Saturday, December 27, 2008

Purple Squirrel: Weird!

Teachers and pupils at Meoncross School in Stubbington, Hants, {UK} were amazed when they saw the creature through the window during a lesson. Since the squirrel, now nicknamed Pete, was first seen, it has become a regular fixture at the school but no one has been able to say whether the animal has fallen into purple paint, had a run-in with some purple dye, or whether there is another explanation.

Dr Mike Edwards, an English teacher, said: "I was sitting in my classroom and looked out the window and saw it sitting on the fence. I had to do a double take.

"Its fur actually looks purple all the way through. It's an absolute mystery."

Pupils, staff and parents have contacted vets and even e-mailed television nature expert Bill Oddie to see if an explanation could be found. Lorraine Orridge, the school's registrar, believes Pete's coloured fur looks like a school uniform. She said: "The squirrel has become a bit of a legend among staff and pupils at the school. "He makes an appearance most days and we always look forward to seeing him. We don't think he is a mutant squirrel but he may have had a mishap around the school. The old building where we have seen him nipping in and out is a bit of a graveyard for computer printers. He may have found some printer toners in there. We haven't seen any purple baby squirrels yet."

TV wildlife expert Chris Packham believes Pete will moult and lose his purple fur in time for spring. He said: "I have never seen anything like it before.

"Squirrels will chew anything even if it's obviously inedible. It is possible he has been chewing on a purple ink cartridge and then groomed that colouring into his fur. Alternatively he may have fallen into a bucket containing a weak colour solution that has stained his fur. Underneath there's a normal grey squirrel who has just given himself an unusual hair colour - you would pay a fortune for that in some salons."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cat Loves Mouse

Many times on this site, we've shown how mammals will adopt and coexist in harmony with odd species, even natural enemies.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

White Raccoon Sightings

Albino raccoon spotted in Riverside
November 03, 2008 at 08:40 PM

RIVERSIDE—With ghostly white fur and gripping claws, an elusive creature creeping through trees has piqued the interest of a Riverside neighborhood.

Melinda Lehman and Jim Cybul, Lionel Road residents, live on the block where rumors were circulating about a strange, ghostly animal. No one had any clear idea of what it was. They said neighbors had spotted this thing, but no one ever got a good look at it.

“About a month ago, we began hearing about a white creature,” Lehman said. “It became an urban legend—it was seen in the neighbor’s lawn and trees and someone saw it in their back yard.”

Someone said it was not a raccoon or a badger, but it looked familiar, like a fuzzy cat.

”(One neighbor) drew a conclusion that wild cats were mating with opossums and this was now the result,” Cybul said. “Of course, we all laughed hysterically at this.”

On Oct. 23, Cybul was barbecuing in his back yard when he saw something walk down the driveway. It was clearly a raccoon, but it was white.

“We have proof of what it is and researched it,” Cybul said. “Albino raccoons do appear physically different as opposed to the average raccoon.”

Scott Garrow, wildlife biologist for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said it is an unusual animal, but albino mammals do exist.

“It is genetic. The genes for albinism will show up; it is like a recessive gene that normally doesn’t occur,” he said.

Normally, albino animals are not seen in the wild because they don’t survive, according to Garrow.

“It is not something that will persist,” he said. ”(We) won’t see a cluster of raccoons, and it will probably die out.”


Jan 31, 2007 Morgantown WV

Rare white raccoon captured downtown: Albino, sibling found near Pleasant Street released to woods.

Byline: J. Miles Layton

Jan. 31--An albino raccoon was captured foraging for food this week outside an apartment building on Pleasant Street in Morgantown. The critter is white, has pink eyes with a slightly yellow hue, weighs 7 or 8 pounds, and is about a foot long.

The black mask usually found around a raccoon's eyes was a deeper shade of white. Mike Gray, a professional trapper with 30 years of experience, caught the creature and one of its regularly colored siblings by using marshmallows as bait to bring them inside a cage trap.


