The World's Strangest Frogs
Frogs are amazing little animals. They have been studied for centuries by naturalists and scientists and have taught us a lot about biodiversity, the health of an ecosystem, and even the nature of reproduction. Frogs have been made characters in fairy tales, have played important roles in myths and religions, and sometimes have even hopped into the bedrooms of our children as beloved pets. Its hard not to love the common frogs we see every day, especially with their immense mosquito-eating prowess, but to truly appreciate what a frog really is we should check out just how diverse they really are. Below are some of the strangest frogs ever discovered.
The Desert Rain Frog - YouTube Sensation
The Desert Rain Frog is a strange little critter that lives off the coast of South Africa and Nambia. It probably would have stayed in obscurity if it wasn't for Dean Boshoff, a crane operator, who happened upon the creature while on a camping trip. When the Desert Rain Frog is threatened it puffs its body up as large as it can, stands as high as it can stretch, and emits a strange squeaky-toy like noise. When Boshoff uploaded a video to YouTube and titled it "The World's Cutest Frog" he probably didn't expect much but it went viral and you can see why.... its just that adorable.
World's Cutest Frog Squeaks
The Pinocchio Frog
In 2008 Paul Oliver discovered a new species of frog while he was in Indonesia camping with an international team of biologists. Or perhaps it was the other way around - the frog seemed to have discovered him. It was sitting on a bag of rice watching him when he decided to capture it. The tiny creature was a most unusual specimen with a nose that inflated with air to help it create noise. When the nose was inflated it pointed upwards, when the frog was not making any vocalizations it went back down. Not surprisingly it gained the nickname Pinocchio Frog.
Glass frogs are actually a whole family of frogs that live in trees of the Amazon rain forest. They are partially transparent and when you look at one from below you can see all of their internal organs through their skin. They live in the high canopy of the rain forest where it is almost always cloudy and are active at night. The combination of darkness and clouds makes their invisible skin the best camouflage of all. Scientists are now studying these frogs as an indicator species - a type of animal that can reflect the health of an ecosystem. A lot of frogs means there's a very healthy ecosystem going, a lessening amount of frogs means there is something going wrong. Sadly they are a vulnerable species and show it as their population decreases under environmental stress.
World's Smallest Frog
The world's smallest frog, Paedophryne amauensis, is also the world's smallest known vertebrate. This means it is even smaller than the smallest fish in the world. It is truly a sight to see - if you can. Scientist had to locate the frog by listening for its calls before bagging up leaf litter where they thought it was coming from. Only by combing through this did they find the little stinker making the noise but it wasn't for long! These charismatic little enigmas had a tendency of disappearing - jumping 30 times their own body length to get away from cameras. Perhaps this is why it was only discovered in 2010 in a New Guinean rain forest. At 7.7mm long one adult frog could literally fit inside an M&M.
Surinam Toads- The Ultimate Piggyback Ride
Surinam toads are by their nature a very strange looking animal. They are the world's flattest amphibian and already look like a pancake (or really a dead leaf) but that is not what is so unusual about them. In fact their strangeness comes from the rearing of their children. Most frog moms will lay eggs somewhere they feel is somewhat safe and leave them for nature to take its course. Not the Surinam toad, she's a mom that takes amphibian motherhood to the extreme. You see she carries her eggs with her, under a flap of skin on her back, and allows them to turn first into tadpoles and then into tiny adult toads, still under the skin of her back. Eventually when the babies are mature enough they will emerge through holes in this skin flap and swim off into the wild blue yonder. It's a sight that many people are intensely squeamish of, still I couldn't resist attaching a video. Be comforted in the fact I am sure your birth was no prettier or less gruesome in appearance.
Birth of Surinam Toads
I don't know about pigs flying but I do know there are a few adventurous frogs who have taken on the challenge! In fact there are at least 80 species of these arboreal adventurers. These frogs have large webbed feet that they use to glide from tree to tree, usually to get away from predators or to capture dinner. Some of them can glide for more than 50 feet! The Wallace's Flying Frog (also sometimes called a parachute frog) is one of the more known species and lives in Borneo. Below is a video of three different flying frogs taking a leap of faith from the treetops.
Beelzebufo - Fossil Frog from Hell
Modern day Pac Man frogs can be bought as pets but they have a reputation for eating whatever they can fit into their enormous mouths. As scary as that sounds they have a 70 million year old ancestor that would have put their apatite to shame. This new discovery called Beelzebufo (devil frog) was 16 inches long and grew over ten pounds in weight. It was vaguely the size of a beach ball. As fond as I am of frogs I think this one would have scared me a bit!
Northern Wood Frogs & Suspended Animation
Northern Wood Frogs could be the next cult classic to any sci-fi fan. You see, they hold the key to suspended animation. These frogs do not hibernate during the winter, instead the hide under leaf litter and literally freeze solid. Their heart stops beating, their brain stops making waves, all their internal organs just go kaput. You would not be crazy to think the frog would be dead at that point but its not. When the weather warms up a strange thing happens... the frogs dethaw, their heart starts beating, their brain comes back to life, and within a few hours it is up and hopping. Scientists have some of the mystery solved on how it is able to do this but we're still working on the details. For now the simplest explanation is their blood performs like antifreeze. Below is a four minute mini documentary that explains it far better than I can.