July 21, 2014
- as seen by -Bill Orrico
When people think of frog reproduction, they usually think of thousands of eggs, hundreds of tadpoles, and zero parental supervision. Unknown by most, however, is the strange and wonderful diversity of frog reproductive habits.
The Pichincha poison frog (Oophaga sylvatica,) a near-threatened amphibian found in Columbia and Ecuador, only lays a small clutch of eggs (2-5) at a time. After external fertilization occurs by a selected male partner, the female guards the small clutch of eggs for many days. She periodically wets herself in nearby pools or flowers, and then deposits water on her eggs, keeping them cool and wet as they develop into tadpoles. The mother frog gathers individual tadpoles on her back as they near maturity and carries them to small pools of water in tree holes or bromeliad flowers where they are deposited to grow and morph into juvenile frogs.
A mother’s job is not done yet. These tadpoles have evolved to eat only other frog eggs! The mother returns to each tadpole daily and deposits unfertilized eggs into the water for her offspring to consume. This continues for weeks until metamorphosis is complete, and a fully developed frog emerges from the water ready to hunt small insects on its own.