Weird Purple Frog Seduces Females From Underground

Meet the Indian purple frog, also known as the pig-nosed frog. Only formally discovered in 2003, the colorful amphibian is an endangered species native to the mountains of India’s Western Ghats.

An Indian purple frog. Photograph by SD Biju, University of Delhi.

With a chubby, purple body and pointed, piglike snout, it’s unlike any other frog on Earth. Some of the purple frog’s unusual looks are adaptations for its burrowing lifestyle: The animal spends most of the year underground, using its short, stout limbs like spades to dig as far as 12 feet (3.7 meters) below ground. (See pictures of more frogs found in western India, including the meowing night frog.)

When the frogs emerge for a brief period during the monsoon season to mate, the males call out to attract females—not exactly unusual among frogs.

But male purple frogs march to their own tune, scientists have discovered: They call from underground, beneath a thin layer of dirt near the entrance of narrow tunnels filled with loose soil, according to the first detailed description of the purple frog’s advertisement call.

Wily Frogs

For their research, scientists from India’s University of Delhi and the University of Minnesota recorded the males’ calls after heavy downpours, when they’re most vocal.

freshwater species of the weekWhen males call, they contract their muscles and inflate and deflate their vocal sacs, making sounds in short, rapidly repeating pulses—the only type of call detected by the team. These movements disturb the thin layer of soil above them, allowing the researchers to pinpoint their locations, according to the study, published February 7 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Next came the hard part: After recording a male’s song, the researchers quickly dug into the soil to capture the animal. (See “World’s Loudest Animals—Bug With ‘Singing’ Penis, More.”)

Listen to two male frogs communicating.

They had to dig fast, because the wily frogs responded by retreating deeper into the soil. The researchers then measured each male before releasing it back into the loose soil into which it had burrowed.

He’s no Prince, but this Purple One makes his own kind of beautiful music.

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Mary Bates is a freelance science writer living in Boston. She has a PhD in psychology from Brown University where she studied bat echolocation. You can visit her website at www.marybateswriter.com and follow her on Twitter at @mebwriter.
  • Kris

    This is a v ery interesting find. I wonder-do they come to the surfave to reproduce or does this happen under the muk as well??

    • Thanks for your comment. The frogs do breed aboveground – it’s the only thing they come to the surface for.

  • viviann reyes

    this was interesting and i did not know there was a purple frog in the world but i don’t know why i need to read about this for Biology

  • kindrik

    that is an interesting frog

  • Brenda

    Whoa! Haven’t seen this one before. Nice fact filled article with great pic & video.

  • Adam

    What do they eat that entire time underground though? They dig around blindly for bugs/worms?

    • They eat mostly termites. Their snouts are extremely sensitive and help the frogs find their food.

  • john dahl

    I wonder how, and what they eat.

    • They eat mostly termites, which they find using their extremely sensitive snout. Their pointed snouts and long, grooved tongues are just right for slurping up termites.

  • Cardell

    Wow the beauty of unique findings.

  • Vishal Prasad

    Intense research and tedious hard work by these scientists, they are presenting some real amazing facts about these rare animals.

  • ¨Daniel Babylon

    I will never eat frogs anymore!

  • Danielle

    Wow this is so interesting. I look forward to learning more about these frogs

  • Maria Brejner

    This is so weird! When I played the first clip, my dogs didn’t react – but when I played the second sound clip, with the two males communicating, they both woke up with a start and stared at the screen until it stopped.

  • Dylan de kantzow

    he’s beautiful!
    what a wondrous critter

  • Mohd. Hamzah Bong

    Beautiful, congratulation on the new finding

  • Qui

    I wish they have internet to find their mates.

  • jose Baez

    Me gustaria recibir sus interesantes articulos en idioma español

  • oscar

    i am asking my self one question.can i domestically own it.and what does it eat.is it a cannibal animal.

  • JohnFLob

    ” . . . Only formally discovered in 2003, . . .”
    How can it be determined that the Purple Frogs are an endangered species based on such a short time frame to study their population(s) andf habitat(s)?

  • Eduardo Bernal

    I foud something similar to this frog but in Mexico? It is posible?

  • David Nelson

    I was digging around the foundation of my house today where there are some termite colonies, and found this frog, instantly recognizing it at the purple pignose frog. I have it in a container for proof. Do anyone know of other instances where this frog has been found in Mexico? I don’t find other references to this on the Internet.

  • ladamion

    what are there related species

  • purple frog guy

    Just wondering, what is the graph of this strange and unusual animal’s burrowing patterns? I would like to graph thousands of them and decorate my room with them. I have planted termite mounds in my house to attract them and practice my purple frog call whenever I get the chance. Is it just f(x)= -sqrtX? And will they visit my apartment in upstate Denver? I have a comfy room for them with lots of teeny bean bags. xD

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