Sunday, 24 May 2009

Toad In The... Coal?

Frogs are probably not known for their love of coal. In fact on a list of things a frog might like, we can safely say coal probably wouldn't make it into the top 100. But nevertheless, there's a couple of bizarre incidents that suggest maybe we've got the frogs all wrong.

Eddie Marsh was a very impatient 14 year old boy living in Mclean County, Illnois. He was impatient because it was cold and he was eager to get his coal fire burning on one particular day in 1886. So he poked at the coals, trying to stoke the fire when he rashly poked a little too hard and some pieces flew out. He was about to toss a piece back into the fire when he took a second look. In his hand was a perfectly preserved tree frog (hyla).

Biologist R. W. Shufeldt said:

"I at once recognised it as a species of hyla, though I am unable to say which one. It apparently agrees in all it's external characteristics with a specimen I have of a hyla veriscolor... though it is rather smaller... It is completely mummified, and in a wonderful state of preservation, being of a dark, snuff-brown color, somewhat shrunken. I am aware that these tree frogs very often climb into some of the most unheard of places; but it struck me that it would be interesting to have some tell us if they ever heard of a hyla finding its way to the vault of a coal mine 541 feet under ground and climbing into the solid coal bed after getting there."

Not so strange you might think. Probably some sort of fossil or just plain coincidence. So how do we explain the next story from Maryland in 1906?

CUMBERLAND, Md., Dec. 23. -- John Savage, a miner in the Enterprise mine, at Buck Hill, a suburb of Lonaconing, this county, was very much astonished yesterday, he says, when, in breaking a lump of coal, a live frog jumped out of it and hopped around his feet. NY Times

Or several further stories from the UK, Sweden, France, Germany and many more places.

What are we to make of frogs obsession with coal and stone? Hmm... what do you think?

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist


Gee said...

So toads and coal. Coal and toads.

That's really... odd. Why coal? Why toads? It doesn't make sense. How does a toad get in to a lump of coal in the first place?

Great post Jae. But now my head hurts.

palemoon said...

I just bought a frog and the piece of coal in which it was found from ebay! The coal has a smooth oval indentation as if having a 'bubble' where the frog was cocooned. Apparently the 'lid' of the coal broke to reveal the frog. The thing I have to say is why the question of how a frog got into a lump of coal... well surely it's obvious that it wasn't coal at the time! The specimen I have shows distinct half inch layers across the coal and the 'bubble' spans about 4 of these layers. How the frog bubble survived the compression of multiple layers of organic matter I cannot say. I assume the frog is as old as the coal, since, why would there not be frogs in the forest that eventually became coal? I suppose carbon dating would clarify it. I think the more bizarre phenomen is the live frog coming from a piece of coal!! Now THAT'S mind boggling!