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Newly discovered venomous frog attacks by head butting

Brachycephalus are some of the tiniest frogs known in the world and extremely vulnerable to extinction as their sensitive Brazilian cloud forest habitats change in response to global warming. Brachycephalus are some of the tiniest frogs known in the world and extremely vulnerable to extinction as their sensitive Brazilian cloud forest habitats change in response to global warming.

Deep in the rainforests of Brazil, there are venomous frogs with spikes atop their heads.

Carlos Jared, a researcher from the Butantan Institute in São Paulo, may be proud of the two inch frog he co-discovered, but probably wishes it were a little less painful. He accidentally was struck on his hand by the little animal’s venomous horns when he picked it up.

Afterwards, he suffered some rather unpleasant side effects. “Intense pain, radiating up the arm, lasting for five hours,” described the co-author of the study Edmund Brodie, Jr., a herpetologist from Utah State University.

Jared was fortunate, however, that the creature he provoked was the less toxic species out of two new venomous frogs. While poisonous frogs, particularly in Brazil, are hardly anything new – the unusual animal that injured Jared is the first one known to be venomous – injecting its poison through horns, while other frogs secrete toxins through their skin. “We have not experienced the effect of the venom of the most toxic species, and hope we do not,” Brodie said during an interview with Live Science.

The more dangerous variety – Aparasphenodon brunoi, doesn’t exactly give off bee stings either. Its venom is capable of killing over 300,000 mice, or approximately 80 humans.

The researchers described their findings online on Aug. 6 in the newest issue of the journal Current Biology.

The evolution of the venomous frog, which uses its sting as a defense mechanism, has greatly intrigued herpetologists specializing in the amphibian branch of animals.

“The strength of toxicity of the skin secretions is remarkable, and to say we were surprised by that is an understatement,” said Brodie. “Amphibians have a wide array of skin toxins that have been well-studied, but this sort of mechanism — transmitting the toxin as a venom — has not been found before. It moves the study of amphibian defenses to a new level.”

Spiny bones jut out from the frogs’ noses, jaws and the backs of their heads. If grabbed by a predator, they use their flexible necks to force back their heads and inject venom into their attackers, which is pumped from skin glands located around their spines. While Corythomantis greeningi, the species that attacked Jared is less venomous, its glands and head are larger than Aparasphenodon brunoi.

James Sullivan

James Sullivan

Staff Writer
James Sullivan is a contributing writer at Science Recorder, OMNI Reboot, and Brain World magazine.
About James Sullivan (781 Articles)
James Sullivan is a contributing writer at Science Recorder, OMNI Reboot, and Brain World magazine.