Prehistoric frogs feasted on dinosaurs

Scientists have calculated the deadly bite force of the extinct devil frog

There are almost 6800 species of frog alive today, most of them with weak jaws and other methods of immobilising prey. One exception is the genus Ceratophrys – the South American horned frogs. These bold frogs use their jaws to take down prey the same size as themselves, and have been nicknamed ‘hopping heads’.


Scientists tested the bite force of several horned frogs by presenting them with a piece of equipment that they could clamp their jaws on, and measured the size of their jaw adductor muscles (the muscles responsible for the closing motion).


The bite force of the small horned frogs averaged 30 Newtons (or 6.6lbs), but the next step in the research was to scale this up to give the force of the much larger frogs that once hopped the earth. Measurements were taken from Beelzebufo ampinga, a 41 centimetre (16 inch) long frog that lived on Madagascar in the Late Cretaceous period (almost 70 million years ago).

The scientists’ calculations give B. ampinga (known as the devil frog) a predicted bite force of 500 to 2200 Newtons, coming close to the jaw strength of medium-sized carnivores like wolves and leopards.


This impressive species lived on Madagascar at the same time as small crocodilians and dinosaurs, and the discovery of the killer bite means that these creatures may well have fallen prey to the devil frog.



Feature photo: Gary Wells/flickr