National Geographic : 2009 Jul
Beelzebufo ampinga FOSSILS Big Old Frog It was mostly mouth and belly, this amphibious beast from about 65 million years ago. Thick-skulled, ten-pound Beelzebufo ampinga ("armored frog from hell") was one of the most massive frogs ever; today's biggest is the seven-pound Conraua goliath. The ambush predator lived on Madagascar, where David Krause of Stony Brook University and his team began finding bone bits in 1993. Susan Evans of University College London and others shaped 15 years' worth of fossils (72 fragments in all) into frog form. "When we scaled the bones against modern skulls, we saw just how big this thing could get," Evans says. "It was a monster." Many geologists believe Madagascar became geographically isolated some 88 million years ago, but Beelzebufo's closest living kin are in South America. One theory is that the two landmasses remained linked via Antarctica longer than was thought. ---Jennifer S. Holland EQUATOR MADAGASCAR AFRICA As big as a slightly deflated beach ball, Madagascar's Beelzebufo (top) could have downed baby dinosaurs. ART: TODD MARSHALL. NGM MAPS. PHOTO: STEVE WINTER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STOCK Smallest Frog? It's a tie. Among living frogs, Eleutherodactylus iberia of eastern Cuba (left) and Brachycephalus didactylus from Brazil are equally diminutive---making them the smallest frog in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, respectively. Adults of each species can be tinier than the word "tiny" on this page. Downsized in more ways than one, small frogs often have fewer toes and teeth than their larger counter- parts, and a higher-pitched chirping call (due to pinhead-size vocal cords). Also, miniature frogs may lay one relatively large egg rather than the typical mass of small ones---perhaps because tiny froglets would dry out quickly or fail to find enough speck- size food to survive.