Wednesday 19 February 2014

Call of the Belly Monster

Image: Thomas et al
Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis in mid call
How can you resist the lilting song of the Indian Purple Frog as it emanates from the very ground beneath your feet? Hither, my darling. Hither. Who knew overweight, underground trolls could have such a beautiful singing voice?

Yes! It's our old friend the Indian Purple Frog! He doesn't seem pleased to see us. Look at those small, suspicious eyes, that sternly pointed nose, the furiously upturned mouth. Add his astonishing girth and apparent lack of a neck and he looks like a particularly abusive Dickensian headmaster. Jeremiah Wackbottom, perhaps.

These most rotund of frogs spend almost all their lives burrowing in the Western Ghats region in east India. It looks like they may have overindulged on termites. Come the monsoons and Purple Frogs emerge into the damp air for a week or two to breed.

Video: PLOS Media

Males usually remain just below the surface, calling to the females but remaining hidden from view. Nevertheless, if you want to learn anything about the life and times of the Purple Frog before they silently descend into the earth and disappear for another year, this is your honeymoon period as much as theirs.

Good thing Ashish Thomas and chums were there to learn all about Purple Frog vocalisation and nab some pictures and video of them doing it. And doing it.

Female Purple Frogs are several times bigger than the males and at least as chubby. He climbs up on her back and then... fade to black. I have no idea how he can get a grip on such a huge mound of smooth, wobbly flesh, but there are Rain Frogs in a similar situation who use a kind of glue to stick on. Kinky...

One interesting thing about Purple Frogs is they lack a typanum, which is the round membrane found behind the eye of most frogs and toads. It's basically an eardrum which vibrates in reaction to sound waves and sends those vibrations on to a bone in the middle ear so they can continue to the inner ear. Without this eardrum, it's possible the Purple Frog also lacks a middle ear.

Image: Thomas et al
There are other frogs that lack a middle ear. Some use their body wall and lungs instead and one of the Purple Frog's closest relatives uses its mouth. All of the Purple Frog's closest relatives are still very distantly related (part of why they're so weird!) so I'm gonna go ahead and hold out hope that they hear through vibrations of their flab. It makes me happy!


TexWisGirl said...

bwahaha! and i thought bubba squirrel was fat! :)

Crunchy said...

Photographing a frog mid-call is like photographing a human mid-blink.

Joseph JG said...

@TexWisGirl: Haha! It's hard to compete with a frog like this!

@Crunchy: You're right. They must be so embarrassed!

Anonymous said...

It looks like somone. someone I know

Anonymous said...

It just sounds like a frog with a sore throat. it took them like 4 years to find that out.