Weird White Raccoon

This white raccoon lives in the woods near a Rockledge subdivision. Brevard Zoo officials say they cannot capture and display the rare animal because it is healthy.

Woman fears for albino raccoon's safety
BY RICK NEALE • FLORIDA TODAY • December 1, 2008

The pale-furred mutant likes to munch on grapes and cat food, said a woman who feeds and photographs the elusive animal. Fearful for the albino creature's safety, the woman asked Brevard Zoo officials to trap it and put it on public display. She asked FLORIDA TODAY to withhold her identity so hunters would not converge on the raccoon's territory.

"I'd hate to see him get shot as a trophy," she said. "This is something kids would love to see. He is so unique."

Michelle Smurl, Brevard Zoo's director of animal programs, said the zoo is not at liberty to trap an adult animal that is thriving in the wild. She viewed photos of the animal and confirmed that it is a white raccoon.

"The raccoon looks healthy, and it looks like it's doing well," Smurl said. "I grew up with white squirrels up in New York, and I was worried that someone was going to shoot them."

Raccoons are common across the state and live "everywhere there are trees," according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Web site. These omnivores are about the size of a small dog and are identifiable by "black mask" facial features and bushy ringed tails.

But according to a KFOR-TV report of an Oklahoma white raccoon sighting, only one in 750,000 albino raccoons will survive to adulthood.

Earlier this month, a ghostly white raccoon startled an Illinois man during a backyard barbecue, Prairie State Outdoors reported.

Two ivory-colored raccoons were trapped earlier this year in Tennessee, leading a Memphis Commercial Appeal outdoors columnist to proclaim, "You have a better chance of being struck by a bolt from Mother Nature than seeing an albino raccoon."

Smurl said humans should not feed raccoons because they are wild animals.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cat Survives!

While this is not an everyday occurance, it does happen frequently. This is just a more extreme case. Cats tend to find warm, quiet places as it gets cool outside, and cars are a perfect (in their feline minds) place. Then, severe injuries or death can occur. Use care, and don't let your treasured inside cat outside.


Cat's week under car bonnet (hood). November 2008

An Austrian motorist couldn't work out why his Mercedes car was "purring" along better than normal - until he looked under the bonnet.

Peter Hochberger discovered his neighbour's terrified moggie Luna had been perched on the engine block - for nearly a week.

Lucky Luna had survived more than 300 miles of motoring without food or water before her mewing raised the alarm.

The petrified puss had hidden so deep inside the engine that it had to be dismantled to get her out.

Mechanic Walter Doerfler, 48, said: "I have no idea how she got so far into the engine, it was a major job to take parts off so we could reach her."

Amazingly she escaped with just some minor singes to her fur and is now back with her family in Ruprechtshofen, Austria, counting her eight remaining lives.

Relieved owner Erwin Taurok said: "It is a miracle that Luna survived the odyssey without food or water almost unharmed. We were worried about her after she didn't turn up for a week and had put up posters with her picture - we are delighted to have her back."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Real Life "Bambi and Thumper"

These images were forwarded in an email recently. Amazing.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Sad Story of Feral Bees and Hurican Ike

On Saturday (20 September) my wife and I decided to go on a looooong walk inspecting the damage of beloved but wounded neighboring Park. Ike had stomped it pretty good. Ike had swept in with little advanced warning as to its severity, and we were very lucky. We lost power for 5 days, but so many others suffered more severely.

Anyway, about 2 miles into our walk, since we had to start from the bottom of the park - couldn't drive up - we surveyed the uprooted and mangled trees. The woodpeckers were in Heaven, with so many colonies of carpenter ants and other bugs exposed for the taking.

I digress a moment. Last Spring, we were walking the same area and came upon a hawk sitting in a tree. It was a bit spooked by our approach and flew off. That's when we heard a ferocious buzzing sound and across from the "hawk tree" we saw a mass (like smoke) of honey bees ferreting out a new home. Feral bees.

