Arizona Cactus Frog

Notucereus hopalongcasidis

The Arizona Cactus Frog has long been considered an apocryphal species, akin to the jackalope and desert sand trout. Yet, in a recent paper published in the journal Desserts, two biologists claim to have seen them and collected specimens. If the controversial claims are confirmed, it will be a surprising new species for science. It is actually quite common in its range along the Arizona-Chihuaha border, but only comes out during the month of June.

The fact that it has not previously been observed may be due to its amazing camouflage, but, also to the fact that its active period is during the hot summer months, when temperatures soar over 100˚F and few humans venture into the desert. Patience, lots of drinking water, and a careful eye may be rewarded with the sight of this spectacular animal clinging motionless to the side of a giant saguaro cactus.

The best time to see this master of camouflage is to go out into the desert in July when it wakes from its year-long torpor to mate and feed on nectar and cactus flowers. The female loses her spines in preparation for the active mating season. At this time, she is most vulnerable to predators, who seek cactus frogs for their sweet taste. Sightings of this true desert amphibian may be the origin of the fabled “jumping cactus”, which does not exist.

cactus frog by Paul Mirocha

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