A team of researchers, led by Stony Brook University paleontologist David Krause, has discovered the remains in Madagascar of what may be the largest frog ever to exist.
The 16-inch, 10-pound ancient frog, scientifically named Beelzebufo, or devil frog, links a group of frogs that lived 65 to 70 million years ago with frogs living today in South America.
Discovery of the voracious predatory fossil frog -- reported on-line this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) -- is significant in that it may provide direct evidence of a one-time land connection between Madagascar, the largest island off Africa's southeast coast, and South America.
To identify Beelzebufo and determine its relationship to other frogs, Krause collaborated with fossil frog experts Susan Evans, lead author of the PNAS article, and Marc Jones of the University College London. The authors concluded that the new frog represents the first known occurrence of a fossil group in Madagascar with living representatives in South America.
"Beelzebufo appears to be a very close relative of a group of South American frogs known as 'ceratophyrines,' or 'pac-man' frogs, because of their immense mouths," said Krause, whose research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The ceratophryines are known to camouflage themselves in their surroundings, then ambush predators.
"The finding presents a real puzzle biogeographically, particularly because of the poor fossil record of frogs on southern continents," said Krause. "We're asking ourselves, 'What's a 'South American' frog doing half-way around the world, in Madagascar?'"
He said that because frogs "are not adept at dispersal across marine barriers, and since the few fossil frogs that are known from the Late Cretaceous in Africa are unrelated to Beelzebufo, one possibility is that there was a land connection between South America and Madagascar duri
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation