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Frog Lab


The Frog Lab is located at the animal care facilities of the Biocenter at the University of Vienna (Faculty of Life Sciences) and is a joint facility between the Comparative Cognition unit of the Messerli Research Institute (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna) and the Department of Cognitive Biology (University of Vienna).

In the Frog Lab our research aims at investigating a broad range of questions – spanning from cognitive biology, behavioural ecology, bioacoustics, and population genetics – in our model species, the poison frog Allobates femoralis.

These questions target fundamental questions in ecology and evolution.

The former aquarium room was adapted to frog husbandry in 2012, and equipped with air-conditioning, ventilation and also fully automatized light and rain systems to ensure equal experimental conditions across all trials.

All frogs are housed in standard glass terraria of equal size (60x40 cm and 40 cm high) with identical equipment and furnishing. An automatic raining, heating and lighting system ensures standardized climatic conditions with parameters similar to the natural conditions in French Guiana (temperature cycle between 21°C (night) and 28°C (day), 100% humidity, light from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) in all terraria.

All frogs are fed with wingless fruit flies every second day. A high-resolution video surveillance system consisting of 12 digital full-HD video surveillance cameras (IndigoVision, BX400 HD Minidome) allows continuous monitoring of the movements of individual frogs during behavioural experiments.

A 32-channel digital audio interface (Behringer X-32) is available to make recordings of individual frogs using miniature Lavalier microphones (Renkforce TY-109), which can be inserted into the terraria.

We also study our model species in their natural habitat, close to the CNRS research station ‘Saut Pararé’ (4°02´ N, 52°41´W; WGS84; in the nature reserve ‘Les Nouragues’ in French Guiana, where we have been conducting research on the species since 2008.

Beside our studies in a natural A. femoralis population, we have recently installed an experimental population on a river island of ~5 ha in size. The population was installed in 2012 by introducing 1800 tadpoles and since then a stable adult population of about 150 individuals has been established.

All individuals on the island are genotyped and their position in a consistent pedigree is known. The ‘closeness’ of the population is of particular value for experimental studies, as both immigration and emigration from/into the experimental setup is restricted.