Amphibious Thinking

Amphibians, like those at left from Goldsmith's Animated Nature proved particularly ambiguous to naturalists and the general public. Here were creatures that reproduced from eggs and milt, but then grew through several remarkably various stages: some tadpoles into water dwelling-frogs, other tadpoles into land-dwelling toads, strange gilled creatures that sometimes lost their gills and sometimes did not, salamanders that could regrow entire limbs and tails if they were cut off. The Surinam toad (middle left) had young that gestated in the tiny pockets on the mother's back, after the eggs were pushed in by the male, and then emerged like so many terrifying alien parasites. Galvani used frogs for his early experiments with animal "electricity." The terrors of dead frog legs twitching would eventually emerge in Dr. Frankenstein's shuddering monster.


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