Frogs are mostly viewed as slimy little monsters that make a lot of noise in ponds and on trees, but there is so much more to these amphibians. There are more than 4000 species of frogs around the world surviving all kinds of harsh environments. This makes frogs one of the greatest survivors of any species on earth. Their diverse adaptations and ability to conform to their situation is astonishing. They rival human beings in beating the odds to stay alive. From the survivors of the harshest deserts to the shiny dwellers of green rain forests, these are the ten most bizarre frog species in the world.
1 The Flying Frog
The discovery of this species in 2012 shocked everyone because frogs are expected to hop and croak not glide 50ft from tree to tree. Having to run away from swift snakes in the trees forced the frog to become the first flying amphibian to gain an advantage in hunts and flights. Apart from its flight ability, this frog is relatively similar to its common cousins in terms of breeding and eating habits. It lives on tree tops most of the time descending only during the short mating season to mate and lay eggs in the water.
Their primary source of food is insects which also explains the need for their strange adaptation. When threatened or hunting, this frog leaps and spreads its webbed legs which allow it to stay in flight like a bird. The toes are also equipped with thickened skin that provides suction for smooth landings. These adaptations make the frog the greatest survivor of the Malaysian forests where the species was discovered.
2 The Glass Frog
This frog is easily mistaken for a tree frog except for their forward-facing eyes. Most species are tiny, measuring no more than 30mm making it hard to notice in the leaves. The attraction, however, is in the frog’s underbelly. When turned over, the transparent skin of the frog allows you to see its internal organs including the beating heart, lungs and the intestines. It is the most strange form of camouflage of any species, instead of hiding, they let the prey see right through them. Their translucent skin does not make them any weaker; they survive better than other species in their habitat with territorial males just like other frog species. They dominate many parts of Central and South America spending most of the time up in the trees.
3 The Turtle Frog
This frog provides the best insight into what turtles would look like of their shells were removed, well, if not for the pink pigmentation. They look exactly like small turtle growing up to 5cm in length with a little head, small eyes, and short, powerful arms. Their main differentiating factor is the pink pigmentation and their unique breeding behavior. Unlike most frogs which use hind legs to dig burrows, turtle frogs use their front legs, but they can still dig up a 1.2-meter hole. They also mate after the summer rain like most frogs, except they do it in the burrows where there is no water.
They can actually survive independently from water as they live and breed in sandy soils. They feast mostly on termites. Their young skip the tadpole stage, one of the few frogs that skip this stage, explaining their 7.5mm eggs which are the largest of any frog. They dominate the coastal regions of Western Australia.
4 The Goliath Frog
These are the largest frogs on earth and also one of the most endangered species. Most of the largest males are now kept in zoos in the US, but they are endemic to Cameroon. These frogs grow up to 12 inches in height and 32cm in length rivaling the largest domestic cat. Frogs make the best meals for some people, and the Tropical African forests where these frogs dominate is also a frog death zone. Their large size makes them a prime victim of hunting. Scientists believe that large males may soon become extinct if conservation measures are not put in place.
Their large size has to be maintained by more food so they eat pretty much any little creature that can fit in the mouth including other frogs. They have become common in frog jumping competitions. Their long powerful hind limbs can generate an astonishingly high leap compared to other frog species.
5 The Black Rain Frog
This frog is famously known as the grumpiest frog in the world. It has a very short snout with relatively deep lodged black eyes giving it a kind of scary appearance that easily scares off any approaching danger. Despite this appearance, these frogs are very considerate and also great parents. They puff into little black balloons if someone threatens to pick them or pull them out of their burrow. They dig holes up to 150mm deep just like other species and fertilize externally.
The females release a sticky substance to keep the males from falling off when mating; this is a very compassionate act that most frogs don’t do. The male also keeps watch of the eggs scaring off any intruders until the eggs hatch. They are endemic to South Africa and not in any imminent danger because no one is hunting them for food like the goliaths.
