Say what? Giant ancient frogs used to gobble down baby dinosaurs? Yep – that’s what they say.
The beelzebufo ampinga, which was named after an ancient deity that is often referred to as the “Lord of the Flies,” happened to be a very devilish frog. This species of frog lived at Madagascar approximately 70 million years ago and was probably the largest frog to ever hop on the Earth. In fact, National Geographic has described it as a “beach-ball-size” animal. And now new research is telling us that its more modern cousin most likely had jaws that were powerful enough to completely destroy small dinosaurs.
The majority of people here in North America consider frogs to be small and fairly fragile. And we see them as creatures who feast on flies along with other small creatures. So to think of a frog who can up bigger prey is something to really think about. Many of us may not be aware that even today there are a few species—such as bullfrogs—who will eat almost anything that can be crammed into their mouths. And this even includes birds or rodents.
So after researchers began talking about this wild ancient amphibian back in 2008, they were speculating that their gaping jaws could have possibly allowed it to consume some pretty large vertebrates.
“If it shared the aggressive temperament and ‘sit-and-wait’ ambush tactics of [present-day] horned toads, it would have been a formidable predator on small animals,” the biologist named Susan Evans had told the BBC back in 2008. “Its diet would most likely have consisted of insects and small vertebrates like lizards, but it’s not impossible that Beelzebufo might even have munched on hatchling or juvenile dinosaurs.”
And now, after a decade has gone by, scientists have found even more proof of its hunting skills. This was done from the jaw force calculations this frog’s modern day relatives. From this data they have been able to estimate the amount of power that the Beelzebufo ampinga most likely would have concentrated in a crunch of their jaw.
They have found that today’s horn frogs (Ceratophrys) from South America have many physiological similarities like that of the Beelzeblurb. In fact, the mouths of these frogs are so big that they are affectionately referred to as “Pacman frogs.” Scientists have discovered that even the tiny horned frogs—that have little heads not even measuring 5 centimeters across—have amazing jaw forces of about 30 Newtons, (about 6.6 pounds). Thus, these jaw force of these frogs are over six times their weight. If you are wondering, the average human has a bite force of around 1,300 Newtons (about 266 pounds) with their molars. So the jaw force of humans is less than twice their weight on average.
So after assessing all these mechanical aspects, we know that bigger size means more power. That is precisely why the researchers that are conducting this new study are estimating that these larger horn frogs (who have heads that are roughly 10 cm across) would most likely possess a bite force of around 500 Newtons. To get a better idea of what this means, scientists claim this force is like trying to balance around 13 gallons of water upon your fingertip. This is almost as dangerous of the force of a snapping turtle, a force that has been measured around 657 Newtons – this is exactly why a snapping turtle can easily slice off fingers or other things.
So when you consider all this data, then it is easy to see how these giant ancient frogs used to gobble down baby dinosaurs.