The ‘Temple of Frogs’ is a purpose-built, two-metre-long display dedicated to the poison dart frog. It features a special bioactive habitat, state-of-the-art LED lighting and automated climate control to mimic tropical conditions in the wild.
Currently home to a group of eight captive-bred green and black poison dart frogs, the new display will eventually house twice that number as part of a new breeding programme for the tiny but deadly species.
Originally from Central and South America, the brightly coloured frogs were also introduced in Hawaii and have flourished, even in the heavily populated areas, where the eggs are often deposited in broken beer bottles or old cans instead of puddles.
The frogs’ bright colours are thought to act as a warning to would-be predators of their high toxicity. They have long been used by local tribes to provide poison for their weapons.
Pharmaceutical companies are investigating the possibilities of a painkiller, being developed from a compound found in the frogs poison glands. The drug has the potential to be approximately 200 times more potent than morphine in blocking pain, with no apparent side effects.
Aquarists are optimistic the new arrivals will breed successfully but warned it is not a straightforward process.
Deep Sea World’s Michael Morris explained: “Sex is a very complicated matter among green and black poison dart frogs and it‘s something of a miracle that any babies are ever produced.
“Initially there’s a highly complex mating ritual which involves all the males fighting to establish dominance.
“The victor then attracts a female by making trilling noises and the two partners then rub up against each other. If all this goes well the female can lay up to six eggs in a small pool of water.
“During the two week development period, the male returns to the eggs periodically to check on them.
He added: “Once the tadpoles hatch, they each climb onto the male’s back and he then carries them to deeper water where their metamorphosis into frogs can take up to six weeks.”