Photos shared last week by a Facebook user that appear to show an extraordinarily well-endowed frog have captivated social media users. After Buzzfeed shared the photos on its website and they went viral, experts pointed out that assumptions the photos show a frog with a gigantic penis were mistaken because frogs do not have penises.
What appeared to be a massive penis protruding from between the frog’s legs was in fact a deformity caused by a partially formed “third leg.”
The photos were reportedly uploaded online by Facebook user Keith Leech from Victoria in Australia, with a caption, “What the frog.”
The Facebook user shared three photos of a hefty-looking frog with a well-fed underbelly complemented by what appeared to be a lavishly proportioned male reproductive organ.
The images went viral on social media with more than 10,000 Facebook shares. Salaciously gawking Facebook users shared the photos under the mistaken impression that the appendage protruding conspicuously from between the frog’s legs was nature’s gift to the animal for reproductive functions.
One Facebook user joked, presumably about the frog’s partner, saying, “some frog is gonna be happy.”
Buzzfeed writer Brad Esposito, who explained that he stumbled on the photos while looking through Facebook, was apparently shocked by the discovery and wrote that he was “shaken to the very core” when he saw the photos.
Anyone who has seen the photos and contemplated the implication under the mistaken impression that the appendage was the animal’s penis would appreciate why Esposito was “shaken to the very core.”
But perceptions changed after social media users learned that frogs do not have penises and that the imposing appendage was likely a partially developed “third leg.”
Frog with a 'massive penis' actually has a partially formed extra LEG | Daily Mail Online https://t.co/t55T5DKvYi
— Grace, Daisy & Rosie (@Lushlabs) May 12, 2016
“Another example of unrealistic expectations put on frogs.”
“There is a princess out there somewhere waiting to kiss this frog….because you know…his big d**k.”
“Wow! So d**ks way back when were actually third legs?”
“The princess must be satisfied with this Frog!”
Buzzfeed eventually spoke with an expert at the Australian Amphibian Research Center who explained that the phenomenal outgrowth was not a sexual organ. According to Gerry Marantelli, while he could not say with certainty what the appendage was without examining it physically, it was certainly not a penis, but most likely an “extra partially formed leg.”
“It’s not a penis, frogs don’t have then,” Marantelli explained, “but penises did evolve from ‘legs’ during embryonic development so an extra leg is part way there.”
— Daily Star (@Daily_Star) May 11, 2016
“It’s not a penis, frogs don’t have then… but penises did evolve from ‘legs’ during embryonic development so an extra leg is part way there.”
In place of a penis, male, as well as female frogs, have a cloaca, an opening at the end of the body that serves both excretory and reproductive functions.
In most frog species the male mounts the female and holds her tightly around the body. The process called amplexus then takes place: The female releases unfertilized eggs from her body through her cloaca, and the male fertilizes the eggs by releasing sperm from his cloaca.
In some frog species, the male holds the eggs in place with his hind feet while he releases sperm over them.
In frog species known as “tailed frogs,” the male cloaca has a small appendage that helps to direct sperm into the female’s cloaca so that the eggs can be fertilized internally. From an evolutionary perspective, the appendage used to guide sperm into the female cloaca in tailed frogs may be considered a prototype penis.
— Metro (@MetroUK) May 12, 2016
Although the appendage is too primitive in structure and function to be considered a real penis, Marantelli said, “Amphibians in one way likely invented the penis.”
Evidence that the penis in higher animals may have evolved from an amphibian proto-penis comes from recent research by Harvard biologists that revealed that the formation of the penis during an animal’s embryonic development is triggered by signals sent from the embryonic cloaca to cells which develop into the genitalia.
For instance, in some reptiles, signals from the cloaca trigger the development of the penis from tissues derived from the hind legs, while in mammals the penis is derived from the tail bud.
[Image via Shutterstock]