Individual identification of animals is vital in captivity as well in the wild. Individuals must be identified for breeding programs, research, monitoring, and surveying. Being able to use unique characteristics of an animal for identification can be a reliable and permanent method of identifying the animal. Microchips are not a reliable, long-term method of identifying boreal toads, so another method is necessary for breeding programs, release, and surveys. Boreal toads have an intricate pigmentation pattern on their abdomen that could be used as a type of fingerprint.
Although the Native Aquatic Species Restoration Facility uses photographs to identify adult toads successfully, it was unknown if these patterns would remain the same from the time toads metamorphosed to adulthood. To determine this, forty toadlets from the same cohort were placed into two identical tanks, except that one tank utilized a Bulbs Plus® (Colorado Springs, CO) ultraviolet bulb and the second utilized a ZooMed® (San Luis Obispo, CA) ultraviolet bulb. Photographs were taken of their abdomens periodically for comparison and length and weight was recorded for each toad to determine growth rates.
The growth rates between the tanks were nearly identical in average weight and length of the toads in each tank. The effect of the different ultraviolet spectrums cannot be determined. There was, however, 100% identification capability. Boreal toads belly pigmentation patterns, especially distinct marks at the throat, are very unique and provide a reliable means of individual identification of toads.
The authors would like to thank Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Colorado Division of Wildlife for continued research opportunities, species recovery efforts, and support. Thanks to Dr. Ken Brady, DVM; Elaine Davinroy and NASRF; Dave Parkin and Bulbs Plus Inc., and Givan Fox of Fox Photography.