• Climbing Mantella - Mantella laevigata

    Mantella laevigata (Methuen & Hewitt, 1913) - Climbing Mantella, Lowland Mantella, Arboreal Mantella, Green-backed Mantella
    by Kurt Kunze

    Climbing Mantella, Mantella laevigata
    (Photo: 2009 John P. Clare www.frogforum.net)


    Mantellidae (Mantellas & kin)
    Northeastern Madagascar
    Adult Snout-to-Vent Length:
    Male: 24 mm (0.94 inches); Female: 28-30 mm (1.10-1.18 inches)
    IUCN (Red List) Status:
    Near Threatened (NT)
    Similar Species:
    Mantella betsileo, Brown Mantella
    Mantella expectata, Blue-Legged Mantella

    Meet the Frog Part 6: the Climbing Mantella, Mantella laevigata

    Mantellas are a group of small, often brightly-colored frogs native to the island of Madagascar. Superficially, they resemble the South American poison dart frogs, but mantellas are more closely related to the Ranids or true frogs. Some people even consider them to be members of the family Ranidae. To make matters more confusing, mantellas inhabit a similar niche to that of the dart frogs and, like dart frogs, they too are diurnal. Mantellas are a prime example of convergent evolution.

    In the past, mantellas were imported with some regularity. Nowadays, very few of the 16 species are imported due to the decline of many of their populations. Among those still imported are the Painted Mantella, the Brown Mantella, the Beautiful Mantella, and the Climbing/Lowland Mantella, Mantella laevigata, the subject of this article.

    Mantella laevigata
    can be described as a small, black frog with a green to yellow dorsum. The underside has blue or grayish blue spots, which are often present on the feet. Digits are enlarged, allowing this mostly terrestrial frog to climb. The throat is black without markings or pattern of any kind, a feature that helps to differentiate them from similar mantella species.

    Climbing Mantella, Mantella laevigata
    (Photo: 2009 John P. Clare www.frogforum.net)

    This species of mantella can be found up to four meters off the ground in rain and bamboo forest. It breeds off the ground in tree holes or in bamboo nodes that are filled with rain water. Eggs are laid singly above these water-filled pools in March and October. Generally, only one tadpole can be found in each tree hole, but occasionally two may be found, each at a different stage of development. Tadpoles feed upon unfertilized eggs provided by the mother frog, a behavior more associated the poison dart frogs. Eggs of other tree hole-breeding frogs are also consumed. When eggs are not readily available, tadpoles become omnivorous.

    Breeding may take place in the trees, but feeding usually occurs at ground level. The natural diet of Mantella laevigata consists of ants, termites, and other small insects. In captivity, fruit flies and small crickets will be accepted.

    Keeping Mantella laevigata, like all mantellas, is similar to keeping poison dart frogs, with one exception: their terrarium should be on the tall side, with branches and foliage on which to climb. Humidity should be around 80%. Ideally, the keeper should provide water sources off of the floor of the enclosure.

    Threats to this species include deforestation and over-collection for the pet trade.

    1. Vences, Miguel & Glaw, Frank Mantella laevigata 2000 Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Zoological Museum at the University of Amsterdam. http://www.amphibiaweb.org/
    2. Staniszewski, Marc Marc Staniszewski's Mantella FAQ 1998 Marc Staniszewski's Amphibian Information Centre Amphibian Information Centre
    3. Staniszewski, Marc Guide To Owning A Mantella 1997 TFH Publications.

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