Sunday, July 9, 2017

Suriname Toad, Pipa pipa (Family Pipidae)

Size: Large aquatic frogs, up to 200 mm SVL; sexual dimorphism not reported.

Identification: Dorsal skin dark brown/gray with many small dark brown tubercles which end in small sharp points; ventral skin paler. Head and body flattened and wide. Head almost triangular in shape with a short straight-ending snout; eyes very small; tympanum is hidden; mouth as wide as the head, no tongue. Forelimbs are long and slender, with long unwebbed fingers terminating in four small projections, each sub-divided. Hind limbs powerful, with wide feet, toes fully webbed. 

Vocalization: The call is said to be a subtle ‘click’ made underwater.

Similar species: Pipa pipa cannot be confused with any other species.

Distribution and habitat: The genus Pipa contains seven species inhabiting wetlands through much of South America. P. pipa is often known as the Suriname Toad, but outside the Guianas, the Pipa Toad is a more appropriate common name. P. pipa is found from Peru and Bolivia north to the Guianas and Trinidad, but not Tobago. Widely distributed in Trinidad at lower elevations in swamps and slow-moving turbid streams.

Biology: The habits of Pipa Toads have not been studied in the wild. In aquaria, adults sit motionless on the bottom, with their arms held forwards and wide apart; they capture fish very rapidly by opening the mouth wide and apparently shoveling the fish in using the arms. During mating, the fertilized eggs become individually embedded in the hormonally softened skin of the female’s back; each egg is covered by a thin capsule and develops there until around the stage of metamorphosis; the young emerge as fully metamorphosed miniature adults, or they may retain a short tail for a few days.
Tadpoles: If a free-swimming tadpole stage occurs, it is at Gosner stage 42 or later, with the tail regressing over a few days.

Conservation status: Least Concern on account of its abundance and wide distribution. Note that recent efforts to find this frog on Trinidad have not been successful.

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