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Temporal range: Cretaceous-Miocene 130–5Ma
Fossilised frog.jpg
Fossilised Palaeobatrachus gigas
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Anura
Family: Palaeobatrachidae
Genus: Palaeobatrachus


Palaeobatrachus ('ancient frog') was a primitive frog from Central Europe that existed from the Cretaceous to the Neogene periods (130-5 million years ago). Although not closely related, it resembled the present day African clawed toad Xenopus.

Palaeobatrachus grandipes fossil, Narodni Muzeum

Its skeletal remains are plentiful in freshwater sediments in western Bohemia, in Geiseltal (west Germany) and in east Germany. They are sometimes preserved very well indeed, with impressions of internal organs, muscles, nerves, blood vessels and epidermis, and with traces of coloring. Tadpoles and eggs have also been found.

Palaeobatrachus had a relatively broad skull the shape of a Gothic arch. Its body was relatively large, ranging from 8 to 10 centimetres (3.1 to 3.9 in) in length, and the female was usually larger than the male (sexual dimorphism).

These frogs lived permanently in water. Their bag-shaped lungs, on the dorsal side of their body, enabled them to remain submerged for long periods. They inhabited through-drainage basins or swamps where brown coal deposits were formed. Like the African clawed toad, they probably lived on small crustaceans, insect larvae and small fish and themselves provided sustenance for many other animals.

The climatic change at the beginning of the Pliocene was a real catastrophe for Palaeobatrachus, which required warmth, and, being specialized, was unable to adapt itself to the altered conditions.


  • Benes, Josef. Prehistoric Animals and Plants. Pg. 178. Prague: Artia, 1979.
Cast of Palaeobatrachus at UALVP.