My friend, Casper, tells me that feral bees are very rare and so we were impressed, a bit nervous, but proud we could witness such a sight. Each time we walked by that area, we looked but saw very little sign of the bees. We suspected that they didn't take, and had moved on. Saturday, we realized we'd misled ourselves.

The "bee tree" was one of the mangled trees, though the "hawk tree" remained intact.

There were a few bees, so I said "Let's look a minute". As my eyes focused, I saw a bit of bee hive laying on the broken trunk, now laying prostrate on the ground. Then I spied the rest. Sadly, it was split into at least two slabs and that one fragment I first spied: Just laying on top of the felled tree. I suppose the bees had nearly a week to die out, but there were survivors still.

We mourned a moment and then walked on through the debris field. We'll always keep fond memories of the "bee tree" and that lone colony of feral honey bees.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rare four-eared cat's story.


Yoda, a smoke-colored feline whose four ears give him the appearance of a horned devil, became the toast of several high-profile Web sites the week of 17 August 2008. The blogosphere quickly pounced on the story of a 2-year-old cat who had been a barroom oddity before he was adopted by a suburban couple. Ted and Valerie Rock found Yoda in 2006 while watching a Bears game at a Blue Island bar with fellow volunteers from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Patrons were passing the 8-week-old kitten around, mocking his appearance and calling him names such as "Devil Cat" and "Beelzebub." The Rocks took pity on the kitty and offered to adopt him. The establishment's owner, who kept the cat in a cage atop the bar to amuse patrons, agreed.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Weird Cat Law

Cats in the Saudi capital Riyadh.


Saudi Arabia's religious police have announced a ban on selling pet cats or exercising them in public in the Saudi capital, because of men use them as a means of making passes at women, an official has said.

Golden Retriever Nurses White Tigers

Golden retriever adopts tiger cubs at Kansas zoo

Thu Jul 31, 7:27 AM ET

CANEY, Kan. - A dog at a southeast Kansas zoo has adopted three tiger cubs abandoned by their mother. Safari Zoological Park owner Tom Harvey said the tiger cubs were born Sunday, but the mother had problems with them.


A day later, the mother stopped caring for them. Harvey said the cubs were wandering around, trying to find their birth mother, who wouldn't pay attention to them. That's when the cubs were put in the care of a golden retriever, Harvey said.

Harvey said it's unusual for dogs to care for tiger cubs, but it does happen. He said he has seen reports of pigs nursing cubs in China, and he actually got the golden retriever after his wife saw television accounts of dogs caring for tiger cubs.

Puppies take about the same amount of time as tiger cubs to develop, and Harvey said the adoptive mother just recently weaned her own puppies.

"The timing couldn't have been any better," he said.

The mother doesn't know the difference, Harvey said. He said the adopted mother licks, cleans and feeds the cubs.

The Safari Zoological Park is a licensed facility open since 1989 and specializes in endangered species.

It has leopards, lions, cougars, baboons, ring-tailed lemurs, bears and other animals. It currently has seven white tigers and two orange tigers.

Because whit tigers are inbred from the first specimen found more than a half-century ago, they are not as genetically stable as orange tigers.

The zoo's previous litter of white tiger cubs was born April 23, although one of the three has since gone to a private zoo near Oklahoma City.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Black-crowned night-heron: Rescued!

Heart warming rescue as reported in the Louisville Courier-Journal

A black-crowned night-heron appeared to have been caught on a piece of kite string or fishing line in a sycamore tree near a bridge in Cherokee Park. The bird had injured its right wing and lost a few feathers.

