Posted by: cochinblogger | September 28, 2019

Amplexus

I've read that there's more nature in the humble backyard than this world dreams of, and I've seen this for myself in small ways. A few days ago, I was treated to another reminder. The rains haven't stopped, and as a result the yard has become a frog playground. They hop out of the way when I approach, and we go our separate ways. True, one adventurous frog did manage to find its way into the house. Another was found clinging to the front door. Yet another was found dead in the garage. But these close encounters are rare. We generally stay out of each other's way.

A couple of days ago when I stepped out to lock the gate, a frog skipped away from my path. But the jumps were labored and not as athletic as usual; upon closer inspection, I saw that what I thought was one frog was actually two frogs: a smaller frog was atop the larger frog at the bottom. Of course, they were mating. I went back in for the camera, and the result was the photo above. Most male frogs are smaller than females. Once they land on top of the female, they will not let go, not even when under threat. Frogs can stay in this position (called amplexus, Latin for "embrace") for days. This marathon embrace, however, is not a feat of stamina, as the male frog, lacking a penis, does not penetrate the female but waits for her to discharge eggs, which he bathes in sperm.

Frogs are found in a variety of habitats, from ponds to trees. The frog's skin needs to be moist, and so frogs will usually be found not far from water, which is where my amorous yard couple will deposit and fertilize their eggs. Tadpoles develop in water. However, barring a few exceptions, frogs and tadpoles cannot survive in saltwater, and hence one waterbody where they are not found is the sea.

I now recall a couple of disturbing frog memories I'd rather forget. I once had to dissect a frog in the biology lab in school. And — the lord have mercy on my soul! — sometime in the 1990s, I tasted frog legs in a toddy shop. I've heard that the legs would be cut off and the frog tossed away, left to die a lingering death. Frog legs are a delicacy in many parts of the world such as China, France, and Indonesia, and India used to export millions of frogs. However, thankfully that practice has stopped.

Frogs are carnivores. The larger frogs even kill and eat mice and smaller frogs. Their main diet, however, consists of insects — including the mosquito — that are reeled in with their long, sticky tongue. It's a simple equation: more frogs = fewer mosquitoes. Living as I do in mosquito-infested Cochin, the more frogs in my yard the merrier.

One regret I have about taking this photo is that I had to use the flash. I tried artificial lighting, but it didn't work. However, I did take a few precautions: one, I shot from a distance, zooming in. Two, I shot from the rear. And finally, I pressed the trigger at the precise moment when their eyes half-closed (in ecstasy?).

For information on frogs, I consulted my copy of the excellent Wildlife Great and Small of India's Coromandel by Tim Wrey.

Update: Thanks to reader Manish (see comment below), I now know that I had photographed toads, not frogs!

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Responses

  1. a minor correction….those are toads in amplexus, not frogs.

    • Ah! Thanks.


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