Imprimir Republish


Frog equipped with ant-repellant

Albertina Pimentel Lima/INPA Lithodytes lineatus: shield allows young to develop inside anthillsAlbertina Pimentel Lima/INPA

Yellow-striped Amazonian frogs (Lithodytes lineatus) lay their eggs inside foam nests that they build amidst colonies of leaf-cutting ants of the genus Atta. Their young then grow among the ants without ever being attacked. In his master’s thesis at the National Institute for Research on the Amazon (INPA), biologist André de Lima Barros showed that the secret to this coexistence lies in a substance that covers the amphibian’s body. The 10 yellow-striped frogs that Barros placed at the entrance of ant colonies were not attacked, whereas 20 frogs from other species averaged 20 bites each (Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology, October 20, 2016). To confirm the existence of a chemical shield covering their skin, Barros coated 10 members of a species that does not usually live among ants (Rhinella major) with L. lineatus skin extract, while others were dampened only with water. The treated frogs made it through the ant defenses unscathed – except when they jumped on top of the ants, and even then, the insects stopped quickly after their first bite. This mechanism permits this unusual coexistence, where the young develop fully from egg to adult, completing their metamorphosis in the anthill.