If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may know that for the past six months, we’ve been posting Freaky Frog articles every fortnight. During our journey through the weird and wonderful world of these amazing amphibians, we’ve looked at the delightfully named ‘scrotum frog’, we’ve examined the remarkable defensive mechanism of the ‘wolverine frog’, and we’ve marvelled at the cryogenic wood frog. There have been frogs that brood their young in their vocal sacs. Toads that brood their young inside pockets in their own skin. Frogs with moustaches. Frogs that practise ‘reproductive necrophilia’.
frogs and toads
From the 1930s through to the 1960s, a small aquatic frog was used as a biological pregnancy test. This may sound suspiciously like one of those medieval folk remedies – in the same vein of shaving the rear end of a live chicken and holding it under your armpit to cure the plague – but this frog really could tell if you were pregnant or not.
Perhaps I’m being a little unfair calling this series of articles ‘Freaky Frogs’. After all, the species that we’ve already looked at have certainly been bizarre or remarkable in one way or another, but are they freaky? That’s debatable. However, the focus of today’s post – the Surinam toad – is undeniably, unequivocally, unquestionably freaky. Case in point: the young of this species burst out from the back of their disfigured mother and then start eating one another.
In this special Freaky Frog/Lost Forever crossover, we’ll be looking at a species that, until relatively recently, exhibited one of the most extreme forms of parental care seen in any frog. Known as the gastric-brooding frog (or platypus frog due to its largely aquatic nature), it lived only in Queensland, Australia. The female, after laying her eggs, swallowed them – just like Darwin’s frog, which we mentioned last time.
Seahorses are well-known for their unconventional approach to breeding. Famously, the males are the ones that become pregnant, carrying the fertilised eggs in a brood pouch on their bellies until the fully developed young are ready to be born. This level of paternal responsibility is extremely rare in the animal kingdom. In fact, other than seahorses and their close relatives, the only vertebrate species in which the male effectively becomes pregnant is a tiny amphibian from South America called Darwin’s frog.