Scientists have discovered that a prehistoric species of giant frog had a bite so powerful it could gobble down small dinosaurs with its massive mouth.
The frog species, named Beelzebufo, is now extinct: it lived about 68 million years ago in Madagascar.
But according to research on the modern-day frog genus Ceratophrys, whose members are known as “Pacman frogs” because of their round profile and huge mouths, large South American horned frogs have similar bites to mammalian predators, quite different to the weak jaws of their amphibian cousins.
Published Thursday in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the research by scientists from the University of Adelaide, California State Polytechnic University—Pomona, University of California—Riverside, and University College London (UCL), “found that small horned frogs, with head width of about 4.5 cm (1.8 inches), can bite with a force of 30 newtons (N) or about 3 kilograms or 6.6 pounds.” according to a press release.
“A scaling experiment, comparing bite force with head and body size, calculated that large horned frogs that are found in the tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests of South America, with a head width of up to 10 cm (3.9 inches), would have a bite force of almost 500 N.” the release continued. “This is comparable to reptiles and mammals with a similar head size.”
“This would feel like having 50 litres (13 gallons) of water balanced on your fingertip,” says Professor Kristopher Lappin, Professor of Biological Sciences at California State Polytechnic University—Pomona.
Using the same scaling process, the scientists calculated that the bite force of the giant extinct frog Beelzebufo—similar to living horned frogs—could have chomped down on its prey with a force of up to 2,200 N, comparable to top-class mammalian predators like wolves and female tigers.
“At this bite force, Beelzebufo would have been capable of subduing the small and juvenile dinosaurs that shared its environment,” says Marc Jones, researcher at the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and honorary researcher at the South Australian Museum.
The scientists measured bite force using a custom-made instrument called a “force transducer,” which establishes the force applied to two leather-coated plates as an animal bites them.