‘Wolverine Frog’ Breaks its Own Bones to Produce Claws

Trichobatrachus robustus, nicknamed ‘wolverine frog’, can break its own bones and forces them out of its toe pads to produce claws – that in appearance, look like cat claws.

David Blackburn and researchers at Harvard University’s Museum of comparative zoology have been researching the ways in which the frog manages to do this, and they have speculated that this is likely to be a defense mechanism.


T. robustus‘ claws are found on only the hind feet, and are internal at rest within a section of connective tissue. They are prevented from bursting through the skin by a chuck of collagen and a piece of bone between the pointed claw and the toe. The opposing end of the claw is connected to muscle, which has been hypothesised to be responsible for pulling the claw out when the frog feels threatened. This causes the bone to break and cut through the skin.

Although little is known about the details of this process, amphibians are known to be able to heal wounds and regenerate tissue so it is likely the species are taking advantage of that.

Perhaps even strangers, the male of the species produce hairs of skin and arteries that provide them a larger surface area to take in oxygen from the environment while they are incubating eggs.

"Hairs" on male frog

“Hairs” of Skin and Artery Observed on Male Frog

For more information: Biology Letters, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0219

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