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Recent Field Research – Unusual Snake and Frog Feeding Observations

Many interesting field research reports are published in professional journals such as Copeia, Herpetologica and Herpetological Review, and are not available on the internet.  From time to time I’ll provide summaries of some of the fascinating articles that I come across.  Today’s report, drawn from Autumn, 2010 publications, covers a favorite topic of mine – feeding records.  As theses reports show, snakes and frogs often do battle – and the results are hard to predict!

Fer-de-lance and Smoky Jungle Frogs: Venom vs. Poison

In Costa Rica, a Fer-de-lance partially swallowed and regurgitated a Smoky Jungle Frog.  The snake was rendered lethargic incapable of defending itself for at least 45 minutes (and would likely not repeat the experience!).  Smoky Jungle Frogs produce Leptotoxin, a powerful chemical that causes rapid death from cardiac arrest when administered to rats.  People have reported experiencing “tingling” sensations after handling Smoky Jungle Frogs.

Frog skin toxins can persist for surprisingly long times on some surfaces, and are real concerns in captive collections.  Years ago, a co-worker of mine transported a Pickerel Frog in a plastic bucket that was later used to house several Blomberg’s Toads (there is some confusion as to whether or not the bucket was thoroughly cleaned in-between).  Several Blomberg’s Toads died after a short time in the bucket; an autopsy showed evidence of toxin ingestion via the skin.

Cuban Treefrogs and their Prey

In Juniper, Florida, a Cuban Treefrog was observed consuming a Ring-necked Snake much larger than itself.  This introduced predator has also been known to take Florida Brown Snakes, and is likely causing problems for Florida’s native treefrogs, all of which are smaller than the Cuban.

Osteopilus septentrionalisA group of Cuban Treefrogs that I established in a greenhouse (Bronx, NY) subsisted largely on roaches and moths, but definitely also reduced the population of Green Anoles and House Geckos that shared their habitat.

American and African Bullfrogs are champion eaters…please see the video and article below for some interesting observations and footage.


Further Reading

Amazing Video: Bullfrog Swallows Bird

African and American Bullfrog Meals (Cobras included!)

Fer de Lance image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Al Cortiz


  1. avatar

    Hallo Frank

    Your articles just keep on being immense interesting! Thanxzzz!
    I, unfortunately did not have the privilege (or was not observant enough) of encountering these feeding wonders of our bull frogs.
    How ever, I did encounter similar while feeding a seemingly very plain frog to my centipede….
    As soon as the frog landed in the bowl of the centipede, it was “hauled in” by the centipede! As the centipede curled in over the seemingly, motionless frog, it tried to get a spot to inject its mandibles in the frog….I could not watch (call me softy-but these things sometimes get to me…LOL) and decided to take a look after an hour or so….
    Well, that hour went by and to my amazement the frog was well alive…as well as the centipede. It how ever never again tried to get the frog and rather enjoyed the cockroaches instead.
    This only adds to the little I know the more I discover!

    Best regards

    • avatar

      Hello Gert, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your comment and observations…kind and interesting as always!

      The centipede had likely been put off by the taste of the skin toxins…not an easy task! Not surprised by your reaction to the feeding event – I never feed them vertebrates, as they begin feeding long before the prey has expired, much like mantids. I’ve read of lifelong naturalists killing them because they could not bear to watch – Ivan Sanderson, in one of his books set in Africa, recounts doing so to a mantid that had grabbed a small mouse, if I remember correctly. They will take anything in the wild (this article has a link to a centipede catching bats in Trinidad), but captives do fine on an insect-only diet.

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

      Best regards, 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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