Animal Colony


Our lab maintains a colony of over 500 frogs and many more tadpoles. A frog colony allows us to research behavior, neuroscience, and physiology within controlled laboratory environments, complementing our work in the field. This also provides an essential teaching tool for undergraduates and K-12 students.

Imitator Poison frog (Ranitomeya imitator)

The mimetic poison frog (Ranitomeya imitator) is a monogamous and biparental poison frog native to Peru. This species also represents a unique vertebrate example of Müllarian mimicry. This frog allows us to study the neural mechanisms of pair-bonding and biparental care by comparing it to other Ranitomeya species that do not show pair-bonding or tadpole care. We use the translucent tadpoles of this species to study the neural basis of begging behavior, which can give us important insights into how infants communicate their need for food.

Little Devil Poison Frog (Oophaga sylvatica)

The diablito poison frog (Oophaga sylvatica) from Colombia and Ecuador displays female uniparental care, where females transport tadpoles on their back and place them individually into pools of water in plants. The mom then visits the tadpole every few days to lay unfertilized eggs for the tadpole to eat. Females not only need to remember where they placed each of their tadpoles, but also to feed them every couple of days. This complex behavior continues until the tadpole completes metamorphosis. This species is an important model system for cognitive ecology of space use and nursing behavior. We conduct extensive field work with this species in addition to having them in the lab.

Dyeing Poison Frog (Dendrobates tinctorius)

The dyeing poison frog (Dendrobates tinctorius) displays male uniparental care, where males transport the tadpole from the leaf litter to a pool of water. Females in this species are large and aggressive to territory intruders. Tadpoles are cannibalistic and will fight when housed together. We study male parental care and the physiology of chemical defense in this species.

Cane toad (Rhinella marina)

The cane toad (Rhinella marina) is a common bufonid species found throughout much of Central and South America. Cane toads are toxic and have a potent bufotoxin. In the last century, the toads have gained international notoriety for their devastating invasiveness following introduction by humans to various locations to serve as predators for crop pests. We study navigation of cane toads in Hawaii and spatial cognition of these toads in the laboratory.

Golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis)

The golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is among the most poisonous vertebrates in the world as they carry deadly batrachotoxins on their skin. These poisons are important to local indigenous cultures, like the Emberá and Cofán people in Colombia, where this frog lives. This toxin is  rare and it’s unknown who these frogs acquire the toxin from or how the prevent self toxicity. These frogs have a large trilling call they use to attract females, and once receptive, eggs are fertilized externally. As the eggs develop, the male transports the tadpole on its back to pools of water in bromeliads. We are using this species in the lab to study parental care, the physiology of chemical defense and behavioral plasticity in tadpoles.

Zimmerman's poison frog (Ranitomeya variabilis)

The variable (or Zimmerman's) poison frog (Ranitomeya variabilis) is a small frog with a big personality. This frog gets its name from the various color morphs that exist. This frog is mainly distributed across several countries in South America including Peru and French Guiana. They are diurnal, semi-arboreal, and have male parental care, where dads will transport tadpoles on their back to pools in bromeliads. The male will also visit the site to reduce predation and competition. Tadpoles are cannibalistic and will eat other young tadpoles if they are available.  We are using this species in the lab to study parental care, microbes, and the evolution of begging behavior in tadpoles.

Brilliant thighed poison frog (Allobates femoralis)

The brilliant-thighed poison frog (Allobates femoralis) is a terrestrial frog species found in the Amazon basin and most of eastern South America. The term “brilliant-thighed” comes from a small orange/yellow patch on the outside of their thigh. Male frogs will court more than one female, and the females are not aggressive with each other. This species is also known to have the longest courtship duration. Once courtship is successful, this species will lay eggs on leaves and tadpoles are transported primarily by males on their backs to pools. We are using this species in the lab to study parental care, spatial cognition, and sociality in tadpoles.

Phantasmal poison frog (Epipedobates tricolor)

The phantasmal poison frog (Epipedobates tricolor) is native to Ecuador and found on several locations on the Andean slopes. This genus is known for producing the toxin epibatidine, which has medicinal properties. They have several different color morphs, some found in our lab, such as Rio grande and Cielto. This species fertilizes externally and transports large clutches of tadpoles into pools of water. We study tadpole behavior in this species.

Glass frogs (Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni)

Glass frogs get their name from their translucent skin on their stomach. This species is found in Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Guatemala, and Ecuador. They are arboreal and camouflage themselves on the underside of leaves above fast streams of water. The dorsal side of the frog is green with spots of yellow, which matches the leaves of their area. They have a large white vocal sac they use to attract mates. Their reproductive cycle starts in the rainy season, and once eggs are laid, the male will guard them until they hatch and drop into the water below. We house these frogs for the Red Horse Lab at Stanford, who studies blood flow and capillary repair in this species.

Field wolf spider (Hogna lenta)

Hogna lenta is a large species of Wolf spider (Lycosidae) commonly found across the US and especially Florida. This species doesn’t construct a web to catch their prey but digs burrows and spends most of their active time at night hunting insects. Females show devoted parental care: they construct and carry an eggsac where the young can grow safely for the first month of their lives. After hatching, mothers take their spiderlings piggyback for another month, offering water, food and protection while the offspring becomes more and more independent. The spiders are common, easy to house and reproduce and thrive in the climate of our frog rooms, making them an ideal model to study neural mechanisms underlying parental care in spiders.