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INFORMATION FOR

Shipping and Receiving Frogs

NOTE: It has been our experience that making arrangements to ship Xenopus can be somewhat difficult. We have created this web page to help facilitate shipping and receiving frogs. However, users are warned that shipping frogs can be potentially dangerous even after following all of the recommendations listed below. Unforeseen factors can always impact the health of frogs being shipped.

Receiving

You can expect frogs to arrive at your facility in various types of packages.
There is usually a cardboard outer box, often with a solid Styrofoam inner container, or packing peanuts. Frequently, holes are poked through the lid of the Styrofoam container, and the cardboard. This type of package works well because it protects the frogs from sudden temperature changes, as well as offering physical cushion.

Inside, the frogs may be packaged in individual containers (“GLAD” food containers, for example), plastic bags, or simply loose in the box or Styrofoam container. Be prepared for anything, and use caution when opening all the layers of the package. Tropicalis squeeze into the smallest crevices and can be tricky to find. An inventory of the frogs you are receiving is critical to be sure they are all accounted for.

There is usually some wet material to keep the frogs moist, such as damp sphagnum moss or sponges. There may be water with the frogs. We have seen a case where the veterinarian advised packaging the frogs in so much water, the airport refused to accept the leaking packages. This much water is unnecessary. Frogs do fine with a small amount of water in moist sphagnum moss or damp sponges. Read the following "Packaging" section for further details.

If the frogs are shipped with sphagnum moss, it is a good idea to have an intermediate container for rinsing the moss off before placing the frogs in their new tank. This will avoid getting dirt and moss in the tank and drainage system.

If the frogs have been delayed, or if the packaging is inadequate, the frogs may suffer from dehydration and temperature fluctuations. Get them into shallow water of appropriate temperature as soon as possible, and observe them carefully. If necessary, contact a veterinarian.

Quarantine

We generally quarantine frogs for one month after arrival to our facility. Frogs can be ovulated two weeks after arrival, provided they are healthy, though it has been our experience they may not lay for a month or more.

Frogs may not eat for some time after arrival, anywhere from a few days to a month in our experience. It is therefore best to offer only small amounts of food until feeding is observed, to avoid fouling the water unnecessarily. You can try feeding the day after arrival.

We feed a blend of 3 parts larger BioVita pellets (2.5 mm) with 2 parts Nasco Post metamorphic Frog Brittle (Frog Brittle for Post-metamorphic Xenopus, Catalog #: SB29028(LM)M). If the new arrivals are housed two or more to a tank, competition may cause them to eat more readily.

During the quarantine period the frogs are carefully observed for illness, abnormal behavior, and weight loss each day. There are a number of diseases affecting X. tropicalis. A latent infection may become acute due to the stress of travel. Read the Diseases section for descriptions of various illnesses. Notify a veterinarian if you observe anything abnormal.

We have had success in treating stressed tropicalis using a salt solution in place of regular water. A solution of rock salt (1g/L) or Holtfretter’s solution can be used. Keep the frog in the solution until it recovers. Change the solution daily.

Shipping

Packaging

There are many different methods used to package X. tropicalis for shipment. Please refer to the Live Animal Regulations (LAR) for standard guidelines on shipping animals. The LAR is published yearly by the International Air Transportation Association. The regulations contain information on appropriate shipping container sizes and animal density. The guidelines can be purchased on the IATA website. Also, AALAC has a good article on the general considerations for preparing to ship animals, such as applicable regulations and proper documentation. This article has links to numerous useful “regulatory and oversight organizations” which may affect your shipment, such as the USDA and U.S. Customs.

A container needs to be sized for the number of frogs shipped. There should be plenty of open space in the container for filling with moist sponges. This provides plenty of air for the frogs to breathe. We use an outer cardboard container, with a Styrofoam container fitting snugly inside. (Picture 1, 2). These are readily available in various sizes from our shipping/receiving department. You may find your shipping department is more than willing to give you these containers that might otherwise be discarded.

styrofoam in cardboard box1
foam container in box
Styrofoam box works as primary or secondary shipping container.

Frogs in labeled Plastic container, with soft wet foam sponges. Using plastic outer wrap helps reduce chance of leakage.

