Frogs with Benefits: "Ride-it, Ride-it!"

Khryss | Published 2017-08-26 16:11

Talk about a huge leap on ecology, researchers have spotted one of the most bizarre things in life: tiny frogs mounted on the shaggy hair of water buffalos in Turkey.

A new study has found that a menagerie of marsh frogs hop onboard the domesticated Anatolian water buffalo during Autumn. Typically, a number of kinds of birds forage on top of large mammals, including cattle, rhinos, and zebras, but this would be the first time that scientists have described such a relationship between large mammals and amphibians.

As most amazing discoveries are made, this observation by Piotr Zduniak was accidental.

Zduniak, an ecologist at Poland's Adam Mickiewicz University was the one who saw the spectacular scenario while bird-watching in the Kizilirmak Delta (one of the Middle East's largest wetlands). The next autumn, Zduniak and his colleagues returned to northern Turkey and examined 10 more occasions wherein marsh frogs clambered on to buffalo backs and heads.

Although the average number of fam-phibians (hehe) per ungulate was between 2 and 5, according to the paper in the journal Acta Herpetologica, one buffalo was mounted on by an unbelievable number of 27 frogs.

Similar to birds feeding on large mammals, these frogs were eating insects that lived in the buffalos' shaggy coat. It has been observed as well that the foraging frogs jump on the buffalo during fall, since that is when frog numbers are plentiful and competition for food is rampant. And not just that, the buffalos also benefit from its amphibian friends by removing disease-causing flies and parasites.

More than just a provider of free meals, Zduniak notes that the warm bodied mammals serve as living heaters for the cold-blooded amphibians -- which is essential when there is low temperature.

It's now being theorized that the phenomenon could be considered as mutualism -- a reciprocal behaviour among species that benefits both parties -- something rare between vertebrates.

As was mentioned, other examples of this phenomenon include species that work together, like birds that combine species flocks to watch out for predators, and turtles that groom warthogs.

 For this bizarre partnership to qualify as mutualistic, however, more evidence is needed to show a considerable benefit for each party.

Time to take another leap then!

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!