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Congolese giant toad : Master of Disguise

The chameleon is certainly the most famous creature to alter its appearance for camouflage, but researchers from the University of Texas at El Paso have discovered another creature that goes even further to avoid being a predator’s dinner. They have shown how the Congolese giant toad can closely mimic one of Africa’s largest vipers not only in appearance but how it behaves. The Gaboon viper, which the toad mimics, has the longest snake fangs in the world and produces more venom than any other snake.

The Congolese giant toad, a triple cheeseburger-sized prize for any predator, may use its ability to mimic the highly venomous Gaboon viper to escape being eaten. The viper has the longest snake fangs in the world and produces more venom than any other snake.

What Researcher Say

The researchers made comparisons between the appearance of the toad, found in central African rainforests, and the viper. It is more widespread in central, eastern, and southern Africa. Using live wild-caught and captive specimens, as well as preserved museum ones. They found that the color pattern and shape of the toad’s body is similar to that of the viper’s head. Most strikings are two dark brown spots and a dark brown stripe that extends down the toad’s back, a sharp demarcation between the tan back and dark brown flanks, the triangular shape of the body, and the species’ extraordinarily smooth skin for a toad. Because the Gaboon viper is capable of causing deadly bites, would-be predators likely avoid the similar-looking toads to ensure they don’t make a lethal mistake.

The researchers said that they would need to prove that predators were duped into thinking it was a Gaboon viper. The hypothesis was fully tested. Gaboon viper would be very difficult in the wild. However, multiple sources of evidence laid out in the study are confidently confirming it.

Todd Hiss

When the viper fears it is about to be attacked, it will often incline its head and emit a long, loud warning hiss before it actually makes a strike. Incredibly, one researcher observed the toad emitting a similar hissing noise resembling the sound of air being released from a balloon.