At this time of the year, while frogs and toads are deep in hibernation (in our part of the world anyway), our Google alerts for frog news are full of stories about Horned Frogs, not the frog species, but rather the sports teams. Not being much of a sports fan, I always ignore these stories. But this year, we finally decided it was time to learn a little about these Horned Frogs.
It turns out that the Horned Frogs are the 18 varsity athletic teams that represent Texas Christian University. The Horned Frog mascot first appeared in 1897, and by 1915, it appeared on the TCU seal. During the post-WWII years, the Horned Frog mascot was in costume, on stationery, class rings, and the band’s bass drum. In 1979 the mascot was renamed from Addy the All-American Frog to Super Frog.
The women’s teams are known as the Lady Frogs. TCU once had a bumper sticker that said “My Princess Turned into a Frog.”
ButThis Horned Frog is Actually a Lizard!
It turns out, however, that the “horned frog” nickname and mascot refers to the Texas horned lizard, also known as the “horned frog.” The popular name comes from the lizard’s rounded body and blunt snout, which gives it a toad- or frog-like appearance. The Texas horned lizard, along with at least three other species of horned lizard, has the ability to squirt an stream of blood from the corners of the eyes and sometimes from its mouth for a distance of up to 5 ft (1.5 m).
Texas Horned Lizard (photo from Wikipedia)
Some Native American peoples regard horned lizards as sacred—the animal is a common motif in Native American art of the Southwestern U.S. and Mexico. The Texas horned lizard is also the state reptile of Texas.
So before the football season is officially over this Sunday, we thought we’d introduce you to one of the TCU teams, the Horned Frogs football team. Itcompetes as a member of the Mountain West Conference, but is due to move to the Big East Conference for the 2012 season. The Frogs have won two national championships and 15 conference championships. Legendary players include Bob Lilly, Sammy Baugh, Davey O’Brien, and LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Horned Frogs won the 2011 Rose Bowl, beating Wisconsin, 21-19.
And if you’d like to learn about the real Horned Frogs (the amphibians, not the lizards), check out our 10 Weirdest and Most Unusual Frogs post, which introduces the Ornate Horned Frog. We were so entranced with this frog that Susan created a poster about it (proceeds to benefit amphibian conservation).
This frog might be called The Planet’s Most Beautiful Frog. It has been a pin-up on dozens of wildlife calendars and cards. But its beauty has a purpose—to help it to survive. When at rest, the frog’s eyes are closed. But if disturbed, the sudden appearance of its bright red eyes may startle a predator for a second or two—enough time for the frog to leap away. With its large toe pads and long thin limbs, it can climb trees easily. The Red-Eyed Tree Frog lives in tropical forests from southern Mexico through much of Central America. We used this frog on a poster we created to help spread awareness of the global amphibian crisis (you can download the poster for free):
Red-eyed Tree Frog from IStockPhoto.com
2. Golden toad (Bufo periglenes)
The Golden Toad became extinct 30 years after its discovery in 1976. They were found only in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve of Costa Rica, where hundreds would breed in shallow forest pools. The Golden Toad has become a symbol of the plight of frogs and toads worldwide—we don’t want other amphibians to suffer the same fate as this beautiful creature.
Golden toad, photo by Charles H. Smith, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
3. White’s tree frog (Litoria caerula)
These handsome frogs seem to have a perpetual smile on their faces. White’s tree frogs are often kept as pets, but they are happiest when left alone in their native home: the woodland and scrub close to water in northeast Australia and New Guinea.
This frog has a bright red head and body speckled with black spots. Because of its blue legs, it is also called the Blue Jeans Frog. Like many brilliantly-colored animals, the frogs’ bright color serves as a warning—Don’t eat me or you’ll be sorry! It forages on the forest floor eating small ants and termites, from which it derives the chemicals needed to synthesize the poison. It lives in tropical rainforests of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
5. Ranitomeya amazonica
A recent report from the World Wildlife Fund highlighted the amazing discoveries of the past decade in the Amazonian biome. According to the report, between 1999 and 2009 more than 1,200 new species of plants and vertebrates were discovered in the Amazon – a rate of one new species every three days – confirming the Amazon as one of the most diverse places on Earth. Ranitomeya amazonica, another beautiful poision dart frog , is one of the most extraordinary of these newly discovered species. Its main habitat is lowland moist forest near the Iquitos area in Peru.
One of the most beautiful of the Madagascan frogs, the Malagasy Rainbow Frog is adapted for a burrowing lifestyle. It is able to live under the ground for up to 10 months. But it also has claws on its forefeet to help it cling to vertical canyon walls to escape floods or predators. Unfortunately thousands of these frogs are captured every year for the pet trade.
image from Wikipedia, by Franco Andreone
7. Venezuelan Glass Frog (Cochranella helenae)
This lovely frog, native to the subtropical or tropical most lowland forests and rivers of Venezuela has translucent skin, to help hide it among the leaves.
Photo by Cesar Luis Barrio Amoros, courtesy of Amphibian Ark
8. Tiger frog (Hyloscritus tigrinis)
The Tiger Frog was discovered in 2007 in Southwestern Colombian. Little is known about the frog except that it is not believed to be toxic. Rather with its bright coloring, the frog seems to be mimicking other poisonous animals to deter predators. This gorgeous frog is threatened by destruction of the forests where it lives.
photo copyright Francisco Jose Lopez-Lopez, courtesy of www.arkive.org
9. Harlequin frogs(Atelopus varius)
Harlequin frogs are usually black or brown with spots or streaks that can be a combination of yellow, orange, red, blue, or green. They live in the moist, tropical forests in Central and southwestern South America. About two-thirds of over 110 species of these brightly-colored frogs have vanished since the 1980s. Their decline is attributed to the destruction of their native forests, collection by the pet trade, and fungal infection (chytrid fungus).
image copyright Forrest Bren for the New York Times
10. Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)
The Wood Frog’s beauty is more subtle that that of its tropical cousins, yet its colors seems to mimic the color of rocks, bark, and fallen leaves in the forests in which it lives. This frog is America’s most northernmost species, ranging from northeast USA to the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada. Wood Frogs have already begun hibernating. First they find a place under the leaf litter or in a crack in a log or rock to settle for their winter nap. They’ll slowly begin to freeze as soon as temperatures reach the freezing point. Then the frog’s blood will stop flowing, its lungs, heart and muscles will stop functioning, and ice will fill the body cavity: they will go from frog to frogsicle, until they begin to thaw in the warm temperatures of spring.
