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This unusual frog with cat-like extendable claws can break its own bones to produce talons that puncture their way out of the amphibians toe pads, just like the comic book character Wolverine (inset). David Blackburn and scientists at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, think the gruesome behaviour is a defence mechanism.
Cameroon is home to a bizarre creature, Trichobatrachus robustus, that’s straight out of a sci-fi or horror film.
The bizarre, hairy frog with cat-like extendable claws can break its own bones to produce talons that puncture their way out of the frog’s toe pads.
David Blackburn and scientists at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, think the gruesome behaviour is a defence mechanism.
Party trick: Hairy frogs from the Cameroon have revealed a remarkable mechanism that causes thorn-like claws to burst through the skin when it is threatened
The researchers say there are salamanders that push their ribs through their skin to produce protective barbs on demand, but the mechanism on this frog has never been seen before.
The feature is also found in nine of the 11 frogs belonging to the Astylosternus genus, most of which live in Cameroon.
'Some other frogs have bony spines that project from their wrist, but in those species it appears that the bones grow through the skin rather than pierce it when needed for defence,' Blackburn told New Scientist.
The claws of T. robustus, which are found only on the hind feet, are nestled inside a mass of connective tissue. A chunk of collagen forms a bond between the claw's sharp point and a small piece of bone at the tip of the frog's toe.
The other end of the claw is connected to a muscle. Researchers believe that when the animal is under threat, it contracts this muscle, which pulls the claw downwards.
The sharp point then breaks away from the bony tip and cuts through the toe pad, emerging on the underside.
Thorny problem: The foot of a living Trichobatrachus robustus frog, which is one of the 11 species of African frogs, shows the white bony claws protruding from the tips of the toes
The mechanism is unique among vertebrates, as is the fact that the claw is just bone - without an outer coating of keratin as other claws do.
But only studied dead specimens have been studies, so it is unknown what happens when the claw retracts - or even how it retracts.
It does not appear to have a muscle to pull it back inside so it’s thought that it may passively slide back into the toe pad when its muscle relaxes.
'Being amphibians, it would not be surprising if some parts of the wound heal and the tissue is regenerated,' says Blackburn.
Cutting edge: Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman, has retractable claws. He also has a healing factor that allows him to recover from virtually any wound, disease, or toxin at an accelerated rate
Males of the species, which grows to about 11 centimetres, also produce long hair-like strands of skin and arteries when they breed.
The ‘hairs’ allow them to take in more oxygen through their skin while they take care of their brood.
In Cameroon, they roasted and eaten. Hunters use long spears and machetes to kill the frogs, apparently to avoid being hurt by their claws.
‘This is an incredible story,’ says Ian Stephen, curator of herpetology at the Zoological Society of London, UK.
'Some frogs grown spines on their thumbs during breeding season, but this is entirely different.
‘For me, it highlights the need for a lot more research on amphibians especially in light of the threat of mass extinctions,’ he adds.
The existence of frogs with erectile claws like cats was first described by Belgian zoologist George Boulenger in 1900 in frogs found in the French Congo, now the Republic of Congo.
David Cannatella, a herpetologist at the University of Texas, Austin, questions whether the bony protrusions are meant for fighting. They could allow a frog's feet 'to get a better grip on whatever rocky habitat they might be in,' he says
The Bakossi people of Cameroon traditionally believed that the frogs fall from the sky and, when eaten, help childless human couples become fertile.
The males have a paired internal vocal sac and three short ridges of small black spines along the inner surface of the first manual digit.
Breeding males also develop – somewhat hair-like – dermal papillae that extend along the flanks and thighs.
These contain arteries and are thought to increase the surface for the purpose of absorbing oxygen (comparably to external gills of the aquatic stage), which is useful as the male stays with his eggs for an extended period of time after they have been laid in the water by the female.
The species is terrestrial, but returns to the water for breeding, where egg masses are laid onto rocks in streams.
The quite muscular tadpoles are carnivorous and feature several rows of horned teeth. Adults feed on slugs, myriapods, spiders, beetles and grasshoppers.
Amphibian researcher and biologist David Wake of the University of California, says that this type of weaponry appears to be unique in the animal kingdom.
PATERSON, N.J. -- The New Jersey man who won the $338 million Powerball jackpot owes about $29,000 in child support.
Forty-four-year-old Pedro Quezada on Tuesday claimed a lump-sum payment worth $221 million, or about $152 million after taxes.
A spokesman for Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik says the sheriff's office's warrant squad is attempting to find Quezada to resolve the matter.
Spokesman Bill Maer (mayr) also says the state Lottery Division generally satisfies such judgments before winnings are released. He says Quezada is subject to potential arrest like everyone else until the warrant is satisfied.
The unpaid child support payments go back to 2009. It's not known which of Quezada's five children are covered under the payments.
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