What can this frog teach us?
What can human couples possibly learn from some frogs in Peru?
Just one little thing. How to remain utterly faithful.
The secret, according to biologist Dr Jason Brown, who has for years been studying the sex life of the frog, known as the mimic poison frog, is that the small size of the pools of water in which they lay their tadpoles prevents the frogs straying.
It works like this. After mating, the female frog lays her eggs. The male frog then takes each tadpole to a tiny pool of water which gathers in leaves high up in the branches of trees. When the tadpoles become hungry, the male calls the female to come and lay a non-fertile egg in each pool for the tadpole to eat. In sum, since the tadpoles cannot survive without the care of both parents, mimic poison frogs have been forced to stick together.
Contrast the life of the mimic poison frog with their close relative, the variable poison frog. Unlike the former species, researchers show the latter species to be promiscuous, and the reason why it is less faithful is that it lays its eggs in pools of water which are on average five times larger, and thus have more nutrients, than those used by the mimic poison frogs. That means the couples do not have to play such a big part in raising their tadpoles, allowing them to sneak off and cheat on their partners.
I wonder how similar this is to the human situation. Are some human couples with accommodation five times larger than others more likely to be promiscuous? Are those who have to spend virtually all their time and effort taking care of the family and raising children forced to stick together?
There is one little catch though. Even this frog species that Dr Brown dubbed as "a truly monogamous amphibian" is not completely faithful. The DNA test Dr Brown conducted showed that of 12 families of mimic poison frogs, only 11 couples remained continually faithfully. In the twelfth family, a male frog mated with two females.