Bio Facts: Frog, Ornate Horned
Ornate Horned Frog
Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil
Adult female length: 5.5 in (14 cm); adult male length: 3.9 in (10 cm); appearance: most prominent feature is its mouth, which accounts for roughly half of the animal’s overall size; coloration: typically bright green with red markings, though dark green, parti-color black and albino versions also exist; the only dimorphism between the two sexes is size and that males have dark pigmented throats.
Average 6 – 7 years
In the wild, they eat small rodents, small reptiles, large spiders and insects; in the Zoo, they are fed crickets, worms, other invertebrates and occasionally rodents.
IUCN – Near Threatened
Frogs of the genus Ceratophrys are sit-and-wait predators, partially concealing themselves in the leaves of the forest floor and remaining motionless most of the time (Duellman and Lizana 1994). When prey approaches, the animal quickly attacks, usually swallowing the prey whole (Duellman and Lizana 1994). Ceratophrys ornata consumes primarily vertebrates; stomach content analysis of thirty-four specimens from Uruguay included 78.5% anurans, 11.7% passerine birds, 7.7% rodents, and 0.3% snakes, leaving only 1.8% as “other” (Basso 1990).
Horned frogs are well known for their fearless reputation. They will attempt to consume animals, sometimes even the size of themselves. If threatened by a larger animal such as a human, these frogs can deliver a painful bite as they have several odontoid projections (not teeth per se) along their bottom and top jaws. Sometimes they will even jump towards their attacker, no matter their size and power.
Reproduction is sexual. The Argentine Horned frog’s females deposit about 2000 eggs in water and within two weeks tadpoles hatch. Tadpoles of this species can make distress calls both underwater and out of water. This is the first example of any larva (vertebrate or invertebrate) communicating underwater by sound, as well as the first known of any vertebrate larva to make sounds at all. Tadpoles are able to make these calls as early as three days after hatching, and can do so both in the water and out of the water. It is not known how other tadpoles perceive the calls, but while C. ornate larvae are carnivorous towards tadpoles of other species, they do not consume conspecific tadpoles.
It burrows during autumn and winter (Canziani and Cannata 1979). While buried, it creates a cocoon around itself to protect from water loss (Canziani and Cannata 1979). It emerges to breed in the late spring, when enough rain has fallen to create temporary pools (Canziani and Cannata 1979). Eggs are laid on the bottom of these temporary ponds (Stuart et al. 2008).
This species is popular as a pet (Stuart et al. 2008). While the official vernacular name is Bell’s Horned frog, many people refer to frogs in the genus Ceratophrys as “pac-man” frogs (from the old Pac-Man video game) since the body plan appears to be mostly dominated by the large, gaping mouth (Bartlett and Bartlett 2000). In some areas this frog is (wrongly) regarded as venomous, resulting in eradication attempts (Stuart et al. 2008).
This species was first described by Günther (1859).
It has apparently disappeared from at least two sites in Uruguay (Rocha, in Laguna de Castillos, and San Jose, in Delta del Tigre). It is rare in Argentina. Major threats include: Habitat loss due to agricultural development and housing development, and water and soil pollution due to agriculture, industry, and human settlement. It is sometimes subject to persecution because of unfounded beliefs that it is venomous. It is also collected for the international pet trade and its eggs are sold internationally for scientific research.
It is listed as Near Threatened because this species is in significant decline (but at a rate of less than 30% over ten years) because it is subject to intense persecution, making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
Jacksonville has held ornate horned frogs 1977 to 1982; 1985 to 1986; and 2004 to now.