Hairy Frogs Have An Unusual Defense June 2, 2008Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Tough Stuff.
Tags: claws, defense, hairy frogs
When I think about frogs, I usually picture the cute, little ones hopping around the lake near my house. Well, there are many types of frogs and one in particular is almost the stuff of nightmares! Not only is it a super duper hairy creature but it has a peculiar defense mechanism that has intrigued scientists.
Credit: Gustavocarra for Wikimedia Commons. Check out the claws on this bad boy! If the hairy frog feels threatened, he will bring forth his dangerous claws through the toe pads on his hind legs. Hmmm. I have a feeling that unlike dogs, throwing him a treat won’t make him like me!
Trichobatrachus robustus – as the frog is formally named – breaks its own bones to create special claws that force their way through the frog’s toe pads. It’s thought that this action is performed when the frog is threatened. While we already know that salamanders do something similar by pushing their ribs through the skin to create spiky barbs, the frog’s maneuver is unique! Not only that, but the closest action we’ve seen from other frogs involves bony spines that stick out from the wrist. The difference, however, is that the bones project out naturally, which is different from the hairy frog where the claws force their way out as a form of defense.
Beware The Claw
David Blackburn from Harvard University has studied these interesting frogs; the work is published in the journal Biology Letters. Blackburn found that when at rest, the frog’s claws are sheltered in a bunch of connective tissue. A piece of collagen joins the sharp bit of the claw and a bone found at the tip of the frog’s toe. At the other end of the claw is an attached muscle. Blackburn thinks that when the frog is threatened and under attack, it will contract the muscle, which causes the claw to be pulled downwards. Then, the sharp bit tears away from the bony end and pokes through the toe pad. The end result is a contraption that looks really intimidating. But wait, there’s more to the hairy frog than just these claws! They also have some other neat features. When they breed, male frogs produce long strands of skin and arteries that resemble hair. While researchers aren’t totally sure why the hair exists, they think it might be to bring in more oxygen through the frog’s skin.
In some parts of the world, these hairy frogs are cooked and eaten. Yes, you did just read that correctly – food! The people who hunt the frogs have to be careful not to get hurt by the frog’s claws, so they use spears and similar weapons to capture the creatures. Now, I’m all one for trying new foods but in this case, I think I will pass, thank you very much!