Darwin’s Frogs - Male Mouth Brooders

Darwin’s Frogs - Male Mouth Brooders

Dads Take Over Tadpole Rearing


In an unusual turn, two Darwin’s frog species are noted for their parenting capabilities. At least, the males are when it comes to pre-nursery details. While they’re on the Vulnerable list due to loss of habitat, the father frogs are doing all they can to keep their progeny safe.

These leafy-looking amphibians are found along streams in the forests of Argentina and Chile. In addition to their perfectly camouflaged shape, they also will play dead when threatened. While on the hunt for prey, which includes small insects, they’re always in danger of larger predators, namely reptiles and rodents. Naturally, it was their namesake - Charles Darwin - who first identified them during one of his voyages.

When the female produces eggs, an average number of between 19-30, she’s done. Abandoning her brood, it’s left for the male to do all the work. He guards them until the hatchlings become tadpoles. Still feeding off their egg yolk, they’re consumed by the male and left to thrive inside his stretchable vocal sac. As they grow, they can even be seen thrashing about underneath the skin, filling the frog’s belly with bouncing offspring. After a few weeks, they become froglets and, at about half an inch in body length, hop out of their dad’s mouth.

All in all, it’s an amazing process as shown in the video featured here. Interestingly, only one other non-fish creature - the male seahorse - performs a similar service in a specialty brood pouch.

Unfortunately, these species could soon disappear due to habitat destruction.