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Male frogs carry tadpoles in their legs

A research team from the University of Newcastle and the South Australian Museum has recently identified a new frog species in the Wollumbin National Park from northern New South Wales, Australia. This species, named Assa wollumbin sp.nov., is the second type of “hip-pocket” or “pouched” frog in the world. 

These frogs are very peculiar, due to the fact that they have a highly derived and unusual reproductive mode, involving a unique form of male parental care. Male frogs hatch the eggs for six days until the tadpoles are born. Next, the males carry the tadpoles in small pouches located on their legs until the young frogs develop their own legs.

“The hip-pocket frog is not only unique for its amazing breeding biology among Australian frogs, but it is also unique among frogs of the world, since there are only four of the 4,000 species worldwide that have male parental care where the male carries its developing tadpoles,” explained University of Newcastle’s Dr. Michael Mahony, one of the biologists who described this new species.

“This incredible discovery shows just how much we don’t know about the world around us, with this tiny 16mm frog found on just one isolated mountain in the Wollumbin National Park,” added Australian Minister for Environment Matt Kean.  

Due to its specific habitat needs and restricted distribution, this species will likely meet the criteria for joining the list of critically endangered species. 

“The small population size makes this frog more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which is why the New South Wales Government moved quickly to protect its habitat within days of being formally described,” said Mr. Kean.

“A conservation action plan will be developed to ensure the survival of this fascinating frog species, which has been living undiscovered high in the cool forest.”

The research is published in the scientific journal Zootaxa.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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