Above are pictures of D. leucomelas tads. The tad at the top of the picture on the left is a normal tadpole just a few days from completing metamorphosis. The other tadpole in the same picture has spindly leg syndrome (SLS). The picture on the right is of a newly morphed SLS froglet.
Spindly Leg Syndrome is a developmental disease of tadpoles and recently metamorphosed frogs. This disease usually manifests in underdeveloped front legs, but can sometimes show up in the rear legs too. Usually this prevents the animals from supporting the front portion of their body, so that they cannot move or feed effectively. We have heard of people trying to raise frogs with this condition, but the result is usually death by starvation. We recommend that these animals are humanely euthanized as soon as they metamorphose. Here is a link to an article on euthanasia for amphibians written by Ed Kowalski. http://www.caudata.org/cc/articles/euthanasia.shtml
There are many theories on the exact cause of spindly leg syndrome. On theory is that there is a lack of B vitamins in the food of the tadpoles or the adult breeders. We have a pair of Dendrobates leucomelas that consistently (95%) produced tadpoles that developed SLS. This pair was fed and supplemented the same as our other frogs, and we only saw the severe occurrence of SLS in the offspring of these frogs. We decided to try some of the recommended treatments for this disease.
We started with 2 control groups the first group had 6 tadpoles the second 5. They were set up individually in pint mason jars with aged tap water and blackwater tonic and oak leaved added. Tads are fed a mixture of spirulina, chlorella, stinging nettle and tetramin tablets(2:2:1:1), we also feed "Aquarian" and cyclop-eeze fish food about once a week. We exposed the tads to UVB lighting daily. Of the 11 tads in these groups, one morphed normally. The next 2 groups (7 & 6 respectively) had Vitamin B complex added to the water. 100% of these groups morphed with SLS. The next group we placed in plastic shoeboxes (11" x 6"), with about 2" of water. We kept all other factors the same. Again 100% of the froglets had SLS. Finally we decided to add B-Complex to the food for the parents. At the same time we purchased new Herptavite for all our frogs (we had run out). The next clutch all morphed out normal. The final clutch morphed normally too.
While far from a scientific proof, we believe that a lack of B-vitamins does contribute to SLS and now use it in all our tad rearing containers as well as mixing it in with our normal vitamin supplements for the adult frogs.
We also believe that there is a genetic predisposition to SLS and that things like a lack of sufficient vitamins or poor water quality can trigger this condition in the tads. Unfortunately we have no way to prove this theory, so it remains a theory. We have stopped allowing the pair of leucs that produced the tads pictured above to breed, but have an unrelated pair that continues to produce viable offspring.