Photograph courtesy Jodi Rowley, Australian Museum
Vampire frog tadpoles have small black fangs. Photograph courtesy Jodi Rowley, Australian Museum
Published January 7, 2011
The mountain jungles of Vietnam are home to a new breed of "vampire"—a "flying" tree frog dubbed Rhacophorus vampyrus.
First found in 2008, the 2-inch-long (5-centimeter-long) amphibian is known to live only in southern Vietnamese cloud forests, where it uses webbed fingers and toes to glide from tree to tree.
Adults deposit their eggs in water pools in tree trunks, which protects their offspring from predators lurking in rivers and ponds.
"It has absolutely no reason to ever go down on the ground," said study leader Jodi Rowley, an amphibian biologist at the Australian Museum in Sydney.
However, that trick isn't what earned the species its bloodsucking name. Rather, it's the strange curved "fangs" displayed by its tadpoles, which the scientists discovered in 2010.
"When I first saw them by looking through a microscope, I said, 'Oh my God, wow,'" said Rowley, whose research is funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Conservation Trust. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)
Frog Fangs Still a Mystery
Tadpoles normally have mouthparts similar to a beak. Instead, vampire tree frog tadpoles have a pair of hard black hooks sticking out from the undersides of their mouths—the first time such fangs have been seen in a frog tadpole. (See more frog pictures.)
The scientists do not yet know what purpose the fangs serve. However, frogs that raise tadpoles in tree-trunk water holes often feed their young by laying unfertilized eggs as meals. The fangs, Rowley speculated, could help in slicing these open.
The new vampire flying frog species was formally described on December 21 in the journal Zootaxa.
Scientists recently captured a rare video of an oarfish, but what's the real significance of the underwater footage?
Skywatchers can witness the biggest supermoon of 2013 and several other lunar events this week.
Police are still looking for environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval's murderers, while the episode has more Costa Ricans talking about the links between poaching and drug trafficking.
Celebrating 125 Years
Connect With Nat Geo
Special Ad Section
Shop National Geographic
Great Energy Challenge Blog
- Study Says: Hey, You, Get Onto the Cloud (It Saves Energy)
- Who Will Swelter This Summer? The Pressures on the Nation’s Power Grid
- Tar Sands Tour: Boomtown, Scarecrows, and Spin; “We Have Met the Enemy, and He is Us”
- Climate Change: China, U.S. Bring Toy Fire Truck to Seven-Alarm Fire
- Student Infographic Contest Paints Bright Picture of Youth Concern on Energy and Climate