Friday 20 May 2011

Turtle Frog

This is one weird looking frog. From some angles he looks like a sumo wrestler. From others he looks more like a young, carefree Jabba the Hutt. Very young, since they only reach about 5cm long (and, from the looks of it, 5 cm across, too). From above he looks a bit like a dead frog that got crushed to death and now he's dead. Not so carefree, that one.

Oh yeh, and a turtle. He looks a bit like a turtle.

There's that big, fat yet flat body that appears almost circular, with short, little legs protruding (a little) from each corner (the corners of the circle, yes. And?). To top it all off there's the cute and rather cheeky little head. This noggin is unusually small for a frog, naturally the eyes must also be unusually small to fit. Actually, "small" isn't the word when you compare it to other frogs. This head is more of a nodule, a miniscule growth that gives the appearance of an affable buffoon or a muscle-bound idiot called Ox or Moose.

Looks can be deceiving, of course. Naturally enough, the Turtle Frog knows what it's doing. They come from semi arid areas of Western Australia where they spend the vast majority of their time underground. Unlike most burrowing frogs and toads they dig forwards rather than backwards, so they don't have any tough projection on their back feet to help out. Their short, muscular limbs certainly aid in digging and having small eyes is frequently appropriate for the underground life.

Still seems strange how plump they look, though. I always expect diggers to be streamlined and such, but this little fellow certainly isn't that. I wonder if his head is particularly tough for getting through the sand? Seems like a good idea to me!

They subsist entirely on termites, where they can just go ahead and dig right into their nests. They can eat hundreds of them in one sitting. Maybe they should consider more fruit and vegetables?

Image: Paul J. Morris
It seems that Turtle Frogs call and croak underground to attract mates. Lacking both candles and dimmer switches, couples must dig into the earth for romance and to mate. Or maybe they just don't want to see each other too much during the act. At 5 to 7mm across their eggs are the largest of any frog in Australia, which is quite remarkable considering the adult's small size, and only about 20 of them are laid underground in moist soil. It all works out great as the youngsters will skip the tadpole stage altogether and miniature adults will eventually hatch.

Tiny little blobs with tiny little legs and tiny little heads. Cutely grotesque and grotesquely cute. Kinda like E.T. or maybe even you on the day you were born. I hope you grew up to eat more fruit and vegetables and less termites than the Turtle Frog did.


TexWisGirl said...

oh my goodness. grotesquely cute is right! little miniature body-builders. just too funny!

Joseph JG said...

Haha, yeh! They can't help but look like they're posing for the camera.