|Name Meaning||“Lord of the Toads”||Height||41 cm (16 in.)|
|Pronunciation||Beel-ze-boo-fo||Length||23.2 cm (9.1 in.)|
|Era||Mesozoic – Late Cretaceous||Weight||4.5 kg (10 lbs.)|
|Classification||Salientia, Anura, & Neobatrachia||Location||Madagascar|
Beelzebufo is an extinct amphibian, and also the largest frog species known to exist.
These ancient amphibians lived in Madagascar during the late Cretaceous period, and date back to around 66 to 70 million years ago.
The discovery of Beelzebufo occurred in 1993, and it took around 15 years for this species to be described, done so in 2008 by paleontologists working at Stony Brook University.
Beelzebufo may be the largest frog to ever exist, but there is still a lot more to learn about this prehistoric species.
Here you will learn about the devil frog Beelzebufo, and what paleontologists have managed to uncover from the fossil remains they discovered.
As of today, there have been around 75 fossils discovered of this frog.
New and more complete findings in the future may change what is known about the largest known frog to live.
Beelzebufo may seem extraordinarily compared to the frog species alive today, and they have many features from their large size, and extreme bite force that helped them survive in the age of the dinosaurs.
Fossil evidence is the main reason we know about Beelzebufo, and some recent discoveries have allowed us to get an even better look at the many characteristics of this prehistoric frog.
Beelzebufo originally was thought to have a length of around 42.5 cm (16.7 in.), but later studies suggested they had a length of around 23.2 cm (9.1 in).
Fossils of Beelzebufo, and CT scans of them have allowed paleontologists to fill in the missing gaps that are not seen in their fossils.
These ancient frogs would have had a similar appearance to modern pac man frogs, but were much larger in size.
Beelzebufo most likely had horns on their heads, and possibly had a shell-like armor on it to defend itself from predators.
Only fragments of this frog have been discovered, which have been pieced together from around 75 different specimens, none nearly complete.
Beelzebufo likely had many of the traits seen in modern frogs like warty skin, and yellowish to green coloring.
Their closest relative that you can find today is the Pac-Man frog, but it is not yet known if their similarities are just physical or evolutionary.
Beelzebufo had a weight of around 4.5 kilograms (10 lbs.), and had a large mouth they were able to open up to 15.24 cm. (6 inches) wide.
There are still lots of missing bones of this frog, and as more fossils are discovered in Beelzebufo, what they look like may change.
Habitat and Distribution
Beelzebufo lived on the island of Madagascar during the Late Cretaceous period around 65 to 70 million years ago.
This frog was originally discovered in northwestern Madagascar, and over time more fragments were discovered.
The Maevarono Formation is where the first Beelzebufo fossil was discovered, and other material in the bed was also unearthed that has helped depict what life was like in Cretaceous Madagascar.
When Beelzebufo lived in Madagascar it was warm, and had periods of seasonal dryness.
It was a semi-arid environment, with rivers that had lots of drainage.
Similar to frogs today, Beelzebufo was likely able to enter into a state of brumation and became inactive to survive periods of extreme weather that were hot or cold.
Where Beelzebufo lived is interesting, since they resemble many larger frogs of South America, but have only been found in Madagascar.
Similar relatives being found in South America suggest that Madagascar and South America had a closer relationship during the Cretaceous period than previously thought.
Behavior and Diet
Beelzebufo being one of the largest frogs to ever exist, had a large range of food that they preyed on.
These frogs had very large mouths, and a strong bite force that helped them eat prey like insects, and small vertebrates like baby dinosaurs.
Using the bite force of modern frogs, and scaling them to the size of Beelzebufo, scientists have been able to figure out the bite force of this massive amphibian.
Beelzebufo had a bite force estimated at 2,200 Newtons (224.3 kilograms-force), which helped them crush their prey, and allowed them to feed on smaller baby theropods.
Their bite force is similar to moderns like wolves which have a bite force of 2255 Newtons, and their bites have around half the force of animals like lions, which have bite force estimated at 4,450 Newtons.
Beelzebufo’s largemouth made it so they swallowed their prey whole, and ambushed animals that got too close to them.
Smaller dinosaurs, baby crocodilians, and other small vertebrates are what this frog ate.
Beelzebufo’s predatory behavior was likely similar to other giant frogs of today like the bullfrog, who are very aggressive ambush predators that jump at their prey, and feed on anything that fits in their mouth.
The life cycle of Beelzebufo is not well known, but it is believed this genus had a similar life cycle to similar modern frogs like the pac man frogs.
Fossils of Beelzebufo have been only fragments, but this genus has been abundant since fossilization of frogs that live in semi-arid environments, and are larger tend to be more common.
Beelzebufo lived around 65 to 70 million years ago in the Cretaceous period, and they are thought to have gone extinct when the Chicxulub asteroid hit North America, dying with the dinosaurs.
Like the frogs of today, Beelzefuo likely laid eggs in aquatic environments, and started their life as tadpoles and fed on aquatic material.
