Temporal range: Late Cretaceous,
|Three-dimensional digital reconstruction, with blue and light gray representing known fossils|
Evans, Jones, & Krause, 2008
Evans, Jones, & Krause, 2008
†B. ampinga Evans, Jones, & Krause, 2008
Beelzebufo ampinga (/ / or //) was a particularly large species of prehistoric frog described in 2008. Common names assigned by the popular media include devil frog, devil toad, and the frog from hell.
Fossils of Beelzebufo have been recovered from strata of the Maevarano Formation in Madagascar, dating to the late Cretaceous period, its assumed to have lived 65-70 million years ago. It is considered to be closely related to Baurubatrachus from the Late Cretaceous of Brazil, with both possibly being close relatives, though not members of, the extant South American frog family Ceratophryidae.
The first fossil bones were found in 1993 by David W. Krause of New York's Stony Brook University, but it took 14 years for scientists Susan E. Evans, Marc E. H. Jones, and Krause to assemble enough data for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences. The generic name Beelzebufo is a portmanteau of Beelzebub (a Semitic deity whose name may be translated as "Lord of the Flies", sometimes identified either as one of the chief lieutenants, or alter ego of the Christian Devil) and bufo (Latin for "toad"). The specific name ampinga means "shield" in Malagasy.
Some 75 fossil isolated partial bones have been found. Some portions of articulated skull are also known: specimen FMNH PR 2512 (which preserves most of the braincase, part of the palate, and part of the skull roof) and specimen FMNH PR 2512 (which preserves one of the posterior flanges). Researchers have been able to reconstruct parts of the frog's skeleton, including nearly the entire skull.
In early studies, it is suggested that snout-vent lengths of up to 42.5 cm (16.7 in). But in later studies, animals of this species estimated to have grown to at least 23.2 cm (9.1 in) (snout-vent length), which is around the size a modern African bullfrog can reach. The head of Beelzebufo was very big, and bones of the skull roof show a rugous external surface, indicating at least parts of the head may have borne bony scales, called scutes.
The skull sutures are open in even the largest specimens of Beelzebufo, showing that it might have grown even bigger.
Beelzebufo most likely was a predator whose expansive mouth allowed it to eat relatively large prey, perhaps even juvenile dinosaurs. Bite force measurements from a growth series of Cranwell's horned frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli), suggest that the bite force of a large Beelzebufo — skull width 15.4 cm (6.1 in) — may have been between 500 and 2,200 newtons (110 and 490 lbf).
The fossils of Beelzebufo are from Madagascar, which, while still attached to India, separated from the coast of Somalia in the earliest stage of the Late Jurassic. Beelzebufo resembles horned frogs (Ceratophryidae) of South America, which raised the possibility of a close biogeographic link between Madagascar and South America during the Cretaceous. The initial description of Beelzebufo hypothesis reignited interest and research into skeletal variation among living members of the Ceratophyridae. These investigations suggest several of the similarities between Beelzebufo and horned frogs may have evolved by convergence; a possibility certainly acknowledged in the descriptions of Beelzebufo.
A study from 2018 suggested that Beelzebufo, and other extinct frogs with ceratophryid-like traits, such as Baurubatrachus, were instead part of a more ancient group of Neobatrachia, distantly related to horned frogs. However, a 2022 study recovered Baurubatrachus and Beelzebufo as sister species, with the clade formed by the two genera in turn being the sister clade to extant Ceratophyridae. Thus, Beelzebufo could represent a taxon on the stem of crown group Ceratophryidae as previously suggested.
- Dybas, Cheryl (2008-02-18). "Scientists Discover 'Giant Fossil Frog from Hell'". Press Release 08-025. National Science Foundation. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
- Neergaard, Lauran (2008-02-18). "Scientists find 'Devil Toad' fossil". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
- Hooper, Rowan (2008-02-18). "Giant prehistoric frog hints at ancient land link". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 26 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
- Evans, Susan E.; Jones, Marc E. H.; Krause, David W. (2008). "A giant frog with South American affinities from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 105 (8): 2951–2956. Bibcode:2008PNAS..105.2951E. doi:10.1073/pnas.0707599105. PMC 2268566. PMID 18287076.
- Barcelos, Lucas Almeida; Almeida-Silva, Diego; Santos, Charles Morphy D.; Verdade, Vanessa Kruth (2021-10-18). "Phylogenetic analysis of Ceratophryidae (Anura: Hyloidea) including extant and extinct species". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 19 (20): 1449–1466. doi:10.1080/14772019.2022.2050824. ISSN 1477-2019. S2CID 248653602.
- Evans, Susan E.; Groenke, Joseph R.; Jones, Marc E. H.; Turner, Alan H.; Krause, David W. (2014). "New Material of Beelzebufo, a Hyperossified Frog (Amphibia: Anura) from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar". PLOS ONE. 9 (1): e87236. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...987236E. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0087236. PMC 3905036. PMID 24489877.
- "'Frog from hell' fossil unearthed". BBC News. 2008-02-18. Archived from the original on 21 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Lappin, A. Kristopher; Wilcox, Sean C.; Moriarty, David J.; Stoeppler, Stephanie A. R.; Evans, Susan E.; Jones, Marc E. H. (2017). "Bite force in the horned frog (Ceratophrys cranwelli) with implications for extinct giant frogs". Scientific Reports. 7 (1): 11963. Bibcode:2017NatSR...711963L. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-11968-6. PMC 5607344. PMID 28931936.
- Lawver, Lawrence A.; Gahagan, Lisa M.; and Dalziel, Ian W. D.; "A tight-fit early Mesozoic Gondwana: a plate reconstruction perspective", 1999, p. 5 "Africa-Madagascar", with citations (on-line text Archived 2008-10-12 at the Wayback Machine).
- Ruane, Sara; Pyron, R. Alexander; Burbrink, Frank T. (2011). "Phylogenetic relationships of the Cretaceous frog Beelzebufo from Madagascar and the placement of fossil constraints based on temporal and phylogenetic evidence: Phylogenetic placement of Beelzebufo". Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 24 (2): 274–285. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02164.x. PMID 21044207. S2CID 45674192.
- Báez, Ana María; Gómez, Raúl Orencio (2018). "Dealing with homoplasy: osteology and phylogenetic relationships of the bizarre neobatrachian frog Baurubatrachus pricei from the Upper Cretaceous of Brazil". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 16 (4): 279–308. doi:10.1080/14772019.2017.1287130. hdl:11336/21138. ISSN 1477-2019. S2CID 133862112.