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The incredible frog skeleton


Ever since I was young, frogs have been one of my favourite animals. and a few years ago I even had a young frog in my room for a short while to study it, which I kept in an old fish tank. You can read about that here. I've always thought that frogs are cool with the way they have adapted to jump and swim.

The day after I appeared on The One Show, I received a kind email from a man called Mr Lydamore asking me if I would like a frog skeleton.It had been in his family for a long time after he found it under a cooker - he doesn't know how long it was there, but it could have been decades. It was a very kind offer ! This is what I've learned from it:

The most remarkable thing about this skeleton is how it remains completely articulated ! It's astonishing how this happened. I would have imagined that underneath a cooker would have completely mummified the entire body by removing moisture, so there would be no decomposition.

My Lydamore had carefully packed it in a lunch box that had soft cotton above and below the skeleton.

It's still very recognisable as a frog: here is the one I studied in my room for comparison.

Frogs are members of the amphibian family, along with toads and newts. They have eyes on the side of its head to look out for predators and some frog pupils are square shaped, but frogs can only see in black and white, which is why very few of them can play snooker well.

The teeth are still visible: just ! The skin on the skull was still attached to it.Because it is very, very small and delicate it is going to be a really hard skeleton to clean.

I'm not sure what to do with is because anything that can dissolve the tissue, might also dissolve the joints., and using tweezers and cocktail sticks won't get me very far.

The lower jaw is very thin because they don't need a strong bite to eat their insect prey. 
The scapula (shoulder blades) are large compared to the rest of the body, and slightly overlap the skull because there are no neck vertebrae.

This is the front right leg. The humerus has lots of area for muscle attachments, and the radius and ulna, which are two separate bones in the forearm of humans, are fused together here. That gives less flexibility in the wrist area, but greater strength. It's amazing to see the finger bones (phlanges) and how the front hands face into the middle of the body.

Humans have 24 vertebrae whereas frogs only have between seven and nine, and you can see seven of the eight on this frog in the photo below on the middle spine. The vertebrae at the bottom of the spine are fused into one bone called the urostyle. The frog doesn't really have ribs, just these tiny protrusions from the vertebrae.

This is the back foot. The length and shape of the toes has a big impact on how the frog moves. Tree frogs use them to grip round branches. All frogs toes and fingers are webbed to help them swim.

This is one of the most amazing adaptations that frogs and toads have. The pelvis actually slides up and down the spine to help with jumping.

Its tibia and fibula are fused ( just like the radius and ulna ) The leg bones are longer than usual to help muscle attachment, which leads to them jump higher and swimming faster.

This is a very special gift. It's great to see the workings of a frog skeleton having studied one for so long, and it'll be a challenge working out how to clean the skeleton !

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Erin said...

maybe try simmering in warm water? It might clean off some of the dust.

Alison said...

Hello Jake,
When I first started following your wonderful site, I tried preserving a small frog skeleton I received from a friend. I used the warm water and detergent method you recommend for cleaning bones. With the frog, I found that this method completely dissolved most of the skin, but also all of the connecting tissue. I ended up with a bowl of loose bones! And I never figured out how to put it all back together... Of course, it was a much fresher specimen. Good luck to you. I know you will find a way!

Glenn said...

Awesome! My Mum has a frog skeleton that we found dried out under some furniture in the conservatory about a decade ago. Definitely fascinating to study!

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