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Category — CREW

Waterdog Babies Hatch at CREW

This past summer, CREW‘s aquatic salamander lab welcomed baby waterdogs into the world.  Female waterdogs ‘Glitzy’ and ‘Muffintop’ both layed fertile eggs.  It has been exciting to witness and document the development of these very elusive animals.  It took quite some time before we could see the first evidence of the embryos forming and once they did, it was mesmerizing to watch them develop into full grown waterdog babies.  We were rooting for them all the way to hatching!

This photo shows an early time point in waterdog embryo development. You can see the bodies starting to form around the very large yolk sacs.  As you notice in the photo, waterdog babies lack pigment early in development.

Waterdog Babies

Waterdog Babies

As the babies progressed in their development, they became bigger and started to show evidence of pigmentation.  This video shows early movement in one of the waterdogs while it still resided within the sac.  Waterdog babies need to learn to maneuver while still in their sacs in order to be able to hatch themselves out.  And hatch themselves out, they did!

After hatching, the babies started to get their ‘groove on’ and learn how to move about.  This video was taken right after they successfully hatched and you can see how challenging it was for them to stay upright.  Having such a little body resting on a large yolk sac looks funny, but is totally normal for a waterdog baby.  The yolk sac is very important, as it provides the energy source for the developing babies.  They continue to obtain their nutrients from the yolk sac until they start hunting and eating on their own.

September 20, 2013   1 Comment

How Do You Differentiate Black, Indian and Sumatran Rhinos?

Guest blogger:  Crissi Lanier, Interpretive Media Intern

There are five species of rhinos in the world – Javan, Indian, Sumatran, Black & White. Three of these species, Indian, Black and Sumatran, reside here at the Cincinnati Zoo. Do you know how to identify them and where to find them? If not, read on and test your rhino knowledge on #WorldRhinoDay this Sunday, September 22.

Harapan at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Sumatran rhino Harapan at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Sumatran Rhino: Our sibling Sumatran rhinos, Harapan & Suci, have been in the news lately because they are the only two of their kind in North America and, as such, are key to the survival of this critically-endangered species.  They are in neighboring enclosures in Wildlife Canyon, where you can see them doing their favorite thing — getting muddy!

The Sumatran rhino’s most distinguishing feature is the reddish-brown hair that covers most of its body. It’s the smallest of all rhino species, standing about 4-feet high at the shoulder and weighs about 1,500–1,800 lbs. Like both African species, it has two horns.

To read more about the Sumatran Rhinos from past blogs click here.

Black rhino, Klyde.

Black rhino, Klyde.

Black Rhino: Our female black rhino, Seyia, is new to the Zoo and getting used to her surroundings in the Veldt.  She will make her public debut soon.  Her predecessor, Klyde, was transferred to the Sedgwick County Zoo for breeding a few months ago. Learn more about the crate training that made Klyde’s move smooth.

Although this rhino is referred to as black, its colors vary from brown to gray.  The black rhino is also referred to as the hook-lipped rhinoceros because of its prehensile upper lip.  It has two horns but can sometimes develop a third.

relaxing in water

Nikki in the water

Indian Rhino: We have two female Indian rhinos, Nikki and Manjula.  They are in separate enclosures in our Veldt, with Nikki often found lounging in her pool and Manjula making appearances when she feels like it!

The Indian rhino, also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and Indian one-horned rhinoceros, has only one horn!  Nikki’s is a bit worn down because she likes to rub it on trees and rocks. This heavily built species can weigh up to 8,000 lbs and has thick, silver-brown skin, and very little body hair. Its upper legs and shoulders are covered in wart-like bumps.

Manjula, our largest rhino.

Manjula, our largest rhino.

*Sumatran rhinos are considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  They are native to Sumatra (Indonesia), Borneo and Malay Peninsula.

*Black rhinos are considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN.  They are found in various parts of central and southern Africa.

*Indian rhinos are considered Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  They are found in Nepal and India.

All of these rhinos need our help to survive for future generations.  You can  A.D.O.P.T. them to help aid in their daily care and enrichment, visit the Zoo on #WorldRhinoDay, talk to volunteers at the CREW stands about current research and more.

