 months and females at around 2 years. Females spawn more than once in a single breeding season and can lose as much as 26% of their body weight during this time. Amplexus between the male and female usually occurs in the water but can take place on land as well. While on the back of the female, the male grabs her under the armpits. When ready to spawn, the female deposits her eggs and the male fertilizes them externally. Females lay 5,000 eggs on average, but as many as 11,682 have been recorded.

    In 2-5 days the eggs will hatch and the tadpoles will be 5-6 mm in length (0.20-0.24 inches). It is believed that the tadpole survival rate is very small, given the number of adults compared to the number of eggs laid. The tadpoles are large, reaching around 80 mm (3 inches). Just before the legs form, the tadpole will take on the greenish coloration of the adult. The tadpoles feed on detritus, algae, and bacteria. More developed tadpoles show a preference for vegetable matter, but they will scavenge or become carnivorous on aquatic life. Captive tadpoles will eat boiled lettuce and pet food pellets. If there are too many in one area they will cannibalize one another.

    Tadpoles develop into froglets in around 10-12 weeks, but metamorphosis can occur from the age of 5 weeks to 1 year. Newly metamorphosed froglets resemble the adults and are 2.6 cm (1 inch) in length. Following emergence from the water, the new froglets immediately leave the breeding pond and head for cover. This activity is generally attributed to the cannibalistic nature of the adults. Green and Golden Bells can live from 10-15 years in captivity but the lifespan in the wild has not been determined.

    Conclusion
    Green & Golden Bell Frogs make a truly enjoyable pet. Not only are they beautiful, elegant and poised, but they also prove to be creatures of habit, with their own unique personalities.

    Article is ©2010 Ebony Davis - FrogForum.net. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced or published in part or in whole without written permission from Ebony Davis.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Green and Golden Bell Frogs (Litoria aurea) started by Paul Rust View original post
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