A screaming, puffed-up frog

This video of a Cape Rain frog (Breviceps gibbosus) should not be taken as amusing because, as National Geographic reported . . . . .

the footage clearly shows a frog in distress.

Simon Van Nierop, who captured the video, was taking a walk with his children and dogs in the Tokai Forest in Table Mountain National Park when they heard high-pitched screaming. They traced it to a yellow and black, puffed up cape rain frog, a species endemic to South Africa’s Western Cape and listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List.

The footage Van Nierop took is billed as “hilarious,” but not everyone agrees that it’s funny.

“I find it sad, not hilarious,” says Jill Goldman, a private animal behavior therapist. “I think people are drawn to videos that look funny when they don’t really understand why the animal is doing what [it’s] doing.” (See: “People Are Scaring Their Cats With Cucumbers. They Shouldn’t.”)

“Notice how the frog is backing up, trying to escape,” Alan Channing, an emeritus professor at the University of the Western Cape who’s written several books about frogs, says in an email. Channing, who has studied frogs in the wild for years, says he’s certain the frog was making the noise and puffing up its body to scare away potential threats.

They puff up their bodies by swallowing air, clearly part of a threat display. So if you live in South Africa, where the species is endemic, and you make one scream, back off.

I have to say, though, that I’ve never heard an amphibian make a noise like this.

17 Comments

  1. Paul S
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of the cucumber story, our cats couldn’t care less. They’ve jumped on the counter and stepped over a cucumber to get at some tasty leftovers more than once without a glance back.

  2. pck
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    There are a lot of these videos on youtube, but I think this one is my favourite.

  3. Ken Phelps
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Oh, so not Trump then. The headline had me going there for a minute….

    • Bruce Lyon
      Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      hillarious!

    • Posted August 17, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      🙂

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      That was my first thought too.

      cr

  4. Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    That’s similar to what I suggested might have been the case with the “playful” raccoon video posted last Tuesday. I suggested that these might have actually been hungry animals frustrated by a prank pulled on them in order to create an amusing video.

    Of course I could be totally wrong about that.

  5. Merilee
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Sounds more like a kitty than a frog.

  6. Posted August 17, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I have heard Bullfrogs (the American Bullfrog or L. catesbeianus) scream something like this. I agree with Ms. Goldman – those are screams of alarm and threat. They are clearly stressed and very unhappy when they make that noise. I only heard it from Bullfrogs I’d either picked up or cornered – when I was young. I learned my lesson and have long left them alone.

  7. Posted August 17, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard some frogs screaming loudly, much like a mammal, when being eaten by snakes. Presumably this is to attract predators who might pursue the snake, giving the frog a chance to escape.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 17, 2017 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Or, maybe it’s just the noise you make when a snake is eating you…

      cr

      (‘you’ of course meaning any animal…)

  8. Posted August 17, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    like a balloon expelling air…
    brings to mind, the reference to Trump, if the threat from Nth Korea was met by that squeal it would certainly have lightened the mood.. hold on, he did, none laughed (maybe the NK’s) and the difference???
    ah, the frog is more believable.

  9. Posted August 17, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Cute, sort of. But I would not want to egg one on since these animals use a lot of energy to do their defense.

  10. rickflick
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting to know about these effects, but is it worth deliberately forcing them? On the one hand, this seems cruel. On the other hand, I wonder if the “stress” felt by a lowly amphibian really amounts to much. There is a hierarchy, of course, within the animal kingdom. You may have noticed that zebras when chased by a lion appear to be in a panic. Stressed painfully. But within seconds of the lion making a kill, the nearby zebras relax and resume grazing within close proximity to the grizzly feast. Are frogs and toads really suffering deeply? Or is it more a reflex they exhibit like a sneeze? Too bad we can’t ask them.

  11. BJ
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    This frog doesn’t have to worry about me cornering it.

    …because I’m kind of a pussy and would run away if he screamed at me.

    …and he’d hear me apologizing as my voice retreated further and further.

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    “People Are Scaring Their Cats With Cucumbers. They Shouldn’t.”

    On that topic – and having watched the cat video – is there something unique about cucumbers that elicits that reaction? (Is a long thin shape – possibly snake-y – uniquely spooky? Does the dark colour make a difference?)

    Would the kittehs react similarly to, say, a tomato placed behind them?

    Would humans react similarly to a long dark object just behind them?

    I’m just curious.

    cr
    … off to terrorise the neighbourhood

  13. busterggi
    Posted August 18, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Poor little critter!


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