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A Bird-Eating Frog is Discovered in Thailand – Research Update

In 1705, a painting of a Pink-toed Tarantula consuming a hummingbird, published in Maria S. Merian’s book on the insects of Suriname, aroused so much attention (and horror!) that all New World tarantulas are commonly termed “bird-eating spiders” to this day.  It seems now that amphibian fanciers have their own dramatic bird-eater – Limnonectes megastomias, an aquatic frog recently described from 3 locations in Thailand.

An Aquatic Ambush Predator

Limnonectes kuhliiThe newly discovered frog is largely aquatic, and apparently catches birds that come to the water’s edge to drink – quite a unique feeding strategy for a frog (I once saw a surprising film of African Side-necked Turtles catching doves in this manner).

It is assisted in hunting by large (to 2 inch) “fangs” and a head that is disproportionately large for the body.  The fangs are not true teeth but rather extensions of the jawbone, known as odontoid processes.  The African Bullfrog and the South American Horned Frogs, known also for consuming vertebrates (and biting the hand that feeds them!), also sport odontoid processes.  Insects and other frogs have also been recorded as prey.

Same Bodies, Larger Heads – Sexual Dimorphism

Interestingly, the heads and “teeth” of male Bird-eating Frogs grow much larger than those of females, despite similar body sizes.  In certain other creatures (i.e. Barbour’s Map Turtles) this strategy allows the sexes to consume different diets and, it is theorized, avoid competition.  Researchers also believe that the enlarged teeth are used in combat, as many males carry scars.

So Much to Discover

There are over 50 species classified in the genus Limnonectes- the new “bird-eater” appears most closely related to the Kuhl’s or Large-Headed Frog, L. Kuhlii, but little is known of its natural history (the photo attached is of a Kuhl’s frog).

This new species was first observed at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station, an area that has been extensively studied for 40 years.  The fact that such a large and unique frog was able to remain undiscovered in this area illustrates the untold opportunities open to those who wish to get out and look around in just about any habitat – recently a new centipede was discovered in NYC’s Central Park!

Further Reading

Another toothed amphibian behemoth, the African Bullfrog, also takes quite large prey…to read about a most unusual frog meal, please see my article An Appetite for Cobras.


Limnonectes kuhlii image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by W. Djatmiko


  1. avatar

    i use to keep African bull frog.. you easily forget you are keeping a frog and not a mutant monster.. they are veracious and cute at the same time.

    Also American bull frogs eat birds if am not mistaken

    • avatar

      Hello Mike, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Nice to hear from you again. You might like this article on an African Bullfrog’s cobra meal.

      I once saw an American Bullfrog (semi-wild, in pond on BX Zoo grounds) lunge at and narrowly miss a small yellow warbler. I have a photo (not on computer unfortunately; in a recent NYS Conservationist Magazine) of one consuming a bat, and have often seen them eating quite large frogs and crayfishes.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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