This very round bubble frog is a menace
Becky Crew is a Sydney-based science communicator with a love for weird and wonderful animals. From strange behaviours and special adaptations to newly discovered species and the researchers who find them, her topics celebrate how alien yet relatable so many of the creatures that live amongst us can be.
Everyone loves an absolute unit. Everyone loves to be in awe at the size of these lads. But sometimes they don’t love us back. Sometimes they’ll hitch a ride on an Air Force cargo plane and make our border patrol officers very, very nervous.
This large chonk is the Asian painted frog (Kaloula pulchra), otherwise known as the bubble frog. Native to the Southeast Asian region, they inhabit the soft peat of the forest floor, as well as rice fields and often people’s homes.
Not surprisingly, these guys eat like crazy. Whether it’s flies, crickets, moths, grasshoppers, earthworms, or ants, they’ll eat whatever, and in massive volumes. No wonder its other nickname is the chubby frog.
Other than its round stature, the Asian painted frog is known for its distinctive patterning – twin stripes running down each side of its back, contrasting with the dark mahogany colour that covers most of the rest of its body.
As you can see here, it’s also got a pale, creamy underbelly, which kind of just adds to its goofy charm:
The females tend to be bigger than the males, but the males make up for it by blowing themselves up real big as part of their courtship ritual. They’ll float in pools of shallow water, suck in air, and make loud ‘cow-like honks’ to attract the females, like so:
It’s obvious when you look at them, but these frogs are formidable. They take just two weeks to mature from a tadpole form (the typical timeframe for a frog is six weeks to three months) and can live to 10 years old.
They’re also incredibly adaptable, which is why Australia has been on high alert since the first Asian painted frog made its way to our borders.
In 2007, a live one was found by cargo handlers at Perth International Airport, and according to official reports, “It is not known from which aircraft, cargo, or country the frog originated.”
In other words, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The species has also been accidentally imported to New Zealand.
While it’s not known how many of these frogs might have made it to Australia undetected, between 2013 and 2015, four were seized from shipping containers and air cargo holds from Vietnam and Thailand.
This might be the beginning of something, and I, for one, welcome our new chunky overlords.