Thursday, April 21, 2011

Frog Month! Fun Frogs Vol. 3

April is drawing to a close, but there's still time for a few more frogs. And today's offering must be the strangest yet. Depending on how you feel about alternative forms of reproduction, you may want to save this post until after you've eaten...

Fun Frog!

Surinam toads (Pipa pipa) are just odd all the way around. First off, they're called toads, despite being very much aquatic. They inhabit the muddy or even polluted bottoms of bodies of water in the Amazon basin and only surface for gulps of air. Secondly, they look "wrong". Their eyes are tiny, lidless, and not quite in the place you'd think to look for them. Their front toes have star-shaped sense organs splayed out from the tips, and their triangular heads seem to have extra skin around the jaws. Overall, they look like rubbery, half-rotten leaves. And then there's the way they reproduce...

Photo from the Honolulu Zoo
After a complex mating dance the male positions himself so that the female can lay eggs on his stomach. He then fertilizes them, carefully rolls over, and deposits the eggs onto the sponge-like skin of the female's back. We're not talking a couple of eggs here, either. A normal clutch will contain between 60 and 100 potential froglets!

Within a day the female's skin will swell around the eggs, and in a little over a week each egg will occupy its own little chamber. And there they stay, sometimes for up to 20 weeks. The babies emerge as fully formed tiny frogs by pushing through the top membrane of their "cell".  Want to see what that looks like? There's a video here. But be warned: it's the strangest thing you will see all day.

Frog Tip!

Do you own a pool? Frogs, not surprisingly, sometimes mistake pools for ponds. But once they get in they can't get out and often drown! Happily, there's a simple, low-tech, inexpensive device called a Critter Skimmer that will give frogs a way out of your pool. Want an even lower-tech option? Black snakes are major predators on many types of frogs. Buying a few plastic black snake replicas and scattering them around the perimeter of your pool may keep frogs out, but it might keep ophidiophobic folks out too, so you're probably better off just getting the skimmer.


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