H is for Hewitt’s Ghost Frog
This gorgeous photo of Hewitt’s ghost frog was taken by Werner Conradie and is used by permission.
Hewitt’s ghost frogs are beautiful, with a cross in their eyes and attractive markings – they have a flattened shape which allows them to hide in very small crevices, and strong back legs for swimming against the fast-flowing currents in their native, mountain streams in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.
They also have other adaptations that help them in this habitat, such as large discs on their toes for clinging to rocks to avoid being swept away – their tadpoles have mouths adapted to suction onto rocks for the same reason.
They are one of an ancient family of frogs that split off from modern frogs 160 million years ago.
They are active at night and at dusk and dawn, remaining hidden in rocks, sometimes submerged, during the day. For this reason they are almost impossible to find or see, even during the breeding season.
It is not really known for sure why they are called ghost frogs – some sources say it is because they have been found in Skeleton Gorge on Table Mountain. Another reason cited is that they have white skin on their bellies which is transparent, through which their organs can be seen. One researcher suggested it is because although they can be heard, they are almost impossible to see!
They are listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Here is my Hewitt’s ghost frog poem:
Hewitt’s Ghost Frog
haunt the stream,
from the rocks,
in white, see-
through, pallid, skin –
the spirits of
the night swim.
© Liz Brownlee
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Image © Werner Conradie and used by permission.
Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved, not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.