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Rare Darwin's Male Frog Coughs Up 10 Babies From Vocal Sac in Chile

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by hearit

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In The News

It's a male and brings babies into the world by literally coughing them up--one at a time. A Darwin's Frog has just coughed up a batch of 10 little ones in a Santiago, Chile, zoo in a project that hopes to save the rare amphibians from extinction.

The Darwin's Frog species is a vulnerable one:Iit's only one of the two genus' remaining on Earth that are capable of rearing young tadpoles inside of its vocal sac.

The throaty job is taken on by the male frogs of the species.

After eggs hatch, tadpoles are transferred into the male Darwin's Frog's mouth where he pushes the tadpoles through a small opening -- located under the amphibian's tongue -- directly into his vocal sac. And there they stay. Until they're coughed up.

It may be a rude awakening into the world but, as far as nature is concerned, it works.

The tadpoles stay and develop in the Darwin's Frog's vocal sac for roughly two months. When the tiny frogs are coughed up after 60 days of development, the result is literally miniature forms of an adult -- ready to leap into life.

A captive breeding project is ongoing at the National Zoo and Universidad Catolica in Santiago, Chile -- a project designed so the world can continue to enjoy the frogs that may otherwise by poised for extinction. The Chile zoo's building up a population of the frogs to be released into the wild to help thwart environmental threats to the Darwins' natural habitat.

The batch of babies just coughed is the second round produced by the frogs, a sign of success for the Santiago zoo project.

The Darwin's Frog species is native to the temperate forests of Chile's southern regions and Argentina -- a locale which has remained isolated from the rest of the world since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Surrounding geography includes mountains, desert and ocean with the area receiving enough rainfall to officially call it a rainforest. The Chile climate ideal for amphibians like the Darwin's Frog.

Unfortunately for the species, the regions's also ideal for both vineyards and the radiata pine tree, a fast-growing tree ideal in supporting the Chilean lumber, pulp and paper industries.

The vineyards and radiata pine plantations have helped place the Darwin's Frog on the edge of extinction. But the fungus problem -- hitting frog species across the world hard -- could be a determining factor in whether the frog continues to survive. The chyrtrid fungus has devastated amphibian populations globally, now hitting Chile. The chyrtrid fungus could wipe out frog populations in the region as easily as it has across other parts of the world.

Chile is also now touted as a world-class fly fishing destination -- invasive trout now introduced to rivers and streams to support Chile's fishing status and push for tourism. The introduced trout feed on tadpoles which is now threatening many frog species. The Darwin's Frog remains among the only species not threatened by the invasive trout because its young are reared inside of the males' vocal sac -- protected from being snatched by hungry fish.


National Zoo and Universidad Catolica Santiago
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