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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Animal Of The Week : The Gastric Brooding Frog

This week, we take on the role of a herpetologist.

No need to fret—this has nothing to do with the study of genital infections, as its name might suggest. Rather, herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians; my personal favourite of which is the gastric brooding frog. This is a genus of frogs, consisting of only two species, both of which are native to Australia. Scientists were baffled when they examined the stomach contents of a female gastric brooding frog for the first time. Rather than an assortment of delicious critters in various states of digestion, as they’d expected, a large number of the frog’s own eggs were found. At first, this was thought to be cannibalistic behaviour until it was noted that the eggs were all still alive. Remarkably, the female gastric brooding frog ingests her own eggs after fertilisation, switches off her digestive functions, and allows her babies to grow into juvenile frogs before ‘orally birthing’ them. Extensive medical research surrounds these animals, as it was
thought that scientists could learn how to prevent stomach ulcers from them.

Unfortunately, before any miracle cures could be found, these little guys’ numbers plummeted to extinction—leaving us with a stomach full of ulcers, and not a bellyfull of brooding babies in sight.

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