Wild Tracks

On behalf of the world's wild species

A Hairy Frog With Claws?

No we’re not making this up. Nature provides ample evidence of stranger-than-fiction creatures, and Africa’s hairy frog Trichobatrachus robustus certainly fits the category.

This 11 cm long amphibian is hairy during the mating season, when the male develops a thick bristle-like fringe along his flanks and thighs. The ‘hair’ is actually a mass of thin strands of skin replete with blood vessels, and is a temporary organ that may boost breathing ability in times of need – the male guards his mate’s eggs and may remain submerged for days without coming up for air.

But the frog’s other survival trick is even more unusual. With the flex of a foot muscle, it can produce an arsenal of sharp, curved claws that snap out of its toes like switchblades. These thorn-shaped toe bones rapidly pivot when triggered at the knuckle-like hinge, sending the pointed tip slicing through the frog’s skin and transform the feet into formidable weapons. A few violent kicks can lacerate a foe and draw blood from an unsuspecting human.

The trigger claw bones eventually move back into place and the toe wounds may even heal over – until the next time the frog needs to pull out its blades.

Brings to mind a certain X Men character, hmmm? And you thought Wolverine was fiction.

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