STL Science Center

STL Science Center

18 September 2015

Terrifying Frogs

All of the thoughts and discussion on amphibians the past week made me really want to look up some of the other groups of amphibious animals that are represented in the fossil record. As much as we all claim that the fossil record is awful and does not do much for us in the way of preserving enough life, there is a lot of quality frog data in the fossil record. One of the latest and largest finds is a frog that has been named Beelzebufo ampinga. The genus name is a combination of Beelzebub and bufo, the "Lord of the Flies" from Semitic culture (not meaning specifically Hebrew culture but the collective cultures of southwestern Asia around the time that Hebrew culture was "born") and the Latin word for toad, respectively. The specific epithet, ampinga, comes from the Malagasy word for shield. The enormous frog weighed in at 40 cm (16 in) and 4 kg (9 lb), larger than any living frog. The fossils came to light in 1993, but were not described until 2007, and as such the giant frog is new to popular science. Even if it was not, its enormous size, for a frog, make this fossilized amphibian popular and intriguing. The image and caption below is from the following reference:

Evans S, Groenke J, Jones M, Turner A, Krause D (2014). "New Material of Beelzebufo, a Hyperossified Frog (Amphibia: Anura) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar". PLOS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0087236. PMID 24489877. PMC: 3905036.
Three-dimensional digital reconstruction of skeleton of Beelzebufo ampinga highlighting sources of material for reconstruction. A, dorsal view; and B, right lateral view (with left limbs removed for visual clarity). Beelzebufo specimens used in model in dark blue. Light grey cranial and vertebral materials inferred from known morphology of Beelzebufo specimens, primarily through mirror-imaging. Dark grey jaws and postcranial elements modelled on large female specimen of Ceratophrys aurita (LACM 163430)

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