First case of male alloparental care in amphibians: tadpole stealing in Darwin’s frogs

Osvaldo Cabeza-Alfaro, Andrés Valenzuela-Sánchez, Mario Alvarado-Rybak, José M. Serrano, Claudio Azat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Alloparental care, i.e. care directed at non-descendant offspring, has rarely been described in amphibians. Rhinoderma darwinii is an Endangered and endemic frog of the tem - perate forests of Chile and Argentina. This species has evolved a unique reproductive strategy whereby males brood their tadpoles within their vocal sacs (known as neomelia). Since 2009, the National Zoo of Chile has developed an ex situ conservation programme for R. darwinii, in which during reproduction, adults are kept in terraria in groups of 2 females with 2 males. In September 2018, one pair engaged in amplexus, with one of the males fertilizing the eggs. Twenty days later, the second male (the alloparent) ingested all of the 8 viable, recently hatched tadpoles, releasing 2 froglets 9 wk later. This unusual behaviour observed in captivity is complemented by observations in the field of male R. darwinii brooding tadpoles of markedly different sizes, possibly reflecting the brooding of tadpoles from different ovipositions. To our knowledge, this is the first documented case of male alloparental care in amphibians and an example of captive breeding programmes contributing important knowledge about the natural history of threatened species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-335
Number of pages5
JournalEndangered Species Research
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Allopaternal care
  • Captive breeding
  • Ex situ conservation
  • Neomelia·Cross-fostering
  • Rhinoderma darwinii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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