Washington: A new study on an ancient, predatory creature known as the "devil frog", suggests that it may have looked even scarier than previously thought.
The monster frog, Beelzebufo ampinga, lived during the Cretaceous Period in what is now Africa, and sported spiky flanges protruding from the back of its skull and platelike armour down its back, almost like a turtle shell.
Study co-author Susan Evans, a paleontologist at the University College London said that they knew it was big and that it was almost certainly predatory.
However, she said that the new material has shown them that it was even more heavily armored than they had imagined.
The researchers first discovered a few bone fragments from a mystery frog in Madagascar in 1998, but it wasn`t until 2008 that they had enough pieces to identify the species, which they dubbed the " devil frog", or Beelzebufo ampinga. The massive frog lived between 70 million and 65 million years ago.
When the team analyzed the frog`s morphology, they found that physically, it fit in with a family of horned frogs called the Ceratophryidae, which are now found only in South America.
The new analysis confirms the frog`s lineage in the Ceratophryidae family. It also downgrades the amphibian`s size - instead of being the biggest frog that ever lived, it may be closer to the size of an African bullfrog, which grows to about 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) across.
It`s not clear what the frogs used the body armor for, but one possibility is that the sculptured bones may have been an adaptation to a dry environment that allowed the frogs to burrow underground, where they were less likely to bake in the hot sun, Evans said.
But the armor may also have been protection, as Evans told LiveScience that there were an awful lot of things roaming around that would have liked a bite out of a big, juicy frog, such as dinosaurs, crocodiles and even strange mammals that once lived on the Gondwana supercontinent.
The findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.