Real Science with Tadpoles

As many of you know we are busy again this year investigating vernal pools.  Today we’ve come up with an observation that hasn’t been easily solvable.

One of the sites we frequent isn’t actually a vernal pool (in 7 years we’ve only seen it dry up once).  We call it “turtle” pond and it supports a large population of turtles and bullfrog tadpoles.  Today we were doing some catch and release of bullfrog tadpoles when we came across two unusual specimens:

Bullfrog tadpole with wormlike protrusions from mouth

The first one had several worm-like protrusions from one side of its mouth and some redness around its fins.  At first we thought perhaps it tried to eat something a bit too large to swallow, but it really looked more like intestines hanging out of its mouth.

Bullfrog tadpole with wormlike protrusion from side

We found another smaller tadpole this time with a few protrusions coming out one side.  We also observed some redness of the protrusions and the tail wasn’t in the best condition.

We released both tadpoles after taking pictures.

Given our zombie caterpillar experience from this fall we thought maybe it was some sort of tadpole parasite, but I haven’t been able to find any similar pictures.

We’re still following a couple of leads to try to find an expert who might be able to explain this.

The boys are of course a bit concerned about a parasite harming the tadpoles.

Do any of you have any insight into what might be the problem? Do you know someone who might be willing to help a couple of young citizen scientists?

UPDATE:  Our contacts at the Akron and Toledo Zoos were SO helpful.  They let us know that it probably IS intestines hanging out caused by the tadpoles being smashed or damaged.  We were really happy to find out it wasn’t anything contagious to the other tadpoles in the pond.  A special thanks to Ms. Carrie!

 

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