Frogs and Fake Poop

As April Fools’ Day rolls around, I am occasionally asked what types of pranks zoo keepers pull on each other.  Unfortunately the answer is pretty boring.  Zoo keepers are intensely professional and never pull pranks.  They would never yell “Look out! It’s not coming!” while checking for eggs in the nest of a large crocodilian.  A whole zoo staff scheduled for an April 1st would never pretend to call in sick, leaving the  one keeper not in on the joke to spend a few panicked minutes thinking that he was solely responsible for caring for the whole zoo.  If you have first-hand experience with real bear poop, fake poop does not impress.

Fortunately, frogs are nowhere near as mature as zoo keepers. For example, the pied wart frog is a huge fan of using fake poop. This diminutive Asian tree frog species uses trickery to avoid detection.  By sporting an alternating irregular pattern of white and brown, it takes the guise of something commonly seen but not willingly eaten by predators, bird poop. We don’t have any of these little fakers here at the John Ball Zoo, but you can see some photos at AmphibiaWeb (http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?enlarge=0000+0000+0511+2133).

We do have the pied wart frog’s close relative, the Vietnamese mossy tree frog on exhibit. Its skin is colored a rich mix of greens and browns, and it is covered with warts that mimic the texture of a clump of moss.  Although not as unusual as faux feces, the degree to which mossy tree frogs look like moss is astounding and well worth visiting the Frogs exhibit to see in person.   

About Bill Flanagan

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Zookeper at John Ball Zoo for two years, but has been "in the business" for over 20 years.

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