Hundreds of Ancient Frogs Died from Exhaustion During Massive Orgy, Scientists Find

  • There’s a “horny toad” joke to be made somewhere in here.

Did you know that frogs and toads have been around for more than 200 million years? It’s true — they shared the planet with dinosaurs once.

Since they’ve survived for so long, they must have thoroughly figured out procreation. A recent discovery has shed new light on the sex life of ancient amphibians.

Today we might try to forcefully marry two frogs to induce rain. But frogs, at least those of the ages past, are far from monogamous.

In fact, they liked orgies. And those orgies could get downright lethally intense.

In 1932, German paleontologists discovered a treasure trove of hundreds of 45-million-year-old frog and toad fossils. They all seemed to have died at the same time, but for decades, nobody knew how. But now, thanks to a fresh study we finally have the answer.

The frogs boned until they croaked.

“Oh yeah, I’ll be hopping on that until we both die.”

The Mystery of the Frogs

Let’s travel back to the past for a little bit. Some 45 million years ago, the North Sea covered half of what is now Germany.

The region we today call Geiseltal was also quite different back then. Situated on the shore of that primordial sea, the area was covered in wet, lush swamps.

And where there are swamps, there are frogs. They weren’t exactly like the frogs that hop around today, but they were frogs nonetheless.

Now, fast forward a few million years to 1932. A duo of German paleontologists — Johannes Weigelt and E. Voigt — discover hundreds of frog and toad fossils in Geiseltal.

All of the critters seemed to have died at the same time. Naturally, something horrible must’ve happened — but what?

For the longest time, we had no clue. Weigelt and Voigt suspected that the amphibians could’ve starved or dehydrated as a result of their home pond drying up or becoming too salty.

But these theories were just guesses. It seemed like we might never know what happened.

Old Theories Debunked

Do another hop forward in time and we get to the modern day. And now, a team of scientists from the University College Cork in Ireland — led by Daniel Falk — was determined to find out why the frogs died.

To get to the bottom of the mystery, Falk’s team started analyzing the bones the frogs left behind. Naturally, the skeletons had scattered over time, but there was something strange about them.

The bones didn’t show any signs of stress, disease, or damage.

“As far as we can tell, the fossil frogs were healthy when they died, and the bones don’t show any signs of predators or scavengers,” Falk said in a statement.

“There’s also no evidence that they were washed in during floods, or died because the swamp dried up,” he added.

Basically, all of the previous theories went out the window. But if Falk was right, what on earth could’ve happened to the frogs?

Employing Occam’s Razor

During their research, Falk and his team noticed one small but significant thing. They were able to identify the kind of frogs the bones had belonged to.

For the most part, frogs come in two flavors. Frogs of the first type spend their entire lives in or near water.

The second category, however, ventures out onto dry land. They only return to their birth ponds for one reason.

They came back to carry on their genes.

“By process of elimination, the only explanation that makes sense is that they died during mating,” determined Falk.

Deadly Passion

The habits of modern frogs and toads support Falk’s hypothesis. In case you didn’t know, getting to do the deed can be a death sentence for frogs.

The amphibians like to go at it so hard that they simply over-exhaust themselves and drop dead. And if they don’t die during mating, they’re so stressed and tired afterward that they quickly succumb to diseases.

But female frogs may meet a possibly more gruesome fate (depending on your perspective). They never get a chance to overexert themselves.

During mating, the male frog latches onto the female’s back for long periods. But when multiple males are around, they may all try to mount the female at once.

“Female frogs are at higher risk of drowning as they are often submerged by one or more males. This often happens in species that engage in mating congregations during the short explosive breeding season,” said Professor Maria McNamara, who worked on the study.

The female gets trampled underwater and can’t surface. Although frogs can breathe underwater to a degree, they can’t do so forever — and thus the female drowns.

Falk’s team shows that frogs’ mating habits have changed very little over the years. They had fatal orgies millions of years ago, and they continue to do so to this day.

“What’s really interesting is that fossil frogs from other sites also show these features, suggesting that the mating behaviors of modern frogs are really quite ancient and have been in place for at least 45 million years,” concluded McNamara.

Comments