A squat beachball sized toad dubbed ‘the frog from Hell’ has been found in Madagascar, where it it once may have snacked on baby dinosaurs and other small animals.
The 70 million year-old fossil frog is likened by researchers to a “slightly squashed beach-ball” and has been nicknamed Beelzebufo.
The discovery of the creature, of a kind once thought unique to South America, lends weight to a new theory that Madagascar, India and South America were once linked together into a supercontinent until late in the Age of Dinosaurs, around 65 million years ago.
The new frog esembles living Horned frogs (ceratophryines or ‘pac-man frogs’) in having a squat body, huge head and wide mouth, containing dozens of little teeth.
With a body length (not counting the legs) of up to 16 inches – longer than a rugby ball – and a weight of around four kilos (10 pounds), it is more than twice the size of its largest living relatives.
The fossil has been identified by scientists from University College London and Stony Brook University, New York.
Their research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests it lived alongside meat-eating dinosaurs, plant-eating crocodiles and giant snakes, which are all very different from the present day animals of Madagascar.
Prof Susan Evans, who studied Beezebufo with Dr Marc Jones at UCL says: “This frog, a relative of today’s Horned frogs, would have been the size of a slightly squashed beach-ball, with short legs and a big mouth. If it shared the aggressive temperament and ‘sit-and-wait’ ambush tactics of living Horned toads, it would have been a formidable predator on small animals.
Its diet would most likely haveconsisted of insects and small vertebrates like lizards, but it’s not impossible that Beelzebufo might even have munched on hatchling orjuvenile dinosaurs.”
The history of Madagascar’s unusual frogs has generated intense debate, fuelled by the near absence of a fossil record.
“Our discovery of a frog strikingly different from today’s Madagascan frogs, and akin to the Horned frogs previously considered endemic to South America, lends weight to the controversial idea that Madagascar, the Indian subcontinent and South America were linked well into the Late Cretaceous.
“It also suggests that the initial spread of such beasts began earlier than that proposed by recent estimates,” says Prof Evans.
Earlier work has found similarities between the dinosaurs of these three regions, along with mammals, birds and crocodiles.
[Check it Out: Telegraph.co.uk]