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Frogs come to American Museum of Natural History

Isabel Brito, 4, of Manhattan, center, and Sheila

Isabel Brito, 4, of Manhattan, center, and Sheila Munguia, 4, of Manhattan, right, who are students at the Goddard Riverside Head Start program, look at a Dart Poison Frog at a preview of an exhibition called Frogs: A Chorus of Colors. (May 16, 2013) Credit: Craig Ruttle

They're back in all their colorful splendor of florescent hot lime greens, pinks and blues to an array of natural greens and browns: 200 live frogs are on exhibit starting Saturday at the American Museum of Natural History.

"Frogs with their beautiful markings and weird shapes and buggy eyes -- it's pure aesthetics," said Christopher Raxworthy, lead curator of "Frogs: A Chorus of Color." "It just puts big smiles on people's faces."

More than 6,000 frog species have been documented.

"We are still finding new ones, especially in the tropics," said Raxworthy, who travels to remote regions of Madagascar in search of new frog species.

The frogs in the exhibit, which returns to the museum in Manhattan after several years, were bred in captivity at Reptile Land in Pennsylvania.

"People are utterly captivated by these charismatic, colorful animals," museum president Ellen Futter said in a prepared statement.

New to the exhibit, which runs through Jan. 5, is the green Mexican dumpy frog, which delicately camouflages itself in its tropical plant surroundings.

Also new is the tomato frog, whose shape and color resemble that of a ripe orange-red tomato. It is native to the lowlands of Madagascar.

The exhibit incorporates some 25 species from around the world. Their sizes range from an inch-long dart-poison frog to an 8-inch African bullfrog.

Despite their prehistoric looks of bulging eyes and slimy skins, frogs are hard to find.

Their shapes seamlessly become part of their surroundings of moss, leaves and rocks inside their glass exhibit cases, which replicate their natural habitat. Even their croaking voices are piped throughout the exhibition room.

Frogs as a species are as old as dinosaurs and are crucial to the food chain, said Raxworthy, associate curator of the museum's herpetology department.

Frogs make up 88 percent of the amphibian world. Scientists say their decline due to deforestation and climate change can affect other animals that feed on them along the natural food chain.

"Other species will be affected if more frogs go extinct," Raxworthy said. "We want to preserve and maintain all of these beautiful frogs."

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