September 17, 2013   1 Comment

Ultra-Frozen Seeds Come to Life after 15 Years

As we described in a previous post, several samples stored in the Frozen Garden of CREW’s CryoBioBank are going to be removed during the next months in order to examine their viability. And, here are results from the first ones: Coming to life after being stored for 15 and 20 years in the ultra-low temperatures of liquid nitrogen (-321 F!!)! And the most interesting result…they germinated as fast and as well as they did the day they were frozen!

Fig.1: Poplar seeds germinating after 15 years of storage in liquid nitrogen

Fig.1: Poplar seeds germinating after 15 years of storage in liquid nitrogen

These are seeds from poplar trees. Seeds from poplars, and also from most willows, germinate very fast because in their natural habitats they have enough water available when they are shed, but also because they must germinate in a short window of time. These trees grow very close to water courses and floodplains where there are frequent disturbances of the substrate in which they grow. The most common disturbance is flooding, which in most cases removes the soil and washes away the seeds and seedlings that are not established. Moreover, during winter, water in the soil can freeze, damaging any ungerminated seeds that remain completely wet along the river banks. For these reasons seeds are shed at the end of the spring and beginning of the summer, when temperatures are warm enough and water availability optimal. Thanks to their fast germination (within 24 hours!) poplars and willows can grow quickly in the summer days, establishing small trees that will be big and strong enough to survive flash flooding and the cold and dry winter. However these seeds are very short lived, and die at ambient conditions in just 2 or 3 weeks if they do not germinate. In the Frozen Garden of CREW at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden we have preserved their initial viability and rate of germination for several years; including some samples stored up to 2 decades!! Thanks to these experiments we have demonstrated that seeds from endangered poplars and willows can be preserved for long periods of time, in order to keep them alive for our future generations!

Fig. 2: Seeds germinating in the growth chambers

Fig. 2: Seeds germinating in the growth chambers

Along with poplars and willows, orthodox seeds of several species were removed from liquid nitrogen in June. Orthodox seeds are those seeds that naturally dry during their maturation in the fruit, and thus they can be frozen in seed banks, keeping their initial viability and vigor. So, we could say that they have a “natural” predisposition to be stored at the low temperatures of liquid nitrogen. We have chosen these samples since they do not have special requirements for their recovery and germination, as other samples stored in the frozen garden have (as shoot tips, etc). Germination is the easiest way to analyze seed viability, and, at the same time, it produces seedlings that can be grown to produce plants for future use.

In order to recover seeds from the Frozen Garden, the cryovials with seeds were carefully removed, since dry seeds at very low temperatures are very brittle and we didn’t want to damage them. Then the cryovials were thawed at room temperature for 1 hour. Seeds were re-hydrated in a moist, saturated environment over night to avoid any imbibitional damage, which is damage that can be produced by rapid water uptake when seeds are very dry.


Fig.3: Cryovials containing seeds removed from the Frozen Garden.

Some of the seeds have special requirements for germination because they are dormant. One of these special requirements is a “moist/cold stratification” for several weeks in order to break the dormancy and stimulate germination. It is as if the seeds were resting in the soil of winter! Seeds that did not require stratification were sown in petri dishes on blue filter paper particularly designed for seed germination. Then they were put in a controlled temperature and light growth chamber, and germination was monitored daily.

Fig. 4: Seeds are placed in moist paper towels and placed in the fridge for moist/cold stratification

Fig. 4: Seeds are placed in moist paper towels and placed in the fridge for moist/cold stratification

Seeds from several species have germinated very well after storage in ultra-low temperatures for several years, including the short lived seeds of the endangered plant, native to eastern North America, Plantago cordata (heartleaf plantain). The heartleaf plantain is threatened or endangered in 11 states including Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky because populations have declined or disappeared almost everywhere. The heartleaf plantain is a wetland plant with highly localized distribution which makes it very sensitive to habitat destruction, particularly that occurring for urbanization. We have stored their seeds for 14 years without any decline in their initial germination.

Fig. 5: Seedlings of Plantago cordata after seeds were stored for 14 years in liquid nitrogen.

Fig. 5: Seedlings of Plantago cordata after seeds were stored for 14 years in liquid nitrogen.

More samples will be removed soon! We will keep you updated with the most interesting findings!

September 9, 2013   2 Comments