Firefighters rescue injured heron
Bird found in Cherokee Park
By Charlie White • • July 14, 2008

A crowd of several dozen people cheered firefighters yesterday after they rescued an injured heron from a sycamore tree in Cherokee Park.
Several people had called 911 during the morning to report that the bird, a black-crowned night-heron, had become tangled on a piece of line near a bridge on Scenic Loop over Beargrass Creek.
The heron had injured its right wing and lost a few feathers, but it was conscious when it was taken away by Eileen and John Wicker of Raptor Rehab of Kentucky.
Nate Paulson and Capt. Kent McCauley of Louisville Fire & Rescue climbed a ladder to reach the heron, then carried it down just before noon. The bird appeared to have been caught on a piece of kite string or fishing line, and it was unclear how long it had been there.
"At the very least, it has a dislocated shoulder," Eileen Wicker said.
The Wickers gave the bird fluid before putting it in a cage in the back of their van. It was the second one they had rescued the same day; another found off Eastern Parkway.
The Wickers were taking the herons to a woman who has worked at the Louisville Zoo and said she would nurse them back to health.
Black-crowned night-herons are common in the St. Joseph neighborhood and in other parts of the metro area. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they have a wingspan of about 45 inches and produce a loud, harsh squawk.

John Wicker is with Raptor Rehab Kentucky. (By Charlie White, The Courier-Journal / July 13, 2008)
Firefighters rescue injured heron
Bird found in Cherokee Park
By Charlie White • • July 14, 2008

A black-crowned night-heron was plucked from a sycamore tree in Cherokee Park just before noon today after the bird had become tangled on a piece of line. Firefighters climbed a ladder to reach the heron near a bridge on Scenic Loop, over Beargrass Creek. Several onlookers had called 911 earlier. The bird appeared to be caught on a piece of kite string or fishing line, and it was unclear how long it had been there. Officials from a raptor rehabilitation center also responded, and said the bird was alert and conscious after the rescue, but that its right wing was damaged.According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, black-crowned night-herons have a wingspan of about 45 inches, and produce a loud, harsh squawk. They eat snakes, rodents, fish and lizards.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Finnegan the Squirrel

Finnegan the squirrel

Debby C-, who plans to release Finnegan, the young squirrel, back into the wild, bottle-fed the infant squirrel after it was brought to her house.

When C- took in the tiny creature and began caring for him, she found herself with an unlikely nurse's aide: her pregnant Papillion, Mademoiselle Giselle.

Finnegan was resting in a nest in a cage just days before Giselle was due to deliver her puppies.

C- and her husband watched as the dog dragged the squirrel's cage twice to her own bedside before she gave birth.

Cantlon was concerned, yet ultimately decided to allow the squirrel out and the inter-species bonding began.

Finnegan rides a puppy mosh pit of sorts, burrowing in for warmth after feeding, eventually working his way beneath his new litter mates.

Now, Finnegan mostly uses a bottle, but still snuggles with his 'siblings' in a mosh pit of puppies, rolling atop their bodies, and sinking in deeply for a nap.

Two days after giving birth, mama dog Giselle allowed Finnegan to nurse; family photos and a videotape show her encouraging him to suckle alongside her litter of five pups.

Finnegan and his new litter mates, five Papillion puppies, get along together as if they were meant to.

Finnegan naps after feeding.

Finnegan makes himself at home with his new litter mates, nuzzling nose-to-nose for a nap after feeding.

This came in an email to brighten up the day! Wouldn't it be nice if we could all get along like Finnegan and the gang? MORAL OF THE STORY: Keep loving everyone, even the squirrelly ones!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Deer at Cheekwood, Nashville, TN

We were walking on the sculpture tour and when I took a picture of these deer, this eerie optical effect happened with the deer's eyes. It was quite a surprise when I looked at the pictures later.

The deer were barely interested in us and they looked our way occasionally, but they were obviously used to people.

Cheekwood is a beautiful museum and gardens. If you're near Nashville, consider visiting. Click here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Weird Cat & Rodent Relationship.

This just submitted by our field reporter Casper Kelly. It's an odd pictorial of a weird relationship. Cat ... meet rodent.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Crazy Raspberry Ants

"Hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of them are coming in a near-unstoppable zig-zagging insect army intent on making your home, yard and life a living hill," the Houston Chronicle says.

