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The Tadpole Project: Followup

Thursday, December 8, 2011

When last we left The Tadpole Project, it was July 10, and the eggs I'd taken from the backyard water garden had just hatched in a superdeluxe fish-free mini water garden I'd set up near the front door. Go here if you'd like to re-read that post.

Not only did we have a mini garden with just-hatched eggs, but the kids and I had gotten down on hands and knees and rescued every last taddie from the rapidly drying driveway puddles. We put those in a separate artificial pool, because they were just getting their hinders and we wanted to track their development separately. There were hundreds and hundreds of these older tadpoles and we just couldn't leave them wriggling under the hot sun.

It's such a wonderful feeling to take a handful of about-to-perish tadpoles and release them into a cool bucket of water. They lift off from the silt that was about to be their grave and flutter through the water, doubtless saying WHEEWW!! or AHHHH! or HALLELUJAH!! or BRRR! or CHICKAWOW WOW!! or whatever a rescued tadpole says.

 The older tads are in the left garden, and the younger ones (from the eggs from our pond) are in the right one.

A !@#@#$# raccoon soon saw to the overpopulation in the little gray pool. In one hellish night, it reduced the tadpoles by about 3/4. After that, I put a heavy grate over each pool every night. Having to do that every evening wasn't much fun, but I couldn't let that happen again. Durn coons. Just little bears, is all they are.


The tadpoles that remained  seemed traumatized, and were extremely skittish and shy for more than a week. I could tell they'd learned from that awful night that dark looming creatures above them mean death. I felt bad for them and set about winning their trust.

Goldfish pellets were just the thing.


I've always wondered what the heck tadpoles are eating in the barren little mud puddles where they grow up. Microorganisms? Algae nobody can see? They grow and mature like magic even in vegetation-free puddles. It's one of life's great mysteries. 

I was worried that there wouldn't be anything to eat in the rainwater I put in the artificial pools, so in addition to some algae-coated plants from the pond and a few lettuce leaves I decided to toss in some goldfish food sticks. These were enthusiastically received. 



Tadpoles are pretty subtle little beings, but note the eye roll on the left-hand tad. Pretty cute, if you know what to look for. Like he's saying, "Hey, Legs, pretty good stuff, huh? Beats the algae Mom left for us."


One extremely charming thing that happened in the bowl of young tadpoles (the ones hatched from eggs) is that they learned to anticipate feeding time. When they saw me come up to the water garden, they would begin swimming energetically along the edge of the pool, all in the same direction, apparently anticipating the moment when I'd drop a few goldfish pellets in and they could eat.
I thought it was pretty keen that they keyed into the routine and seemed happy to see me, coming up to the surface the way fish will. Tadpoles seem so larval, so squishy, so anything but sentient. It was nice to have evidence that they had learned this routine, and knew something, anything at all.

We as a species are always underestimating our fellow creatures. Even those of us who bend over backwards to look for signs of intelligence. I still underestimate them.

The tadpoles grew and thrived. I wasn't sure of their species, since there are several candidates. The two most likely were mountain chorus frog (a local specialty with a raspy, comb-tooth call) and gray tree frog. Given that these eggs were laid late in the season (late June) I was leaning toward gray tree frog.



All would become clear when they finally metamorphosed. I love this shot for showing the dear little sucker mouth this legged tadpole is extending.  He's not gotten his arm buds as yet.


As the tadpoles mature and sprout arms, they absorb their tail. There are so many things about frog metamorphosis that blow my mind, and just one of those things is the ability to absorb an appendage. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could do that? For instance, let's say I'd like to morph into a fashion model. If I had tadpole superpowers, I could just absorb most of my upper thighs and belly flab and head on down to the Ford Agency. I could be one of those beautiful middle-aged ladies in the Viagra ads, the ones that are always strolling around on beaches with their sleeves and pantlegs rolled up, looking satisfied.

Instead I am sitting here wishing I could have some ice cream. But I can't, and won't.


 Yes. Tadpoles. We were talking about tadpoles.

Another mind-blower. These guys go from having a fishlike sucker mouth with a sort of radula (spiny tonguelike scraper) to having a regular frog mouth that opens and closes like yours and mine. So besides the obvious metamorphosis from fishiform to frogiform, the mouth is undergoing profound changes as well.

And naturally, that dictates a diet change. Once they're out of the water, they're no longer scraping surfaces for food; they're catching live prey. 

Could they be tree frogs? They were so tiny...




 They were beginning to emerge, breaking the barrier between water and air. Time would tell.

15 comments:

As soon as you figure out how to absorb upper thighs and belly flab, let me know, I will pay you.

Congratulations on your rescue, next summer I'll be keeping my eyes open for soon to be dry puddles of tadpoles and eggs to rescue myself.

Fasinating. Looking forward to the next installment.

I love seeing these little guys up close. It is such a miracle.--hart

I wouldn't have expected a raccoon to be much interested in tadpoles--must make for a rather insubstantial meal (unless you eat three-quarters of a pool's worth of them, I suppose.) Maybe they consider them to be like Nerds candy?

In the last two pictures it looks like they're developing little treefroggy toe pads...or am I imagining things? Can't wait to hear what they turned into!

(P.S. I read somewhere that you can ID tadpole species by the fringes around their mouths, which vary by species. Here's a link: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/tadpole/tadoral.htm "Oral Disc Morphology"! I think this requires them to be either dead or very relaxed, though... :/ )

The photo of the two tadpoles sharing a goldfish pellet is just TOO cute! Also, love you frog call description "with a raspy, comb-tooth call". Have never heard one but now know just how it would sound!

Changin', rearrangin',
He's not half the tad he used to be.

Good job Frog Momma.

louboutin shoes is one of the most recognized name brands in the world of high fashion.

Don't the tadpoles undergo changes mirroring the species' evolution from fish? Appendectomy recapitulates proctology, or something. I haven't been in school for a while.

I love little tadpoles and frogs! Especially tree frogs. They are such sweet pretty little things with velcro feet! I think it interesting that they recognized you and that you were there to feed them. I have not a clue how intelligent frog babies are but you seem to have found some that knew where all the good stuff came from. Put me on the list for the belly fat removal!

Wonderful! I love that the tadpoles saw you coming and galloped around... amazing.

I can't resist asking what you all noticed about which arm pops out first: right? or left? The Books say Always Left, but I've seen different.

(I prize my ignorance. It makes research so much fun!)Thanks for your terrific blog!

Posted by Annie Cannon December 9, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Hanging my head...I haven't noticed which arm bud pops out first. Next year.

Thanks for your kind words!

I seem to recall that tadpoles consume their tails , so to speak as well a all those things we can't see.
Congratuations on the success.

Wonderful update ... I won't be referring to small kids as tadpoles anymore. Love your photos!

Awesome!!!! I want to try this next spring... Great photos, too, love the sucker-mouth one in particular.

Side note: I doubt many fashion models have ever raised tadpoles (which I consider that higher aspiration than prancing about on camera.) Or is that just me underestimating my fellow creatures again?

Everything you write about creatures is a treat! So entertaining. I love it. Keep up the good work. :)

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