You probably haven’t woken up to find it raining frogs, but high-speed winds in severe storms can lift fish and animals that get carried miles by the wind. The creatures then freeze in the air and fall to the ground when the storm stops. The phenomenon is known as “frog rain,” and it’s been recorded all over the world, dating back to the first century AD, according to Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder. It has also occurred recently in Serbia and Japan.
The desert rain frogs (Breviceps macrops) live on a small strip of land 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) wide along the coast of Namibia and South Africa that receives fog that supplies moisture to the region. The frogs live underground during the day to escape the blistering sun, but they emerge at night to hunt for insects that have a tendency to bury in the sand. They’re unable to hop like most frogs, but their short legs have paddle-like feet that can dig quickly and help them maneuver through the dunes.
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They also carry a layer of sand on their skin, which can be useful in blending in with their sandy habitat. They communicate with their community by emitting the distinctive mating call of a drawn-out whistle that can be heard echoing across the dunes.
Amphibians are renowned for their ability to adjust to environmental conditions, which is why they’re often used as indicators of the health of ecosystems. But while the desert rain frog defies the expectations of other amphibians in many ways, it is still vulnerable to human impacts on its habitat.