Generally speaking, frogs do not have hair. But in Central Africa you can find a species known as the hairy frog. The trichobatrachus robustus, also known as the ‘horror’ frog, boasts dermal papillae or hair-like structures on its body and thighs. In size, the frogs they are about 11 cm (or about four and a third inches) long measuring from their short, rounded snout. Their heads are more wide than long giving them the appearance of having heads larger than their bodies. The male is much larger than the female.
These amphibians are, for the most part, terrestrial. They frequent the moist tropical and subtropical lowlands, but breed near the water. They are carnivorous with two rows of teeth. Their diet consists of a variety of insects, myriapods (centipedes, millipedes, etc.), slugs, grasshoppers and similar insect-like creatures.
The females lays their eggs on rocks in streams. The males, however, take over afterwards, first moving the eggs to a rocky surface, if needed, then staying with them until the tadpoles hatch. Their hair-like papillae are well suited for this purpose. The tadpoles, upon hatching, are very muscular. Unlike mature frogs, the tadpoles are born with three rows of teeth.
Not an Endangered Species
They are plentiful throughout all of Central Africa. They are considered a delicacy, and are hunted, roasted and eaten by those native to the area. Many Bakossi people, who live on the slopes of Cameroon’s Bakossi Mountains, believe these frogs fall from the sky. And when eaten, they are thought to increase fertility in childless couples.
Believed to be a defense mechanism, the hairy frogs have the ability to break their bones. By tensing their muscles, they can snap off a pointed, bony extension from their toes. Pushing them forward and into a clawlike deterrent. They will do so if they are grabbed or attacked. For this reason, the hunters carry long spears and machetes. These frogs can also retract them similarly to cat’s claws. There are apparently 11 other species that have this ability in Central Africa.
Other Frog Oddities
There are a number of other oddities when it comes to frogs around the world. Some are poison and inedible; some are able to shoot or spit poison and, thus, attack or defend themselves. Some can climb trees. But none have hair. The trichobatrachus robustus of Central Africa is the only one I have been able to find that appears to have hair, but doesn’t.
Species of the Week: www.amphibiaweb.org
‘Horror frog’ breaks own bones to produce claws