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Unusual breeding behavior reported in treefrogs for the first time

Tadpoles hatch in water pools in leaves and transfer to a nearby stream to complete development

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IMAGE: Paranapiacaba Treefrog couple in an amplexus in a bromeliad leaf-tank view more 

Credit: Leo R. Malagoli

Paranapiacaba Treefrogs (Bokermannohyla astartea) mate and lay spawn in small pools of water inside the tanks of bromeliad plants, Leo Ramos Malagoli from the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil and colleagues report in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. The 3cm-long tadpoles must then make their way to a stream to complete development. The study, publishing February 17, is the first to report this unusual reproductive strategy in frogs.

The researchers spent 11 years collecting data on the courtship behaviours, mating, spawning, and tadpole development in this little-known species, which is endemic to the Atlantic Forests of Brazil. They observed Paranapiacaba Treefrog males calling from bromeliad ponds (known as 'leaf-tanks') located on the banks of streams. Females mated with males inside the leaf-tanks and laid their spawn there, but the researchers found that the tadpoles did not complete their entire development in the tanks. Tadpoles at or beyond the 26th stage of development were found exclusively in the neighbouring stream, suggesting that they fall, jump, or are washed out of the tank to complete their development in a large body of water, the authors say.

Many species of frog mate in leaf tanks, because they offer a safe location away from predators and competitors. But the frogs usually relocate to lay their eggs in ponds or streams, or the tadpoles remain in the tank until adulthood. The unusual developmental strategy reported for Paranapiacaba Treefrogs allows the tadpoles to grow in a safe location, and to escape before limited food and space in the leaf tank runs out. The authors suggest that high summer rainfall in the Atlantic forests of southeast Brazil may have helped this unique strategy evolve. The study adds to the remarkable reproductive diversity of frogs, which exhibit the largest number of different breeding strategies of all four-legged vertebrates.

The authors add: "[This paper describes] a new reproductive mode in anurans recorded in an endemic treefrog of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest."

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Citation: Malagoli LR, Pezzuti TL, Bang DL, Faivovich J, Lyra ML, Giovanelli JGR, et al. (2021) A new reproductive mode in anurans: Natural history of Bokermannohyla astartea (Anura: Hylidae) with the description of its tadpole and vocal repertoire. PLoS ONE 16(2): e0246401. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246401

Funding: Funding: This work was part of L. R. M.'s PhD degree. L. R. M. thanks Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for doctoral fellowship (grant #141259/2014-0). For financial support, we thank São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) (grants #2008/54472-2, #2008/50928-1, #2013/50741-7, #2014/50342-8, and #2014/23677-9). T. L. P. thanks Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) for PROTAX fellowship (grant #440665/2015-9) and CNPq for "Ciência Sem Fronteiras" fellowship (grant #202081/2015-0). D. L. B. thanks FAPESP for doctoral fellowship (grant #2017/27137-7). J. F. thanks Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT PICT 2015-820), and FAPESP (grant #2018/15425-0). M. L. L. thanks FAPESP for fellowship (grant #2017/26162-8). J. G. R. G. thanks CAPES for doctoral fellowship (Financing Code 001). C. F. B. H., R. J. S and P. C. A. G. thanks CNPq for research productivity fellowship (grants # 306623/2018-8, #312795/2018-1, #310301/2018-1, respectively). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0246401

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