The world is surely an odd place. Every day is thick with tales of woe and madness, a glut of spin and sin that ultimately jades even the most inquisitive soul. How else can one explain how the mystery of the exploding toads failed to make the front page of every newspaper. I mean, toads in Germany have been hopping around and literally exploding in a shower of amphibian entrails. Even better, the origin of this gory series of spontaneous toad detonations has gone, until recently, undetected. But now a culprit, a feathered one, has been fingered. The Associated Press reports:

BERLIN Apr 28, 2005 — Why are toads puffing up and spontaneously exploding in northern Europe? It began in a posh German neighborhood and has spread across the border into Denmark. It’s left onlookers baffled, but one German scientist studying the splattered amphibian remains now has a theory: Hungry crows may be pecking out their livers.

To reiterate, toads are exploding because crows are pecking out their livers. WTF?

Based on the wounds, (Berlin veterinarian Frank) Mutschmann said, it appears that a bird pecks into the toad with its beak between the amphibian’s chest and abdominal cavity, and the toad puffs itself up as a natural defense mechanism. But, because the liver is missing and there’s a hole in the toad’s body, the blood vessels and lungs burst and the other organs ooze out, he said.

As gruesome as it sounds, it isn’t actually that unusual, he said. “It’s not unique it’s in a city area, and that makes it spectacular,” Mutschmann said. “Of course, it’s something very dramatic.”

That the sight of bloated frogs agonizing and twitching for several minutes, inflating like a balloon before suddenly bursting could be considered “very dramatic” is something of an understatement. The complete AP article is good for an objective take on the toads, but for a more visceral rendition of the facts at hand, one should turn to an artist, not a reporter. Fortunately, Socar Myles is sufficiently horrified by the predations of packbawkies (her term for what I surmise are all gulls, starlings, grackles, and corvids) that she’s painted a graphic verbal picture of the horrors of this slime-splattered scenario. Visit her post, if only to marvel at the breathtaking creativity that conjures a verb like “liverpeck!”

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.