Published: May 14, 2008

Filed at 9:10 p.m. ET
DALLAS (AP) -- In what sounds like a really low-budget horror film, voracious swarming ants that apparently arrived in Texas aboard a cargo ship are invading homes and yards across the Houston area, shorting out electrical boxes and messing up computers.
The hairy, reddish-brown creatures are known as ''crazy rasberry ants'' -- crazy, because they wander erratically instead of marching in regimented lines, and ''rasberry'' after Tom Rasberry, an exterminator who did battle against them early on.
''They're itty-bitty things about the size of fleas, and they're just running everywhere,'' said Patsy Morphew of Pearland, who is constantly sweeping them off her patio and scooping them out of her pool by the cupful. ''There's just thousands and thousands of them. If you've seen a car racing, that's how they are. They're going fast, fast, fast. They're crazy.''
The ants -- formally known as ''paratrenicha species near pubens'' -- have spread to five Houston-area counties since they were first spotted in Texas in 2002.
The newly recognized species is believed to have arrived in a cargo shipment through the port of Houston. Scientists are not sure exactly where the ants came from, but their cousins, commonly called crazy ants, are found in the Southeast and the Caribbean.
''At this point, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate the ant because it is so widely dispersed,'' said Roger Gold, a Texas A&M University entomologist.
The good news? They eat fire ants, the stinging red terrors of Texas summers.
But the ants also like to suck the sweet juices from plants, feed on such beneficial insects as ladybugs, and eat the hatchlings of a small, endangered type of grouse known as the Attwater prairie chicken.
They also bite humans, though not with a stinger like fire ants.
Worse, they, like some other species of ants, are attracted to electrical equipment, for reasons that are not well understood by scientists.
They have ruined pumps at sewage pumping stations, fouled computers and at least one homeowner's gas meter, and caused fire alarms to malfunction. They have been spotted at NASA's Johnson Space Center and close to Hobby Airport, though they haven't caused any major problems there yet.
Exterminators say calls from frustrated homeowners and businesses are increasing because the ants -- which are starting to emerge by the billions with the onset of the warm, humid season -- appear to be resistant to over-the-counter ant killers.
''The population built up so high that typical ant controls simply did no good,'' said Jason Meyers, an A&M doctoral student who is writing his dissertation on the one-eighth-inch-long ant.
It's not enough just to kill the queen. Experts say each colony has multiple queens that have to be taken out.
At the same time, the ants aren't taking the bait usually left out in traps, according to exterminators, who want the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen restrictions on the use of more powerful pesticides.
And when you do kill these ants, the survivors turn it to their advantage: They pile up the dead, sometimes using them as a bridge to cross safely over surfaces treated with pesticide.
''It looked like someone had come along and poured coffee granules all around the perimeter of the rooms,'' said Lisa Calhoun, who paid exterminators $1,200 to treat an infestation of her parents' home in the Houston suburb of Pearland.
The Texas Department of Agriculture is working with A&M researchers and the EPA on how to stop the ants.
''This one seems to be like lava flowing and filling an entire area, getting bigger and bigger,'' said Ron Harrison, director of training for the big pest-control company Orkin Inc.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Eagles & Clouds

Casper Kelly sent these to us.

These awesome pictures were taken recently near Comox , BC , Canada . Unfortunately no one knows who the photographer was. This is something few humans will ever be privileged to see.

The clouds are called Mammatus clouds . They don't precede a tornado, or foretell a storm, but are formed when the air is already saturated with rain droplets and/or ice crystals and begins to sink. The worst of the storm is usually over when these kinds of clouds are seen. They are quite rare, but really beautiful.

Weird Lungless Frog

Bizarre Frog Has No Lungs, By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience, posted: 07 April 2008 ET

The first lungless frog has been discovered lurking in the jungles of Borneo.
The enigmatic amphibian, dubbed Barbourula kalimantanensis, apparently gets all the oxygen it needs through its skin. Scientists first saw one of these frogs 30 years ago, but due to their rarity, just one other specimen had been collected since then and neither had been dissected.
"No one thought to open them up — there was no real reason to believe that they could be lungless," said researcher David Bickford, an evolutionary biologist at the National University of Singapore. "Because these specimens were so rare, they had never been dissected. If you have just one specimen in your museum, you don't want to rip it open!"

