This recent news story tells of a cane toad found in Australia that weighs six pounds. Here’s the photo, because it’s too good not to include:

Kylee Gray, a ranger with the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, holds a giant cane toad, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, near Airlie Beach, Australia. “We believe it’s a female due to the size, and female cane toads do grow bigger than males. When we returned to base, she weighed in at 2.7kg, (5.95 lbs) which could be a new record”, said Gray. (Queensland Department of Environment and Science via AP)

I am no cane-toad expert, so I am only going on what this news report had to say, but apparently the average weight of a cane toad is about one pound. So this new world-record individual masses six times as much as a typical adult.

Mature male saltwater crocodiles Crocodylus porosus are typically about 4.5 m long, but the world-record verified skull length is 76 cm long indicating a total length of about 7 m. Having a length 1.56 times that of a typical individual, this beast would have massed 1.56^3 = 3.75 times as much.

There may be less variance in mammal sizes. The world-record elephant Satao massed about 11 tonnes. That’s about double the typical adult African elephant mass, which is various reported as 5 or 6 tonnes.

Now think about sauropod sizes. We have a bunch of big Diplodocus specimens all measuring on the order of 25 m in length, and massing perhaps 15 tonnes. If world-record individuals compared to these as world-record elephants do, there would have been Diplodocus individuals of twice that mass (30 tonnes); if they compared as crocs do, we should expect giant specimens massing 3.75 times as much (56 tonnes); and if they compared as cane toads do, then the factor of 6 would give us giant Diplodocus individuals massing 90 tonnes.

All of this is speculative of course — wildly so — because we have such tiny samples of Diplodocus compared with the three extant species discussed above. It’s not remotely surprising that the ten or so specimens we have don’t include a freak like this. But there’s a good chance they were out there.

Oh, and for Brachiosaurus, of which known individuals massed perhaps 30 tonnes, it’s not unreasonable to imagine giant individuals massing 60, 112 or gulp! 180 tonnes. Yes, the imagination balks at the idea of a 180-tonne land animal: but that alone is not reason enough to discount the possibility.

Afield in Oklahoma

June 25, 2018

Clouds over Black Mesa.

Baby spadefoot toad, with my index finger for scale.

Someone was here before us. Even though Black Mesa is best known for its Morrison exposures and giant Jurassic dinosaurs, there are Triassic rocks here, too, which have produced both body fossils and tracks, including these.

Seen but not photographed today:

  • a group of pronghorn by the side of the road, with two babies;
  • a deer that ran across the road right in front of our vehicle;
  • a wild turkey foraging in the ditch next to the road;
  • a few jackrabbits, and more cottontails than you can shake a stick at;
  • loads of prairie dogs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch a thunderstorm.

Frog RLN ventral view - Ecker 1889 plate 1 fig 115 - RLN highlighted

Just posting a few images from my impending talk at SVPCA this Thursday.

I’ve written about the recurrent laryngeal nerve before, in Wedel (2012) and in this post. It’s present in all tetrapods, from frogs and salamanders on up. The frog RLN is shown in ventral view above, and in lateral view below, both from Ecker (1889:plate 1, figures 114 and 115). I’ve highlighted the RLN in red in both. Perhaps not a monument of inefficiency, but still recurrent, and therefore dumb.

Frog RLN lateral view - Ecker 1889 plate 1 fig 114 - RLN highlighted

And in a giraffe – RLN in blue, nerve path to hindfoot phalanges in red. Hollow circles are nerve cell bodies, solid lines are axons.

Giraffe skeleton silhouette 1000 with nerves

And in the elasmosaur Hydrotherosaurus, same color scheme plus the nerve path to the tail in purple, base image from Welles (1943).

Hydrotherosaurus nerve pathways 4 - RLN pathway

That’s all for now!