Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Creature Feature: Glass Frogs.

There are some areas in which being a frog must suck. Besides the sensitivity to pollutants in the environment,  a very interesting puberty, and having many things want to eat them, frogs also have the misfortune of being what science calls "model organisms." Basically, if a scientist wants to test something on a lesser vertebrate, it will probably be either a frog or a mouse. (Rabbits and pigs are common favorites, too.) Frogs are also extremely common in college biology labs, with nearly everybody cutting open at least one frog in their academic career.

Please do not touch my innards -  Kermit.

The frogs have protested: They have evolved skin that is as clear as crystal so that, if you want to see how their bodies work, all you have to do is turn them over. No knife required. You can see the systems in action without performing crazy vivisections! Seriously, this critter is a living biology model.

Pay attention. This'll be on the quiz.

There are a number of glass frogs native to Mexico and Central and South America. They form the family Centrolenidae, which consists entirely of small (5-7 cm) treefrogs with translucent bodies. In short, there are a lot of these guys, and therefore plenty of biology models if you should ever want to venture into the rainforest.

The translucent skin on these frogs serves as the best camouflage ever. There are few better ways to blend in with something than to have skin colored just enough that it does not show bones. That is, unless the frog gets turned over - then it's like showing a predator one of those revolving dessert tables. Fair enough.


Glass frogs also have some interesting egg-laying habits. Instead of laying their eggs in water, some species lay their eggs on leaves that are near water. Since there are a million things that eat frog eggs, the eggs on leaves have a slightly better chance of survival. (Hey, at least they aren't supermoms like the pipa toads.) They are also among the few frogs that give parental care to their eggs before they hatch. Males have been found protectively sprawled over their eggs...which looks a little odd.

As with all frogs, glass frogs are indicators of environmental toxins.  Some species are endangered; others are of least concern.  There are some people captive breeding glass frogs, so, if you really want to see one up close, go for a specimen that won't hurt the natural ecology. Here are some handy tips for keeping and identifying your very own glass frogs- sweet. Regardless of which glass frog you find, enjoy looking at it while it's still around!

(Y'know what? I've been doing too many frogs. Next week will be frog and toad week. Period. Any suggestions can go down below.)

1 comment:

  1. Hey... can you tell me where you found the side by side picture? I'm hoping to ask for permission to use it in a curriculum.