If we are shipping a number of frogs of the same kind, we simply use the styrofoam box as the primary container. In cases where we have frogs of different types which need to be kept separate, we package them inside GLAD or Ziploc containers (Picture 3, 4). The GLAD Medium Soup and Salad(3 cups), or the Ziploc Medium (4 cups) Square are good for 4 frogs. For 1 or 2 frogs, the Ziploc Small (2 1/2 cups) Square would work. First make four slits with a utility knife(carefully) in the lid for air. There is no need to cut out a hole. In the past we used sphagnum moss to hold moisture, but find sponges do a better job, and result in less mess. We get soft foam sponges from craft stores. Fill the container with broken pieces of sloppy wet sponge. The frogs will hang out in between these bits and also get some cushioning.

frog in foam1

Carefully mark each container with the contents. We usually mark directly on the plastic with a permanent marker. Several rubber bands are wrapped snugly around the plastic container, to ensure the lid does not come loose. The plastic carriers are placed in the Styrofoam container, using newspaper to keep them from moving around. Use up to 2/3 of the space in the box for the plastic containers, and keep 1/3 for airspace/ packing material. The Styrofoam lid is sealed to the bottom with shipping tape. The cardboard box is then sealed. We do not make additional air holes into the Styrofoam or into the cardboard box. In our experience, by using sponges and using a larger box then necessary, the frogs have plenty of air inside the box. This would obviously be unacceptable for small mammals since they have considerably higher metabolism rates and greater oxygen requirements. However, it has been our experience holes often lead to leaking containers. These wet and leaking containers are then unacceptable for continued shipment and can get delayed in transit. We have had multiple episodes where frogs were injured or died due to dehydration from prolonged travel times or leaky containers.

Shipping Temperatures


We have not had a lot of experience with shipping frogs in extreme temperatures. Ideally, one should check the forecast at the destination and areas through which the frogs will be transported. If very hot or cold weather is predicted, it would be best to delay shipping. This is a standard practice when shipping mice. 10oC and 33oC are the absolute minimum and maximum recommended air temperatures for shipping frogs.

If it is going to be cold, and you must ship your frogs, place chemical heat packs (like the ones for skiers) at the bottom of the Styrofoam box. Do not allow the heat packs to come in direct contact with the frogs, as they can harm frog skin. Alternatively, we put the ice packs that come with restriction enzymes or other molecular biology reagents at 37oC overnight. Pack them at the bottom of the Styrofoam container in the morning on the day of shipment. This should help keep the temperature in the Styrofoam container acceptable to frogs in cold weather.

We rarely ship frogs in hot weather, so have rarely used cold packs. If anyone has specific suggestions for the number of cold packs to use, and the temperatures at which they should start being used, we would like post the information. In general, it would be best to wait for moderate temperatures.

We encourage others who have shipping suggestions or experiences, good or bad, to share them. Hopefully, we can continue to update and improve shipping procedures in the Xenopus community.

Communication and Shipment Timing

It is important to have a contact person at your lab, as well as at the receiving lab, to coordinate the shipment. The veterinary staff at both ends will need to be informed.

Frogs should be ready for courier pickup by 10 am the day of shipment. Shipments should be scheduled only on Monday through Wednesday to avoid having frogs delayed in transit on the weekends. Be aware of holidays.

We strive to obtain our frogs first thing in the morning when they arrive at our loading dock so we can get them into a more suitable environment as soon as possible. We find it useful to maintain a database with Shipping information for each location we ship to.

Regulations and Shipping Forms

Although there are no required forms, we recommend looking into your state and country regulations if shipping internationally.
Please refer to the Live Animal Regulations (LAR) for standard guidelines on shipping animals. The LAR is published yearly by the International Air Transportation Association. The regulations contain information on appropriate shipping container sizes and animal density. The guidelines can be purchased on the IATA website.

Also, refer to the AAALAC article on the general considerations for preparing to ship animals, such as applicable regulations and proper documentation. This article has links to numerous useful regulatory and oversight organizations which may affect your shipment, such as the USDA and U.S. Customs.

We do our shipping through Yale Animal Resources Center(YARC). Consult the similar organization at your facility, if applicable, as they will likely have important information and rules you need to be aware of. Information is usually available online.

Carriers

This is a list of carriers accepting frogs, in our experience.

DHL
UPS
FedEx
Menlo Worldwide

Contibuted by:

Maura Lane, Kendon Kuo, Mustafa Khokha, Tim Grammer

Updated 08/2010:

Michael Slocum, Maura Lane