You might be familiar only with the green frogs or brown toads that live in nearby ponds or woods. But frogs and toads are among the most incredibly diverse animals on earth. Here are just a few of the weirdest and most unusual frogs and toads:
Tomato frog (D. antongilli)
Tomato frog, photo courtesy of Charles Paddock Zoo, Atascadero, CA
This frog is definitely NOT green! Colored as red a ketchup, the Tomato frog’s bright color is meant to warn predators that it is not safe to eat. The frogs secrete a gummy substance that gets in a predator’s eyes so it will drop the frog, which can then make a quick escape. The Tomato frog is found only in Madagascar.
Glass frogs (family, centrolenidae)
Glass frog. Image courtesy of iFrog.
Glass frogs are nocturnal tree frogs that live in the humid forests of Central and South America. Their name comes from the translucent skin on the underside of their bodies. In many species the glass frogs’ internal organs, even a beating heart, can be seen. This see-through skin helps them blend into the forest.
Ornate horned frog (Ceratophrys ornata)
Ornate horned toad. Image copyright American Museum of Natural History.
This frog is nicknamed the Pac-Man frog because of its enormous mouth and insatiable appetite. They are a sit-and-wait ambush predator and hide well-disguised on the ground or in leaf litter. Ornate horned frogs can swallow birds, insects, mice, or even other frogs whole. This species can be found in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
Turtle frog (Myobattachus gouldii)
Turtle frog. Photo by Evan Pickett. All rights reserved.
This unusual-looking frog looks like a turtle that has lost its shell. It has a short, blunt snout, little beady eyes, and short, fat limbs. It lives underground in burrows in sandy soil and chambers in termite colonies, upon which it feeds. During a few rainy nights in summer they emerge, mate, then then burrow underground where the eggs are laid. Four to six months later the eggs hatch as fully formed froglets. The Turtle frog only lives in the coastal plains and woodlands of extreme Southwestern Australia.
Wallace’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)
Wallace's flying frog. Image copyright Tim Laman, National Geographic.
These frogs leap and glide from tree to tree by spreading out their huge webbed feet like parachutes.They are rarely found on ground except to mate and lay eggs. Their oversized toe pads help them stick to tree trunks and to land softly. Flying frogs inhabit the dense tropical jungles of Malaysia and Borneo.
Water-holding frog (Cyclorana platycephala)
Unusual among frogs, water-holding frogs can catch prey—aquatic insects and small fish—underwater, lunging at the animals and stuffing them in their mouths with their arms. During the dry season they become inactive and burrow underground, secreting a mucous to line their burrows. This hardens around the body and enables the frog to retain water that might otherwise be lost due to evaporation. These frogs were traditionally used by indigenous people in Australia as a source of water. They would dig up the frogs, gently squeeze the water from them, and release them unharmed. Water-holding frogs live in grasslands, temporary swamps, and clay pans in arid areas of southern Australia.
Pinocchio-nose frog (no scientific name yet)
Pinocchio-nosed frog courtesy of Treehugger.com
The Pinocchio-nosed frog was discovered recently during a wildlife expedition to Indonesia’s remote Foja Mountains. This long-nosed frog, a tree frog, has a spike on its nose that points upward when the male is calling but deflates and points downward when he is less active. You can see the Pinocchio-frog and the other newly discovered species on the National Geographic site.
The hip pocket frog (Assa darlingtoni)
Hip Pocket Frog courtesy frogs.org.au
This is called a Male Marsupial frog because like a kangaroo it carries its young in pouches. It has two openings, one on each hip, where tadpoles develop. First the female lays eggs in damp sand, then they are guarded by the male, and finally they hatch into finless white tadpoles, which wriggle their way into the pouches. Only about half make it. They emerge 7 to 10 weeks later as froglets. Hip-pocket frogs are terrestrial and live among leaf litter in the forest (and like a few of our other unusual frogs, they are only found in Australia).
This species was discovered in 1972 living in rocky creeks and ponds in the rainforest of Queensland, Australia. They have an amazing way of “bringing up baby.” First the female swallows her eggs, then her digestion slows down and she stops feeding and the tadpole develops in her stomach. After six to eight weeks, she opens her mouth, dilates her esophagus and the babies crawl out. Sadly, this extraordinary frog is most probably extinct. The last wild southern gastric-brooding frog was seen in 1981—the last known frog in captivity died in 1983.
Pipa or Surinam Toad (Pipa pipa)
This Surinam toad is the world’s flattest amphibian—in fact, it looks like the victim of an unfortunate road accident. Yet this frog’s unusual shape helps hide it among the leaves and plant debris in the streams they inhabit in the Amazon River Basin of South America. Like some of the other frogs above, they have an amazing reproductive strategy: after the female lays eggs the male attaches them to the female’s back. They stick to her skin, which grows to form pockets over them, giving her a honeycomb appearance. The tadpoles grow within these pockets and emerge as toadlets after 20 weeks.