Frogs are one of nature's greatest tricks. They may look small and helpless next to predators with sharp teeth and flesh-tearing claws, but some of them can fight back by secreting toxic and even deadly poisons from their skin.
Now, we meet two species of frog that can also protect themselves by injecting their venom directly from their heads into potential predators.
A study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology says that Corythomantis greeningi and Aparasphenodon brunoi, also known as Bruno's casque-headed frog, have bony spines located on their heads that can deliver the venom. This discovery makes them the first venomous species of frog in the world, according to a statement released by the journal's publisher, Cell Press.
Scientists from Instituto Butantan in São Paulo, Brazil, discovered the Brazilian frogs' deadly weapon when a C.greeningi frog injured one of the researchers. Carlos Jared, a faculty member at Instituto Butantan's cellular biology laboratory, accidentally touched his hand on the spiny head of the frog and the poison caused "intense, radiating pain for a period of about five hours," according to the statement.
Fortunately for Jared, C. greeningi is the less toxic frog. The study says that C. greeningi possesses the "greatest development of head spines and enlarged skin glands producing a greater volume of secretion." Bruno's casque-headed frog delivers "more lethal venom" that is 25 times deadlier than the venom of a pit viper.
The two frogs also possess the same "highly toxic skin secretions" that most poisonous frogs have, but they are considered to be venomous because they can also infect predators with "an associated delivery mechanism," aka their pointy prods.
This find could lead to further discoveries of venomous frogs. The scientists behind this fascinating revelation announced that they will "also be studying several other frog species from around the world, which they also suspect to be venomous," according to the statement.
Perhaps these discoveries could also lead to new uses for the frog's venom besides teaching us all a valuable lesson about playing with exotic amphibians. Back in March, researchers from Arizona State University published a study showing howcould be made into an artificial, protective skin for airplane wings that could repel ice and water and prevent them from freezing over while in flight. Tests show that this protective skin could prevent ice buildup for an hour and lasts more than 60 times longer than "superhydrophobic coating."
I hope for Jared and other researchers' sake that someone invents a poison-frog-proof glove before they start fooling around with other poisonous species.