Briefly: ‘ware frog!

From the annals of biological nasties — drastically invasive plants, poisonous creatures, etc. — a fresh horror reported on in the NYT Science Times on the 11th, in “Frogs With a Venomous Head Butt’ by Sindya N. Bhanoo:

Bruno’s Casque-headed frog, one of two species in Brazil found to deliver venom

(That’s casquea helmetlike structure, such as that on the bill of a hornbill or the head of a cassowary’ (NOAD2).)

There are many poisonous frogs — eat the wrong frog legs at a Paris bistro, and you’re in trouble. Now researchers have discovered two venomous frogs that deliver potent toxins through bony spines on their heads.

“It was thought that frogs were completely passive,” said Edmund Brodie, a biologist at Utah State University. “In this case, the frog is doing some serious injuring.” Dr. Brodie and his colleagues reported their findings in the journal Current Biology.

The two venomous species, Corythomantis greeningi and Aparasphenodon brunoi, are found in Brazil but have not been well studied. Dr. Brodie’s colleague and co-author, Carlos Jared, a biologist at the Instituto Butantan in Brazil, was collecting specimens when one of the frogs jabbed him with its spines.

“He had intense pain radiating up the arm lasting for five hours,” Dr. Brodie said. “That was the eureka moment.”

Luckily, Dr. Jared was jabbed by C. greeningi. A single gram of toxic secretion from A. brunoi is enough to kill 300,000 mice or about 80 people, according to the researchers’ calculations.

It’s unlikely a small frog can deliver a gram of venom in a single jab, but the researchers are planning to err on the side of caution, Dr. Brodie said.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the jungle.

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