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From Tadpole to Frog

Sunday, December 11, 2011

There is a certain satisfaction in setting up a little ecosystem and seeing to it that it runs right. It's the allure of aquariums and terrariums, the challenge they present to us to create an environment that has everything our chosen denizens need.

Science Chimps have lots of aquariums and terrariums around all the time.

It took awhile to get the pondlets in balance. Thanks to all the nutrients in the silt (and probably in the goldfish pellets), I had a few weeks of severe algal blooms which I addressed with siphoning and water changes. Because I didn't want to suck up any taddies with the silt, I retrofitted my siphon with an onion bag, doubled over four times and secured with a rubber band. Worked pretty well.

The point being to see the tadpoles growing and changing, or what's the point? Finally, the algal blooms settled down, the water  cleared, and we got to enjoy them again. FYI I used only rainwater in the tadpools, just as I do in my Amazon tank. Tap water around here is pretty nasty for delicate aquatic organisms. About the only thing that does well in it is cichlids, which are adapted to its high pH.

As July wore into August, several froglets emerged each day. Such a magic moment, when this creature of water becomes a creature of air; when it switches from swimming with lashing tail to kicking with its brand new hinders. When it crawls out and does its first pushup with brand new arms, looks around and
suddenly lunges forward to nab a gnat.

I saw that, once. Where once there had been a sucker now there was a little frog mouth and it snapped open and the gnat was gone.

Cradled in the water hyacinth, a new frog wonders.

He'll go back to the water when danger threatens. And each day his tail will shrink until all of it has gone to his growing bones and body.

I noticed that the new frogs looked smaller than the tadpoles. They lost their big poochy guts and got waists. Which makes sense, since they're moving from herbivore to carnivore, too, and perhaps need a shorter intestine as an insectivore than they did as an algavore.

Some of them look downright skinny when they first climb out. There have to be some growing pains involved in switching mouths from little sucker to boca grande.

This perfect miracle played out each day for us to watch. The kids called the four-legged tadpoles "armies" and kept an eye on them, because they knew once the tads had grown arms that they'd be frogs soon.

Ah, the joy of maintaining a microcosm.


From one sludge lover to another, thank you for this post! Sadly, I haven't seen tadpoles in my pond for several years. I wonder if it's the condition of the water because I top the pond with the garden hose, or if the foot-long Koi have insatiable appetites. I'd love to see the tads again...

Daughter Rachel and Grandma Helen did similar experiment with rescued polliwogs when we were at camp on Lake Champlain several summers ago. They were known as the Froads, since we did not know their ID either, (are they Leopard frogs or American toads?). One of her favorite memories from childhood visits with grandparents.
So cool.

Pretty miraculous transformation! Thanks for posting.

One of nature's most miraculous events. Thanks for this great post!

Now those look like happy little frog babies. Probably thinking what a nice place this is with food and everything! Fresh gnats...woo hoo!

Ever hear of the Paradox Frog (Pseudis paradoxa)? It's from South America and the tadpole is four times larger than the adult. I always wondered what that was about, but your comment about your tadpoles switching from herbivory to carnivory makes a lot of sense. Assuming that is the case. There are a number of omnivorous tadpoles out there and a few carnivores,including some species in which the tadpoles can become carnivores if the circumstances require it.

A few years ago my husband bought a huge pot to keep our garden hose in
Water would collect in the bottom of the pot if the drain hole became clogged with a leaves or other debris.
Some time later when I bought a new house and took out the old, 3 young tree frogs plus an adult emerged, clinging to the coiled hose. I then relocated the frogs to my nearby herb garden and went into the house. A short while later, when I went outside, the relocated frog was on my patio chair and I watched her hop back into the pot. When I would go outside to sit by the patio table she would climb up the hose to the top of the pot and stare me down. Since then I have been guardian of the tadpoles. I bought a tray for the pot to make sure they have enough water at all times. We have had tree frogs on our patio furniture, under our grill cover and once climbing up our patio umbrella. This past fall I decided to transfer a few tadpoles to water containers in our herb garden to get them out of the pot. Well, evidently the tadpoles froze over the winter and now we have hundreds of them, many still in the original pot and I have yet to see any egg masses. We have never fed them, just provide plant life for algae and a way to get out once they lose their tail so they don't drown.

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