AN­CIENT ‘PAC-MAN’ FROG MAY HAVE DINED ON DI­NOSAURS

Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

An in­ter­na­tional team of bi­ol­o­gists has found that Beelze­bufo, a gi­ant frog that lived about 68 mil­lion years ago in what is now Mada­gas­car, would have been ca­pa­ble of eat­ing small di­nosaurs.

They reached the con­clu­sion by scal­ing up the bite force of South Amer­i­can horned frogs from the liv­ing genus Cer­atophrys – Beelze­bufo’s clos­ing liv­ing rel­a­tive. Horned frogs are of­ten called Pac-Man frogs thanks to their round shape and large, wide mouth.

“Un­like the vast ma­jor­ity of frogs which have weak jaws and typ­i­cally con­sume small prey, horned frogs am­bush an­i­mals as large as them­selves – in­clud­ing other frogs, snakes, and ro­dents. And their pow­er­ful jaws play a crit­i­cal role in grab­bing and sub­du­ing the prey,” said the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide’s Dr Marc Jones.

The re­searchers mea­sured the bite forces of horned frogs us­ing a force trans­ducer. This is a de­vice that ac­cu­rately mea­sures the force ap­plied to two plates cov­ered with leather when an an­i­mal bites them. They were able to de­ter­mine that Beelze­bufo may have had a bite force com­pa­ra­ble to wolves or fe­male tigers – not too shabby for an am­phib­ian weigh­ing just 5kg. This means it would’ve been ca­pa­ble of eat­ing small di­nosaurs.

“This is the first time bite force has been mea­sured in a frog,” said Prof Kristo­pher Lap­pin of Cal­i­for­nia State Polytech­nic Uni­ver­sity. “And, speak­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence, horned frogs have quite an im­pres­sive bite, and they tend not to let go. The bite of a large Beelze­bufo would have been re­mark­able, def­i­nitely not some­thing I would want to ex­pe­ri­ence first hand.”

South Amer­i­can horned frogs (in­set) are Beelze­bufo’s clos­est liv­ing rel­a­tive, and can be kept as pets – should you choose to

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