Asian horned frogs look like grouchy muppets


Bec Crew


Bec Crew

Bec 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.
By Bec Crew 1 December 2020
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If we had to pick the face of 2020, this would be it. The indignation. The disappointment. The unmistakable look of “I did not sign up for this.”

THIS WONDERFULLY expressive Asian horned frog belongs to the genus Megophrys, which is spread throughout Southeast Asia. There are more than 70 known species of Asian horned frog, the vast majority of which have been discovered in just the past 30 years.

Many of them have those strange, elongated eyebrows that give them a permanent expression of discontent.

Called supraorbital horns, these structures have unclear evolutionary advantages. They appear on snakes, too, and could be there to protect the eyes, or perhaps are for display purposes as part of sexual selection. Maybe they’re there to break up the outlines of the frogs’ and snakes’ heads, to help them camouflage better?

It would make sense that they serve camouflage purposes. The whole look of these frogs screams concealment; with their brown and burnt orange colouring and sharp folds of skin that cut them at all kinds of angels, they look just like the dead leaves they hide under.

The species pictured above is the long-nosed horned frog (Megophrys nasuta), one of the best-known members of the Asian horned frog genus. It’s an iconic species because its supraorbital horns are particularly long and pointy, and it’s a relatively large frog, capable of growing to more than 12 cm long.

Here’s another one, posing on a dead leaf like it’s his security blanket:

(Image credit: SIMON SHIM/Shutterstock)

With its droopy supraorbital horns and bulging bug eyes, this species looks less “I need to speak to your manager,” and more “I ate a bee and it burns.”

Found in Sabah, a richly forested state of Malaysia located in north Borneo, Kobayashi’s horned frog is stout, warty, and large. It’s not as large as the long-nosed horned frog, but can grow to a little over 10 cm long, which is pretty impressive for a frog.

We’ll leave you with this close-up footage of long-nosed horned frog, doing its best to sit up straight and still.

It really gives you a good look at just how convincing those ridges on its back are in making you think you’re looking at a dried leaf: