Plate 59

Male Suriname Toad, with Eggs on Back (Deposited There by Female), Shells and Flowering Plant, 1705-1771

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The Suriname toad has a remarkable reproductive cycle. During mating the female releases her eggs, which the male helps to embed in the skin of her back. Pockets form around the eggs and the tadpoles are allowed to develop into small frogs. Merian was one of the earliest naturalists to investigate the metamorphosis of amphibians. She found the Surname toad to be particularly fascinating, writing that when she observed the young crawling out of the mother's back, "I threw the female and her young into brandy" to preserve the specimens. She also recorded, "These toads are eaten by the natives, who consider them to be a good dish." Two shells are shown at the bottom; one clearly contains a hermit crab. "I had these shells brought up from the bottom of the sea in order to see what kind of creatures live in them…I pulled a number out with force and established they were a variety of crab," said the curious Merian. The aquatic plant is Sesuvium portulacastrum (Linnaeus), which she observed was "used as a kind of spinach or in a salad."

Details
Title
Male Suriname Toad, with Eggs on Back (Deposited There by Female), Shells and Flowering Plant
Artist Life
1647-1717
Role
Artist
Accession Number
P.18,727
Catalogue Raisonne
Nissen: 1342; Cat. Ger. Nat'l Museum, 1967
Curator Approved

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Plate 59