Shape-Shifting Frog Discovered in Andes Can Quickly Change Its Texture

Posted on March 23, 2015

Pristimantis mutabilis shape-shifting frog

A shape-shifting frog discovered in the Andes can quickly change its texture to mimic the texture it is sitting on. The frog was discovered in Ecuador's western Andean cloud forest. The scientists say the frog can shift its texture from highly tubercular to nearly smooth in minutes. The image above shows the skin texture variation an individual specimen.

Below is a closer look at the change that can take place in a little over five minutes. The frog is named the mutable rainfrog with the scientific name Pristimantis mutabilis. The frogs are found at Reserva Las Gralarias, a nature reserve that was originally created to protect endangered birds.

Texture change in Pristimantis mutabilis shape-shifting frog


The frog was discovered by Katherine Krynak from Case Western Reserve University and her husband in 2009. When the Krynaks first discovered the frog it was sitting on a moss-covered leaf. They nicknamed it "punk rocker" because of its thorn-like spines. They put the frog in a cup with a lid and then resumed their search for wildlife. When they looked at the frog the next day and pulled it out to photograph it had completely lost its punk look. It was now smooth skinned. Before they realized the frog had changed its look they initially thought they somehow had the wrong frog.

Katherine Krynak says, "I then put the frog back in the cup and added some moss. The spines came back... we simply couldn't believe our eyes, our frog changed skin texture! I put the frog back on the smooth white background. Its skin became smooth."

The Krynaks and their colleagues from Universidad Indoamerica and Tropical Herping in Ecuador, believe the texture changing ability helps the frog protect itself from predators, such as birds. The ability could mean there are some frogs that have been misidentified as a separate species when in fact it is just a single frog species changing its appearance.

Researchers have discovered that Prismantis sobetes, a relative of the mutable rainfrog, also shares the texture changing ability. A research paper on the remarkable frog was published in the journal, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Photo: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society