Canadian frog tales

At the moment I’m in Vancouver, where next week I will be attending the 7th World Congress in Herpetology. It’s an event I’ve been really looking forward to, and the opportunity of representing the Museum and University in my subject together with meeting up with international colleagues will be a real pleasure. The selection of lectures and symposia scheduled for the congress promise to be excellent.

Tadpole of Tailed frog, Ascaphus truei, (c) Andrew Gray

Whilst in Canada, I am also taking time out to enjoy the nature of this beautiful country and yesterday spent a wonderful day hiking up a waterfall nearby. Whilst doing so, I decided to look for one of the most unusual frogs to occur here – a species called the Tailed Frog, Ascaphus truei.

It’s a species that is very rare to find and lives and breeds in clear, very cold, fast-flowing mountain streams. The falls are over 1000ft tall and the walk over the boulders was a little treacherous, but great fun. With the almost deafening sound of rushing water by the falls any call these frogs produced would be useless, so they don’t bother, and have not even developed a vocal sac or eardrum.

Mouthparts of Tailed Frog, Ascaphus truei, (c) Andrew Gray

The males of this species do have a little ‘tail’, used during reproduction to internally fertilise females to stop the sperm from being washed away in the fast water. The females lay their eggs on rocks and boulders in the streams and the tadpoles have adapted an unusual sucker-like mouth to help them adhere to the rocks to stop them being washed away. They also have rows of tiny teeth to enable them to feed on the algae that grows on the rocks (pictured). It’s a really remarkable species that takes many years to develop from tadpole to frog and then can live for over 20 years when adult.

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