Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Frog Month! Fun Frogs Vol. 1

Photo curtesy of Save the Frogs
Fun Frog!

First up for April, the Month of Frog Celebration, is the gastric-brooding frog (Rheobatrachus sp.). This unassuming little amphibian topped out at just over 2 inches long and looked like any conventional "slimy frog". But wait! She had a secret!

The females of this genus had the ability to turn off production of their gastric juices, thereby turning themselves into incubators for baby frogs. After external fertilization of her eggs by a male the female would literally swallow them. The eggs would hatch into tadpoles in her stomach and gradually morph into froglets over a six week period.

Photo from flikr, showing a new froglet
As this happened her stomach would expand, eventually filling almost her entire body cavity. Even her lungs would collapse in on themselves, necessitating increased gas transfer through her skin. Needless to say, she refrained from eating during this time. After the baby frogs were done "cooking" she would open her mouth and pop them out one by one over the span of several days. Occasionally, if spooked, she would instead projectile vomit the whole brood in one go. 

Sadly, the gastric-brooding frog appears to be extinct. First discovered in the 1920s in Queensland, Australia, they haven't been seen since the 1980s. Apart from the fact that their passing makes the world a less-cool place, they also take with them the secret of how they turned off the acids in their stomachs. That bit of information held great promise for human suffers of gastric ulcers. What killed them? It's hard to say. Their preferred habitat was clear, cool, fast running water in pristine rainforest, something that's getting harder and harder to find now. Climate change and logging were probably the main factors. 

Frog Tip!

Want to help extant frogs escape the fate of the gastric-brooding frog? One simple thing you can do is just use less water. Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth. Or put timers on your sprinklers. More and more water is being diverted for human use, water that once flowed through streams and rivers where frogs breed. Just think of how many tadpoles could live in the accumulated drippings from one leaky faucet! Remember, the frog you save might just cure your ulcer.


  1. I don't water the grass I'm too cheap;-) Now I have another good excuse.

  2. Amazing, wonderful, and blech, too! All of a sudden I'm not hungry. Nature is full of surprises.


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