Viva Variety

I’m wondering how many people actually remember that show

Anyway, we’re counting down (no we’re not) the backlog of photos that I’ve got prepped in my blog folder, that I’m skipping around non-chronologically among in an effort to not have back-to-back posts of insects, and so on. Today, we’re doing a follow-up with the tadpoles… kinda. Because these photos were taken four days ago and the development has progressed much further in the interim, but back when I obtained them, some flamboyantly-dressed psychopath was threatening our fair city, and I had to take care of that first. I’m sure you read about it.

In the last post featuring our resident amphibians, I remarked that all of those that I saw were in the same stage of development, but such was not the case this time. I captured three, and they were all quite different.

unidentified tadpole showing newly-developed hind legs
One was noticeably less developed than previously, sporting a pair of limbs that were frankly embarrassing, so of course I’m going to show them off for all to see here (“all” being the three people who might actually be reading.) And despite my efforts to show scale, those limbs just about disappeared in the broader shot, so we’ll have to go in closer.

closeup of newly-developed legs of unidentified tadpole
For all the motion that they displayed, these might as well have been tattooed onto the tail – only on rare occasions did they appear to flop freely away from the body, without any muscular control whatsoever. But I do like that they still possess their own collection of pigment spots, which are interesting in their own right. The tadpoles appear, in all normal circumstances, to be a uniform dark brown, though if you obtain the right viewing angle, the transparency of the belly skin can be apparent. Up close and under the light of the flash, the skin is revealed to be spotted randomly with patches of pigment that will shine gold at just the right light angles. This means something, but I’ll be dipped if I know what it is.

Then we have what I was expecting to find.

unidentified tadpole with further developed hind legs
This one was demonstrating not just more defined limbs, but actual muscle control, occasionally giving little push kicks with those limbs to assist with the typical fish-like tail motion that propelled it through the water. Adding the the effect was some visible development of the webbing on those hind feet.

visible webbing on developing hind limbs of unidentified tadpole
The substrate at the bottom of the tank, by the way, is typical beach sand, just to give you the impression of their diminutive size and my remarkable abilities at macro photography…

You’ll also notice that the leg is being held in a useful manner, tucked up as if it could support weight (not yet) rather than flapping around behind. Though even when settling to the bottom, the tadpole was resting its weight entirely on its rotund belly.

And then we have Mk III, the sport model.

unidentified tadpole with well-developed fore and hind limbs
Now featuring all four limbs in good development, this one was getting ready for its emergence. Not only were the limbs being held in typical supportive positions while resting (ever so briefly) on the bottom, the tadpole was now swimming in froglike fashion, almost as if it was attempting to jump through the water rather than swimming, with the tail now hanging limply and without effect. And curiously, even though I’m almost positive that they’re all from the same brood, the size difference was visible and the reverse of what I expected.

two unidentified tadpoles, likely of the same brood, showing size difference at different stages of development
I do not know whether to credit this to feeding prowess and/or genetic predisposition, or (what I consider more likely) that the body reserves were now dedicated towards muscle development. I don’t presently have an aquarium large enough to hold developing tadpoles for several days, where I could observe a few individuals to get a more complete timeline of their progress, and by now (four days later, as I said,) these specimens are all drastically different. Like the mantids, I have no way of telling individuals apart – the tiny branding irons that I ordered never arrived.

In that previous post, I figured the tadpoles were too big to be treefrogs and speculated that they were green frogs instead (the adults would just fit within your palm,) but seeing how small the one is as the limbs are well-developed, I am likely wrong about that; these could be treefrogs, though I won’t guess whether these are greens or Copes greys.

And just to give you an idea of how well developed that last one was, I left the macro aquarium alone on my desk for a short while, considering that I might examine the moss that I’d also collected for evidence of tardigrades (a photo goal for a long time now,) and the four-legged specimen released himself of his own recognizance; I found him outside of the tank, sitting nearby on my desk and trying to hide within a face mask. Upon his somewhat-tricky recapture, he showed a loathing of the water, wanting nothing to do with it, and I had to ferry him back out to the pond in another container. Even when I deposited him into the pond with its good protective cover, he headed straight for the sides and climbed out, though he waited impatiently right at the edge for me to get my vast ugly bulk out of the way. I am sure that at this point, he (and numerous siblings) are traipsing their tiny little bodies about our lawn, just to make me tiptoe through the backyard for a while.

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