Captive breeding, embryonic and larval development of Ranitomeya variabilis (Zimmermann & Zimmermann, 1988), (Anura, Dendrobatidae)
A solid basis to address the conservation challenges of amphibians requires an increased knowledge on their natural history and biology. Recent data on reproductive modes in amphibians suggest that they are much more complex and variable than previously thought but understudied. However, detailed information on the reproductive history is especially important to fill the current knowledge gaps. Following recent taxonomic changes in Ranitomeya variabilis, information about captive-breeding management, image-based measurements of total length and surface area of the silhouette for individuals from embryonic to metamorphic development, and detailed larval staging for captive-bred specimens are provided from French Guiana. The development of R. variabilis from the stage eight (Gosner 1960) through metamorphosis took 79 to 91 days (n = 6) with a survival rate of 46%. The developmental stages largely matched those of the generalized staging system of Gosner (1960), with differences in the stages when labia and teeth differentiation and atrophy of the oral apparatus occurred. Compared with other studies the total length of R. variabilis tadpoles was greater at given stages than those of R. variabilis from a Peruvian population and those of the sister species, R. amazonica. Other studies concerning growth curves based on surface area data revealed that R. variabilis tadpoles at peak size were larger than those of R. amazonica, R. imitator, R. reticulata, R. sirensis, and R. vanzolinii, but smaller than R. benedicta. Our results represent the first embryonic and larval staging for R. variabilis, and detailed information is provided on their initial life phases. These data may facilitate the identification of R. variabilis tadpoles in the wild, as well helping to clarify the biogeographical distribution and taxonomic arrangement of the species. In addition, knowledge is added to the captive-breeding methodology for the species.