A bizarre frog that breeds inside trees and lays eggs for its tadpoles to eat has been rediscovered in northeastern India after 150 years.
Last recorded in the wild in 1870, Jerdon’s tree frog was feared extinct until scientists found it during a three-year search that began in 2007.
The 20-inch (50-centimeter) long species was first discovered in the Darjeeling region by British zoologist Thomas Jerdon, who inspired its name Polypedates jerdonii.
But according to a new study, the long-lost amphibian actually represents a completely new genus—earning it the new moniker Frankixalus jerdonii.
Scientists observed the frog hiding in hollow bamboo stems and tree holes, where it carries out its remarkable breeding antics.
Females attach their eggs to the insides of tree hollows, which hold pools of water. When the tadpoles hatch, they fall in the water, where the females feed them unfertilized eggs until they turn into froglets. Most tadpoles of other frog species eat plant material.
The frog’s DNA, odd feeding behavior, and anatomy shows the species “represents a deep evolutionary split in tree frog evolution,” says study co-author Ines Van Bocxlaer, of the Amphibian Evolution Lab at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.
University of Delhi biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju, whose numerous past finds include India’s purple frog, led the expedition.
In the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya state (map), the team found the tadpoles each contained up to 19 frog eggs. “It’s very clear that they are feeding purely on their mother’s eggs,” says Biju, who’s nickname is the “Frogman of India.”
He suspects females make return visits to the tree holes to keep their tadpoles topped up with eggs.
Many species in North East region are on the verge of extinction, said Chandan Kumar Duworah, a science journalist and conservationist from Assam, a northeastern Indian state. Some are totally extinct which were exclusively endemic and no hope of return. Only the remaining portions of virgin forests had became last shelters of many species undiscovered and already discovered, he said.