FlipFact of the Day: Imagine yourself touring one of South Africa’s desert regions. As you carefully make your way through the sandy dunes, you hear something that simultaneously startles and baffles you: A loud, almost indignant squeak, as if a rubber ducky had sprung to life right at the moment you stepped on it. Three seconds later, you hear another sharp squeak, and you look around, trying to find the source of the noise. You get down on all fours, search the sand… and lay your eyes on what might be the cutest little frog you’ve ever seen in your entire life.
The desert rain frog (Breviceps macrops) goes by many names: the cape rain frog, the web-footed rain frog, or Boulenger’s short-headed frog. It lives in the coastal deserts of South Africa and Namibia, where
rain rarely visits (making this little frog’s moniker rather ironic). The “rain” in its name references the fact that it’s under the Brevicipitidae rain frog family.
This nocturnal insectivore only grows between 4-6 cm (1.6-2.4 in) in size. It is characterized by its bulbous eyes, short snout, and webbed feet. Because of its stubby limbs, this frog is incapable of hopping. It prefers to spend most of its time in its cold, moist burrow, which it digs with its paddle-like feet. Most of its skin is covered with bumps, yellow-brown patches, and clumps of sand. However, it has a rather cool feature on its belly: A patch of transparent skin that shows its internal organs.
Another thing that sets the desert rain frog apart from most frogs: It doesn’t have an aqueous tadpole stage. Instead, it lays its eggs underground, enveloped in a thick, jelly-like substance that softens into a fluid when the eggs hatch. The tadpoles stay there until they grow into adulthood.
When threatened, the desert rain frog lets out a “war cry” that sounds like a shrill squeak from a squeeze toy. Yes – those singing rubber chickens are no match for this froggy fellow.
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Cover photo: Dean Boshoff