WATCH — This tiny pumpkin toadlet is famous for its clumsy landings

Quinn Murphy
Story by Quinn Murphy and CBC Kids News • Published 2022-08-15 06:00

Frogs are no bigger than a Tic Tac

It’s not easy being … orange?

The aptly named pumpkin toadlet lacks an ability most frogs are known for.

While it can get off the ground, its airborne excursions consistently result in pitiful crash landings.

Pumpkin toadlets are unable to orient themselves in midair, leading to uncontrolled but harmless landings. (Image credit: Richard Essner)

Richard Essner, a biologist at the Edwardsville, Illinois campus of Southern Illinois University, is one of the scientists studying these frogs. 

He’s recorded videos of their rough landings and says for many people, the pumpkin toadlet is “relatable.”   

“If you didn’t do particularly well in gym class, then this might be the frog for you,” said Essner in an interview with the CBC radio show As It Happens.

Still, it’s not the pumpkin frog’s fault that it can’t stick its landings.

According to a paper published by Essner and a team of researchers, the frog’s tiny size makes it unable to direct itself in midair.

And so it hits the ground hard, without its legs ready to take the impact.

The pumpkin toadlet could fit on the tip of your pinkie finger. (Image credit: Luiz F. Ribeiro)

It all comes down to its inner ear. The frog itself is no bigger than a Tic Tac, and the balancing system that is contained in its ears is so small that it can’t prepare it for landing.

In an email to CBC, Lea Randall, an ecologist at the Calgary Zoo and Wilder Institute, said that pumpkin frogs have fewer toes and therefore narrower feet than other frog species. They also have shorter hind legs.

Do these bumpy landings hurt?

No, Essner’s research paper found no evidence that pumpkin toadlets sustain injuries from their repeated crashes. 

“It helps to be tiny,” said Essner. “You’ve probably seen animals like squirrels fall out of trees. If you’re small, you can fall and really not get hurt.”

Pumpkin frogs are named for their bright orange colouring. (Image credit: Luiz F. Ribeiro)

The benefits of being small

Despite their tasty-sounding name, the pumpkin frog is actually highly poisonous and not the most appetizing snack to a hungry predator. 

So while these little guys may not seem equipped for life in the rainforest, they’re actually pretty good at taking care of themselves.

Want to see some frog fails? Check out this video below to see some lopsided leaps from the pumpkin toadlet!

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With files from (Sheena Goodyear/CBC, Arman Aghbali/CBC)
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: (Richard Essner, with graphic design by Philip Street/CBC)

About the Contributor

Quinn Murphy
Quinn Murphy
CBC Kids News Contributor
Quinn Murphy lives in Vancouver, B.C., with her parents, sisters and dog, Massi. She loves to spend her days photographing and writing about animals. One day she hopes to make a difference in wildlife conservation.

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