Erin Petersen

The Milwaukee Public Museum gets hoppin’

By - Sep 30th, 2010 04:00 am
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A Red-eyed Tree Frog. Photo courtesy Reptiland.

The second floor of the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) is about to get a lot more colorful — and a bit louder. On Friday, October 1, the MPM opens their newest exhibit Frogs: A Chorus of Colors to the public. Between now and January 2011, over 15 different species of frogs will be on display in self-contained habitats.

Visitors will see frogs of all shapes and sizes — like the monstrous African Bullfrog, which is roughly the size of a small puppy and is known to feast on small rodents, birds and well, anything that will fit into its intimidating jowls. Or the aquamarine-hued Chinese Gliding frog, whose long legs and suction cup-like toes allow it to leap long distances, almost as though it were flying.

Interspersed throughout the habitats are interesting facts about the croaking amphibians and how vital they are to various ecosystems. Not only do certain species help control insect populations, but one info panel describes them as “hopping drugstores,” highlighting the fact that the toxins found in frog skin can assist with medical research and have also been used to treat depression, viral infections and even Alzheimer’s. One species — the African Clawed Frog — was even used in pregnancy tests in the 1950s.

But don’t go licking frogs anytime soon. One exhibit houses an array of gorgeous, brightly colored — and highly poisonous — species of frogs, like the Golden Dart Frog, whose skin is drenched in enough alkaloid poison to kill 20,000 mice or potentially 10 humans on contact.

An Ornate Horned Frog. Photo courtesy of Reptiland.

The traveling exhibit offers the chance to view exotic species up close (and in the case of the Golden Dart Frog, from a safe vantage point), but it also shows how invasive fungi and human impact (like the aforementioned pregnancy tests) are devastating frog and toad populations on every continent.

To help visitors become more acquainted with our amphibian friends, and to also learn more about the global extinction crisis facing amphibian populations, the museum will host a variety of frog-themed events for all ages. Kids can spend two days at Frog Camp or even have a sleepover at the museum, while more mature audiences can learn about extinction issues with lectures from experts in the field.

Anyone who grew up chasing frogs and toads near the local marshes and bogs will see a few familiar faces in the exhibit (and learn how to differentiate between the two) and visitors young and old will enjoy an afternoon spent amongst the croaking, chirping and trilling symphony of these frogs.

Frogs: A Chorus of Colors opens Friday, October 1 and runs through January 2, 2011. For more information about the exhibit and accompanying events, visit the Milwaukee Public Museum online.

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