CLOSE
Original image

5 Weird Looking (But Fascinating!) Frogs

Original image

These aren't your run-of-the-mill amphibians; these frogs are downright freaky.

1. Purple Frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis)

The purple frog, native to India's Western Ghats, is also sometimes called the pignose frog. It spends all but two weeks of the year—monsoon season—more than 26 feet underground, feeding on termites and emerging only to mate. Which apparently isn't easy for these frogs: Two purple frogs were recently caught mating on video for the first time ever, and—thanks to their wide bodies and stubby legs, which are well evolved for life underground, and not so much for getting it on—it involves a lot of scrambling on the male's part as he attempts to get on the much-larger female's back and hang on. You can see the video of the frogs doing their thing here.

2. Black Rain Frog (Breviceps fuscus)

Breviceps fuscus has what humans might call "resting bitch face"—in fact, it's often called the world's grumpiest frog. (In a funny twist, its cousin, Breviceps macrops, has actually been dubbed the world's cutest frog, thanks in part to the little squeaks it makes. Go figure!) This 2-inch-long burrowing amphibian, which is capable of digging tunnels nearly 6 inches deep, is native to the southern coast of Africa. When threatened, they'll puff themselves up so that they look bigger; sometimes they'll do this while they're burrowing so that whatever's after them can't pull them out. These guys know how to make mating go smoothly: The females secrete a sticky substance on their backs so the males don't fall off while the act is taking place; then, he'll hang out in the burrow and guard the eggs.

3. Surinam Toad (Pipa Pipa)

Don't let its name fool you: This animal, found in South American rain forests, is actually considered an aquatic frog. Seven to eight inches long, brown, and flat (in fact, it's one of the world's flattest amphibians), the Surinam toad blends in perfectly with muddy river bottoms. The reproductive cycle of these frogs is definitely a strange affair: The male calls to the female underwater with a clicking sound; she releases 60 to 100 eggs into the water, which the male fertilizes and pushes into her back. Her skin grows up over the eggs until they're entirely enclosed. The young hatch and ride on her back for up to four months as they develop. When they're ready, the toadlets push to loosen the female's skin, pockets on her back open up, and the young pop out. To breed again, she sheds her skin.

4. Hairy Frog (Trichobatrachus robustus)

Gustavocarra / Creative Commons License

This frog is also sometimes called the Horror Frog, and for good reason: When threatened, it breaks its own toes to produce claws, which puncture its toe pads on its hind feet, and uses them as weapons. Breeding males will grow hair-like strands on their sides that are actually skin and arteries, which might allow them to take in additional oxygen from the water while they're guarding their young.

5. Turtle Frog (Myobatrachus gouldii)

The Western Australian Museum calls this odd little Aussie native, the only species in its genus, "a very peculiar frog with a body shape superficially resembling a small turtle with its shell removed." Unlike most frogs, which burrow back into the ground using their hind legs, M. gouldii burrows forward through sandy soils with its muscular arms. The frogs, which can grow to nearly two inches long, don't need water to reproduce; instead, a male will dig a burrow almost 4 feet deep and call to the female from there. After several months of cohabitating, they'll mate and she'll lay as many as 50 eggs in the burrow. The young skip the tadpole stage and instead stay in the eggs, emerging as tiny, fully formed frogs.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
Original image
iStock

According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

Original image
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
arrow
Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
Original image
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios