Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tailed Frog: Or are you just glad to see me?

photo by Mokele

The fact that females lack the "tail" that this species is named for should give you a hint that this protuberance is not really a tail after all. The male tailed frog is the only amphibian in the Northern Hemisphere that has an external copulatory organ.

A frog sporting something akin to a penis seems strange until you consider the habitat of the tailed frog. You won't find them lazing about in some backwater pond or lake here in the Pacific Northwest. No, they inhabit rushing mountain streams, where the usual froggy fertilization technique of sperm released over a cluster of eggs would be swiftly washed away. This species' method of mating may be unorthodox for amphibians, but a tailed frog's gotta do what a tailed frog's gotta do.

Internal fertilization isn't the only lifestyle difference found in tailed frogs. They have no vocal sacs (maybe because they'd be unable to outcompete the singing of their rivers) and, correspondingly, no eardrums (the round membranes on either side fo the head, obvious in many frog species).

The tailed frog belongs to what is considered the most primitive of frog families, and you'd have to tramp around New Zealand streams to find its closest relatives. Which, by the way, I would totally love to do. 

How about you?


11 comments:

  1. I love when I learn something like this! I've never heard of this species and am now totally thrilled to know they are on the planet, and having sex in the rushing rivers of New Zealand. What a life!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I never knew this about the tailed frog! Very interesting and amusingly written. But on my blog, when I mention something as innocent as jellyfish gonads, I get smartaleck comments. You have actual full-frontal penis photos...and you get away with it! You must have more sophisticated readers than me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It would be cool to see one. Are they plentiful in spring?
    They must be the strong, silent type.

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's fascinating Patricia, an amazing adaptation. And yes, tramping in New Zealand is definitely to be recommended.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Had to look this one up, they spend up to 4 years as a tadpole and can live 10 to 15 years, quite a feat for a frog.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, only completely class acts show up here, Denise!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Some day... some day...
    Thanks for stopping by, Peter!
    (Peter Grant is a Tasmanian-based nature writer--catch his blog at http://www.naturescribe.com)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hiya Bob! Yup, they metamorphose slowly in those c-c-cold mountain streams.

    ReplyDelete
  9. And in the PNW, too! I first learned about them at Mount St Helens in Washington state.

    ReplyDelete
  10. It's rare to spot the adults--they're nocturnal and only about 2 " long. It's easier to find the polliwogs, which have a suction-cup-like mouth that holds them to rocks and keeps them from getting washed downstream. They sort of vacuum their way over rocks, sucking up algae and such as food. They can usually be identified by a conspicuous white spot at the end of their tails.

    ReplyDelete
  11. So . . we shouldn't drink the crick water because the frogs are fornicating in it?


    Jellyfish gonads?

    ReplyDelete