Leaves
Leaves

For Father’s Day, here’s a story about a dad who goes the extra mile… Let’s hear it for the male blessed poison frog.

The natural world is full of examples of fathers who do nothing to help rear their young. But the blessed poison frog is different. He carries his offspring around on his back to find them a safe place in which to grow up.

Experts at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon are big fans of the blessed poison frog. Keeper Dr Katy Upton explained: “The female lays 4 to 6 eggs in leaf litter hidden away from predators. Both parents visit the eggs and keep them hydrated as they develop. The male will monitor them until they are ready to hatch - once they are ready, he will sit on top of them and the tadpoles will wiggle up onto dad’s back.

“The tadpoles need to be in water, so the male transports them to individual pools of water caught in the leaves of bromeliad plants. He avoids pools that already contain tadpoles, as they can be cannibalistic. Dad may carry the youngsters for several days and can go quite large distances in order to find suitable bromeliads. They have evolved to use bromeliad pools over streams or forest floor pools, as these will contain fewer predators and give the tadpoles a better chance of survival.”

The blessed poison frog, Ranitomeya benedicta, is found in the lowland rainforest of the Pampas del Sacramento in north eastern Peru. It’s listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because of limited habitat range, habitat loss and collection for the pet trade. So little is known about this species that no one can say for sure how far dad might carry the kids and if he goes back to care for them afterwards.

Luke Harding, Paignton Zoo Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, said: “This is a great example of fatherhood from the natural world. He shoulders the burden – literally – and carries each of his kids to their own tiny pool of water cupped in the leaves of a rainforest bromeliad, which acts as a nursery. On Father’s Day we should definitely celebrate the male blessed poison frog!”

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