Species Reclamation Via a Non-linear Genetic Timeline: An Attempted Hymenochirus curtipes Model Induced By Controlled Breeding



This project involved the selective breeding of Hymenochirus family, which are frogs native to the Congo region in Africa. The Biodiversity located in the Congo is threatened by the forest clearing for agricultural use but also the increased economic demand for rainforest wood (primarily from the US and European markets). In addition, political turmoil in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the past two decades has severely limited biological studies and conservation efforts.  In their native habitat, wild Hymenochirus populations may currently be in decline or have become extinct. Today, as many as one-third of all known amphibian species globally are threatened, declining and many have already disappeared.

Working with several semi-domesticated varieties available in both the bio-medical field and even pet-trade, I attempted to selectively breed generations to produce a ‘wild-type’ Hymenochirus curtipes. Historic scientific literature describes H. curtipes as a shorter limbed version compared to the semi-domesticated varieties of today. From each breeding group,  animals with physical traits that recalled the wild types were chosen. These were bred like with like until individuals in a final generation resembled the historic H. curtipes.

For museum or gallery exhibitions, varied groups of live Hymenochirus sp. frogs were displayed along with documentary materials. Each artist-bred generation was sculpted through selective breeding and stylistically different.  Each individual animal was living work of art.

Technical and theoretical support:
George Rabb and staff, Chicago Zoological Park (USA)
Lawrence Wallace, Herpetological Department, Carolina Biological Supply (USA)
David Cecere, The African Dwarf Frog Educational Website (USA)
The Department of Zoology, University of Dar es Salaam (TZ)
The Herpetological Department, The Bronx Zoo (USA)
Stanley K Sessions and students, Biology Department, Hartwick College (USA)
Peter Warny, The New York State Museum (USA)
Declining Amphibian Population Task Force, The Open University (UK)