This is one very large frog

By Angela Heathcote 4 May 2021
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Meet Cornufer guppyi, a gigantic frog of the Solomon Islands.

It goes without saying that we’re not quite used to seeing big frogs. At least not bigger than the invasive cane toad, which was introduced to Australia in 1935. So, of course, this image of a child holding a frog the size of a human baby has our sense of reality a bit shaken. 

Timber milling operations manager Jimmy Hugo says a group of his workers came across the large frog while hunting for wild pig just outside Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.  When he posted the image to social media of his son holding the frog up for comparison, he was surprised by the reaction.

“At first, I thought only a few people would see it and then suddenly I saw lots and lots of people commenting, surprised, and they were thinking this frog is from PNG [Papua New Guinea],” he told the ABC. “I was very surprised to see how people reacted to the picture.” The frog pictured is in fact a Cornufer guppyi, commonly referred to as the giant webbed frog or by locals as a ‘bush chicken’.

Related: 20 Aussie frogs you need to know about

And Jimmy wasn’t the only one surprised. The curator of amphibian and reptile conservation biology at the Australian Museum, Jodi Rowley, was also taken by the frog’s size. “I’ve never seen one that big. It’s quite uncommon for them to get to that size so this one must have been quite old.”

According to Jodi, very few species of frog can grow this large. The most well-known of these colossal croakers is the goliath bullfrog native to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. These guys can grow up to 36cm and weigh over 3kg.

While we don’t know exactly what makes these frogs so large, a paper published in the Journal of Natural History in 2019 suggested that the goliath bullfrog may have achieved its large size through its movement of heavy rocks used to construct elaborate nests. 

According to one local biologist, the giant webbed frog pictured isn’t even the biggest he’s seen. “I’ve taken a picture of one of those frogs [which had a] snout-vent length of about 30cm – the length of your ruler,” Solomon Islands biologist Patrick Pikach told the ABC.

“That frog had a ground grub in its mouth. It was busy eating and couldn’t jump so I went and patted it like a little puppy dog. It was huge.” 

In this video, Patrick can be seen holding two of the large, albeit smaller versions of the frog:

According to Patrick, these large frogs are becoming less common because of disturbances to their habitat. 

“These frogs are an excellent indicator of water quality. As more streams get polluted as a result of anthropogenic impacts mainly caused by logging throughout their range, they are becoming rare.

“I noticed that they don’t occur where they once did in lowland streams. And interviews with locals showed that frog populations have drastically plummeted due to stream disturbances. This highlights the urgency of greater habitat protection.”