Friday, April 29, 2005

Exploding German Toads Baffle Scientists

Undated but recent filer shows a dead toad in a Hamburg, Germany lake. More than 1,000 toads have puffed up and exploded in a Hamburg pond in recent weeks, and German scientists still have no explanation for what is causing the combustion.(AP Photo/Florian Quand)

BERLIN - 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.

Local environmental workers in Hamburg have described it as a scene out of a horror or science fiction movie, with the bloated frogs agonizing and twitching for several minutes, inflating like a balloon before suddenly bursting.

"It's horrible," biologist Heidi Mayerhoefer was quoted as telling the Hamburger Morgenpost daily.

"The toads burst, the entrails slide out. But the animal isn't immediately dead — they keep struggling for several minutes."

Disappointingly, the Nature magazine web site poo-pooed the exploding German toad phenomenon: Has bubble burst over exploding toad tale?. "Evidence points to bloated toads and hungry birds, but not explosions" according to Nature. Party poopers!

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