Why do frogs have such a strange skull shape?


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It may look like all frogs look the same – these are not particularly good looking creatures with a big head, a wide body and long hind legs. In fact, however, they differ greatly in the structure of the head. For example, the skulls of some of them are covered with thorns and various irregularities, the purpose of which scientists have long been unable to understand. Recently, American researchers decided to compare the skeletons of 158 species of frogs and finally found the answer to an interesting question. As it turned out, the different structure of the skull helps these amphibians hunt prey and defend themselves against predators. And the right to eat and not to offend, believe us frogs.

Frogs' skulls don't look like skulls of other animals

The results of a study by scientists from the Florida Museum of Natural History were published in the scientific journal SciTechDaily. The researchers examined the skeletons of different types of frogs, and were convinced that most of the skulls were actually covered with a complex network of spines, growths, and other irregularities. It is noteworthy that in the case of species with the same diet and the same protective reactions, the form of the irregularities had common features. Based on this, the scientists concluded that the shape of frogs' skulls varied due to the fact that these amphibians are scattered across almost every corner of the planet and have different nutritional preferences. In addition, different frog species have their own, individual enemies, for which amphibians have to take different protective measures.

It looks like a skull of a tree frog (Anotheca spinosa)

What do frogs eat?

According to the study's author, Daniel Paluch, the strangest skull designs are found in frogs that feed on mammals and birds. For example, the so-called bull frog (Rana catesbeiana) has the ability to eat rodents. It lives in freshwater bodies in the central and southeastern part of North America and can grow up to 25 centimeters. Their diet includes insects, spiders, fish and even mice, for which they need large mouths and strong jaws to eat.

Frog skulls come in all shapes and sizes.

According to the researchers, the irregularities in the skull of the bullfrog and its relatives help them bite their victims as much as possible. The special arrangement of the bones also allows them to open their mouths wide to swallow mammals. In 2010 Dan Garrick, who worked in one of the zoos in England, recorded the moment when the bullfrog almost completely swallowed the little mouse. According to him, the giant frog did not run after the prey, but simply grabbed it with its tongue and shoved it into its mouth. There are many teeth in this frog's oral cavity, so the death of the mouse was clearly painful.

A bull frog eats a mouse

The most poisonous frog

To protect against predators, irregularities in the skull of frogs are also required. If one of the frogs' natural enemies bites their head, the spikes on their skulls can pierce the glands with poison under the skin. Not all frogs have toxic properties, but the so-called terrible leaf climber (Phyllobates terribilis) has sources of poison. The killer substance is called batrachotoxin and, if it gets into the blood of animals or humans, can cause cardiac arrest. There is no effective antidote to this substance yet.

Some tribes coat the arrows with the poison of a terrible leaf climber

Did you know that not only snakes and frogs but also ape-like animals are poisonous?

Why do frogs have such a strange skull shape, not like the skulls of other animals? Based on all of the above, it turns out that the habitat and lifestyle strongly influence the head shape of these animals. Previously, scientists believed that the strange design of the head allowed them to accumulate water in the skull and survive in dry conditions. Perhaps some species of frog can do this, but most of them have bizarre skull shapes that help them stay hungry and defend themselves against enemies.

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Finally, I would like to tell you that in 2019 Australian scientists developed "FrogPhone" – a cell phone for frogs. The news may seem very strange, but thanks to this invention, researchers can save nature from extinction. Read more about the "frog phone" in our material.