What kind of frog/toad will this tadpole be?
November 15, 2013 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend. This tadpole was shipped to the pet store accidentally with some fish and she's taking it home with her. It's about 2-2.5 inches long.
posted by quiet coyote to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That looks like a bullfrog tadpole to me, but do you know where the shipment originated?
posted by contraption at 1:33 PM on November 15, 2013

Note that if you redo contraption's google image search for just "tadpole" instead of "bullfrog tadpole", you still get a lot of similar looking results. I'd caution you not to decide it's particular kind of frog just because it looks a lot like that frog's tadpoles, as it seems there are many types of frogs with very similar looking tadpoles.

It seems unlikely that an American Bullfrog tadpole would be in a pet store with the tropical fish. Certainly it's not impossible, but it's not like they catch those fish down in the local lake.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:50 PM on November 15, 2013

Not the local lake, but outdoor tropical fish breeding operations in the US are not unheard of. I claim no special frog expertise beyond having been a little kid who really liked catching them and learning about them, but that tadpole looks a lot like the bullfrog tadpoles I've known, and bullfrog tadpoles are pretty distinctive-looking among all the species of North American frogs I've encountered (mostly in Michigan and California.) That's not to say it couldn't be something else, and certainly all bets are off if this was an international shipment, but it looks a whole lot like an American Bullfrog or a related species.

Also, this is probably obvious, but your friend should keep that thing contained until it dies naturally or euthanize it rather than releasing it into the wild.
posted by contraption at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2013

I agree that it looks like a bullfrog tadpole (or a green frog, which are very difficult to tell apart, but I'm leaning toward bullfrog). Note also that bullfrog tadpoles are sold some places, such as pond supply companies, so it could have come from a breeding operation that is raising both fish and tadpoles (it would be helpful to know where the shipment came from).
posted by drlith at 2:21 PM on November 15, 2013

We used to get bullfrog and leopard frog tadpoles in with the shipments of goldfish at the pet stores I worked at. Maybe 2 or 3 a year? They were almost always bullfrog tadpoles (as identified by a frog expert I took a couple to, after they'd lived in a tank for 2 years without metamorphosing...) Apparently the suppliers breed/raise goldfish in big outdoor ponds, and every so often some frisky frogs will get in there too. We were not allowed to sell them (invasive species) so they were either killed or someone took them home.
posted by The otter lady at 2:35 PM on November 15, 2013

Yeah, I just used a tadpole key of all US frogs and bullfrog is the definitely the closest match.
posted by zug at 2:38 PM on November 15, 2013

Looks like the consensus is a bullfrog. Thanks!
posted by quiet coyote at 2:57 PM on November 15, 2013

I too would say bullfrog (assuming a US species, or possibly even if it came from elsewhere as bullfrogs are a common invasive in many parts of the world) just based on size. There aren't very many frog species that have tadpoles that big, but bullfrogs are one of them and in the US they are by far the most common and ubiquitous. And bullfrogs get into everything, they're the rats of the amphibian world.
posted by Scientist at 11:27 AM on November 16, 2013

I suppose it's possible that it's some exotic species though, given that it came from a pet store. I'm a herpetologist (well, a grad student herpetologist) but I'm not very good at larval identification. Tadpoles don't have very many distinct morphological features and are notoriously hard to identify anyway. (One of the main ways is to count the number of intestinal coils but even that usually only gets you to family or at best genus.)

Short of DNA barcoding, the best way to conclusively identify a tadpole is to rear it in captivity and see what kind of frog it grows up to be. If I were your friend, and assuming that the tadpole seemed reasonably happy, I would attempt to keep it alive and let it develop into a frog. She may not be up for that, especially because she would then have a frog that she would need to decide what to do with.

Whatever she does, please discourage her from releasing it into the wild, even if it's a native species – frogs in general and bullfrogs especially commonly carry the fungus that causes chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease that is one of the major worldwide causes of amphibian population declines. Chydtridiomycosis is a huge problem in amphibian conservation and we currently have no way to manage it once it's present in an area, so the only way we currently have of combating it is to try to limit its spread.

If she chooses to try to rear the tadpole, her only real options (assuming it doesn't die on its own) are to keep it for the life of the frog (or give it to someone else who will do so) or euthanize it. I'm not comfortable giving recommendations on amphibian euthanasia in a public forum, but if you want to MeMail me please do so.
posted by Scientist at 11:37 AM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

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