I’ve written about some pretty funny looking frogs and toads on this blog, but today’s animal has to be the winner. I would even put it in the top ten strangest-looking animals I’ve ever blogged about. You can decide for yourself, though.

Spotted snout-burrowers are frogs found in South Africa. They live in woody savannahs or arid areas, and spend most of their time underground. Their favourite kind of burrows are in flat areas with sandy soils, near a source of water. This means that when it rains, the frogs’ burrows are flooded, which is good news for an amphibian. During the dry season, snout-burrowers enter a kind of hibernation, to avoid drying out.

See how funny they look? Image by Wayne Sullivan Rawlinson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These frogs get to be about eight centimetres long, and are about as round as a frog can be. One website describes the snout-burrower as having a ‘globular body’, which is a fairly apt description. They have dark brown or black skin, and are covered in irregular yellow spots. Snout-burrowers have a tiny, pointed head and a hard snout.

As burrowing frogs, snout-burrowers have to be quite adept diggers. They have very strong arms and fingers, with each foot equipped with tough claws. Snout-burrowers have a keratinized ridge on each of their heels, which aids in burrowing. And don’t forget that hard snout, which is used like a spade while the front legs dig into the ground. Snout-burrowers are nocturnal animals, and will quickly burrow into the ground upon sensing danger. All members of the genus Hemisus, or shovelnose frogs, burrow head first, and are the only group of frogs known to do so.

Since snout-burrowers are so fond of being underground, it’s no surprise that mating takes place in burrows as well. The male frog will grasp the female while she digs a burrow, and then the pair will continue mating once she pulls him inside. She then lays around two hundred eggs in a cavity underground. She will cover the eggs with jellied capsules to stop them from drying out. She stays with the eggs until they hatch, after about twelve days. The female then digs until she reaches water, where the tadpoles can gleefully swim around until they’ve turned into adults.

Though spotted snout-burrowers are not yet threatened, their small range and fragmented habitat mean that they are vulnerable to habitat loss. Hopefully with some foresight we can stop this species from declining, and keep these weirdos around for a long time.