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The Frog That Will Help You Win an Argument

The Frog That Will Help You Win an Argument

One of the few male species to become "pregnant," Darwin's frog is vulnerable to extinction

Author: Reilly Capps/Friday, April 12, 2013/Categories: wildlife conservation

By Reilly Capps 

Darwin's frogs live in the forests of Chile and Argentina, though maybe not for long. 

They are going extinct

And, you know: So what?

Who cares if any little frog goes extinct? Are these frogs my relatives? Was I planning on having them for dinner? (If the chicken ever goes extinct, or whatever plant they make Cheetos out of, then I've got problems. But one little frog? Meh. What's the diff?) As Karl Pilkington would ask: "Do we need 'em?" 

Here's one possible response: sometimes, one little frog can help shift the way you look at nature. And they might help you win a household argument. 

This little frog is one of only a couple of animals where the males of the species become pregnant (so to speak), and turn nature's usual pattern on its head. 

It works like this: females lay a half-dozen eggs, and when they hatch into tadpoles the male eats them up and keeps them safe inside a special pocket. They spend their whole tadpole-hood inside their father, and when they've turned to baby frogs he spits them out. 

Yes, they are born when their dad vomits. (Isn't that some form of child abuse?)

Along with penguins and seahorses, Darwin's frog is one of the most conscientious fathers in the world (and the animal kingdom is lousy with deadbeat fathers). 

As for their possible extinction, scientists aren't sure what's doing it. Surely habitat destruction plays a role, as most of the native forests in southern Chile have been destroyed. A fungus is suspected. 

While it lives, the Darwin's frog is a walking anecdote. The next time someone says, "Men -- they're all so lazy and irresponsible," you can say "No! Look at Darwin's frog! There's a dude who looks out for his kids! Forget what you've seen on the TV show 'Cops'! Look to Darwin's frog, and renew your faith in the male gender!" 

That line of argument will be impossible, of course, if the Darwin's frog goes extinct. Then, any attempt to defend men against calumnious charges of neglect will be difficult, since there will be little to balance out the examples of Kevin Federline, Shawn Kemp and all those dads on MTV's "Teen Mom."

Here's Nat Geo on the frog:


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