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At this time of year ponds are filling with mating amphibians. Frogs and toads have an unusual mating habit known as amplexus from the Latin word meaning ’embrace’. The male tightly grasps the female, and then waits in this posture until the eggs emerge, at which point he fertilizes them. This prevents other males from getting in first – although it doesn’t stop them trying. It’s not uncommon to see a whole ball of toads or, less commonly, frogs, made of males trying to clasp onto one unfortunate female underneath. The urge to clasp is a strong one, and once attached, the male is hard to dislodge. Recently, visiting some friends The Ranger was asked ‘Do you want to see a fish with a frog on its head?’. I did indeed want to see this, and from the murky waters of the garden pond the following spectacle was visible:
Excuse the fuzzy photo – it was hard to see, and this is the best I could do with artificial enhancements. However there’s a much better video after the jump. We examined the unlikely pair and decided that they were best left alone for now, but not before a record was made of their union. Cat manipulated the net whilst the unfortunate fish flopped about and I filmed it as best I could. The amphibian appeared to be a male toad, and was firmly clasped to the front of the poor fish. Obviously the toad was so keen to mate that anything would do – even the head of a venerable goldfish. But, frankly, it was unlikely to be a fruitful partnership. The story ends (moderately) happily. The fish and passenger were released that time in the hope that the toad would realise its mistake. But the next day it was still firmly attached, and so the pond’s proprietor decided to take things into his own hands. The toad was gently but firmly detached, and both parties released apparently unharmed. As was reported later, it turned out that Mr Toad was holding onto the fish’s eyes ‘up to the elbows’. Urgh. Looking at the photo (above) one can definitely make out some uncomfortable-looking bulges on the fish’s face, so probably it was mighty relieved to be released from this unusual interspecies tryst.