Beelzebufo the Frog

From The Times
February 19, 2008
Gargantuan prehistoric frog with the Devil’s own appetite snacked on young dinosaurs

Lewis Smith

MADAGASCAR An ancient amphibian big enough to prey on young dinosaurs has been identified as the heavyweight champion of the frog world.

Analysis of fossilised remains of Hell’s frog, reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has shown that it was the size of a beachball when it waddled the Earth 70 million years ago.

Its vast girth made it the heaviest frog ever known and researchers were so awed by its diabolical appearance that they named it after the Devil. Beelzebufo would have lain in wait to capture primitive mammals, large insects and even small dinosaurs in its capacious mouth. Its closest relatives that are alive today are horned toads, and observations of their behaviour suggest that Hell’s frog would have tried to eat virtually anything that moved. Many owners of horned toads say that their pets try to bite their hands or arms.

Hell’s frog had a 40cm-long body and short, stumpy legs. It may have crawled under leaf mould, leaving a few toes on view to act as bait, or perhaps have buried itself in sand.

The frog was closely related to amphibians found today in South America but the remains were found in Madagascar, lending weight to the idea that the island, and the Indian sub-continent, broke away from South America much later than the commonly accepted 120 million years ago, said researchers from University College London.


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