Croaking Science: Mud-packing frogs: new approaches to protecting eggs

The amphibian family Nyctibatrachidae forms one of the
three oldest frog families and these species are found only in India and
Sri-Lanka. Within the genus Nyctibatrachus
there are currently 36 species, many of which have unique reproductive
behaviours (see Croaking Science May 2019: https://www.froglife.org/2019/04/).
Three closely related species within the genus occupy similar habitats on the
forest floor, close to streams. Two of the species, Jog’s Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus jog) and the Kempholey
Night Frog (N. kempholeyensis) both
lay small clutches of eggs on leaves or branches overhanging slow-moving or
still water bodies. The male then guards the eggs and provides water to prevent
them drying out (AmphibiaWeb, 2011). However, the recently discovered Kumbara
night frog (Nyctibatrachus kumbara) has
a unique strategy for protecting its eggs. After laying a small clutch of
between 4 and 6 eggs on a branch over-hanging water, the male collects mud and
covers the eggs (Figure 1). This is thought to help protect the eggs from
predators and prevent them from drying out (Gururaja et al., 2014). Covering eggs with mud in this way has not been
recorded in any other species of frog and represents a unique method of
protection (Gururaja et al., 2014).
After covering the eggs with mud, the males will call to attract females which
lay further clutches nearby. The male remains close to the egg clutches for
several days until the eggs hatch. By exhibiting an alternative reproductive
strategy, this species reduces competition between closely related species
which occupy similar ecological niches.

Figure 1. The male Kumbara night frog (Nyctibatrachus kumbara) covers its eggs with mud. Left: a male starting to cover eggs with mud. Right: the male leaving the eggs once they have been covered with mud.  [Photo credit: Gururaja et al., 2014.]

References

AmphibiaWeb (2011) Nyctibatrachus jog: Jog’s Night Frog
University of California, Berkeley,
CA, USA. Accessed Jan 3, 2020.

Gururaja, K.V., Dinesh, K.P., Priti, H. & Ravikanth, G. (2014)
Mud- packing frog: a novel breeding behaviour and parental care in a stream
dwelling new species of Nyctibatrachus
(Amphibia, Anura, Nyctibatrachus). Zootaxa,
3796: 33-61.

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