Embryos react to dereliction of parental care
Courtesy of J. Delia
If deadbeat dads among frogs shirk their parental duties, neglected egg clutches can respond by hatching early.
Eggs laid on the undersides of leaves by the glass frogs Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni depend entirely on fathers for care. And, says Jesse Delia of Boston University, “some are just bad dads.”
Males keep the eggs hydrated by gradually absorbing water from a wet spot and then releasing it over the course of about 40 minutes to an egg clutch. A diligent dad may make five or six water trips a night. But he also has to fight off rival males encroaching on his territory and court the mothers of his next egg batches.
Embryos neglected in his crowded schedule can eventually hatch early if they’ve had at least three days of care, Delia and his colleagues report April 30 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (Clutches hatched successfully as early as 12 days after