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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 45:331-335 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01138

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First case of male alloparental care in amphibians: tadpole stealing in Darwin’s frogs

Osvaldo Cabeza-Alfaro1, Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez2,3,4, Mario Alvarado-Rybak2,5, José M. Serrano3,6, Claudio Azat2,*

1Zoológico Nacional, Pio Nono 450, Recoleta, Santiago 8420541, Chile
2Sustainability Research Centre & PhD Programme in Conservation Medicine, Faculty of Life Sciences, Universidad Andres Bello, Republica 440, Santiago 8370251, Chile
3ONG Ranita de Darwin, Ruta T-340 s/n, Valdivia 5090000, Chile
4Instituto de Conservación, Biodiversidad y Territorio, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia 5110027, Chile
5Núcleo de Ciencias Aplicadas en Ciencias Veterinarias y Agronómicas, Universidad de las Américas, Echaurren 140, Santiago 8370065, Chile
6Museo de Zoología ‘Alfonso L. Herrera’, Departamento Biología Evolutiva, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, Mexico City 04510, Mexico
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Alloparental care, i.e. care directed at non-descendant offspring, has rarely been described in amphibians. Rhinoderma darwinii is an Endangered and endemic frog of the temperate forests of Chile and Argentina. This species has evolved a unique reproductive strategy whereby males brood their tadpoles within their vocal sacs (known as neomelia). Since 2009, the National Zoo of Chile has developed an ex situ conservation programme for R. darwinii, in which during reproduction, adults are kept in terraria in groups of 2 females with 2 males. In September 2018, one pair engaged in amplexus, with one of the males fertilizing the eggs. Twenty days later, the second male (the alloparent) ingested all of the 8 viable, recently hatched tadpoles, releasing 2 froglets 9 wk later. This unusual behaviour observed in captivity is complemented by observations in the field of male R. darwinii brooding tadpoles of markedly different sizes, possibly reflecting the brooding of tadpoles from different ovipositions. To our knowledge, this is the first documented case of male alloparental care in amphibians and an example of captive breeding programmes contributing important knowledge about the natural history of threatened species.


KEY WORDS: Allopaternal care · Rhinoderma darwinii · Neomelia · Cross-fostering · Ex situ conservation · Captive breeding


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Cite this article as: Cabeza-Alfaro O, Valenzuela-Sánchez A, Alvarado-Rybak M, Serrano JM, Azat C (2021) First case of male alloparental care in amphibians: tadpole stealing in Darwin’s frogs. Endang Species Res 45:331-335. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01138

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