70-mln yr old 'Giant frog from hell' that ate dinos identified

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Washington, Feb 19 : Scientists have discovered the fossil of a 70 million year old frog that ate the young ones of dinosaurs, in Madagascar, which indicates that India, South America and Madagascar were linked when this animal roamed the Earth.

Dubbed as 'Beelzebufo' or 'the frog from Hell', this fossil was identified by scientists from UCL (University College London) and Stony Brook University, New York.

Because this frog was once thought as being unique to South America, its discovery in Madagascar lends weight to a new theory that Madagascar, India and South America were linked until late in the Age of Dinosaurs.

According to Professor Susan Evans of the UCL Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Madagascar has a mainly endemic frog fauna whose history has generated intense debate, fuelled by recent phylogenetic studies and the near absence of a fossil record.

"Our discovery of a frog strikingly different from today's Madagascan frogs, and akin to the Horned toads previously considered endemic to South America, lends weight to the controversial paleobiogeographical model suggesting that Madagascar, the Indian subcontinent and South America were linked well into the Late Cretaceous," she said.

"It also suggests that the initial spread of such beasts began earlier than that proposed by recent estimates," added Evans.

The new frog resembles living Horned toads in having a squat body, huge head and wide mouth.

With a body length (not counting the legs) of up to 40 cm - longer than a rugby ball - and a weight of around four kilos (10 pounds), it is more than twice the size of its largest living relatives.

According to Evans, "This frog, a relative of today's Horned toads, would have been the size of a slightly squashed beach-ball, with short legs and a big mouth."

"If it shared the aggressive temperament and 'sit-and-wait' ambush tactics of living Horned toads, it would have been a formidable predator on small animals," added Evans.

Though Evans determined that the frog's diet would most likely have consisted of insects and small vertebrates like lizards, she also said that it's not impossible that Beelzebufo might even have munched on hatchling or juvenile dinosaurs.

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