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African Native Attacked by a Frog (Reprint)

"During a recent visit to the United States, Mr. T.L. Putnam told me of an incident so unusual that I decided to write his informant, Mons. C. Caseleyr, Administrator of the Niangara Territory, for further details of the affair. The following account embodies the information courteously supplied.

"When Mons. Caseleyr was stationed at Tapili, Niangara, northeast Belgian Congo, one evening a native policeman came to him for iodine. In his hand he carried a large frog that he had killed with a stick. The man stated that he had been walking past a small pool when something bit his leg. Though it was dark he could see to club the creature that had attacked him, and was surprised to find it was a large frog. This policeman was well acquainted with the local herpetofauna but never before had heard of anyone being attacked by a frog. Mons. Caseleyr then examined the man's leg which bore 'two punctures, very much like the marks a dog's teeth would leave. The man's leg swelled up rather badly and he was considerably bothered by it for a few days, after which the swelling went down.'

"On opening the frog's mouth Mons. Caseleyr found two teeth like the canines of a dog, but much smaller, in the upper jaw, two similar teeth in the lower jaw. The tongue 'was forked like that of a snake.' The frog was the usual gray-green color above, with a large orange patch on the chest and belly. The amphibian was very large, broad, and fat, and 'seemed to be rather of the toad family, although I know nothing of these matters.'

"The notched tongue would seem to rule out the possibility of the creature being a toad, and the pronounced teeth eliminate Rana occipitalis, the common bullfrog of the Niangara district. Niangara, however, is in the Sudanese zoological subprovince, and Franz Werner (1908 (1907), Sitzb. Akad. Wiss. Wien, 116, 1: 1888) has reported a 70 mm. (female) bullfrog from Khor Attar on the White Nile. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the same species may occur in the northeast Belgian Congo, though as yet unknown from there.

"Werner, while noting differences, referred his frog to the South African Rana adspersa (Tschudi), a species which has numerous fine teeth in the upper jaw and a pair of enormous tooth-like projections at the front of the lower jaw. In one 160 mm, (approx. 6 1/2 inches) frog (MCZ 10826. ex. Dordrecht. Cape Province), these bony cusps rise 8 mm. (5/16 inch) from the jaw and are set 10 mm. (3/8 inch) apart with a minor cusp between them. Elsewhere (1936, Bull, Mus. Comp. Zool., 79: 408) I have shown that the name edulis (Peters) should be used for the frogs reported as "adspersa" ranging from Mozambique to Somaliland. Whether, as seems probably, edulis can be employed in a subspecific sense is not as yet clear, but it is reasonable to suppose that the Sudanese frog is referable to edulis rather than to southern adspersa or bufonia of Senegambia. It seems probable that edulis attains the size of adspersa though the largest (female) edulis that I have taken measured only 145 mm. (approx. 5 3/4 inches) with cusps rising 4.5 mm. and set 10 mm. apart, but capable of inflicting a severe bite.

"Whether the Belgian Congo frog was edulis must remain in doubt for neither edulis nor any other large frog known from this vicinity, has canine-like teeth in the upper jaw. As, however, Mons. Caseleyr writes of only two punctures on the askari's leg, it may be that his impression of cusps being present on both jaws is faulty. In view of the remarkably accurate account which he furnished, presumably written many months after he examined the frog, I suggest this possibility with considerable hesitation for it may be that some large species remains to be discovered in the Niangara region.

"Rana edulis (or Pyxicephalus edulis, as some prefer to call it) is so hardily omnivorous as to be worthy of study. A few years ago (Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool., 91: 419) I invited attention to their apparent imperviousness to stings as deduced from stomach contents. In one frog that I caught at Mikidani, Tanganyika Territory, there were 3 scorpions each measuring 1 1/4 inches from head to end of sting; a centipede 4 inches long and 1/3 inch broad; a millipede 2 3/4 inches long; a scutigera; a carabid beetle 1 1/2 inches long of a species that ejects formic acid; 3 black stink ants 11/16 inches long; and the remains of a snail with shell 7/16 in diameter. From time to time I have recorded similar strange assortments recovered from edulis stomachs."

Arthur Loveridge, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Copeia, 1945(4): 232.