Meet the Incredible Marsupial Frog Who Carries Her Entire Family on Her Back

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: December 1, 2023
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We are used to seeing the dedication of mothers in the animal kingdom, but this Mom carries her entire family around with her all the time on her back! In this extraordinary clip, we meet the marsupial frog with 15 developing babies perched precariously behind her head. The scientific name for this frog species is Hemiphractus scutatus, also called Spix’s horned tree frog. They are found in the upper Amazon basin in Bolivia, western Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and southern Columbia.

You can even see the little froglets in this footage, including their tiny dark eyes inside the eggs. This frog does not have a tadpole stage; the eggs hatch straight into little froglets. They continue to be carried around by the mother frog until they are independent enough to enter the world. This is a scarce sight, and it’s a privilege to share it.

Watch the Incredible Sight Now

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What Are Marsupials?

This frog is called a marsupial frog because it carries its young around similarly to marsupials. Marsupials are a group of mammals that give birth to helpless live babies. They, therefore, spend weeks or months in a pouch in the mother’s body, where they continue to develop. Marsupials have a short gestation period (pregnancy) because they have a yolk-type placenta that does not nourish the baby for long. The most well-known marsupials are kangaroos and wallabies.

How Do Frogs Normally Reproduce?

Issaquah, Washington State, USA. Pacific Tree Frog tadpole (also called a pollywog or polliwog) is the larval stage in the life cycle of an amphibian, particularly that of a frog or toad.

Most frog species lay spawn that develops into tadpoles.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

It is not normal for frogs to carry their offspring on their back. In most frog species, the male frog fertilizes the eggs outside the female’s body as she lays them. This process is called spawning, and it usually occurs at night but lasts only a few seconds. It’s pretty standard for this to happen in water, but some frogs mate on the ground and some in trees. In many species, the frog spawn looks like caviar and resembles a clear jelly with black centers. If the spawning has been successful, it takes days or weeks for the eggs to develop into tadpoles and hatch.

Tadpoles stay in water and feed on plant material. To begin with, they have no legs but gradually transform into frogs over the next few months. The tail shrinks, and the skin grows over the gills. In many species, tadpoles can control the timing of the metamorphosis. If the environment is dangerous, it happens quickly so that they can hop away! If they find themselves in safe water with a lot of food and a few predators, the tadpole stage can last a lot longer.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Alen thien/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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