“Hop to It”
With hundreds of frogs large and small, Frogs: A Chorus of Colors is open as a special exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History.
Manhattan is frog central this summer. Frogs: A Chorus of Colors reopens a popular special exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History that first delighted visitors in 2004. As the name implies, don’t go expecting a Kermit-green theme. There are about 200 frogs representing 25 species and a dazzling range of Skittles candy colors, from lemony yellow to strawberry red—all extraordinary examples from the 5,300 species of frogs known to exist.
Visitors can get within inches of waxy monkey frogs or fire-bellied toads as they leap, swim, climb, and, most often, bask in glassed enclosures that recreate natural habitats. Some species boast such incredible coloration or patterns that it’s difficult to believe they’re really frogs; they resemble creatures from a Harry Potter fantasy world. Vietnamese mossy frogs appear more botanical than amphibious. Sleek poison-dart frogs seem implausible in skin the color of cobalt.
Eleven species of poison dart frogs share the exhibit’s central vivarium. Their bright colors advertise to predators the dangerous, even deadly, poison concentrated in their skin. Since most of these frogs concentrate toxins found in the insects they eat, their milder diet at the museum makes them harmless. But indigenous hunters in Colombia can rub as many as 50 darts along the back of a single golden poison frog to create potent projectiles.
Beyond the wonder of simply watching the frogs, the exhibit offers interactive features. Visitors can tap buttons to create a chorus from recorded frog calls or learn about extraordinary life cycles, such as Darwin’s frogs, whose tadpoles mature while hidden in their father’s expandable vocal sac, from which they emerge fully formed.
The frog family has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. They have adapted to environments as varied as Sub-Saharan deserts and Arctic tundra. The exhibit is both a celebration of their diversity and a warning of possible things to come. New frog species are discovered every year—including 10 found in the last year just by researchers from the museum. But overall, frogs are declining worldwide at a rapid and worrisome rate due to habitat degradation, climate change, diseases, and pollution. Approximately one third of all amphibians are considered threatened.
“Frogs are very, very delicate animals since they have permeable skins. If there is anything in the water, they feel it,” says Clyde Peeling of Reptiland, the company that bred the frogs for the exhibit. “That puts them on the front line of pollution.” Their sensitivity to changes mean they are seen as bellwethers for all sorts of ecosystems inhabited by both them and us.
Click here to hear the songs of a few of Madagascar’s frogs (Must have RealPlayer. Download RealPlayer).
Credit AMNH/Chris Raxworthy
Exhibit: Frogs: A Chorus of Colors
Admission: general public, $22; senior citizens and students, $16.50; children (2-12), $13
(covers both the museum admission and the special exhibition ticket.)
Dates: Now through September 9, 2007
Location: American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Hours: open daily, 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
More information: American Museum of Natural History
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