One third of amphibians are threatened with extinction and the number of amphibian captive breeding programs (CBPs) is increasing as components of recovery strategies. However, the success rate of amphibian CBPs is only 50%, and may be limited by health problems resulting from inadequate husbandry knowledge. I investigated the role of husbandry in the occurrence of Spindly Leg Syndrome (SLS), a limb development disease, in a population of captive-bred Andinoabes geminisae tadpoles at the Panama Amphiban Rescue and Conservation Project (PARCP). I found that that vitamin supplementation and filtration method of tadpole rearing water may affect SLS prevalence and that decreasing tadpole husbandry intensity delays the development time of tadpoles. A fortuitous accident during one of my experiments provided compelling evidence that phosphate exposure may also be a key factor in the occurrence of SLS. Accompanying my SLS work, I described the tadpoles of Andinobates geminisae and Oophaga vicentei (Vicente’s dart frog) using tadpoles that died of baseline mortality during my experiments. Combined, my work demonstrates that CBPs can serve beyond their immediate conservation purpose to facilitate important research on the biology of the species they hold.
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Thesis advisor: Mooers, Arne
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