The amphibians, no more than 2 inches long, have proven elusive because they live in cold, fast rivers in remote areas of the rainforests of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. Also, they are slippery "and can be surprisingly fast for short bursts," Bickford said. "We had a team of 11 people looking for these frogs and it took us almost two weeks before we found any."
He and his colleagues had no idea this frog would be lungless.

"I was just going to be happy if we simply rediscovered the frogs," Bickford said. "It had been 30 years of intermittent searching for this frog until we could put together a multinational team and get to the last remaining areas where it could realistically be found."

As Bickford and his colleagues went snorkeling in the rivers where the frogs live, the water proved so cold that "after just 45 minutes of snorkeling, I would have to stop because I was shaking uncontrollably, my lips were blue, and my breathing became too labored to actually snorkel effectively," Bickford told LiveScience. "This is lowland rain forest in Borneo, just off the equator, and I had hypothermia! That certainly was something I was not entirely prepared for."
"There are so many difficulties in field work, and yet it remains my biggest joy," Bickford added. "Having the undeniable privilege of going out to these remote sites, seeing some of the last and greatest treasures that exist in the wild, and then getting to study them — well, every day I feel lucky."

As the researchers were doing initial dissections of the frogs as they caught them in the field, they were surprised to discover these amphibians lacked lungs. "At first I did not believe that the frogs had no lungs, but then, we just kept on seeing the evidence pile up. I was flabbergasted," Bickford said.

"The thing that struck me most then and now is that there are still major firsts — for example, first lungless frog! — to be found out in the field," Bickford added. "All you have to do is go a little ways beyond what people have done before, and — voila!"

It appears that the rest of the internal organs in these frogs have shifted position to take up the space once filled by the lungs. "So we had the stomach, spleen and the liver up in the area where lungs are normally found," Bickford said. "Interestingly, we also discovered some abnormal cartilage around the area where the lungs should have been that we are still investigating."
The loss of lungs helped the frogs severely flatten their bodies. This in turn increased the surface area of their skin, which helps them absorb oxygen.

The researchers conjecture the loss of lungs might be an adaptation to the cold, fast rivers the frogs live in. Such waters naturally have high oxygen content. Also, the frogs would rather sink than float and get carried away in the water, so getting rid of lungs, which behave as flotation devices, would prove helpful.

Amphibians are also cold-blooded, "so their inherent energy requirements are very small — roughly 10 percent that of a similar sized mammal," Bickford said. "If you don't need as much oxygen anyhow, it might be easier to change, to lose lungs as the primary respiration organ."
More lungless animals

The family of frogs this novel amphibian belongs to ranks among one of the most primitive, if not the most primitive. The more primitive lineages could have an easier time switching to lunglessness, but "at this stage this is all conjecture," Bickford said.

The loss of lungs has been known to occur two other times in all the creatures with backbones that have waddled onto land across geologic time. Each time this loss has happened in amphibians — in a species of caecilian, a limbless beast resembling an earthworm, and in many species of salamanders. How and why this change evolved in these animals has been long debated, and the new frog could shed light on this curious phenomenon.

The closest relative of this frog, which dwells in the Philippines, has lungs.

"We don't even know what they eat, although we have some good guesses from two full stomachs," Bickford said. "How do they locate and attract mates? What do their eggs look like? Do they even lay eggs, or do they have a more derived mode of reproduction where the eggs directly develop into small frogs? Do they have tadpoles? What are their habitat requirements? How many are left?"

The rarity of this frog could hamper further studies into it, Bickford added. The amphibian could become even more rare, given the increasing damage to its environment as the result of toxic metals used in mining and other unfortunate consequences of development on the island.
"The once cool and clear streams have mostly turned murky and warm, contaminated with human pollutants, run-off from agriculture and mercury from the gold mining," Bickford said. "This is an endangered frog that we know practically nothing about, with an amazing ability to breathe entirely through its skin, whose future is being destroyed by illegal gold mining by people who are marginalized and have no other means of supporting themselves. There are no simple answers to this problem."

