Evolution has provided wild animals with astounding mechanisms for fending off predators.
Malaysian exploding ants turn into suicide bombers when in danger, cuttlefish hypnotize prey with bright colors, the Potato Beetle covers itself in its own feces to deter hungry hunters.
Perhaps none, though, are as surprising (and, frankly, unsettling) as the Cuyaba dwarf frog, which moons potential threats.
Native to parts of Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the teeny frog (Physalaemus nattereri) boasts two “false eyes” on its hindquarters. When approached by a predator, the amphibian lifts its bum, giving the illusion that two round, unblinking eyeballs are staring back.
Don’t think that sounds intimidating? Just imagine moving in for the kill, only to find your target is glaring right at you. So much for stealth.
The Cuyaba dwarf frog isn’t alone, exactly: There are 123 known species of frog with warning colors on the back or underside of their body, National Geographic reported, citing João Tonini, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University.
Some deadly creatures, like the oh-so-adorable poison dart frog, exhibit dazzling hues that tell animals to stay away. Others have simply adapted over time, developing certain pigmentation to trick predators into thinking they’re dangerous.
A second pair of eyes seems to do the trick, as established by the Cuyaba dwarf frog and its distant cousin, the equally creepy Chilean four-eyed frog (Pleurodema thaul).
The spots help to distract from the frogs’ heads and inflate their bodies, sending the message that “I’m a bigger animal than you think, so don’t eat me,” Arturo Muñoz Saravia, a doctoral student at the University of Ghent, told NatGeo.
When puffed up, the itty-bitty frog (no bigger than 1.5 inches) looks like a sizeable snake to birds, coati, bats, and other reptiles.
If the gutsy pursuer isn’t fooled and risks moving closer, the frog simply emits an unpleasant secretion from its derriere.
“Below the eyespots are large toxic macroglands,” according to Tonini, a collaborator on Projeto Bromeligenous, a project studying the relationship between Brazil’s frogs and bromeliad plants.
The milky-white discharge is deadly only to small predators; there is enough toxin in one frog to kill 150 mice. Its noxious taste will send any stalker packing; ingest enough of it, and the mucus can cause dizziness and nausea—giving the frog a chance to escape.
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