Nasikabatrachus, more commonly known as the Purple Frog, is the most peculiar individual of what I consider to be the most peculiar group of animals. The Amphibians.
Maybe It's no surprise that I find the amphibians so fascinating - for more than two years I looked into their most bizarre and extraordinary talents for the series 'Life in Cold Blood'. My quest for the most televisual and enchanting stories took me almost immediately to the hallowed halls of the Natural History Museum in London. I had arranged to meet Mark Wilkinson, a herpetologist with a rather unhealthy obsession for the forgotton cousin of the frog - the legless, elongated, worm-like Caecilians. He and his team had recently discovered behaviour in these elusive subterranean animals that was to knock the socks of biologists around the world - and he had given me the scoop.
Some mothers do 'av 'em
The intimate lives of Caecilians remain mysterious, mostly hidden from view, deep beneath the soil. Although often called the sharks of the underworld they rarely provide enough excitement to sustain more than a fleeting appearance in any natural history film, and yet there we were about to make a full feature of them.
The scoop eventually led us to a Brazilian rainforest where we filmed the behavior for the very first time. You might remember the moment when the baby Caecilians yawned to reveal their shark-like dentition, a subtle clue to the tour-de-force of gastronomic proportions that followed. Like something from the mind of Tim Burton these adorable youngsters tucked into the flesh of their doting mother - squirming around her as they tore strips from her flanks much as one would slice a tender juicy kebab.
A caecilian with her young, photograph by Hilary Jeffkins
It turned out, that it wasn't quite as morbid and savage as it looked. Unique to the animal kingdom the mother purposefully prepares this cuticular cuisine by enriching and thickening her skin with fats, providing nutrition for her fast growing young - it was simply the caecilian equivalent to breast feeding. The caecilians had finally found their limelight and had experienced their long awaited Attenborough moment. Amazing as it was the Caecilian is not however the amphibian that I am most fascinated by, but this deviation does conveniently lead me straight to it.
Screenshot from Life in Cold Blood - showing the sharp teeth of a Juvenile
Discovering the Purple Frog
While I was sniffing around the Natural History Museum for other interesting leads I was introduced to Dr Biju, a bespectacled gentleman visiting from India. His turban was as neat and tidy as his beard and he was buzzing by his latest discovery - the discovery of the Purple frog. It was an immediate Indian national treasure and an overnight celebrity - I could see why. He showed me some of the first pictures taken of this odd shaped creature and immediately I was enthralled. The strangest looking animal I had ever seen. Its body, an amorpheous blobby sac like a purple stress relieving ball. Four rigid limbs, not disimilar to the feet of a seal, protruded from it's side. But the most unusual feature was it's tiny head with beady black and gold eyes and a pointy pig-like nose that wouldn't seem out of place on the Muppet show.