Indonesian Fanged Frog Gives Birth To Live Tadpoles

January 5, 2015

Iskandar Et al.

A new species of frog that gives birth to live tadpoles has been discovered in the rain forests of Sulawesi Island in Indonesia. The frog, Limnonectes larvaepartus was described in the PLOS One Journal by a team of scientists led by  University of California, Berkeley biologist Jim McGuire. He notes that the frog, which also sports fangs, is one of just 10 or 12 species that fertilize its eggs internally, but is unique in that it is the only known frog that gives birth to tadpoles.

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"This is, you know, another pretty crazy reproductive mode that's evolved within frogs," McGuire told NPR News. "And so, you know, frog biologists are turned on by that sort of thing."


Fanged frog

Iskandar Et al.

(A) male, left and female, right collected from Desa Uaemate along the Tasio-Tibo Road, Kabupatan Mamuju, Provinsi Sulawesi Barat, Sulawesi Island; (b) Limnonectes larvaepartus female (MVZ 268426) with tadpoles removed from the oviduct. Note the large yolk reserves available to the tadpoles; (c) An in situ adult male L. larvaepartus (JAM 14234) observed calling while perched on the edge of a small pool 2 m away from a 2 m wide stream; several L. larvaepartus tadpoles were present in the pool including the two visible within the yellow circle; (d) dorsal and ventral views of ~stage 25 L. larvaepartus tadpoles (JAM 14271) released by a pregnant female at the moment of capture.

The frog was initially discovered a few decades ago by McGuire’s colleague Djoko Iskandar a zoologist with Indonesia's Institut Teknologi Bandung. Iskandar speculated that the frog gave birth to live tadpoles instead of laying eggs but herpetologists hadn’t observed them actually giving birth until McGuire grabbed the frog in the rainforest and it proceeded to squirt out tadpoles all over his hand.

McGuire says that the frog seems to prefer to give birth in small pools of water that are away from streams, and some evidence suggests that the males might guard the tadpoles after they are born. 

Limnonectes larvaepartus is just the fourth described species of fanged frog on Sulawesi island. The fangs, which are located on the frog’s lower jaw, are used for fighting other frogs. This particular species of fanged frog weighs about 5 to 6 grams though other species of fanged frog can weigh as much as 2 lbs.  

The complete paper, A Novel Reproductive Mode in Frogs: A New Species of Fanged Frog with Internal Fertilization and Birth of Tadpoles, can be read on the PLOS One Journal.

John B. Virata keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 


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