Tadpoles distorted by curved glass. This is a vision right out of my pre-school days. I believed that a jar was wasted if it didn’t contain water and some type of aquatic creature. Tadpoles were always one of my favorites.
A storm dropped nearly two inches of rain and brought the pond back to life. In just a few hours the pond went from a shallow puddle to this healthy pool.
Tadpoles that had been crowded together in the last bit of water were suddenly released to travel the open water. Algae in the puddle made it impossible to estimate the number of tadpoles present, but judging by the masses of tadpoles in the open water, they must have been very tightly packed into the last remnants of the pond water.
These are Wood Frog tadpoles. They’ve had their problems this season, but it now looks as though they’ll make it to metamorphosis. First the eggs were almost left hanging in the dogwood branches because of high flood water followed by rapidly falling water levels and now they just came within days of having their water disappear completely.
Wood Frogs breed within a short time span, so the entire population of tadpoles grows together with little variation in size of developmental stage.
Rows of rasping teeth around the mouth are used to scrape algae and other material from submerged surfaces.
An iridescent membrane hides the tadpole’s internal organs, but the spiral of intestines is still clearly visible. As a child, my favorites were species that had a transparent abdomen that allowed clear observation of the working intestines.
A tadpole’s function is to eat. Material is constantly moving through the intestines and out. These tadpoles were confined for less than two minutes, but they were filling the water with poop. Their nutrient rich droppings sustain new populations of bacteria and algae which the tadpoles then consume. It’s a cycle that helps maintain a diverse population of species in the temporary water body. I’m now looking forward to watching the little froglets leave the water.