The Burning Frog
The burning frog, Bombina torrens, is native to central Europe, and, to this day, the only known social species of the Anura order. Living in familial groups, the frogs generally occupy a territory with at least one watersource used for breeding (some territories have been observed to contain more than ten such breeding ponds). Females will remain with their family, and lay there eggs in the territorial ponds. Males, once they exit the water, will disperse, and mate with females from other families. This alone makes the bruning frog a uniquely fascinating species, since such organised social behavior is virtually non-existent in other amphibians, But the burning frog has more to offer than family fun.
The mucus of the burning frogs' skin is rich in hydroquinine, and, through a mechanism well-known from the bombardier beetles, when stressed, it can release hydrogen peroxide from vesicles in its skin cells, causing a chemical reaction that raises the temperature of the mucus on its skin to almost 100 ºC, causing it to evaporate. The reaction can be so fast, it almost seems as if the frog explodes in a cloud of steam. In addition, the frogs' mucus is toxic, and, when evaporated, will cause irritation to the skin, watering eyes, and a burning sensation in the throat and nose. The process is, of course, extremely demanding of the frogs themselves, and can lead to their death. It is used most often during the period when the new tadpoles grow, and is though to be mainly a way of protecting the young. Once the offspring has grown out of the water, it is very rare to see burning frogs use the defence mechanism.
Tim Rats, of the University of Europeville's history department, has recently found texts that suggest that the frogs were effectively used as crowd control devices durin the middle ages. Lords would keep the frogs in captivity, in small basins of water, artifically maintaining them in a state of constant reproduction through artifical light and warmth. When there was a riot, or the castle was attacked by enemies, they would dump the basins full of frogs on the offenders, causing the frogs to burst into steam, and intoxicating the assailants.
In popular culture, “throw the frog” is a game played by many young adults to this day. A group of young people will take a burning frog in their hands as gently as possible, and then throw it to each other. The goal is to catch the frog as gently as possible, to avoid it bursting into steam. Whoever sets it off looses.
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