In many human cultures around the world, frogs have long been associated with fertility and breeding. This is because of their association with life-giving water. Right from Egypt to India to the Mayan region in North America, people have considered frogs to be the symbols of fertility. Heqet, an Egyptian goddess of fertility is represented in the form of a frog.
That being said, reproduction in amphibians wasn’t well understood until the eighteenth century.
But today we know a lot more about frog reproduction. Adult frogs vocalize to be noticed by females. After unique courtship ritual they bear offsprings by laying eggs near water. These eggs develop into tadpoles – tiny little creatures with tails who spend their entire life in water. The tadpoles metamorphose into adult frogs. After tremendous efforts from biologists from all around the world, novel breeding behaviors are being documented (read Breeding Behaviour of the Kumbhara Night Frog). Amphibians, especially frogs, show remarkable reproductive strategies. The Ochlandra-reed bush frog (Raochestes ochlandrae) and the White-spotted bush frog (Raorchestes chalozodes) also exhibit one such unique breeding trait. These stunning bush frogs are endemic to the Western Ghats of India. They belong to the Rhacophoridae family of anurans (frogs and toads collectively). See below:
The Ochlandra-reed bush frog was described in 2007 from the Wayanad hill ranges. This stunning frog was seen living within hollow bamboo stems. Another frog from the same genus, the White-spotted bush frog was considered extinct till very recently. But in 2011, it was rediscovered by a team of passionate researchers.
If the strange looks of the reed frog and the rediscovery of an extinct frog wasn’t fascinating enough, then the following facts about their breeding habits will blow your mind –
1. They both lay their eggs inside the hollows of Bamboo stems – In the bamboo plant, the stems are the structures that you see above the ground. These star-eyed frogs lay their eggs inside the stems. But I am sure you know that the bamboo stems are really hard, piercing through would be impossible for a tiny frog. If that’s the case, then how do these tiny frogs enter inside? Well, they are smarter than you think- they use ready-made oval openings created by rodents and insects! The following video is sure to cause your jaws to drop –
2. There are NO tadpoles – The process by which their young ones hatch is called ‘direct development’. These frogs skip the free-swimming tadpole stage by developing into tadpoles inside the eggs. When the eggs hatch; a fully developed froglet emerges – like the one in the picture below!
3. ‘Direct Development’ demands less water – Bypassing the tadpole stage gives them the advantage that lets them survive in conditions that have very less water. This adaptation might just be the reason behind their evolutionary and ecological success.
4. They show parental care – Among frogs, parental care is highly uncommon. But it has been noted in frogs that show direct development. This fascinating characteristic allows higher chances of survival of their offspring. Parental care can be provided in various forms like egg attendance, egg transport, tadpole attendance, tadpole feeding, etc. These frogs take to attending to the eggs inside the bamboo cavity.
5. Similar reproduction but different bamboo preferences – Although the frogs demonstrate similar modes of reproduction, they prefer different species of bamboo plants. The reason for this isn’t clear but could be associated with their distribution within the Western Ghats. The two species show no overlap and are separated by a physical barrier – Palghat Gap. The Ochlandra-reed frog prefers bamboo plant called the Ochlandra setigera. The White-spotted frog (Critically Endangered according to IUCN) however breeds in a bamboo species – Ochlandra travancorica commonly called the Indian-reed Bamboo or Elephant Bamboo. This plant is used extensively for commercial purposes like making flutes and in the paper and pulp industry.
As you can see – these two species of frogs have really fascinating (and at the same time extremely unique) reproductive habits. I’m sure you now see why I absolutely adore Bush Frogs. Are you equally in love with these wonderful lil’ froggies? Tell me more in the comments!
PS: Unless otherwise stated the pictures used here appear in the scientific paper published in Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2014); Dr Gururaja KV and Mr Seshadri KS are the copyright holders. These pictures/videos CANNOT be reproduced elsewhere without explicit permission from the owners!
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