A snake slithers along the floor of a rain forest in South America. With its heat-sensitive tongue, it senses prey ahead. Getting closer, the snake can see a plump, juicy frog ahead. Easing forward, the snake prepares to strike, and in the blink of an eye the frog is gone! Where the frog was, is now a big head, with a nose, mouth, and two black and blue eyes. Startled, the snake, now thinking he is about to be eaten, quickly leaves. The snake has just faced a false-eyed frog (also known as the portrait frog).
The skin of a false-eyed frog is amazing. It is made up of spots of black, blue, brown, gray, and white! When the frog is startled, the skin instantly changes its colors, simply by hiding some of the colors.
When an animal comes along that wants to eat him, the frog quickly turns around so that its back is facing the enemy. In the instant that the frog is turning, the colors on his back change into large eyes with black pupils complete with blue irises around them. The false-eyed frog puts its head close to the ground, raises its rear up high, and tucks its hind legs underneath his “eyes.” The legs now look like a large mouth! Above the “mouth,” where the frog once had a tadpole’s tail, appears a nose! The frog also lifts two toes on each back foot, and curls them out so that they look like claws. By moving his legs, the frog’s “mouth” and “claws” appear to move. In one second, what once looked like a tasty morsel to the enemy now looks like a large frightening head!
The scary “face” will scare away most animals. However, some animals are not so easily frightened. If the fake “eyes,” “mouth,” and “claws” do not make their attackers run away, the false-eyed frogs use another defense. Their bodies make a thick, smelly ooze from near their “eyes.” This ooze and stink usually makes even the bravest attackers retreat.
The false-eyed frog never sees the “face” and “eyes” on its back, so it could not have put them there. Amazingly, even though it can’t see or know what will appear on its back as it spins around, the false-eyed frog knows to raise its rear up high, and tuck in its hind legs.