You may be wondering what a Pipa pipa is. Well, they are a very interesting amphibian species, Pipa pipa, that goes by the common name Suriname toad. They are an aquatic species native to northern South America with cryptic camouflage. If you look at them, they have little projections around their head and body that make them look a little like leaves. This helps them blend in very well. Even better is some of those little projections are sensitive to movements, which helps them recognize prey that swims too close.
While those characteristics are cool, it is the Suriname toad’s reproductive biology that makes it truly remarkable. After a period of amplexus (as seen in the photo above), the female lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them. But what is different is that the eggs are not laid on a leaf or attached to a stick or under a rock like most frogs. Nope, this is one unconventional frog. Check this out:
Suriname toad females incubate their eggs in their own backs. That’s right, I said in their own backs!!! With the help of the male and some fancy acrobatics, the eggs are placed on the back of the female. Then they begin to embed into her back and are eventually mostly or entirely covered by a thin layer of skin. If that wasn’t crazy enough, the tadpoles never hatch from the eggs. Instead, they undergo complete development inside the back of the female. When they finally emerge they are little, nearly identical versions of the adult!
Thinking to yourself, “Holy flipping frogs, Batman, I would love to see that!”? Well, now is your chance. On November 13th, we observed that one of our females has eggs on her back. Currently, our other female has been in amplexus with a male so it is very likely that she will lay eggs soon. It is expected that the eggs or at least the general position of them will be noticeable for several weeks. So if you want to see one of the neatest things in the natural world, come on in and check them out! They are on exhibit on the Amazon level near the anaconda exhibit.