This pink lump of jelly is a frog that has just about given up on anything associated with being a frog. Instead it decided to live in a desert, digging burrows.
The turtle frog is not something that, on sight, you would automatically call a frog. For one thing, if you see it, you’re probably in the middle of the Australian desert. The frog prefers living on and in sandy, loose soil. It’s also an unpleasant pink color which sometimes deepens to purple, so it generally looks like a lump of raw meat that someone stuck eyes on.
If you see it hatch its young, it still won’t seem froglike to you. This is one of the few frogs that’s never a tadpole. There being a dearth of pools in the desert, the turtle frog waits for heavy rains, comes out to mate, and then lays eggs that hatch small, but perfectly formed frogs. No little swimmers here.
But the thing that makes the frog seem least frog-like sounds trivial when you first hear it. It digs through the sand with its front legs, not its back legs. Any regular frog that wants to dig itself into soil will scoop with its hind legs to back into the soil. This is because it has immensely powerful hind feet. The turtle frog scoops out a place with its front feet, because over time its back legs have shortened and weakened, giving it its stocky turtle-like appearance. This small change in behavior has made it the least frog-like frog of all. Colors change, and growth changes, but this frog doesn’t even have a frog’s body anymore.
[Source: Alcoa Frog Watch]
Image: Paul Morris