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Male Frogs, Explosive Breeding, and Necrophilia

Male Frogs, Explosive Breeding, and Necrophilia

explosive breeding frogs

Many frog species exhibit something called explosive breeding. This is essentially a short breeding season wherein there is intense male:male competition for mates.

explosive breeding frogs
Photo by Maxime Gilbert on Unsplash

Often, many males will attempt to court the same female. The females are only sexually “available” for a short window of time.

Explosive breeding is a desperate time for males of many anuran (frog and toad) species. It may be their only chance to pass on their biological blueprints. Such intense competition over a short space of time can undoubtely lead to courtship mistakes.

Such is the case in several species of frogs that exhibit both explosive breeding and amplexus behaviour. This is a form of mate-guarding where a male will vigorously clasp the female to prevent her from engaging in sexual activity with others.

Males performing amplexus often clasp females of the wrong species. THis leads to misdirected courtship that prevents both male and female from achieving a high level of biological success. Male frogs have also been known to mistakenly grasp dead females, salamanders, floating debris, or even the hands of a human trying to observe the action.

In some species where adults are terrestrial but mating takes place in the water, females end up being crushed or drowned by sex-crazed males.


Necrophiliac Frogs

This loss of life during explosive breeding is the unfortunate reality for females of the Amazonian frog Rhinella proboscidea. In fact, it is such a frequent occurrence in this species that males have evolved a “functional necrophilia” reproductive strategy. They promote extraction of the oocytes from the abdomens of dead females and fertilize them in a post-mortem necrophiliac fashion.

This strategy might sound appalling, but it functions to increase the reproductive success of both the females and the males.


This post is an adapted excerpt from my book “Wild Sex: The Science Behind Mating in the Animal Kingdom



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