Species: Mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The oddly-named mountain chicken is so called because its meat is said to taste like chicken!
The curious mountain chicken is one of the largest frogs in the world, with adult females growing up to a remarkable 21 centimetres in length. A sit-and-wait predator with a voracious appetite, this gluttonous frog consumes almost anything that can be swallowed whole. It is well camouflaged against its habitat and remains still for long periods of time, before ambushing its prey, usually at night. Its diet is highly varied, but it is thought to be strictly carnivorous, largely consuming crickets, although millipedes, insects, crustaceans, and even small vertebrates, such as other frogs, snakes and small mammals, are all eaten. The mountain chicken has a highly unusual method of reproduction, as unlike most other amphibians which breed in water, this frog breeds in underground burrows around 50 centimetres deep. Once the tadpoles have hatched, the female mountain chicken lays as many as 25,000 unfertilised eggs upon which the tadpoles then feed as they are developing.
An unfortunate victim of hunting, disease, natural disasters and habitat loss, the mountain chicken population has recently undergone catastrophic declines, estimated at around 80 percent since 1995. It is also at risk from the deadly chytridiomycosis fungus. The Durrell Wildlife Trust have now established a captive breeding population to form the basis of a safety-net population should the species become extinct in the wild.
Read more about the mountain chicken on the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust website.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author