Wildlife & Biodiversity

Congolese giant toad can transform itself to look like a deadly viper and make right noises

The Brazilian galliwasp lizard that poses like a toxic millipede and the zebra shark, which can mimic a highly poisonous banded sea snake are other examples of such species

Last Updated: Tuesday 22 October 2019

It is well known that some harmless animals mimic dangerous animals to ward off predators or other species. They change the colour and patterns on their skin and look quite different. Such posing by animals is called Batesian mimicry named after English naturalist Henry Walter Bates, who discovered this trait.
There are numerous examples of such mimicry from butterflies to sharks to lizards.
But, a new paper published in the Journal of Natural History has crowned a Congolese giant toad as the new champion of batesian mimicry. It can not only mimick a deadly snake but can also make noises like it.
A collaborative research by University of Texas, El Paso, and the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles in Democratic Republic of Congo found that the Congolese giant toad makes a good copy of the deadly Gaboon viper. It also tries to mimic the hiss that the deadly snake makes before an attack; and postures so that its front limbs aren’t visible — making it look more snake-like.

The Gaboon Viper, on the other hand, is one of the deadliest snakes in the world. It has the longest fangs and also carries the most amount of venom amongst all snakes.
The toad mimics this snake because most other animals stay away from it. It is only natural that the Congolese giant toad are more or less only found in locations inhabited by the Gaboon viper.

Other examples of such mimicry include the Brazilian galliwasp lizard poses like a toxic millipede and the zebra shark can mimic a highly poisonous banded sea snake among many others.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.