Yes There Are Monogamous Amphibians

Frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians aren’t known as faithful lovers. They mate, then they scram. But researchers have now identified one species of poisonous Peruvian frog—Ranitomeya imitator—that has given monogamy a shot, the first amphibian known to do so. What’s more, the frogs seem Frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians aren’t known as faithful lovers. They mate, then they scram. But researchers have now identified one species of poisonous Peruvian frog—Ranitomeya imitator—that has given monogamy a shot, the first amphibian known to do so. What’s more, the frogs seem to be doing it for the kids: Limited resources keep them close to their offspring-and to each other-a condition that may have influenced the evolution of parenting strategies in other species as well.
to be doing it for the kids: Limited resources keep them close to their offspring-and to each other-a condition that may have influenced the evolution of parenting strategies in other species as well.

On the surface, R. imitator and its relative R. variabilis, are quite similar. They look alike, sharing the same poisonous skin, ostentatious coloring, and compact, 20-millimeter-long body. They mate alike, with a loud and elaborate courtship. And, at least at first, they treat their young alike: After the female deposits her eggs on a leaf, the male fertilizes them, and, when the eggs hatch, he coaxes each tadpole onto his back and ferries it to a nearby pool.

But then the two species’ approaches to parenting diverge. R. variabilis moms hit the road immediately after mating, and while dads guard the territory around their young, they largely leave tadpoles to fend for themselves. In contrast, parent R. imitator frogs coddle their young. Once tadpoles are safe in individual leaf-pools, “the work has just started,” says Kyle Summers, an evolutionary ecologist at EastCarolinaUniversity in Greenville, North Carolina. About once a week for the next few months, the R. imitator dad calls the mother back to the pool so she can lay a nutritious egg for the tadpoles to eat.

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