'Devil Frog' May Have Sported Anti-Dino Armor
Roberts Lab/Brown University
Some might think it's odd to suggest a bullfrog might have superhero-level skills, but those naysayers just haven't seen one do the long-jump. A researcher at Georgia Tech Univ. looked at frog jumping contest participants and decided that bullfrogs jump long distances because, well, they can and also because their "trainers" have a variety of tricks they use to get their frogs to leap to victory. Among those tricks is for the trainer to lung at the poor frog and freak it out so much it jumps into the next county.
Jenny E. Ross/Corbis Robert Brown/Design Pic
Meanwhile, far from any frog-jumping contests, mythical super-beast Yeti took a blow to its image recently, when scientists raised the possibility that the scary abominable snowman of the Himalayas might in fact just be descended from an ancient polar bear. The upshot is that "Yeti" may be a sub-species of brown bear that's distantly related to an ancient polar bear.
For the record: We tried to obtain photos of an actual living, breathing Yeti, but none were available.
That doesn't mean there still aren't plenty of polar bears out there to admire, however. Here a young visitor looks at two-year-old polar bear "Luka," swimming in a pool at the zoo in Wuppertal, western Germany, on Oct. 18, 2013. Luka came to Wuppertal from the Ouwehands Dierenpark animal park in the Netherlands. The young visitor and Luka doubtless have very different feelings about the protective glass that separates them.
The Daily Mail
It is said that the greatest trick of the devil is to convince us he doesn't exist. The Loch Ness monster has the opposite problem. It has yet to bring around those stubborn skeptics who cling to the bizarre notion that there ISN'T a prehistoric throwback creature living in a Scottish lake. This week, though, a rarely seen oarfish washed up off the coast of California, and its super size (18 feet long) prompted some to wonder whether an oarfish could be what people claim to see in Loch Ness. Fix this iconic 1934 picture -- the first purported photo of the Loch Ness monster -- in your mind before clicking to the next slide, and then ask yourself if it could be the same shy creature as ...
Catalina Island Marine Institute
... this? We'll preempt you with the spoiler that it's not terribly likely. "Nessie" lives in freshwater, while the aforementioned washed-up oarfish makes its living in saltwater, and it's not known for having adapted to freshwater much less having ever been seen in a cold lake in Scotland.
Unlike Yeti or the Loch Ness monster, Spix’s disk-winged bat does, in fact, exist. And it's figured out a pretty neat trick. The bat, native to parts of South America, seeks out a special plant species whose large, single leaves curl up and act as sound amplifiers. When the bat hangs out in such a leafy smartphone, it can make and receive calls from other bats, the sound amplified or compressed depending on whether it's an incoming or outgoing message.
Image courtesy of Zanna Clay at Òlola ya Bonoboó in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Some animals rely less on leaves and more on surprisingly human-like communication techniques. On Oct. 14, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study finding that orphaned apes don't have the kind of social skills found in apes that are raised by their mothers. The study linked the emotional development of one of man's closest living relatives, bonobos (Pan paniscus), with the ability to interact nicely with others, echoing the manner in which human emotions develop. Here, a young bonobo consoles another bonobo who just lost a fight.
Mother and child come in all shapes and super-sized heights in the animal kingdom. This 11-day-old giraffe calf stands beside his mother Mimi in their enclosure at Himeji Central Park on Oct. 16, 2013 in Himeji, Japan. The little fella was born on Oct. 5, 2013 and is already 67 inches (170 centimeters) tall. Any vague resemblance this baby has to E.T. the Extraterrestrial is purely coincidental.
What would you do if you were a baby leopard and someone stuck a stethoscope on your chest? You'd probably make a face something like this. The young cub is getting a medical check-up at Lyon Zoo, on Oct. 15, 2013, in Lyon, France.
Sometimes in life you have to blink to be sure what you're seeing is really there. Yes, indeed, that's a kangaroo on a golf course, presumably letting another group play through. The kangaroo was working on its game -- sans golf clubs, which is admittedly strange -- during the Perth International at Lake Karrinyup Country Club on Oct. 17, 2013 in Perth, Australia.
An ancient, predatory creature known as the devil frog may have looked even scarier than previously thought.
The monster frog, Beelzebufo ampinga, lived during the Cretaceous Period in what is now Africa, and sported spiky flanges protruding from the back of its skull and platelike armor down its back, almost like a turtle shell.
"We knew it was big; we knew it was almost certainly predatory," said study co-author Susan Evans, a paleontologist at the University College London. "What the new material has shown us is that it was even more heavily armored than we imagined."
The massive frog's spiked body armor may have helped it fend off the dinosaurs and crocodiles that prowled during that time. [See Photos of the Devil Frog and Other Freaky Frogs]
The researchers first discovered a few bone fragments from a mystery frog in Madagascar in 1998, but it wasn't until 2008 that they had enough pieces to identify the species, which they dubbed the devil frog, or Beelzebufo ampinga. The massive frog lived between 70 million and 65 million years ago.
When the team analyzed the frog's morphology, they found that physically, it fit in with a family of horned frogs called the Ceratophryidae, which are now found only in South America.
But to reach Madagascar from South America, the frogs would have needed to hop along a passageway, possibly through Antarctica, that linked the two landmasses. But that route was submerged underwater by 112 million years ago, Evans said.
That would mean that devil frogs must have diverged from their South American cousins prior to that submergence, pushing back the origin of Ceratophryidae by more than 40 million years, Evans said.
A new analysis finds that the devil frog, Luci Betti-Nash/SUNY-Stony Brook
Over the course of the next five years, the team found several more bone fragments of Beelzebufo ampinga. In the new study, they combined all of the fragments to do a much more complete reconstruction of the devil frog.
The new analysis confirms the frog's lineage in the Ceratophryidae family. It also downgrades the amphibian's size -- instead of being the biggest frog that ever lived, it may be closer to the size of an African bullfrog, which grows to about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) across.
Even so, the analysis reveals that the devil frog was even fiercer-looking than previously thought. Past studies had suggested it had a huge, globular head; sharp teeth; and short back legs, but the spiky flanges and the plates embedded in its skin were a surprising discovery.
The frogs may have hunted like African bullfrogs, hiding before pouncing on a small mammal.
It's not clear what the frogs used the body armor for, but one possibility is that the sculptured bones may have been an adaptation to a dry environment that allowed the frogs to burrow underground, where they were less likely to bake in the hot sun, Evans said.
But the armor may also have been protection.
"There were an awful lot of things roaming around that would have liked a bite out of a big, juicy frog," such as dinosaurs, crocodiles and even strange mammals that once lived on the Gondwana supercontinent, Evans told LiveScience.
The findings were published Jan. 28 in the journal PLOS ONE.
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