The lifespan and age of Beelzebufo is unknown, but the fossils found of this frog suggest Beelzebufo could have grown to be even larger as an adult.
With more fossils discovered, there may be more learned about the lifecycle of Beelzebufo, and how they went through metamorphosis from eggs to adults.
Evolution and History
Beelzebufo was discovered in Madagascar in 1993 by David Krause, and his team.
It took around 15 years for this frog to be described in 2008, and their name is derived from the Greek word for devil “Beelzebub”, and the Latin word for toad which is “Bufo”.
What confuses paleontologists is where Beelzebufo was discovered, since these Madagascan frogs seem to be related to Ceratophryidae frogs such as the pac-man frog.
While Beelzebufo’s similarities to pac man frogs could be an example of convergent evolution since both animals lived similar lifestyles, and habitats, these two species may also be related.
During the Cretaceous period, Madagascar could have only been connected to South America by Antarctica, and at the time the two lands were very far apart.
Early ancestors of Beelzebufo could have traveled over the sea by using a method called rafting, where they traveled to new areas on aquatic structures across the ocean, but this brings even further questions to paleontologists.
Beelzebufo may suggest that frogs were more common than first believed in the Cretaceous period.
Frogs have been around on Earth for around 200 million years, and current studies suggest that around 88% of modern frog species descended from around 3 lineages.
Only new fossil discoveries of similar frog species, and Beelzebufo can help clarify where these frogs came from, and what happened to their lineage.
Interactions with Other Species
Madagascar in the Late Cretaceous period had a diverse range of fauna, including mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and dinosaurs.
Along with Beelzebufo, the Maevarano Formation has produced other fossilized specimens that showcased some of Madagascar’s Cretaceous life.
Other animals that lived alongside Beelzebufo include:
In their environments, Beelzebufo were susceptible to many of the carnivorous animals that they lived with, like dinosaurs, prehistoric crocodiles, large turtles, and prehistoric snakes.
These frogs had the strength to only feed on juvenile dinosaurs, and other insects, but were likely food for most animals that they came across.
Beelzebufo’s short legs suggested they were terrestrial, and did not live in the water.
The heads of this giant frog had extra bones that could have been used as protection against predators.
To not leave themselves susceptible to threats like extreme weather, or predators similar to frogs of today, Beelzebufo could have used their back legs to dig burrows to rest in a secluded area.
Being extremely large and from the Cretaceous period living alongside some of the largest dinosaurs is why Beelzebufo is one of the most iconic prehistoric frogs.
Frogs like bullfrogs and pacman frogs of today are extremely large, but Beelzebufo managed to grow even larger, and possibly fed on dinosaurs like juvenile theropods.
You can find this dinosaur-eating frog in popular games like Ark Survival Evolved, which showcase them for their size, and aggressive nature.
Frog fossils overall are extremely rare, since they have smaller bones, and living in wet conditions leads to quicker decompositions.
The landscape and size of Beelzebufo made them more likely to be preserved, and they have been an important species in learning about how frogs evolved over time.
Triadobatrachus is the earliest frog fossil dating back to the early Triassic in Madagascar.
While Triadobatrahcus is believed to have evolved into modern frogs, it is still unclear what happened to Beelzebufo, and where their lineage dates.
Beelzebufo is one of the many known prehistoric frogs, and may also be one of the largest known frogs to ever exist.
Only fragments of fossil specimens have been found, and as of today, there have been around 75 specimens that have helped complete a bit more than 50% of this frog.
One of Beelzebufo’s closest relatives today are the South American frogs, and these amphibians have been essential in learning about many of the prehistoric frogs that lived millions of years ago.
While alive during the period of the dinosaurs, frogs did not become as common and diverse until the extinction of the dinosaurs allowed them to thrive.
There is still a lot to learn about Beelzebufo, and with more discoveries of their fossils, much can change about what is known about this giant, ancient frog.
The discoverers of this fossil are not only helpful in learning about how frogs evolved millions of years ago to the varying range of amphibians seen today but also give insight into how the continents moved over earth’s expansive history.
Beelzebufo had many similarities to the frogs of today but evolved to live alongside earth’s largest reptiles.
Is Beelzebufo a toad or a frog?
Toads and frogs are used interchangeably by some, but while all toads are frogs, not all frogs are considered toads.
The closest relative to Beelzebufo today are members of the Ceratophryidae family which are frogs, but this extinct species had many similarities to modern toads like their larger size, and stout legs.
Only further fossil evidence will make it easier to classify Beelzebufo, and decipher what other traits this genus had that were similar to modern frogs.
Was Beelzebufo toxic?
Almost all frogs are considered toxic, since they secrete mucous from their body to keep themselves moist, which likely includes Beelzebufo.
Since Beelzebufo is now extinct it is nearly impossible to know the level of toxins their bodies produced, as some modern frogs are only mildly toxic, while others secret bufotoxin that is much more potent.