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Amphibian - Life cycle of a frog

The life cycle of a frog starts when the weather is judged, by mature adult frogs, that conditions are favourable for the cycle to start. Generally the male frog climbs on the back of the female and hangs on! The 'embrace' is called amplexus and may last for several days. In most species, amplexus occurs in still water, however finding a froggy mate for some species can take them on land or even to the trees.

There is no coitus or 'frog sex' between the male and female frog. Frog reproduction starts when the male fertilises the eggs directly as they are laid by the female frog. In general frogs lay lots of single eggs one after the other that 'stick' together in an egg mass known as spawn - toads lay their eggs in linked chains that don't generally 'mass' together but string out in the water. Most frogs then abandon the frog spawn, however some hang around to watch over their eggs and offspring.

When water, or other supporting medium, conditions are favourable, the dark centre cells of the egg start to divide and multiply. Soon the egg contains a discernable tadpole embryo, eventually moving around in the egg. Somewhere between 1 and 3 weeks the fertile egg will hatch. Frogs (and toads) lay many dozens of eggs to compensate for the hazards between laying and full frogship! Initially the egg can die, be attacked by fungi or even eaten by birds, fish or small mammals. The ones that do hatch are still on a perilous road to adulthood.

When the frog tadpole emerges from the egg, it is still feeding from, or attached to, the egg yolk sac. The tadpole is in a fragile state, virtually a body and tail with a mouth that has rudimentary gills. The hatchling tadpole does virtually nothing for the next week or so except use up the yolk sac reserves and develop a sense of being! Eventually the tadpole will start to feed on algae and other microscopic pond life. After about a month the rudimentary gills will be enveloped by skin. Around this time the tadpole gets it's 'teeth' and having a more developed gut, starts to eat bigger pond life. Tadpoles may be observed in a shoal, the 'safety in numbers' theory works for the individual tadpole now.

After about six weeks or so, legs start to sprout, the back ones first followed by the fore legs. The body elongates and the head becomes more distinct. The tadpole now with legs will be eating bigger things: dead insects, smaller tadpoles and even plants. The tail is more pronounced at this stage!

The tail becomes absorbed into the body and around 3 months we now have a 'froglet'. Over the next few weeks, depending on the food supply, the frog matures and is ready to start the cycle all over again.

There are some species that do not conform to the norm and may take up to 6 months to go through the tadpole stage.


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