Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Archey’s Frog

Leiopelma archeyi
The Archey's Frog is a very primitive looking species, in that it looks very much like 150 million year old fossils. It also has some anatomical features that are rather uncommon, including tail wagging muscles (but no tail), no external eardrums, an extra back vertebrae, and no true vocal chords. Some females also have a special extra W-Chromosome, which determines sex.

There are four species within the Leiopelmatidae family, a group that diverged from all other frogs around 200 million years ago. This fact isn't surprising when you learn that they hail from New Zealand, a location whose eventual split off and isolation led it to evolve all sorts of creatures found no where else in the world (Tuatara and Kakapo anyone?)

The Archey's Frog (named for former Director of the Auckland Institute and Museum, Sir Gilbert Archey) is the smallest member of its family. The females can reach sizes of about 37mm, while males are a bit smaller at 31mm. They are terrestrial and nocturnal, and they even lay their eggs on land (in damp soil and leaf litter).

Because of their terrestrial lifestyle, the Archey's Frogs do not metamorphose from tadpole to adult. They actually hatch as tiny little froglets. The males will guard over their eggs, and then the froglets, even letting their offspring ride around on their backs.

Archey's Frogs are listed as Critically Endangered, and the population has been on the decline since at least 1996 (when a study specifically targeting decline was done). Climate change, habitat loss, and the introduction of predators and competing animals are all factors that have affected the species. Archey's Frogs are protected by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and their population continues to be monitored.

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : New Zealand
Size : Length up to 35mm
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Amphibia -- Order : Anura
Family : Leiopelmatidae -- Genus : Leiopelma -- Species : L. archeyi

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