Baby Frogs Dine on Mom's Unfertilized Eggs

A newfound emerald-eyed tree frog called <em>Kurixalus berylliniris</em> from Taiwan.
A newfound emerald-eyed tree frog called Kurixalus berylliniris from Taiwan. (Image credit: Dr. Shu-Ping Wu)

Two frog species with a bizarre behavior have been discovered in Taiwan: The tadpoles of the newfound tree frogs munch on their mom's gooey, unfertilized eggs.  

One of the newly discovered tree frogsKurixalus berylliniris, which is Latin for "green-colored iris" — has emerald-hued eyes and a slim body that can be either a dark green or deep tan. Discovered in wet forests in eastern Taiwan, the frogs are dimorphic, with the females having a slight size advantage, measuring 1.6 inches (41 millimeters) in length, compared with the male's 1.37-inch (35 mm) bodies.

Some of the K. berylliniris tadpoles the scientists collected showed creamy, yellow tummies, suggesting the youngsters had feasted on some of their mama's eggs, study leader Shu-Ping Wu of the University of Taipei and colleagues noted online Jan. 28 in the journal ZooKeys.

The other newbie was named Kurixalus wangi in honor of herpetologist Ching-Shong Wang. This golden-eyed frog is tiny, with males measuring some 1.18 inches (30 mm) in length and females extending 1.34 inches (34 mm). Compared with its eyes, the frog's body is pretty drab, with brownish-green skin covered in dark-brown and black spots. The animal's belly and throat are whitish. [See Photos of 40 Freaky Frogs]

A golden-eyed tree frog, Kurixalus wangi, found in Taiwan. (Image credit: Dr. Shu-Ping Wu)

Both tree frogs lay their eggs in tree holes, the researchers found.

The two frog species, as compared with each other and other species, had different mating calls, distinct genetic compositions and other genetic features, and diverse morphological characteristics, leading the researchers to conclude these were two new species.

"Although Taiwan is a highly developed island with significant alterations to the natural landscape and destruction of critical habitats for amphibians, it is noteworthy that during the last 50 years, six of the seven newly described frog species in Taiwan were tree frogs inhabiting forested areas," the researchers wrote in their journal article.

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Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.