Rare Tree Frog Rediscovered After 150 Years, Eats Its Mother’s Eggs
Rare Tree Frog Rediscovered After 150 Years, Eats Its Mother’s Eggs

A curious tree frog that breeds in the hollows of trees and feeds its young its own unfertilized eggs was rediscovered in Southeast Asia—nearly 150 years later.

The specimen, Jerdon’s tree frog, was last seen in 1870, according to National Geographic, but it was found alive in the forests of northeastern India. The frog lives in holes in trees and bamboo as high as 20 feet, making it difficult to spot.

In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, preserved tadpoles of a frog named Frankixalus jerdonii, a new genus of frogs, are seen at Systematics Lab at the University of Delhi, Department of Environmental Studies, in New Delhi. Scientists have discovered the new genus of tree frogs in India thought to have been extinct for over a century. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, preserved tadpoles of a frog named Frankixalus jerdonii, a new genus of frogs, are seen at Systematics Lab at the University of Delhi, Department of Environmental Studies, in New Delhi. Scientists have discovered the new genus of tree frogs in India thought to have been extinct for over a century. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

The 20-inch-long species with a body the size of a golf ball was found first by British zoologist Thomas Jerdon, and it was later named after him, as Polypedates jerdonii. But National Geographic, citing the scientist who found the frog, noted its part of a completely new genus, Frankixalus jerdonii. 

The female frogs attach their eggs to the insides of tree hollows, which also hold pools of water. When the tadpoles hatch, they fall into the water, and females then feed the tadpoles their unfertilized eggs. Most tadpoles of other frog species eat plant material. And adult Jerdon’s tree frogs tend to eat plant material rather than insects or larvae, reported the BBC.

In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, amphibian biologist and scientist SD Biju holds a preserved female frog named Frankixalus jerdonii, of a newly found genus at Systematics Lab of the University of Delhi, Department of Environmental Studies, in New Delhi. The study documents the tree frogs’ unusual maternal behavior, with the females laying fertilized eggs in a tree hole filled with water, and then returning at regular intervals after the tadpoles hatch to feed them with unfertilized eggs. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

The discovery was made by famed Indian biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju, “The Frog Man in India,” has found 89 of the India’s 350 frog species. 

Biju and his team hope the frogs could be found across a wider area, from Thailand to China.

“We heard a full musical orchestra coming from the tree tops. It was magical. Of course we had to investigate,” Biju told the BBC, describing the finding.

In this Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, photo, amphibian biologist and scientist SD Biju works in his lab on a newly found genus of frogs named Frankixalus jerdonii, at Systematics Lab of the University of Delhi, Department of Environmental Studies, in New Delhi. Scientists led by Biju have rediscovered the frogs and identified them as part of a new genus, one step higher than a species on the taxonomic ranking. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, photo, amphibian biologist and scientist SD Biju works in his lab on a newly found genus of frogs named Frankixalus jerdonii, at Systematics Lab of the University of Delhi, Department of Environmental Studies, in New Delhi. Scientists led by Biju have rediscovered the frogs and identified them as part of a new genus, one step higher than a species on the taxonomic ranking. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

“This is an exciting find, but it doesn’t mean the frogs are safe,” Biju added, adding that he hopes the discovery leads to more awareness of the dangers of unfettered development to the animals. 

Some of the forest areas where Biju’s team collected frogs in 2007 and 2008 were already slashed and burned by 2014 for agricultural development. The region’s tropical forests are quickly disappearing because of programs to cut trees, plant rice, expand human settlements and build roads.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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