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One-eyed frog

Posted: Wednesday 19 June 2013
by Richard Jones

Last week, I took a small frog into the Natural History Club at a local primary school. I’d scooped it out of my pond earlier that afternoon...

One-eyed frog

Last week, I took a small frog into the Natural History Club at a local primary school. I’d scooped it out of my pond earlier that afternoon and delivered it in a water-filled Tupperware container with some waterweed and a few flatworms. I took a couple of newts too, in another container, but it was the frog that got most attention. “Why has it only got one eye?” someone asked. Why indeed?

I had not noticed, but sure enough one eye was dark and round and glistening, and the other was just not there. Instead, there was a shallow indentation. It’s impossible to be sure, but I guess it had its eye poked out during its dangerous journeys in and around my garden, sometime during the last year.

It was only a small frog, perhaps 4cm head to tail, so probably just one year old - still some way off the 6-10cm of an adult. So what was it doing in the pond? Received wisdom has it that after the 1.2-1.5cm froglets leave the water in summer, they do not return until they are sexually mature and ready to mate, three years later.

Then, and for the remainder of their lives (around 15 years), they only visit the water in early spring, to mate and spawn; the rest of the time they roam far and wide, skulking about in the undergrowth, sheltering under rocks and logs, or in my case the large plastic children’s sandpit shaped, very appropriately, like a frog.

A one-year-old frog is very out of place in a pond. It’s too young to reproduce, and potentially in great physical danger from the mad clamberings of the much larger adults, which scramble to cling on to mates, multiple males regularly drowning unfortunate females in the affray.

Although my frog appeared otherwise healthy, losing an eye is a heavy disadvantage to an animal that hunts by sit-and-snatch predation - without working binocular vision, it will have trouble guessing lunge distances. Hungry, weakened, altogether out of sorts, who knows what hormonal misinformation was coursing through its body, driving it to take shelter in the water when it could have been hiding under the sandpit with its two-eyed siblings.

I let it go back into the pond after the club meet, and it flop-hopped its way through the weeds. Newts and salamaders, have remarkable powers of regeneration, and some are able to re-grow whole limbs, internal organs, and even eyes. Frogs, though, are unable to do this. My one-eyed frog will be one eyed for the rest of its long or short life. There’s not much I can do to improve its lot, but as long as it stays in the pond, I’ll keep an eye on it.

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