Is The Indian Purple Frog The Ugliest Animal In The World?

On May 2, 2015 by Tim Newman

Purple Frog India - Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis - close up

I don’t think that even a herpetologist could find the purple frog attractive. They could definitely find them amusing and/or fascinating, but no one could look at this guy and think “wow, what a looker”.

The purple frog is only found in the Western Ghats of India. Its formal name is Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis and it belongs to the Sooglossidae family. Its common names include purple frog, Indian purple frog and pignose frog. And it’s gross looking. Much more unattractive than its distant relative, the handsome moustached toad.

Purple Frog India - Weirdest Animal

The purple frog is an odd shape compare to other frogs, it has a bloated body, a relatively small conical head and a magnificently weird white snout. As the name suggests, it’s got a purple hue to it too. And just for good measure it has strange white warts on its back feet, probably for digging.

Not content with being an odd colour and shape, the purple frog also sounds pretty weird. More like a chicken than an amphibian:

Anything else strange about them? Yes: the tadpoles of the purple frog have oral suckers to help them grip onto the rocks of torrential streams. It really is the whole package.

Purple Frog India - Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis

Although known to local people, the purple frog was only described by science in 2003. One of the reasons that science hadn’t noticed them before, was that they rarely come out to play. They spend the vast majority of their time underground, only surfacing for two weeks a year (just before monsoon season) in order to mate.

When they do mate, the male mounts the woman (as per usual), but because the female is three times the size of the male, the chap has to partially glue himself to her using sticky skin secretions.

This odd chap is thought to be the only subterranean frog that actually forages and captures prey totally submerged below the earth.The purple frog burrows and lives in areas with high termite numbers. The most obvious reason for this is that termites are delicious. An added bonus may be that the termites make the soil more porous with their tunneling, which probably helps let rain water through and keeps the soil cooler and more airy.

Purple Frog India - Ghat

Animal Collection on LAZERHORSE.ORG

Although the purple frog is such an oddity, it does have some living cousins. These relatives live in the far-flung Seychelles and they’re much smaller and less impressive than our new friend the purple frog.

No one knows how rare the purple frog is. Thanks to its secretive life and small distribution it’s almost impossible to get any idea on numbers. Only 135 individuals have been observed in the wild and only three of those were females. It is thought that tea, coffee and ginger plantations are probably their biggest threats.

Purple Frog India - Endangered

To put the purple frog into chronological perspective, these little guys spent a good 60 million years living and developing alongside the dinosaurs. In other words, they have done very well for themselves indeed; the purple frog is further evidence that looks aren’t everything.

Remember that.

If the purple frog can be such a success despite being so minging, so can you.

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