While exploring part of the vast, largely untamed wilderness that is the exquisite Amazon rainforest, a team of scientists came across a rather curious species of amphibian: a tiny tree frog with a piercing, bat-like call.
This unique and highly unusual “bat-voice” was an immediate giveaway that the species was unknown to science. “I had never heard anything like it,” said one of the frog’s discoverers, Pedro Peloso.
Other characteristics that set the bizarre species apart from other known tree frogs include long, witch-like pointed fingers and toes and the male’s curiously large vocal sac. Vocal sacs are stretchy, almost transparent membranes of skin possessed by male calling frogs that can be inflated during vocalizations. The sound comes from air being rushed through the larynx and across the vocal chords, which is amplified by the resonating qualities of the pouch. While it’s known that frogs can produce a rich variety of calls, this is the first known species that sounds like a bat.
As avid fans of Black Sabbath, the team decided to name the two-centimeter-long species after the rock band’s lead singer Ozzy Osbourne. Unlike the recently described tarantula species that was named after John Lennon purely because this singer was an idol of the discoverer, there is reason behind this name choice. Back in 1981, Ozzy Osbourne accidentally bit the head off a live bat that was chucked at him during a concert. According to Osbourne, he thought that the bat was a rubber replica. Descriptions of Dendropsophus ozzyi can be found in the journal Zootaxa.
The species was discovered back in 2009 as Peloso and colleagues embarked on a month-long expedition of Floresta Nacional de Pau-Rosa, an area of the Brazilian Amazon. Twenty-one specimens were collected in total from three different areas, suggesting that the animal is probably common and widespread in the forest. Because this region is relatively well-explored, the discovery serves as a reminder of just how rich the biodiversity in this forest is.