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Brazilian frog thrives on fruit not insects and may pollinate flowers

This is an extraordinary frog, quite unique in several ways. It is one of the oldest frog species found in the forests of Brazil. It has an odd diet: fruit rather than insects. Not only is this frog a plant eater it may also be a plant pollinator because as it eats and rests in flowers it collects pollen on its back which may be transferred to other plants thus pollinating them.

It is called the Izecksohn’s Braziliann tree frog (Xenohyla truncata). It lives in the ‘restinga’ forests in the southeastern state of Rio de Janeiro. It is active in the evenings.

Brazilian frog thrives on fruit not insects and may pollinate flowers
Brazilian frog thrives on fruit not insects and may pollinate flowers. Image: Carlos Henrique de-Oliveira-Nogueira.

Researchers led by Henrique Nogueira from the University of Mato Grosso do Sul captured videos and photographs as it visited different plant species. The frog plunges deep into the flowers of the Brazilian milk fruit tree during its foraging. The objective of the research was to better understand this frog’s favourite foods but when they studied the pictures in detail, they found that the frog carried pollen on its skin after it had left a flower.

And because of this discovery they feel that this is the only amphibian in the world that performs the process of pollination. Nogueira said:

No other amphibian in the world has ever been seen performing a function like this. There are many other pollinating animals mostly insects but also mammals, birds and even reptiles. This is the first time an amphibian has emerged as a possible member of this list of pollinators.

And they also believe that they have the first evidence of a frog species feeding on nectar of flowers in the wild.

Although, as mentioned, they aren’t sure as yet that this frog is indeed a pollinator. They will have to check secretions on the frog’s skin to see whether they damage the pollen and also to check whether the grains of pollen are actually carried to other flowers to fertilise them.

Nogueira added:

As X. truncata wonders from one plant to another before it settles in a bromeliad [a family of plants that includes the pineapple] for daytime shelter, it is likely that the above-mentioned scenario about its pollinator role actually occurs.

Their research is published in the journal Food Webs. Both this frog species and the Brazilian milk fruit tree are endangered species. It’s important that we understand the relationship between the two, to enhance their prospects of survival.

Nogueira added that:

The natural world is full of surprises and every day we are unravelling a little more about it. It has been quite a journey so far, but we are only at the beginning of it.”

Comment: it is therefore a great shame that humankind is destroying nature and the wild species that live in the forests at the very time that scientists are discovering fresh information about these forest dwelling species.

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Post Category: Amphibians