Cretaceous Amphibians

Article | Updated 10 years ago

Giant frogs from Madagascar along with other large amphibians living in the Cretaceous may have eaten small dinosaurs.

Predatory frogs

Beelzebufo ampinga, nicknamed the ‘devil frog’, is known from fossils recently discovered in 72–66 million-year-old rocks from Madagascar. This frog is closely related to modern South American horned frogs (Ceratophrys) which are voracious and fearless ambush predators that feed on frogs, mice, lizards, snakes, birds and larger insects. Beelzebufo had a huge mouth relative to its body size and this indicates that it too ate mainly vertebrates. Just about anything small enough to fit into its gigantic mouth was potential prey, including baby dinosaurs.

Australian giant amphibian

A huge cool-water amphibian, called Koolasuchus cleelandi, lived in Australia some 120 million years ago. Fragments of its jaws and other bones found in Victoria indicate it could grow to 4–5 metres in length and weigh a tonne. These amphibians were top aquatic predators, similar to crocodiles today. Koolasuchus became extinct towards the end of the Early Cretaceous when temperatures were rising and this gave crocodiles the opportunity to take over.

Modern giant amphibians

The largest living amphibians, giant salamanders from China and Japan, grow to 1.5–1.8 metres long. Like their extinct and distant relative Koolasuchus, they thrive in fast-flowing waterways that are too cold for crocodiles. Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, and these modern, scaleless amphibians absorb oxygen from the water through their skin.