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Darwin’s Frog is Extinct – Males “Nursed” Tadpoles in their Vocal Sacs

When it comes to inventive – some might say bizarre – breeding habits, amphibians are without equal.  Several, such as the skin-brooding Surinam Toad, are well-known, but recent studies have revealed others that could not have been predicted – i.e. tree-dwelling tadpoles that consume bark and others that gorge upon their father’s skin (which re-grows for their dining pleasure!) or on “egg omelets” whipped up by mom (please see articles linked below).  But even Charles Darwin would be shocked by the habits of a small frog he first described on his famous voyage, the Darwin’s Frog, Rhinoderma darwini.  Males guard their eggs and then gobble them up.  The tadpoles live in the vocal sac, feed upon nutritious parental secretions, and then emerge from their fathers’ mouths as fully-formed froglets!  Sadly, all evidence indicates that this astonishing creature is almost extinct – the latest victim of the infamous chytridiomycosis epidemic.  A related species, the Chilean Darwin’s Frog (Rhinoderma rufum), utilizes a modified version of this bizarre strategy…this species appears to be extinct (please see below).

Darwin's Frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Mono Andes

Stomach-Brooding Frogs have also Vanished

A deadly amphibian disease that assumed epidemic proportions approximately 20 years ago has been blamed for the likely extinction of the Darwin’s Frog, the only amphibian known to rear its tadpoles entirely within the male’s vocal sacs.  Read More »

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