Weird Purple Frog Seduces Females From Underground

Meet the Indian purple frog, also known as the pig-nosed frog. Only formally discovered in 2003, the colorful amphibian is an endangered species native to the mountains of India’s Western Ghats.

A photo of an indian purple frog.
An Indian purple frog. Photograph by SD Biju, University of Delhi.

With a chubby, purple body and pointed, piglike snout, it’s unlike any other frog on Earth. Some of the purple frog’s unusual looks are adaptations for its burrowing lifestyle: The animal spends most of the year underground, using its short, stout limbs like spades to dig as far as 12 feet (3.7 meters) below ground. (See pictures of more frogs found in western India, including the meowing night frog.)

When the frogs emerge for a brief period during the monsoon season to mate, the males call out to attract females—not exactly unusual among frogs.

But male purple frogs march to their own tune, scientists have discovered: They call from underground, beneath a thin layer of dirt near the entrance of narrow tunnels filled with loose soil, according to the first detailed description of the purple frog’s advertisement call.

Wily Frogs

For their research, scientists from India’s University of Delhi and the University of Minnesota recorded the males’ calls after heavy downpours, when they’re most vocal.

freshwater species of the weekWhen males call, they contract their muscles and inflate and deflate their vocal sacs, making sounds in short, rapidly repeating pulses—the only type of call detected by the team. These movements disturb the thin layer of soil above them, allowing the researchers to pinpoint their locations, according to the study, published February 7 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Next came the hard part: After recording a male’s song, the researchers quickly dug into the soil to capture the animal. (See “World’s Loudest Animals—Bug With ‘Singing’ Penis, More.”)

Listen to two male frogs communicating.

They had to dig fast, because the wily frogs responded by retreating deeper into the soil. The researchers then measured each male before releasing it back into the loose soil into which it had burrowed.

He’s no Prince, but this Purple One makes his own kind of beautiful music.

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  1. purple frog guy
    August 14, 11:27 am

    Just wondering, what is the graph of this strange and unusual animal’s burrowing patterns? I would like to graph thousands of them and decorate my room with them. I have planted termite mounds in my house to attract them and practice my purple frog call whenever I get the chance. Is it just f(x)= -sqrtX? And will they visit my apartment in upstate Denver? I have a comfy room for them with lots of teeny bean bags. xD

  2. ladamion
    January 12, 12:38 pm

    what are there related species

  3. David Nelson
    Cacalotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico
    May 8, 2015, 2:54 pm

    I was digging around the foundation of my house today where there are some termite colonies, and found this frog, instantly recognizing it at the purple pignose frog. I have it in a container for proof. Do anyone know of other instances where this frog has been found in Mexico? I don’t find other references to this on the Internet.

  4. Eduardo Bernal
    February 20, 2015, 9:01 pm

    I foud something similar to this frog but in Mexico? It is posible?

  5. JohnFLob
    February 28, 2014, 12:04 am

    ” . . . Only formally discovered in 2003, . . .”
    How can it be determined that the Purple Frogs are an endangered species based on such a short time frame to study their population(s) andf habitat(s)?

  6. oscar
    south africa
    February 23, 2014, 11:04 pm

    i am asking my self one question.can i domestically own it.and what does it it a cannibal animal.

  7. jose Baez
    republica Dominicana
    February 23, 2014, 7:25 pm

    Me gustaria recibir sus interesantes articulos en idioma español

  8. Qui
    February 22, 2014, 10:48 pm

    I wish they have internet to find their mates.

  9. Mohd. Hamzah Bong
    Sarawak, Borneo Island
    February 22, 2014, 10:09 pm

    Beautiful, congratulation on the new finding

  10. Dylan de kantzow
    February 22, 2014, 10:04 pm

    he’s beautiful!
    what a wondrous critter

  11. Maria Brejner
    February 22, 2014, 9:05 pm

    This is so weird! When I played the first clip, my dogs didn’t react – but when I played the second sound clip, with the two males communicating, they both woke up with a start and stared at the screen until it stopped.

  12. Danielle
    The Bahamas
    February 22, 2014, 8:24 pm

    Wow this is so interesting. I look forward to learning more about these frogs

  13. ¨Daniel Babylon
    February 22, 2014, 8:06 pm

    I will never eat frogs anymore!

  14. Vishal Prasad
    February 21, 2014, 6:15 am

    Intense research and tedious hard work by these scientists, they are presenting some real amazing facts about these rare animals.

  15. Cardell
    February 20, 2014, 7:37 pm

    Wow the beauty of unique findings.

  16. john dahl
    Daytona Beach, FL
    February 20, 2014, 6:42 pm

    I wonder how, and what they eat.

    • Mary Bates
      February 21, 2014, 8:54 am

      They eat mostly termites, which they find using their extremely sensitive snout. Their pointed snouts and long, grooved tongues are just right for slurping up termites.

  17. Adam
    February 20, 2014, 6:35 pm

    What do they eat that entire time underground though? They dig around blindly for bugs/worms?

    • Mary Bates
      February 21, 2014, 8:55 am

      They eat mostly termites. Their snouts are extremely sensitive and help the frogs find their food.

  18. Brenda
    February 20, 2014, 1:29 pm

    Whoa! Haven’t seen this one before. Nice fact filled article with great pic & video.

  19. kindrik
    February 19, 2014, 4:09 pm

    that is an interesting frog

  20. viviann reyes
    February 19, 2014, 4:00 pm

    this was interesting and i did not know there was a purple frog in the world but i don’t know why i need to read about this for Biology

  21. Kris
    February 19, 2014, 3:19 pm

    This is a v ery interesting find. I wonder-do they come to the surfave to reproduce or does this happen under the muk as well??

    • Mary Bates
      February 19, 2014, 4:14 pm

      Thanks for your comment. The frogs do breed aboveground – it’s the only thing they come to the surface for.