Monday, 27 April 2009

Mountain Chicken

Every time I have been to Chester Zoo in recent years I have tried to spot the Mountain Chicken (Laeptodactylus fallax).

Despite its name it is not a feathery thing with wings but one of the world's largest frogs. On my recent visit I at last managed to see it. It comes from Montserrat and Dominica in the West Indies and presumably it tastes like chicken! But I would not recommend eating one – the population has declined 80% in the last ten years and this species is now critically endangered. The total world population is estimated to be about 8000 individuals. Until very recently it was the national dish of Dominica.

Mountain Chickens breed in a unique way. A male and female frog produce a foam nest on land in which 15-50 tiny eggs are laid. These eggs hatch into tiny tadpoles, less than a centimetre long. Over the next 6-8 weeks they develop in the foam nest into tadpoles measuring over 15cm long. The female frog feeds the tadpoles throughout their development on unfertilised eggs which she squirts into the nest every 2-3 days. She supplies the tadpoles with tens of thousands of these food eggs during their growth. Isn't nature amazing!

This unique method of breeding was discovered by studying this species in zoos as part of a conservation breeding programme for the species. Chester Zoo is currently involved in a collaborative conservation project with the Dominican government and the Zoological Society of London to try to save the species on the island.

1 comment:

Hello - thanks for dropping by to leave a comment. Your comments are much appreciated even if I don't always reply. They will appear as soon as they have been moderated.

Blog Archive