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The Prehistoric Beelzebufo Frog

The Beelzebufo, or Devil Frog, is an extinct anuran present only in the Late Cretaceous period in northwestern Madagascar. It is the largest known anuran species based on fossil description. It lived terrestrially in dry conditions and some fossil remnants in South America present the suspicion that a land mass once connected the two continents. 

Common NameThe Devil Frog 
Other NameNone 
Scientific NameBeelzebufo ampinga
CharacteristicsLarge, terrestrial frog species 
Conservation StatusExtinct 
SpeciesB. ampinga
Max Length16 inches (41cm) 
Max Weight10 pounds 

Largest Known Land Anuran In the World

Fossil evidence suggests that the Beelzebufo was the largest ever frog to live on this Earth.

It could grow to be 16 inches, 41cm, long and weigh around 10 pounds, 4.6kgs.  

This frog species is now extinct, meaning it does not live during this time anymore.

The species has been placed in the same genus as modern day “horned frogs,” such as the pacman frogs. 

The rendered pictures of Beelzebufo just remind me of giant pacman frogs.

Large body size, stout and low to the ground, huge mouths that can fit a lot of food in them. 

Lived in Madagascar During the Late Cretaceous Time Period 

The Late Cretaceous period of time occurred at the end of the Mesozoic Era, following the Jurassic Period.

It was a long time period, spanning 79 million years. 

The oceans were extremely active during the Late Cretaceous, depositing chalk all over the world.

The continents we know today were joined into two large landmasses that eventually broke apart and diverged. 

South America began to split from Africa, suggesting a landmass that connected the two continents at one point. More on this later, though.

First, let’s talk about the climate of the Late Cretaceuous. 

Seafloor spreading and the related volcanic activity contributed to a warm and humid climate compared to today.

Madagascar broke away from Africa during this time, separating it as its own island. 

The Late Cretaceous ended with what is described as “the greatest mass extinctions in the history of Earth,” which may explain where the Devil Frog may have gone. 

The cause of these extinctions is not entirely known, however, this is where the asteroid theory comes into play.

Others believe it to be the separations of the landmasses causing different climates. 

Devil Frog Living Relatives Are Found in Modern Day South America 

The Devil Frog is grouped together with the ceratophyrines, or the horned frogs of modern day South America.

Frogs such as the pacman frog and other horned frog species. 

Now, these species today are not nearly as large, which may contribute to their ability to survive.

They do have the same overall body type and large jaw size. 

The landmass that supposedly once connected South America to Africa would explain why the modern day relatives to the Beelzebufo are found in South America.

They may have made their way across the land bridge into the new climate region before the continental rift. 

Beelzebufo Description Based on Fossilized Findings 

Devil Frog bones were first discovered in 1993. It was not until 2008 that the species of Beelzebufo was described and announced. 

64 fossil specimens have been discovered.

They consist mainly of skull bones, but have other body parts as well.

They have been discovered from 27 locations all in northwestern Madagascar. 

An abundance of cranial, or skull, bones have been discovered that led to a description of their heads.

Bones of the cranium were hyperossified, or fused together in an essentially overlapping fashion. 

They displayed a large cranial shield on their heads with a skull wider than it was long.

It was wider at the jaw joints, potentially explaining a large gaping mouth capable of large food items. 

The skull, being hyper ossified, was strong but short. 50-60 teeth were situated on both maxilla bones.

Premaxilla also showed teeth, but only 13-14 on each comparatively. 

Of all the isolated fossil elements that have been discovered, most of them have been cranial.

Some have been vertebral with others describing their tarsal bones. 

Beelzebufo Vertebral Bones Descriptions 

Vertebral bone descriptions suggest all vertebrae of the Devil Frog, the spine bones, were hollow at the front end and convex at the back end. 

The first few bones in the vertebral column were thickened.

Bones further in the spinal column closed around the nerves, providing protection. 

Large neural spines suggested strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

These would be their attachment sites.

A large bodied frog would need strong muscles to propel its body forward during locomotion. 

Interesting Facts About the Devil Frog 

Though the Beelzebufo is an amphibian species, it lived terrestrially, on the ground, in semi-arid conditions.

This may have been due to the warm and humid climate of the Late Cretaceous Period. 

Breeding and reproduction strategies of the Devil Frog have not been described.

We can assume they required water in order to breed, and there was high oceanic activity during the Late Cretaceous Period. 

Side note: I attempted to Google “Beelzebufo Reproductive Strategies” and the only thing that came up was from the video game ARK. 

Their nickname, the Devil Frog, comes from their enormous size.

They are much larger than their modern day relatives and rendered pictures create a monster-like appearance.

They are also called “The Frog From Hell” because of this. 


Devil Frogs, devil frog pictures, Devil Frog facts – national geographic. Animals. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/facts/devil-frog 

Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Paleoclimate. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/Cretaceous-Period/Paleoclimate 

Evans, S. E., Groenke, J. R., Jones, M. E. H., Turner, A. H., & Krause, D. W. (n.d.). New material of beelzebufo, a hyperossified frog (amphibia: Anura) from the late cretaceous of Madagascar. PLOS ONE. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0087236#s2 

Www.pnas.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pnas.org/doi/epdf/10.1073/pnas.2121671119