6 The Vietnamese Mossy Frog
The Northern forests of Vietnam are home to these masters of camouflage. Their whole bodies look like a lump of moss including the eyes. They live on rocks in flooded caves and river banks where they perfectly blend in with the moss layers making them utterly invisible once they are immobile. Their diet is typical for most frogs consisting of large insects. Their breeding also happens in the rainy season, the female lays eggs on the leaves or rocks above the water surface, and the larvae drop into the water after hatching.
They are a difficult species to locate because their cries can only be heard up to 3 meters away. They also maintain a very low profile hunting only at night to avoid predators. When spotted, the Vietnamese moss frog rolls into a round ball and plays dead until the danger is gone. Their perfect hiding capabilities make them one of the hardest species to study in the wild.
7 The Hairy Frog
The “hair” on this peculiar frog species is actually a modified type of gills called papillae that show up on the males in the breeding season to increase oxygen intake. Like the Goliath frog, the hairy frog is also native to Cameroon and hence endangered because it is hunted for food. However, the hair is not the main wonder of this amphibian. The hairy frog is also called the wolverine frog or the horror frog because of its strange abilities to release claws when threatened.
This behavior is so strange, it has never been linked to any animal, just the Wolverine of the X-Men comic books. The claws are kept inside the frog’s skin and when threatened, they break the frog’s skin to pierce and scratch into the danger. This character made the people of Cameroon associate the frogs with alien life. They hunt them with spears and machetes to avoid the deep scratches. Apart from the “horror” capabilities, the hairy frog is relatively similar to other frogs feeding mostly on insects and fertilizing eggs externally on top of pools of stagnant water.
8 The Poison Golden Dart Frog
These little creatures grow up to no more than 3cm, yet one contains enough poison to kill ten grown men. Unlike their scary name, these little frogs are actually very beautiful. They have bright colors including yellow, blue and green but not for beauty; their color is actually meant to tell off predators. There are more than 100 different species of poisoned dart frogs found mostly in the forests of Central and Southern America.
They are called dart frogs because their poison is used by Embera people of Colombia to poison the tips of their darts for hunting. They collect the poison from the insects and arachnids they eat in the wild. Poison frogs grown in captivity do not develop poison in their glands. They are also better parents than most frogs. Most parents share the tasks of caring for the young; some species even carry their young on their backs to water pools. Surprisingly, Scientists have discovered that their poison could be used to make a painkiller 200 times more potent than morphine.
9 The Purple Frog
Also known as the pig frog because of its long snout. This frog species is endemic to the Western Ghats in India. Their color is greyish to dark purple with naturally bloated bodies that appear puffed all the time. It has the adaptations of the turtle frog for burrowing with the extra help of the snout that helps it sniff out the termites efficiently. This species was only discovered in 2003 because they spend most of their life underground.
They are also good at burrowing digging holes that are nearly four meters deep in search of termites. They only come out during the monsoon seasons to mate from where the males call to the females in musical sounds from shallow burrows. They are a highly endangered species as most of their habitat has been lost to human encroachment. At one point, there were only 135 of them left with only three females remaining in the population.
10 The Surinam Frog
All frogs puff, well, all except this one. It is a flat frog found in the rainforests and river basins of South America. The frog has a rectangular head with no tongue or teeth; it uses its front legs to seek out food. Its brown/olive pigmentation and flat body shape can be easily mistaken for a leaf. Its front legs have star-shaped toes and are not for borrowing, just hunting, the hind legs are webbed but not for flying like the flying frog either, just navigating through the muddy water.
Its greatest wonder comes during the breeding season though. The females lay the eggs then the males fertilize them and push them onto the females’ back to hatch. The female’s skin then grows into a honeycomb-like structure holding up to 100 eggs which hatch and stay on its back for up to 3 months. The young ones skip the larvae and tadpole stage leaving their mother’s back after developing into actual frogs. The female then shades its skin in preparation for another mating season. This is a rare breeding behavior not seen in any other frog species.