5.”Egg eating” Dart Frogs
Like all of the “dart” or “arrow” frogs, the vivid colors of the genus Oophaga are a warning sign to predators that their flesh packs an almost invariably fatal poison, though even the most venomous cold blooded animals have their sweet side – Males and females of this genus both engage in extensive parental care, and the “egg eating” is not what you might think. Females will lay only three to five fertile eggs after mating, and transport each individual tadpole (clinging to her back by a sucker) to its own separate pool of water, often in the cup-like base of a bromeliad plant. Mom will continuously make her rounds, checking up on each tadpole and laying unfertilized eggs in their pools as their primary food source. Males, meanwhile, are capable of carrying water in their cloacas (both the anal and reproductive opening) to keep eggs and larvae from drying out.
4. Turtle Frog
The only species in its unique genus, Australia’s Myobatrachus gouldii is even more divergent than the purple frog, having adapted to a mole-like existence of tunneling underground and breaking into termite nests, poking their comically small heads into the bug’s burrows and slurping them up. Rather than reproducing in water like a majority of other Anura, turtle frogs breed in their burrows and young skip past the tadpole phase, remaining in their eggs until they’ve formed into pin-headed burrowers themselves.
3. The Gastric Brooding Frog
Another one that has to end on a sad note, genus Rheobatrachus included only two species native to a small part of Eastern Australia, disappearing from our world in the same decade as the golden toad. Anatomically unusual for Australian frogs in almost every way, the two species seemingly evolved along their own unique path from any other known amphibians, having developed breeding practices observed nowhere else in nature. For up to six weeks, a female gastric brooding frog would carry her eggs and tadpoles directly in her stomach, her digestive functions and feeding behavior ceasing and her lungs even shrinking to accommodate her stomach’s rapid expansion. Releasing the young frogs was a gradual process often spaced out over many days, though in the case of sudden predator attack, she could essentially projectile vomit all her little ones in a last desperate effort to save their lives. The exact cause of their extinction is still uncertain.
2. The Hairy Frog
Trichobatrachus robustus is so named for a unique growth of hair-like filaments developed by males only during the breeding season. Filled with tiny blood vessels, these “hairs” are thought to aid the male in extracting oxygen from the water, as he will spend long periods of time protecting the submerged eggs. This alone is fairly unusual, but the species has possesses a rather gruesome defensive adaptation observed nowhere else in the animal kingdom; when grasped by some other animal, the frog essentially breaks the bones in its own toes and pushes them out through the skin, exposing sharpened points suitable for use as tiny claws. Like the equally hairy Wolverine, these “claws” eventually draw back inside and are quickly healed over.
1. The Giant Prehistoric Devil Toad
While Tyrannosaurus rex was chomping the bones of behemoths in the late Cretaceous period, another massive predator was terrorizing the swamps and marshes of what is now Madagascar. At sixteen terrifying inches in length, the humorously named Beelzebufo ampinga (derived from “Beelzebub,” a name sometimes attributed to satan, and “bufo” or “toad”) was larger than any frog or toad alive today, though otherwise similar to modern members of Ceratophryinae, the horned or “pac-man” frogs. Like its living relatives, Beelzebufo had tiny, bony projections in its upper jaw functioning as teeth, and likely sat motionless along muddy, mossy banks until oblivious prey wandered too close…prey that could have easily included tiny, recently hatched dinosaurs.