One of the primary goals of the researchers now is to garner more support for conserving the last remaining wild spots in Borneo, "and I think we have a flagship species in these lungless frogs," Bickford said. "There is so much we do not understand about nature and at least part of the reason to protect it is to protect our own futures."

Bickford and his colleagues Djoko Iskandar and Anggraini Barlian will detail their findings in the journal Current Biology.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beelzebufo: Largest Known Frog

Here comes Beelzebufo! The Devil Toad. A Frog the Size of a Bowling Ball.

Here' s the story.
February 18, 2008A team of researchers, led by Stony Brook University paleontologist David Krause, has discovered the remains in Madagascar of what may be the largest frog ever to exist. The 16-inch, 10-pound ancient frog, scientifically named Beelzebufo, or devil frog, links a group of frogs that lived 65 to 70 million years ago with frogs living today in South America. Discovery of the voracious predatory fossil frog -- reported on-line this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) -- is significant in that it may provide direct evidence of a one-time land connection between Madagascar, the largest island off Africa's southeast coast, and South America.

To identify Beelzebufo and determine its relationship to other frogs, Krause collaborated with fossil frog experts Susan Evans, lead author of the PNAS article, and Marc Jones of the University College London. The authors concluded that the new frog represents the first known occurrence of a fossil group in Madagascar with living representatives in South America."Beelzebufo appears to be a very close relative of a group of South American frogs known as 'ceratophyrines,' or 'pac-man' frogs, because of their immense mouths," said Krause, whose research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The ceratophryines are known to camouflage themselves in their surroundings, then ambush predators.

"The finding presents a real puzzle biogeographically, particularly because of the poor fossil record of frogs on southern continents," said Krause. "We're asking ourselves, 'What's a 'South American' frog doing half-way around the world, in Madagascar?'" He said that because frogs "are not adept at dispersal across marine barriers, and since the few fossil frogs that are known from the Late Cretaceous in Africa are unrelated to Beelzebufo, one possibility is that there was a land connection between South America and Madagascar during that period."

Some geoscientists have suggested a lingering physical link between South America and Madagascar during the Late Cretaceous Period -- a link involving Antarctica. Antarctica in the Late Cretaceous was much warmer than it is today. "The occurrence of this frog in Madagascar and its relatives' existence in South America provides strong evidence that the supercontinent Gondwana 'disassembled' during the latest part of the Cretaceous," said Richard Lane, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences.

Krause and colleagues have hypothesized this connection based on previous discoveries of sauropod and theropod dinosaurs, crocodiles and mammals in Madagascar that were very closely related to forms in South America. Beelzebufo is one of the largest frogs on record and was perhaps the largest frog ever to exist. The size and robustness of its bones and its relatedness to the rotund South American forms indicates it was also probably the heaviest frog to exist.

The size, girth, appearance, and predatory nature of the frog prompted its discoverers to call it the "armored frog from hell." They derived the genus name from the Greek word for devil (Beelzebub) and the Latin word for toad (bufo). The species name, ampinga, means "shield."The largest living frog today is the goliath frog of West Africa, which attains lengths of 12.5 inches and weights of 7.2 pounds. The largest frog alive on Madagascar today, at just over four inches long, "would have been a nice hors d'oeuvre for Beelzebufo," Krause said.

Since the discovery of the first bones found in northwestern Madagascar in 1993, Krause and his team have gathered some 75 fossil fragments of Beelzebufo. Through the accumulation of these fossils, the team has been able to reconstruct the frog's skeleton, including nearly the entire skull.

Not only was the frog huge, it was powerful in design, had a protective shield, an extremely wide mouth and powerful jaws. These features made Beelzebufo capable of killing lizards and other small vertebrates, perhaps even hatchling dinosaurs.

The research was also funded by the National Geographic Society.