STL Science Center

STL Science Center

23 September 2015

Portmanteaus are Fun

Previously I mentioned the origins of the name Beelzebufo ampinga, but not why the portmanteau was chosen. The specific epithet of the Malagasy word "shield" is reflected in the shape of the head of the frog and also in the fact that there is some evidence that the dermatocranium of Beelzebufo may have had some rough scales or dermal scutes protecting the top of its body and head. The rugosities at the very least point to a dermally protected head, but we can hypothesize that this scuted armor potentially extended caudally from the head as well. This may be the least drastic hypothesis concerning this frog ever. The devilish part of the frog's name comes from its hypothesized relationship to the extant genus Ceratophrys (and the family encompassing the genus, Ceratophryidae) which includes frogs with supraorbital horns accentuating the apex of the head. This explains why many of the illustrations of Beelzebufo include supraorbital horns. The relationships, though, are more important in that Beelzebufo has been used as evidence that frogs in India, Madagascar, Africa, and South America are all related, partially through Beelzebufo and that, therefore, their ancestors all once inhabited the super continent Gondwanaland which must have split apart, isolating Beelzebufo and the Ceratophrys' common ancestor sometime during the late Cretaceous. That common ancestor then differentiated over time into the ancestor of extant South American Ceratophrys frogs and Beelzebufo. I think what we all really want is a time machine so we can see these changes because frogs, often forgotten by the populace, have a rich and intriguing history that is not terribly well understood, though we can say that about even the best understood lineages.

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