When you are small, moist and squishy amphibian, you make a very tasty snack for most mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. In fact, you are kind of like a green (or other colored) oreo cookie! You are very popular in the pond, and not in a good way. You most likely spend the majority of your time not making friends, but being quite anti-social, hiding under logs, leaves, and high up in the trees trying to avoid being someone else’s lunch.
As you might imagine, this makes things especially difficult when parenting comes in to question. Can you imagine if, while attempting to change your child’s diaper or tying their shoes, or teaching them how to throw a baseball you had to constantly be looking over your shoulder or warding off predators, without a weapon, claws, beak, hooves, horns or sharp teeth? It would make things pretty dang stressful and tiring, that’s for sure! And, because of other creatures “sweet tooth” for you, there is a good chance you would be sitting in a stomach basking in gastric juices before you were able to raise your offspring successfully.
For this reason, and others, you do not usually see a lot of parental care in the amphibious creatures. Most amphibians may be absent parents once the deed is done, but they have good reason, and they have adopted a reproductive strategy that works better for their kind.
Glass frog dads guard their fragile eggs
What’s the strategy you ask? Lots, lots, lots and lots, of eggs! By laying hundreds, if not thousands of eggs, there is the hope that a small percentage will make it to adulthood and eventually make more frogs or toads.
This is very different in the mammal and bird world where you see parental care as the major reproductive strategy, having less offspring at a time.
And- if you do have more than 2 or 3 offspring, you generally have aunties, uncles and grandparents to help with the rearing. Why else are we so engrossed by those national stories of those human parents who have 4, 6, 8 babies at a time?! We are amazed and question, how do they do it? The truth is these people must rely on family, good friends and corporate sponsors to make it work! Frogs do not have this luxury!
HOWEVER and quite amazingly, if you look close enough, there are several examples of frog dads out their that do protect their young, proving once again that amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians) are one of the most surprising and diverse groups of vertebrates on this planet.
Although there are quite a few examples of good frog mommies, the majority are generally the males exhibiting parental care. This is because female frogs use up a profound amount of energy producing and carrying around all of those hundreds and thousands of eggs and don’t have much to give once the eggs are deposited. Babies mamma is usually way too tired, ready to prop her feet up, maybe get a massage, and eat a nice fly quiche.
So, in honor of Fathers Day, here are just a few examples of Toad-ally Amazing Amphibian Dads:
* Glass frog dads guard their fragile eggs which hang from leaves snapping at any potential intruders and mimicking their clutch of eggs as well.
* The African bullfrog guards his eggs and will aggressively defend the offspring. Once the eggs have hatched, he will dig a channel between the small pools of water the tadpoles started in, and an adjacent stream so the tadpoles may escape their evaporating natal pool!
* Species of the midwife toad actually carry eggs on their back legs until they are ready to hatch. The male will then transport them to water and let them go!
Poison dart frog
* Poison dart frogs will let little tadpoles take a ride on their back, moving them around to a nursery bromeliad plant filled with still water. Some will even transport them to nearby streams.
* Some African rain frog species will protect their eggs which have been laid in burrows in the ground.
* Gladiator frogs defend their stream side nursery pools and bust out with arm spears projecting from their bodies to aggressively defend their young from other frogs and/or sneaky cockroaches!
* Darwin frogs brood their tadpoles in their vocal sacs until they are ready to complete metamorphosis. Now that’s commitment!
Let’s hear it for the dads! Celebrate Dad by giving him a memorable Father’s Day gift this year – Name a Houston Toad after him! With your gift, you help us support Houston Toads, a critically endangered species native to Texas. Click here to learn more about Houston Toads and how you can further the Houston Zoo’s conservation efforts that help ensure their survival.
The ciritically endangered Houston Toad
Come to TOAD-ally Awesome Father’s Day on June 19! Come visit the newly-named toads on June 19 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. as we celebrate a TOAD-ally Awesome Father’s Day at the Houston Zoo. This fun, family event will be filled with crafts, activities, Houston Toad info and much more! This event is FREE with your paid Zoo admission.