Nature: All about the frogs
Have you noticed that every pond and ditch you look into is full of frogspawn? The recent mild, wet weather is obviou...sly suiting some! This frogspawn was created in late February and early March with much fanfare.
Frogs hibernate for the winter – well, they have to really in these climes as they are carnivores and there are no flies for them to dine on. You will be glad to know they have separate sleeping quarters. The males hibernate at the bottom of the ponds they were born in. As they are amphibians, they can absorb oxygen directly from the water through their skin. The females spend the winter at the bottom of damp ditches (or gripes or sheuchs depending on what part of the country they happen to be in). When spring comes, they all wake up and their thoughts immediately turn to love.
The males patrol their ponds, advertising their presence by croaking loudly. The females hasten to the scene of the action in such numbers that they can actually be a traffic hazard crossing the road, as occurred between Donegal and Enniskillen recently. Apparently they are attracted by the smell of the pond – as produced by the plants there. When they arrive, the excitement is palpable – the males are so wired up they will try to mate with any other individual they can catch. However, females are distinguishable – even in a frenzy – by the rough, pearly granules of their skin, so if a male finds himself grasping a smooth-skinned partner, he lets him go sharpish.
Males have a nuptial pad on the first finger of each of their front limbs. This consists of two swollen lumps on each finger. Males always have these, (that's how you can tell what gender they are) but during the mating season they are attractively covered with a dense coat of black horny spicules. When at last the male manages to encounter a female, he climbs on her back and clasps his front limbs around her, the nuptial pads giving him a firm grip. She discharges her eggs in a mass into the water and the male fertilises them in the water.
And that's it really. The now much slimmer female wriggles free from his embrace, swims away to the edge of the pond, climbs out and departs without so much as a backward glance. She will not visit the pond again for a year. He hangs about for a while, hoping to encounter another willing female so he can repeat the whole performance again but he too leaves when there is no more action. So the fertilised eggs are on their own. They absorb water, swell up and rise to the surface, and if the pond has been a popular dance hall, the pond will be full of frogspawn. This is the scene at the moment up and down the country. When will they hatch out? Will all the tadpoles survive? Where do the grown-up frogs go? Watch this space for another thrilling installment soon.