Dominica’s unique amphibians
There are four species of amphibian in Dominica.
Mountain chicken (Crapaud)
- Mountain chicken (Crapaud) (Leptodactylus fallax) – this is the best known of Dominica’s amphibians. It is one of the largest frogs in the world and is now found only in Dominica and Montserrat
- Gounouj (Eleuthrodactylus amplinympha) – first discovered in 1994 and is very special since it is only found in the highlands of Dominica and nowhere else in the world
- Tink frog (Eleuthrodactylus martinicensis) – found on several islands in the Lesser Antilles
- Johnstone’s whistling frog (Eleuthrodactylus johnstonei) – introduced to Dominica in the 1980s from other islands in the region
Dominica and the Mountain chicken
The mountain chicken was the traditional national dish of Dominica before the fungus reached the Caribbean - and is name comes from the fact that its meat tastes like chicken. The frog is only found in Dominica and Montserrat, and lives mainly in the lowlands and not in the mountains. Its importance to the Dominican culture is also reflected by its inclusion in the national Coat of Arms.
This is one of the largest frogs in the world, with adult females growing up to 21cm long. It is highly variable in colour, and males are slightly smaller than females. Adults often spend the day in moist burrows and are ambush predators, swallowing any invertebrates or small vertebrates that come past.
Mountain chickens have a unique breeding strategy with a high degree of maternal care. Females produce a foam nest inside a burrow, or bowl-shaped excavation made by the male frog. Eggs are laid in this nest and both the male and the female will defend it against intruders. Now comes the interesting bit. The mother feeds the tadpoles unfertilised eggs every 3-5 days (seen here on the video) and because of this their growth is impressively rapid. Tadpoles attain lengths up to almost 15cm! After 5-6 weeks limbs emerge and the tail begins to shrink. Shortly after, the newly metamorphosed froglets will emerge from the nest and onto land. Through captive observations we know that females only produce between around 20-60 froglets per year, which is quite a low reproductive rate. However, predation is all but avoided at the usually very hazardous tadpole stage and the emergent froglets are large and have a high survival rate.
See the fantastic video of the mountain chicken tadpoles feeding: