October 31, 2019
Following 10 years of field work studies, and close investigation of specimens in museum collections a team of researchers believe they have evidence of mimicry in two species that share the same habitat. The Congolese giant toad appears to mimic both the look and sounds of the venomous Gaboon viper in order to avoid predation. This phenomenon of a nontoxic creature imitating a toxic creature is known as Batesian mimicry can be an effective way of avoiding being eaten by predators.
A team of researchers from the University of Texas and the Centre de Recherche en Science Naturelles investigated both live and preserved specimens of both species, examining the shape and color patterns. They determined that there were similarities between the head of the vipers and the body of the toads. It was also observed in the live specimens that when threatened the toads made a hissing sound which was similar to the warning hiss of the viper.
The two species appear to have evolved side by side for millions of years, which further supports the mimicry-hypothesis, although proving it absolutely would require further studies that show that predators actively avoid the toads. Even without this final step the team is confident that Batesian mimicry is the reason these two species have so many similarities, which makes this is the first recorded example of an amphibian imitating a venomous snake to deter potential predators.
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